Ah, butthurt. The Internet’s ultimate expression of its cognitive dissonance. As a rule, it should never be responded to directly, lest one feed the trolls and become the source of their lulz. But that doesn’t mean it can or should always be ignored. Just look at the Netherlands and the rest of continental Europe. Geert Wilders and his homologues elsewhere have managed to continue to score seats in their respective Parliaments (traditionally left leaning or not) despite their quasi-fascist rhetoric and the people who support them clearly do so out of pure butthurt. So much butthurt in fact, that this far-right phenomenon has persisted for decades like a dormant virus, biding its time, waiting to catch the immune system on a moment of weakness. There are a lot of elections taking place next year in that region. Who knows? Maybe Brexit and Trump’s election are signaling that the time has come. So, how about the here & now? What makes Tatitan’s patriotic hemorrhoids flare up? Well sit back, grab a drink and bare (the pain) with me. We’ll have to do this in parts.
PART TRHEE: Grow With The Flow
In marketing, the only certainty one can have about the preferences of a target group is that these will change over time. Faced with a choice of only apples and oranges, subjects who initially prefer apples will go for an orange after the first few apples and vice versa. This observation made long ago is the main reason why keeping an assortment, a range of products or variants of the same product, is generally recommended. Not doing so means somebody else will and overall market share will be lost.
It’s why Coca-Cola introduced Sprite in the sixties to compete with 7-up. Ideally, the goal with product variety is to be the market leader no matter what product variant the buyer is looking for. This bit of commercial wisdom is so basic and well known that I wasn’t surprised at all when everybody interpreted the announcement of Otmar Oduber’s new political platform as a case of “Coca-Cola introducing Sprite”.
The announcement itself wasn’t a surprise either. The man’s got “CAREER POLITICIAN” written boldly across his big forehead. WTF else was he going to do? Stepping down from his ministry like he did took ‘cojones’ (gotta give’em that), but no one that far gone in the Game does it without an exit strategy. Let me try to break it down for you.
First thing to consider is that next year’s an election year. It’s the time when you’re boasting about your achievements and making promises. For the former Minister of Tourism, it’s the time when you don’t want Aruba’s Hotel and Tourism Association (AHATA) stating that we’re underperforming relative to the region because the tourism authority’s (ATA) politically influenced marketing strategy is flawed and it’s costing us market share. Oh no, it’s the time when you want AHATA’s Jim Hepple to be reciting cherry-picked statistics (with a slight twitch in one eye) on TV ads paid for by ATA, like last time 4 years ago.
The other thing to consider is that, if the rumors are correct (and they tend to be with this guy), Mr. Oduber originally threatened to split last year on account of the government’s concession to the Kingdom on financial supervision. As heard through the grapevine, any further escalation from their side would mean Game Over.
Putting one and one together leads me to theorize that January’s false start was due to the Kingdom’s non-response to ‘our’ fiscal body’s notification of a violation of article 15.6 of the LAFT, Aruba’s financial supervision act. When it became clear that the Dutch weren’t going to bring it up, it became apparent that it was best to let the palace revolution fizzle out and use that as leverage to push the so called “All inclusive law”.
The real purpose of the latter is of course to obtain Soft Power, that political ambrosia essential to all the Frank Underwoods of the world. Having a law repurposed in a way that (along with the beach policy and the fact that Transportation falls under this ministry) pretty much makes the Minister of Tourism a leviathan that controls all of the sector’s licensing is the smart way to silence any critical voices coming from within the industry and even make Jim Hepple recite the Quran on camera, if so desired.
The issue surrounding the all-inclusive business model for resorts on the island was simply used by Otmar Oduber to increase his ministerial might. I’m truly impressed with Mr. Oduber’s machinations and how he managed to convince the media that the repurposing of the business licensing law was to put a check on the all-inclusive-boogeyman. To this day we still talk about “the All-inclusive law”, when it was always about licensing and being the one to decide who is allowed to make money in this sector and who isn’t. In this new situation, if you want to prosper with tourism, you’ll have to owe whoever’s Minister of Tourism a favor, like it’s a freaking mafia.
This power hogging didn’t go unnoticed. Alarms went off at AHATA, the State Advisory Council, and the parties in opposition as well as business insiders. And like a true leviathan, Otty’s response to concerns was Hobbesian pure and true. Everybody’s just exaggerating and everything is gonna be alright because the Minister will -in principle- always act in the best interest of the island. Now this dumb, simplistic cop-out blatantly insults my intelligence.
Maybe Mr. Oduber’s ego has gotten the better of him and he genuinely believes he only acts in Aruba’s best interest. Maybe he’s so full of himself that there’s just no doubt in his mind that he’ll be back as minister next year. But what if he was in Andin’s (small minority) position and the incumbent MinTour was abusing this newly obtained power in a manner that he genuinely believed was not in our best interest?
What good is this law if there’s a parliamentary majority that sheepishly does as it’s told and cannot hold accountable the vote-getter that put them there? Is it then a smart thing to concentrate even more power into the hands of that vote-getter? I’m sure that reason would’ve trumped ego and not the other way around, had Otmar only stopped to think about it for two seconds. But he didn’t. It’s that ambrosia, you dig? It’s good, too good. It will make you do things.
Hearing now that Otmar & Andin’s respective groups are forming a joint platform is a bit like hearing your old buddy has started to hang out with that dude that does hard drugs and you’re like: NOOOOOOOO! Yeah, cognitive dissonance is a bitch, I know. It seems all Players in the Game (worldwide) are following the same strategy: Grow with the Flow.
Preferences are changing, but politicians can’t change themselves. So they change their positions. For Otmar Oduber that means stepping out of his ministerial comfort zone and try to differentiate his brand name so people who want change, but would be damned if they voted MEP, can have their “change vote” with him. In this sense, merging with Andin’s brand name does have the appeal that it both eliminates this sensible third option and differentiates Otmar from AVP. So what if a few votes swing back to the yellow side. It’s just a few, right? Right?
But enough about Sprite. How about Coca-Cola? Well, Mike is probably not happy about the split, but I don’t know about that. It’s equally probable that a story arc is being played out like a TV wrestling rivalry. In both cases the truth is that support for Otmar Oduber, on whatever platform he chooses to launch from, means support for a third Mike Eman cabinet. It’s not an ideal situation for the Prime Minister, but I’m sure that after mentally spray-painting gold over the shitty parts, he’ll be able to turn the frown upside down and smile through whatever residual butthurt he might feel. Preferences are changing. Gotta grow with the flow.