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Who said it Was Going to be Easy?

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25 years ago on October 27, 1979 the British flag was lowered and the St.Vincent flag hoisted in its place. A new nation was born to take its place among the nations of the world. The British connection did not disappear for the Queen remained Head of State, being represented in the country by a Governor General. The relationship with England started 216 years before when our country was captured by the British and the indigenous population sent into exile. {{more}}We took on board the paraphernalia that were supposed to symbolise the acquisition of independent status. We produced our own flag and national anthem. Our Premier became Prime Minister, Governor became Governor- General. We joined the United Nations and other regional and international bodies and did the other things we were expected to.

We had come of age and took on the responsibility of charting our own ship in waters that were becoming increasingly muddy. It can be argued that the changes were somewhat cosmetic. Our own people ruled or at least were supposed to. It was, nevertheless, business as usual for we did not make the mental leap that the occasion demanded. Although we had been talking a lot about independence we never really appreciated what it meant. The mindset that was supposed to have come with the responsibilities we had taken on never came. Really, we only pay attention to our status as an independent nation when we celebrate the anniversaries of our independence.

I support the position taken by the News newspaper which has been critical of the form that our independence anniversary celebrations have been taking. The centre piece is usually a military parade. What is the significance of military parades without a military? The fact that our neighbours do the same thing is no justification for doing it. They are really just as stupid as us. Is there nothing else that has meaning for our people? We are into the 25th year of our independence, but what does it really mean to us? Do we really attach any significance to the occasion? What is different from 25 years ago? Undoubtedly we have improved our material lives. We have become more confident as a people. We are much more aware of the outside world. Are we, however, building a nation or are we just going through the paces?

Some of our people have made marks at home and overseas, sportsmen and cultural artistes in particular. Why have we therefore not been highlighting these aspects of our development? What links have we been building with the Diaspora? Do we see them only as a source of remittances? Many of them have achieved immensely and have a contribution to make. They have mainly migrated to take advantage of opportunities we were never able to offer them at home. They remain an essential part of our nation and have to be taken into account in our efforts to build a nation.

Colonial attitudes and relationships will not disappear overnight. We entered the community of nations at a period not only of divisions between the western world and the communist world but also of the north south divide. Once we had loosened our strings with England we had to confront the juggernaut of the north that demanded absolute obedience. Their presence has become even more foreboding with the end of the Cold War. Now we are caught in another tangle that comes with what we call globalisation. Globalisation really masks tendencies that had long been in existence. We must ask ourselves, who controls globalisation? Is it some natural phenomenon?

Our 25th anniversary leaves us in a limbo. Our leaders have surrendered. They have accepted the theory about the end of history and by their actions suggest that there is only one way to go. At issue is how best to accommodate ourselves to the demands of what we euphemistically call the global world. It might be that that is the reality, but we must never sit back and take this as an eventuality. We recreated our lives in the slave quarters of the plantations. We have to maintain our identity that was forged over a period of tortured history and proclaim that identity in the face of all that is happening around us. There is something called West Indian and Vincentian is part of it. Let us more clearly identify it and use it as a base from which we can withstand the storms of life. Who said it was going to be easy?



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