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Recovering Our Independence

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OCTOBER is the time we celebrate the recovery of our ‘Independence’. Let us never forget that our early ancestors lived in an independent society until the British arrived in 1763 through an European peace settlement that carved up some of the land with scant regard for those living on the land. What followed was a period of struggle that finally ended with the exile of the Garifuna and Kalinago people.

In 1979, under completely different circumstances, we were able to recover that ‘Independence’, with the terms of the recovery being dictated to us.

After 39 years, the question that has to be asked is, what has been and is our role in a process that was supposed to see the emergence of a ‘new’ society? True, many of us have been exercising our democratic right to vote. Often it is for the wrong reasons!

Whatever prompted us and influenced our decisions we then sit back and assume that we have done what was expected of us. After that we remain spectators looking at those whom we had elected, sometimes clapping, and sometimes booing.

We were supposed to have owned our ‘Independence’. It was not given to those who occupy the legislative chambers, but to all of us, the people of this land. Today we blame the Government for our ills and criticise the Opposition for not doing enough. In all of this we have divorced ourselves from the process and have still not understood our responsibilities. We continue to assume that by casting a vote we have done what is expected of us, and we eagerly await the next round when we can anticipate some goodies. That is the extent of our democracy.

We need to wake up!

Should we not be using this month to look at ourselves and walk the talk, because in the age of social media, we talk a lot. When things do not work out as we had hoped we should assume a large part of the responsibility for the state of things.

Politicians, or rather

those who command the helm of government, would do as much as they think they will get away with. Has the ‘education revolution’ so called, merely pushed the students who passed through the different institutions to focus primarily on certification with little regard for a larger role in our developing society?

Our society focuses on certification as we see when results of the many regional examinations are released. The media becomes obsessed with numbers, often with little regard for quality. In this whole process those who have not attained the academic heights at any level are almost forgotten. But their education has to be larger than this. There are many persons who have never gone to a university but have achieved levels of academic greatness. I think of CLR James, one of our pioneering and leading historians, the person who gave us Black Jacobins and who influenced Eric Williams’ Capitalism and Slavery.

The government also has the responsibility to create an environment that will stimulate and encourage others to contribute in any way they could. They, too, are unaware of their responsibilities. They see people as voting cattle, not as citizens who once given the opportunity might surprise with what they are able to bring to the table.

That is not how it used to be. The National Youth Council, with its many affiliated groups, was able to play an advocacy role, especially in the move to Independence and the creation of our first national hero. Along with other groups, they sparked off a larger debate. Ordinary citizens got involved, but something has gone wrong! Can we recapture that spirit, one filled with hope and optimism? Can this be our challenge as we celebrate the ‘recovery of our independence’?

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator F aser and historian

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