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Our ‘National Essence’ at stake!

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In recent issues of SEARCHLIGHT, Louise Mitchell Joseph and Vonnie Roudette have been raising issues about what they call our “National Essence,” which they are suggesting is for sale. The article which has so far appeared in three parts is essential reading, in that it focuses on issues to which we as citizens of this country need to pay attention. What they have done is to question the nature of our development, indicating that it is not sustainable and does not protect our national patrimony.{{more}}

Although the authors are concerned about the nature of foreign investment undertaken here, particularly in the area of tourism, their arguments relate to development generally. It is as if anything goes and investors are given the green light to do whatever they want. They make the point that there are severe limitations of size and space and an ecosystem that is fragile. To what extent are environmental impact assessments built into many of the projects undertaken in this country? Have we paid attention to the type of investment we need and does this relate to the type of development we are seeking? These are questions that emerge from what

they have written, but there are many more. They have pointed to some of the areas that should concern all persons interested in the type of development we are undertaking.

On the matter of nature conservation as the foundation of a sustainable tourism product they use the example of Mustique. Now there are a number of questions and issues that can be raised about Mustique, but the attention the developers in that area pay to protecting the environment and to conservation generally is clearly remarkable. On my first visit to Mustique, this was something that easily caught my attention. I was truly amazed by the efforts they put into those areas. There was no concrete jungle and enormous sums were obviously being spent on protecting the natural environment.

Among the other issues they raise is that of respecting the dignity and customs of the people. I had raised this years ago when there was serious dissatisfaction with the Canouan Resort. I am of the view that any major project to be undertaken in a community should have the blessings of the community. The people should have an understanding of what will be involved, because inevitably, whatever is being done will impact on them. But it is not only the people’s understanding of what is being undertaken, but it must also involve the consciousness of the investors about the social and physical environment. So dialogue is always needed!

I have just briefly touched on some issues raised in the three-part article, as I seek to draw attention to the fact that there has really never been a serious debate about the nature of our development. In fact, to some people, development is about putting up concrete structures and about the number of phones and cars that come into this country. They pay little attention to the sale of our lands, the protection of our environment and respect for their own dignity and customs. It is only at a late stage when the negatives begin to manifest themselves that some concerns are raised, but even then those who benefit are least concerned about the long term impact and whether or not we are embarked on a development that is sustainable.

I must compliment the two writers for hopefully starting a debate which is late, but nevertheless needed.

Gunfight at the O.K Corral

Events in the past week, particularly the last week of April and the first ten days in May, remind me of the days when I used to look at Western movies. One I remember distinctly is “Gunfight at the OK Corral,” which was based on an incident in Arizona in the 1880s, but was reproduced in a film in the 1950s that featured Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster.

Gender-based killings and violent action continue unabatedly, along with shootings by police and robberies to which we now seem to pay little attention, since they occur almost daily. There have been marches held calling for an end to violence; there have been discussions and measures put in place, like neighbourhood watches and the establishment of police youth groups. All of this is commendable, because this has to be dealt with on all fronts. I haven’t heard much about stepped up police patrols, but I am sure that this is in place.

My concern, however, is that it is becoming a part of our being. Anytime there is any argument between persons, men and women, but particularly men, what you hear is “You really lucky I ain have my cutlass with me, but when I meet you again I go kill you”. It is as if the only answer to any dispute is to resort to violence. There are obviously two approaches, long and short-term. The short-term involves measures to stem the tide. But we have to get the message into the schools, churches, and community organisations. This should include conflict resolution sessions, sessions on how we relate to one another and on a multiplicity of related matters.

We certainly cannot afford to have youngsters growing up in a culture of violence. I have never read the NDP’s “Spiritual, Social and Redemption Charter,” but from what I have heard of it, this is one of the directions in which we should be going. I gather it incorporates a wide range of things. We have to tackle this matter from all angles.

Fear is definitely growing in the society. We are into battle and everyone needs to be on board.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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