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SVG forever forward, never backward – my response

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My column of November 23 was captioned “Are We Moving Backward as a People?” Elma Gabriel who describes herself as a Community Advocate in Toronto has responded via a letter in Caribbean News of November 30. I welcome this, since I am of the view that we need to have a national conversation on where our country is heading. My response is with this in mind and also to answer a couple references made to me as a person.{{more}} Elma starts by saying that throughout my article I had been toiling with the assessment of nationals of SVG as a people. What I simply did, with no labouring, was to highlight the fact that Independence is about people and not the physical space in which we live. I argue that “Our minds however remain imprisoned. We are not functioning with the degree of self-confidence and freedom of mind that we should.” I make no apology for this and stick by what I said. There is no belabouring the point, except to realise that I am making a broad generalisation that, as with generalisations, will not fit all.

Elma has taken me up on the point I made about the “Education Revolution”, that is, what constitutes the revolution, without actually answering the question. She argues that contrary to my opinion about the “education revolution” there are visible signs of growth. What’s the point, since I acknowledge that; Unless she is pointing to a distinction between growth and development Does growth constitute a revolution? One can look only at the development of CXC examinations and the establishment of Community Colleges and the UWI Open Campus to see visible signs of development. There is no argument here, but a revolution has to go beyond that.

Elma labours on the point that we must see the glass as half full, rather than half empty. I have no problem with that. In fact facilitators use this all the time. My point is that unless we develop as a people, the glass will never reach near full and just might continue to remain half full. For her, the most damaging factors in moving forward as a people “are the challenges of getting nationals mindset out of the similarity of election mode.” I don’t know if I should assume from this that we are not moving forward, given the “stagnant mindset” relating to the “similarity of election mode.” Maybe she can help me here by indicating how we got into this election mode. This “stagnant mindset”, we are told, “will only bring questions to the most vibrant of projects.” Surely the process of development should and must involve raising questions about even the most vibrant of projects. Ironically, because of this “stagnant mindset” the questions never arise.

There is need, she says, for proper mentoring to focus on the glass being half full, rather than half empty. In my view what proper mentoring needs to do is to focus on getting the glass as near to full as possible, regardless of whether or not we describe it as half full or half empty. There is a tongue-in-cheek point about nudging me out of my “comfort zone” to where “my expertise can be of more value”. I am not sure what she knows about me, but

let me set the record straight. The only thing I have not been involved in is the formal political masquerade. Had I cared to do so, I would then have found myself a “comfort zone”. I have served my country as a teacher, paid community organiser for three years with the Christian Council and Caribbean Conference of Churches, an executive member and treasurer of the Teachers Union, assisting in organising the 1975 teachers’ strike and in the establishment of the Teachers Credit Union, coordinator for five years of a regional NGO involved in facilitating and supervising community projects in the region, a member of the executive of the Barrouallie Football Association and president of the National Football Association. I have delivered more than one hundred lectures in all areas of SVG and in St Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad and Curacao. I have participated in discussions on radio, television and in communities, and had the privilege of debating the issue of Independence with Ebenezer Joshua, possibly our next National Hero. He was of the view that we were not ready for Independence. I insisted that we were always ready for Independence.

Elma argues that one can only be mentally enslaved if he or she chooses to embrace that path. The choice, we are told, is to stay enslaved by not questioning anything or to take a stance. The issue is, why isn’t there more questioning of things? Is it not because those who question things receive the wrath of those who control the levers of power? She sees as a worthwhile initiative instigating a women’s movement in a culture where “women are classified to be offensive, if they seek to question that which may appear to be inappropriate…” My dear lady this applies not only to women and the women’s movement. These are the kinds of attitudes I am using to judge where we are 33 years after Independence.

“The finality”, argues Elma, is that, “taking a stand can be unpopular but faith will bring you justice.” I might even agree with this, but she must have realised that taking a stand is seen by those who control power as being part of that “stagnant mindset” that is a function of the “similarity of election mode”. Her heroes are our Prime Minister, who opted to take a stand “at a time when his only accomplishment was his education credentials” and Kojo Williams “who was a watchman for justice for all… and who did not camouflage his views.” This obviously describes a particular mindset and says a lot.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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