Friday, 6 August 2010

Songs of the day

Wyclef Jean has ended speculation to announce he will seek election as President of Haiti.

We've had pornstars in Italy, footballers in Africa and a range of pop culture celebrities everywhere from the US to Russia and Japan and Estonia, but Wyclef is of another order altogether.

Not for one, Haiti is the poor relation in a poor region and in desperate need of real leadership.

Then he is an international star with global artistic credibility who has actively cultivated his political base through his music, so there is less of a contradiction between the two and it was more a question of when not if.

But it was the recent humanitarian and environmental disaster in his homeland which catapulted him into acting on his ambitions and brought him into contact with the realities of organising and mobilisating social action. "If not for the earthquake, I probably would have waited another 10 years before doing this," he said.

According to Time, he will 'galvanize' a large youth vote where turnout has hovered around 10% amid a succession of corrupt leaders and stands a good chance of succeeding in his bid.

But The Economist is more cautious, noting how his abilities as an administrator are questionable - although it strikes me his acclaim and financial wherewithal are indicators of his capacity to delegate. Not that rivals and competitors will hold back from calling him an unqualified diva who is satisfying his ego.

Meanwhile the trusty BBC is more impartial, offering a profile, and MTV offers the chilling suggestion of Dizzee Rascal for PM.

For sure Wyclef will become (for a while at least) the darling of the international political classes seeking to ally their star to his (did you notice Al Sharpton standing to his left in the BBC article?). He will, therefore, be able to count on the support and goodwill of coaligned leaders (Obama will be smiling, if not singing along, as the mid-terms roll around) to help tide him through many difficulties, but this will immediately raise questions of his ability to chart an independent course for his country.

Nevertheless it is another marker on what is potentially a transformational period throughout the Caribbean region where banana republics and tin-pot dictators pretty much originated (see: the file on the Duvaliers; Papa Doc's philosophy of 'strong man' leadership and Alan Whicker's sinister anecdote on his snap of a finger) and has languished since.

With Cuba's gradual emergence in the post-Fidel period, a referendum in the Netherlands Antilles later this year and the moves to regional organisation and integration under Caricom, Wyclef may well find himself in a position to garner real influence and make lasting positive changes in an area where chronic suffering has existed alongside staggering wealth for far too long.

It will certainly be worth watching whether Wyclef can fulfil everything he has wished for or whether he will be unable to escape the lure of mistakes which derail unrealistic ambitions.

But that's the challenge of power.


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