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This is SVG: Anything goes!

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In recent columns I have been raising questions about ourselves as a people, as residents of SVG, and where we are heading. As usual there are those who see them as simply partisan political posturing, but as I continue to reflect on my concerns I get more and more worried.

When we think of development the focus is often on material well-being. We look at houses, roads and the physical infrastructure. We reflect on the state of the tourist industry and what is happening or not happening in agriculture and construction.{{more}} But there are other things we need to look at seriously: the attitudes of our people, our sense of responsibility and of community, the discipline or lack of it, our treatment of others, including children, our attitude to rules and regulations and to the law, how we look at creativity and the kind of mindset we have. I raise these because they all have to do with nation building.

I am of the view that discipline is critical to development and to nation building. Ours is a terribly ill-disciplined country, since we, as people who make up this country, are utterly ill-disciplined. Discipline has to do with order, with obeying rules, with self-control and being organised. How can you build or progress without this? Even the ability to succeed in school depends to a large extent on the kind of discipline one carries to one’s studies.

Rules and regulations mean little to us. When you add to this a sense of selfishness and lack of concern for others – that is lack of community, lack of putting one’s self into the place of others – then there can only be chaos. I had recalled sometime ago that I was told by an individual that she had a friend from England who had spent a few weeks here. On leaving, the friend said that St Vincent was the only place she had been to where there appeared to be no regulations. It is difficult to argue with this, since we do whatever satisfies our individual wishes or desires, regardless.

A few days ago I was driving out of the Sion Hill gap heading to Kingstown. A car in front had stopped at the intersection not allowing any other vehicle to come or go. The driver was speaking to a pedestrian. After waiting a few minutes I blew my horn and a passenger in the car with me shouted to the driver to move. My problem was not only with the driver. A youngster standing nearby took up cudgels on his behalf – “Wha happen, you stupid? You carn see that you carn pass? What happen you want to pass over the roof, you stupid?” Some expletives followed. I said nothing because to me it was a simple case of stupidity and ignorance. But as I reflect on this it was much more. It was a case of selfishness and of seeing nothing wrong with inconveniencing others.

This other example I am going to give represents pure ignorance. I was driving from Paul’s Lot and turned left to go to the market. A lady was crossing the street where there was not a pedestrian crossing. I stopped to allow her to pass. As she was passing she looked at me and said: “Watch people like you. You not concerned bout people. All you concern bout is your car.” How do you respond to this? Obviously you don’t.

A discussion on the treatment of children came up a couple nights ago. It was on the occasion of an evening of readings by Vincentian author Dr Nigel Thomas. During the discussion period, he raised the issue of the beating of children both at school and at home and mentioned that he had been at a business place a few days ago where he was shocked to see a young child being terribly brutalised by a parent. This, I had to admit, is still common in our society. Many parents feel that the only way of disciplining a child is by spanking or beating the child. Flogging still goes on in our schools and there are even those cases, rare I hope, where a wife or girlfriend accepts blows from a spouse on the grounds that it shows them that he loves them. It has a lot to do, as Thomas himself said, with power and control.

In SVG, children still don’t have rights. They are subject to the total control of their parents and not allowed to be creative, to disagree and to be themselves. They are in this way stifled in their development. Admittedly, there have been a number of changes in the way we relate to children, but there is still a lot left to be done.

As I had referred to an evening of readings by Dr Nigel Thomas, another issue of a different type emerged. Dr Thomas is a Vincentian national, someone who has migrated and made a name for himself. He is the author of a number of books, short stories and poems and also of other literary pieces.

He has been featured in Who’s Who in Black Canada and is an outstanding Vincentian. About half an hour after the readings were supposed to have started, there were only three persons present; some time later another three came and eventually the audience moved to a grand total of eight. Despite this, the reading from one of his short stories was well received and the discussion that followed, lasting to a little over an hour, was very lively and invigorating. We have a number of persons who have been writing poems, short stories and novels. There is also a writers’ association. One would have thought that they would have welcomed the opportunity to meet and talk with someone who has made a name for himself in that area. But this is SVG!

Anything goes!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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