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Continuing the conversation

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Something seems to be happening in this country. What it is I am not sure, but you pick it up everywhere. More and more people are talking although some not publicly at the moment. The discussion is rich. It is not necessarily about support for one party or the other although this might be implied in some of the comments made.

One major topic of conversation over the past week, at least in some quarters, had to do with the Prime Minister’s visit to Ethiopia. His was an unusually large delegation and the composition was a strange one, one that included even the Prime Minister’s son. {{more}}

After only a few weeks of employment in the Attorney General’s office, he has already visited Cuba and now Ethiopia. What is this really all about? What is expected from this visit bearing in mind the huge costs involved with moving a fourteen-member delegation around? We are into big times. What is that about champagne tastes on mauby economies!

Obviously those persons who speak about government’s financial constraints are mistaken. The claims that many persons are not being paid and that business places are refusing to give credit to government agencies could definitely not be true. Or is it that we have our priorities turned upside-down?

Clearly a number of things that are happening now at break neck speed have nothing to do with the development of the country. They are obviously election tailored. Is it that our politicians have so little regard for our people that they feel they can make up for past neglect by simply coming up with a number of hurried packages, many of them not seriously and thoroughly thought through?

Really, I thought we had gone past that. It is hard to believe that this is 2005, 26 years into independence, for we are to a large extent practising the politics of the 1950s. I tend to believe that many of our people are not impressed, that they have grown beyond that.

On Tuesday night, October 18, a large audience at the Methodist Church Hall was treated to quite an informative and inspirational lecture by Dr. George Mulrain. It was part of the University’s annual independence lecture series. This was perhaps the best in the series so far in terms of the effect it had on people. It was jargonless and came right through to the realities of life.

The number of comments made after were testimony to the inspiration it provided. Every comment from the floor reflected this. People were motivated to speak out. The Guyana situation was brought up and a member from the floor, after expressing the promise that Guyana once held out for its people, drew attention to the collapse and the subversion of that spirit. She suggested that part of it had to do with the hostility to any critical views. She concluded and appealed to Vincentians not to give their support unconditionally to any political party or politician. Other speakers echoed this theme. One person made the point that although there was freedom of thought there was no freedom of expression. There was in his view the lack of a large group of independent thinkers. This latter was in support of an earlier speaker who lamented that there was not a large enough intellectual grouping to do the necessary critique. What existed and this included people in the media, were merely foot soldiers of one or other of the political parties. This, he found dangerous. Our people too, were challenged not to speak one language in front of the politicians and another when they turned their backs. Perhaps that comment failed to consider that that might have been an appropriate response to the existing situation. All of this was part of a rich dialogue that flowed from the floor. Some of this continued after with the discussion moving outside.

Dr. Mulrain’s presentation dealt in part with the promise of independence and really when one compares the situation in 1979 with that today, there is little doubt that we have made tremendous strides. Our people have grown and are growing and this is what is important, for independence is no abstract phenomenon. Independence is about people, people moving from a state of colonialism to one of independence, of people ridding themselves of the colonial baggage and assuming a new identity and with new clothing. We are continually challenged. I was very impressed with a letter in last week’s Vincentian newspaper entitled “Dr. Ferdinand, I totally agree!’ The writer in reference to Dr. Ferdinand’s article of September 23, lamented the tendency for our people to be content with mediocrity. The last paragraph of that letter is worth quoting; “The result of this, all this complacency is a mediocre society that will be left behind on all accounts. I’ve always believed that the success of a nation depends on its people. If we do not get out of this dangerous rut, we are only sabotaging the progress of our nation.”

We have really to rise to the challenges and to strive to put our best foot forward. In a globalised world mediocrity cannot be accepted for we would find ourselves left far behind. So we have a lot of work to do. The work should not be left to the politicians. They have, however, to provide the climate that will allow us to rise to these challenges. They will have to rid themselves of their ‘thin skin’ and engage us, not try to control us.

Those in power have to realise that they are not gods, that they are really not even in control. They hold office in trust for us. Eventually we decide.

There is a lot of nonsense taking place in our society and those that our tax- payers have provided with the best education they can afford are the ones who remain or who are a part of what we can call a conspiracy of silence.

Our education was never intended to make us tools to be used and discarded. We have also to look carefully at that organisation to which we often genuflect, that is, the political party. In last week’s Vincentian newspaper Oscar Allen refers not to a tool but to a weapon. He states, “… Sisters and brothers, I find that the political party has become a weapon that people have used to turn the nation into a kingdom- the property of a king. I have noticed sadly that party supporters become blind and foolish when the party stirs them up.”

Unfortunately this included not only those deemed to be ‘uncultured and untutored.’

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