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Lift the spirit

Lift the spirit

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by Prime Minister Dr. The Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves

At Christmas 2006 I want to reflect on material poverty and the poverty of the human spirit which so imprisons man and woman.

It is widely and correctly accepted that in material terms the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, since Independence in 1979, have made significant progress. Incomes have risen; more wealth has been created; the housing condition has improved markedly; people are dressing better and more stylishly; poverty levels, though still higher than acceptable, are falling; far more motor cars are on the road; more and more Vincentians are travelling overseas on holidays; health, educational and other services have gotten better; and generally – speaking, people are better off as more and more families are becoming upwardly mobile.{{more}}

Amidst all of this, one senses a poverty of the spirit in our human condition perhaps more serious than material poverty. To be sure, there are pockets of unacceptable material poverty present across our nation, but it is nowhere the kind of material deprivation that we see on the television screens from parts of Africa, Bangladesh or Haiti. And it is necessary and desirable that we continue our commendable efforts as a government and people to wipe out material poverty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But more seemingly daunting is a growing poverty of the spirit among our people, especially among an increasingly large minority who are wallowing in a metaphorical pit of meanness, uncaring, hate, spite, malice, and raw inhumanity of man-to-man.

This growing poverty of the spirit is evidenced by plain rudeness, a rising lack of civility, domestic violence, a rip-off mentality, crimes of unspeakable cruelty and unreason, like the recent beheading of an innocent young lady at the Little Tokyo.

I am satisfied that much, if not all, of the crimes against property reside not in material poverty but in greed, envy, laziness, covetousness, bad mindedness, and a desire to “keep up with the Joneses”. Similarly, the crimes against the person, including those of rape and violence, have their origin in wicked minds and evilness. Evil is a condition which social scientists and historians ignore or down-play in their analyses of society partly because it is not easily understood. Indeed, I have been advised that the Second Book of Thessalonians teaches that evil cannot be fully understood this side of eternity. But we have to do our best here and now, to grasp its essentials and constantly battle against it. Wanton violence in a nation and terrorism internationally undoubtedly have their genesis partly in an evil mind; and they are sustained by evil.

Nowadays, there appears to be a tendency, or even a trend, to exculpate a person for his or her individual action. Often responsibility is placed upon the society and even a person’s family upbringing or socialization, for an individual’s commission of a wrong. To be sure, a full explanation, not an excuse for abominable conduct, may call for explanations into societal and or family hubris but in the final analysis the responsibility is individual.

We in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are basically a good-natured people. We respect and have been nurtured in certain tried and tested civilizing values. We are overwhelmingly a caring people. We are steeped in the humane and ethical ideals embodied in Christianity; we embrace the Kingdom values of Hope, Faith, Love and Unity; we reaffirm daily that our nation is founded upon the belief in the supremacy of God and the freedom and dignity of man.

We must not permit those who are wedded to the evil of criminality and vagabondry to define the essence of our society or to control our lives. On this we must be absolutely resolved especially so at Christmas, the time when we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savour, Jesus Christ, from whose life and teachings our goodness flows.

So, at Christmas 2006, let us lift our spirit; let us struggle individually and collectively against the growing poverty of the spirit; let us fight against the doctrine of the rightness of force and elevate the force, the spirit of righteousness. Let us be more loving and caring. Let us try to do better, and be better.

I wish all of our citizens at home and abroad, residents and visitors a wonderful, good, and blessed Christmas and a most productive and happy New Year.

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