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Are we moving backward as a people?

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This is a question I keep asking, to try to convince myself that we are not. I have so far not been able to do that. We have developed materially and educationally. In fact, I had better rephrase this and say that we have acquired more material things and more educational certificates. Our minds, however, remain imprisoned. We are not functioning with the degree of self-confidence and freedom of mind that we should. Our national anthem was about the land, the physical thing. “St Vincent land so beautiful…Hairoun our fair and blessed isle…Our little sister islands…”{{more}} (sister to whom?) With regard to the people, to us, we simply threw in something about faith and asked for God’s blessings. But there has got to be more. The fundamental thing about Independence is the liberation of the people. If the people are not free and liberated, the land will never be. We profess patriotism by singing the entire anthem on occasions when we think we need to sing the anthem. Many other nations will on most occasions sing only one verse. But for our patriotism, we have to demonstrate it!

In 2012, the 21st century, the 33rd year of our independence we still put up with a lot of nonsense. We let the political elite and their opinion makers frame the nature of the debate, while we most often act as echo chambers. We accept things without questioning and by default proclaim them to be true. We have in all of this been changing our political culture even without recognising it. Let me in making this point highlight two issues.

The “Caretaker”

The first has to do with some strange creature we care to call the “caretaker”. The “caretaker” so called, is elevated to a position of high esteem. But who and what is this being? No matter how we care to define him/her, the fact is that that being has not been elected by the constituency. Really, on most occasions, this being has been rejected at the polls. But when there are functions in communities where members of the Opposition are the legitimate representatives, elected by the people, this animal is given pride of place, invited to speak as a caretaker, even at the expense of the representative. And we have accepted this nonsense.

There might be persons within a community or constituency who command the respect of the community and who it would want to invite to speak at official functions; but this should have nothing to do with a title of “caretaker” conferred on him that gives him some official status, even though he might be foisted on the community, being often pulled virtually out of nowhere. He supersedes the elected representative and it becomes totally absurd when the people are forced to go to this strange creature for anything that is needed in the community. Of course, he/she commands more say, officially, than those the community/constituency elected. Why do we have to fall for and tolerate this nonsense, this blatant insult to our intelligence?

The Education Revolution

The other matter I want to focus some attention on, even if only for reflection, is something dubbed “The Education Revolution”. I have not been able to find out what this thing is, for those you ask for a definition seem not to know. Even members of the Opposition refer to the “Education Revolution” as if it is something that exists. There has undoubtedly been advancement in education and in the development of education facilities. Our people have been acquiring more educational certificates, that is, being more certificated; but do these constitute a revolution? If they do, then we would have succeeded in redefining the meaning of revolution. Is it that independence has given us the right to do this? For me, one of the most striking things today is the awareness of our people of the importance of education. With this comes their willingness to make sacrifices for their children to be educated at the highest levels. This really stands out, for I marvel at the extent to which parents and guardians will mortgage everything they have to ensure that their children take advantage of the opportunities that they never had. What challenges this now is the difficulty many of these sons and daughters have in getting employment when they return home, making it extremely difficult to repay their student loans. It is as if someone forgot that this aspect has got to be part of the equation.

One also has to ask questions about the nature of their education, because many return still mentally enslaved, not questioning anything, but simply accepting what is handed to them. The independence of mind and spirit one would have expected somehow does not exist. The country, if it is to advance and achieve what independence was supposed to mean, has got to find a higher level of discourse where people feel free to express themselves and contribute to the national debate, rather than leave things in the hands of a few whose goals might not fit in with those of the majority of the people. We have to be creative and productive and not simply sit down waiting on handouts, swallowing, in the process, all kinds of insults as though all of us are not citizens and God’s people. There has got to be a new beginning and we will have to initiate it. This is the only way we will be able to move forward. I know I had been described in some quarters as being lazy; in fact someone reminded me about this recently. What many of us have not realised is that there is a lot more to this statement than we think, because the plantation owner and the colonial masters were often referring to their slaves and the emancipated black as being lazy. This says more about those that make the statement than it does about me.

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