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Reflecting on 15 years as a columnist

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The Context within which I write

Some time ago I was encouraged to produce a collection of my newspaper columns, but never really responded to it.
There are times, however, when I feel I should because our memories tend to be very short, sometimes conveniently so. I started writing a regular column with the NEWS from its inception in 1989 and with the SEARCHLIGHT when it started in 1995. {{more}}
Before that I wrote occasional articles for the VINCENTIAN. I would, therefore, have written hundreds of articles since then and have touched every conceivable topic. I do not pretend to have a monopoly on the truth or to be a fountain of wisdom but I write what I believe, and about what I am convinced. I am always prepared to defend what I write and am therefore always open to a challenge. Anyone who disagrees with any position stated by me is always free to criticize and to state an opposing point of view. I will always welcome that. In fact, I like nothing better than a verbal battle, one where ideas can contend, for my interest is not in the individual but in his/her ideas and opinions and developments in society. That is what a civilized society should encourage.
The technology and media are widely available and are ripe for this sort of dialogue. People must therefore be encouraged to be part of the dialogue and to be honest with themselves in doing so. As is to be expected, radio is the most readily available and easily accessible medium and is now widely used as part of a national conversation. Radio accommodates all and sundry, unlike the print media that tends to be prohibitive and dominated by a few.
Everyone has an opinion but sometimes lacks the information on which to ground that opinion, but in this age of information this is becoming less of a problem. What is very often at issue is the source of that information, a source that comes with its particular biases and agendas. The matter of objectivity is one that has been debated for centuries for the question is, can any human being be objective? It perhaps matters little once the audience understands the sources and biases and whatever else might inform that opinion or conclusion.
Part of the problem we face is one where some of our people still treat everything they see in print as the absolute truth. I always remember the gentleman who informed me that at school he learnt that Christopher Columbus discovered St. Vincent in 1498. To deny that at this stage of his life was to question his education. Here again is where technology comes into play for today, more than at any other time, what has been established as truth is being increasingly challenged. This impacts on education, too, for in some cases, and this will apply to some subjects much more than to others, by the time a student gets to the end of his formal school career much of what he/she learnt would have become obsolete. This affects and influences approaches to education, for students have to be taught ways of finding information and dealing with that information rather than be fixed to something called the truth that is supposed to stand forever. With history, for example, one has to be prepared to revise opinions based on the acquisition of more information, information that sometimes contradicts what exists. Information has to be assessed based on the nature of sources. French and British sources about wars with the Caribs are likely to convey different kinds of information and conclusions and to even contradict each other. In some cases, it is a matter of getting part of the information, rather than being in a position to make conclusions based on all the sources, despite their biases.
Continuing education is essential to developments in today’s society. With the pace of technology, it is sometimes necessary to virtually unlearn what might have been learnt ages ago. Education is thus, today, one from cradle to grave. Formal education is really only part of the process, for much of our learning and education comes from non-formal sources. People get their information and ideas from a variety of sources – radio, television, the e-mail and the Internet among others. With developments in education, too, our society has been undergoing tremendous changes and no area will be left untouched. A revolution is in progress, but the reality is that when you are in the process of change you do not very often sense the impact of what is taking place. Someone reflecting on this era 20 years down the road will be able to see much more clearly the transformation that is taking place.
Everything one does now is under constant scrutiny even by the “untutored and unlearnt”.
Knowledge is no longer the sole preserve of a few persons who were fortunate to have been provided with educational opportunities at the highest levels. In these small societies, unfortunately, there are those who judge individuals based on who they are or on what they believe they stand for rather than on what they really stand for. In any event, it is difficult to fool people today. They are not only more educated but also much more exposed and confident about themselves. In days of yore the village teacher was the kingpin. He interpreted the society and the happenings in the society for those around him. The village shopkeeper provided the kind of information he wanted those around him to have, often, too, handing out the political gospel.
With all of these developments it is more difficult to parade one’s assumed level of knowledge as a symbol of authority and power. Persons should therefore not be carried away with themselves and their pretensions. This is the context within which I write. I write, mostly, to share information and in cases, to challenge traditional views and to present a particular point of view. I am not afraid to state an opinion that I hold and believe in, and to do so without harm or malicious intent. To this end I hardly ever deal with individuals except in the case of persons, such as George Bush, who hold the fate of the world in their hands.
We have been brought up on the view that America is always acting in our best interest and is the fountain of democracy and justice. Moreover we are being fed daily doses of propaganda that highlight the virtues and good sense of that country even when it makes a mess as it is doing in Iraq. I have just completed Bob Woodward’s “Plan of Attack” and this confirms a lot of what I believed about the war in Iraq and the motives of those in the forefront. I am amused that only now is the American public beginning to be shocked by what has been transpiring in Iraq and in the Middle East. The writings were always there.

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