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Mind the Pied Piper tactics

As Grenada gets ready for another general election and the moves of politicians to entice young people are closely watched, it brings to mind the mysterious story of medieval times called the Pied Piper. However, we do hope that our situation in the end will be different to that of the story if we have learnt anything from the past.

The central character in the story is a man known as the Pied Piper who got his name from wearing pied or bright coloured clothing and was known to play sweet tunes on a pipe. He was hired to rid the German town, Hamelin, of rats. It was a common practice then to hire rat catchers since they carried deadly diseases. The Piper succeeded in getting rid of the rats, but surprisingly to him, the mayor refused to honour the agreement to pay him.

As revenge, he knew just the right tune to play on his pipe -a tune so sweet that it hypnotized the town’s children and led them away, never to be seen again. It is obvious that the Piper played the right tune which attracted the young people as they ran out of their homes to be led away. In one version 130 children were lost; they disappeared forever. The original writer was Robert Browning, noted for irony, characterization, dark humour, social commentary and historical settings. It is said that he dedicated the story to his son.

The Piper seems to be a contradictory symbol of hope and betrayal. In the first instance when he got rid of the rats, he brought hope to the town; but later when the children disappeared it was a different story. Online the piper is even seen by some as a metaphor for cult leaders or even politicians. Hundreds of years later the story which may be a true one, still evokes mistrust for charismatic leaders who eventually turn out to be dangerous.

The chanting and jumping led by schoolchildren on October 19, 1983 can still be remembered as they went to free the de facto Prime Minister Maurice Bishop from house arrest at his home in Mt Wheldale, Saint George’s. It is still unclear whether the children were strategically placed at the front of the commotion while taking command from The Pied Piper; but one thing for sure is that Andy Alexander is one of the young people whose body was never handed over to the family after the eventual slaughtering at Fort George. He disappeared without a trace. Time will reveal whether they were coerced and by who to take that strong militant stance. The Pied Piper is bound to be named one day.

Some of these stories with morals for life are taken in the context of entertainment for school children. So their messages never get discussed or even thought of after leaving school. As we reflect on Grenadian politics, there seems to always be a Pied Piper figure who plays the right kind of music for young minds to follow. The two main political parties of long ago, the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) and the Grenada National Party (GNP) unfortunately did not see it fit to have a youth arm in their parties since they seemed to have been focusing more on their elder statesmen. This left young people exposed and vulnerable. Wasn’t it the Pied Piper in the form of the new Jewel Movement that quickly seized the opportunity to enroll them? In examining the membership of the New Jewel Movement which is down as the most powerful opposition party Grenada has ever seen, secondary school students were most prominent. Some of them were even used to peddle the banned the party’s newsletter which was printed underground. Most of them ended up in a serious Marxist-Leninist movement.

Today, the two main political parties in the race for general elections next month seem to be playing the right kind of music as they focus on the youth of the nation. The Imani, a programme for young people, continues to be touted by the New National Party (NNP) as the answer to get young people hired. They are being trained in different areas including the police force and after two years are expected to be permanently hired. There are other empowerment programmes such as cosmetology and hair-dressing where young people are expected to start their own businesses after being trained. The NNP has even introduced a programme to finance them. This certainly seems to be the right kind of music because young people are dancing.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) on the other hand is made up of a group of fairly young people whose leader has been described as “dropping from the sky to take charge of the party”. Doesn’t this statement suggests that he is new to political work on the ground? However, like the Pied Piper, he has seemingly managed to capture the hearts of a fairly large number of young people as he continues to play his tunes. On GBN’s Beyond the headlines programme he was even described as someone with the makings of a charismatic leader.

While we have not seen a manifesto from any of the parties, we await the end result to see who was playing the better tune.

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