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At the Crossroads!


I had for some time been not only concerned about the situation existing in St.Vincent and the Grenadines but also contemplating what the future holds for us and the way forward. The opinions I hear being expressed daily have left me very worried because it appears to me that we have painted ourselves into a kind of quagmire. For the first in a long time I have come across something that has given me hope in providing us with a framework to ‘think our best thoughts.’{{more}} I am referring to last week’s letter in the Searchlight “SVG will be changed forever” written by Bertram John. Unfortunately, I have only just looked at it while sitting in front of my computer preparing to do this week’s column. It is an article that requires much deeper reflection. I was actually preparing to write on the crime situation following two recent murders and the special Caricom meeting to be held in Trinidad. I was also contemplating writing about a very worrying incident that occurred recently in Barrouallie to a Vincentian serving in the US navy in Japan. I understand, however, that this incident is being covered by other sources so I will comment on it at another time.

John’s article I hope will allow us to carry on the type of conversation we have not had before. I am assuming that this letter is written by someone who is not residing in SVG and perhaps it really takes some one who is not trapped in the mess that is St.Vincent and the Grenadines to really bring us along this course. The issue that has caused John to write this piece has to do with the alleged rape incident involving the Prime Minister and a policewoman. John notes that the Vincentian community has become ‘split into mutually opposed versions of belief’. He said that in this context ‘a people cannot think their best thoughts or be their best selves’. He feels that the truth needs to be told, but ‘It is a truth that is not simply limited to the question of who did what…The need for truth at this point is nothing less than the opportunity for the nation to define itself.’ He sees the need for self discovery and argues that “How we get beyond the current crisis is very much within our control. Indeed how we do so will define us for some time.”

But how we really get beyond the current crisis is the major question. How do we get out of that fractious political machinery as John describes it? John goes further, “We say that we should extend sympathy to both parties in the conflict, but how can we do this while trapped in a perverted version of reality?” He suggests, too, that “The truth must speak to all of us in all of its complexity. The underlying issues are fundamentally lodged in the system of values that we have accepted. Only adherence to the truth can permit us to examine that system of values productively.”

My question is still how do we move in that direction in a country that with a ‘fractious political machinery’ and with a ‘political practice (that) is seriously deformed.’ John is of the view that we are facing a great crisis in our history which provides us with an opportunity to grow or failing that to descend into stagnation. In either event, SVG would be changed. “We will either accelerate the politics of disunity that further isolates us from each other, or we will be jolted into the realization that the price we’ve already paid is painful enough to suggest a saner path.”

John speaks truth to us. He functions at a level that should allow us to step back and lift ourselves from the stark and stinking realities that engulf us. But what is the reality? We have different versions of it. If we start from the premise that the central issue is all a political conspiracy then we are not going to be able to lift ourselves because then we only have to crush the political conspiracy and all will be well. How do we really arrive at truth, not in the sense of who did what but in defining ourselves and understanding who we are and what we are about? Even if we are able to come to a consensus that our political practices are deformed we will probably never agree on the causes of this deformity.

But there are deeper truths behind all of this. We start from the assumption that we are dealing with a people, a community, a nation but we are really ‘ulp-ites’ or ‘ndp-ites’ or green party people. Are we ready to declare ourselves citizens of an ethical nation? An ethical nation! This conjures up different things to different people. John asks us difficult questions especially for a people who are ‘trapped in what we believe most passionately.’ Are our citizens and leaders ready to exemplify behaviour truly characteristic of a people of a ‘noble civilization’? Has our journey through generations of struggle for human dignity failed us? Has our nation been able to produce individuals who possess the courage to voluntarily acknowledge a mistake and to seek atonement? Do we have in ourselves persons able to model the best that we can be? John hopes “that our people could create a spirit of such compassion, nurturance and support that it could allow both individuals to express their truth in a tolerant atmosphere that refuses to judge, but seeks to learn.” This is the crux of John’s piece, creating a climate that will allow both individuals to express their truth in a tolerant atmosphere. But he acknowledges that it goes beyond that for it also ‘requires such a spirit to understand how to redirect ourselves.’ How can a divided people rise out of what entraps them to create that kind of atmosphere?

John challenges us. He believes ‘that this situation can help us shape a society that cares more for itself.’ The dilemma is not one that only confronts an individual or both individuals at the centre of the crisis. It is one that involves all of us, one that will not yield until we all face it honestly. But the crisis is even more than what John considers to be at the heart of the current situation. It is a crisis not only arising from deformed politics but from a society that needs to redefine itself and as John admits, “…the underlying issues are fundamentally lodged in the system of values that we have accepted.’ But are we prepared to examine that system of values? The truth is, we are deeply scared of confronting truth. We are indeed failing as a people and other crises will emerge of different kinds and dimensions. I am not very optimistic that we are ready to re-examine ourselves and confront certain truths. Until we are able to do so we will move from crisis to crisis and not fully understand the depth of those crises and how to resolve them. At the heart of this in my view is ‘a fractious political machinery.’ I hope that John will continue this conversation. He points to a way forward but I am sceptical about our ability to do so at this point. I am not even sure that we can be jolted into the realization that the price we have already paid is painful enough to suggest a saner path. We will all have a different understanding of what was behind the price we have had to pay even if we can agree that we have had to pay a price.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a historian and social commentator.