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We have a country to build!

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I feel deeply that our theme for Independence this year should be a reminder to all of us, but especially to the politicians, that we have a country to build.

The calypsonians have echoed this and De Man Age’s “This Society Needs Spectacles” is even more relevant today than when he first sang it, because we are dancing around in circles, playing political games. To some extent Age is wrong, because we can see the problems without the aid of spectacles. Thirty-nine years after the recovery of our independence where do we start?

Instinctively, we are apt to say, with those at the top, those we have elected to govern our country. But the signals being sent out border on the absurd. I was particularly perturbed by the Prime Minister’s response to the Leader of the Opposition’s call for them to work together on, I believe, issuing a statement on crime or something to that effect. The Prime Minister said that he did not trust him.

Come on we have given governance of this country to two groups, one holding on to the realms of the power and the other on the opposition bench. So how does the question of lack of trust emerge?

For if there is no trust then this reflects negatively on how the country is governed. Not long after this, at, I believe the occasion of the National Day of Prayer, we saw the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition holding hands. So ridiculously bogus! Maybe we should get rid of the word Opposition when we are speaking about the composition of parliament. The Opposition was never sent there simply to oppose, but to be part of governance, to be critical when it needs to, but to support when necessary. Admittedly if there is no trust, then this is a non-starter.

My concern is that this sends the wrong signal, because we have a society where some of us exist, waiting for the words of or a signal from those we have voted into parliament. Unfortunately, we do not care to look critically at things and this is perhaps the point that De Man Age is making when he says that the Society Needs Spectacles. I can say without fear of contradiction that if those at the top tell us to jump our immediate reaction is “How High?” The idea of questioning why we have to jump does not arise at all. It is as if we are there simply to accept orders in a bid to impress those issuing the orders. But to be honest about this, these are not usually sent as orders, but because we are not wearing spectacles we interpret it that way. Perhaps Civics must be reintroduced into our schools’ curricula and be a significant element in Adult Education classes.

We, as a society, are quite fascinated with the word ‘revolution. Perhaps what is really needed is a revolution in governance. What is governance? Governance is the process of governing our country. It is not limited to people we elect to govern, but involves all of us, the people of the country. It is about how we interact and how decisions are made. As we move toward celebrating 39 years we have to remember that Independence if it is to mean anything, has to do with people.

I asked earlier, where do we start? Despite our criticism of the church and of elements within the church that are there to serve their own interests, it still enjoys some moral authority, but if it loses that moral authority, as is fast happening, then it becomes useless because we can have a relationship with God without its presence. Remember we have a country to build!   

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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