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Renewal at 40!

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In my recent publication I argued that “an Independent country with the basic structures of colonialism still intact needed to reconstruct its society and develop its own identity and personality . . . (Independence) set in motion a process, still continuing, that involved creating a society that catered to the hopes and aspirations of all its people.”  I agree with Kenyan author Ngugi Wa’ Thiongo that colonialism involved “control through culture of how people define themselves and their relationship to the world”. It is in this context that I see “Renewal at 40!” As I listen to many people, they see Independence as something skin deep, largely about the physical, about a new flag and national anthem; a land with “mountains high, so clear and green” with its ‘sister islands’, the gems with “their seas and golden sands”. It is, moreover, equated with material development, with the number of motor cars, mobile phones etc! Then there is the ‘Education Revolution’. But the British and French continuing dependencies are doing even better than us materially and economically and are also making strides in education. So, we have obviously to find different standards. There must be some deeper meaning to Independence and to what needs to be renewed.

What is missing is the people? Have we grown holistically? Are we critical thinkers? What of our self-esteem and self- control? Has our productivity been increasing? In fact, what are we producing? Do we have a sense of identity or are we still trapped in the colonial mindset? Do we see ourselves in control of our affairs? Why, at a time when we have secured a seat in the UN Security Council, are we begging for used ambulances and fire trucks? Shouldn’t we reorganise, expand, and re-examine the role of our diplomats abroad? For me ‘Renewal at 40’ means renewing and re-examining the meaning of Independence? Are we on track? According to I Witness News of October 27, “Higher welfare payouts tops PM Independence announcements.” So, are we on track? Welfare ‘payouts’ rather than job creation is not something to be proud of at Independence! It tells a story! Our Independence anniversary has now become a fashion parade built around the colours of our flag. Admittedly, it is good to see people displaying their creativity, reminding us that the old-fashioned sewing of our grandparents is still around. But it all appears to end after the Independence holiday when the sense of Independence disappears until October next year.

How do we really see ourselves as Vincentians? Are we one people or do we label ourselves as ‘we’ and ‘them’? What is our role in the governance of our country? Independence from Britain means very little if we do not in our lives display the sense of being an independent and creative people. Have we exchanged colonial masters for masters of our own making? Are we re-energising ourselves for the tasks ahead or are we only prepared to leave that to others and hope for the best? We are not really in the best of shape at this critical juncture in our ‘post-independence’ life. Criminal activity continues to run rampant. Sexual assault and rape have become a weekly, if not daily, occurrence while “We” and “They” are failing as a people to come together to rid ourselves of that terrible scourge. In fact, any attempt, by a few, to single these out for discussion and attention is met by the accusation that they are tarnishing the image of the country. Not the perpetuators, but those who are concerned enough to call for action! At the back of this is a country politically divided with a growing sense of ill-discipline that feeds the problems. “Renewal” means little if we do not identify and treat the real issues instead of pampering ourselves. But Independence is more. I quote George Lamming; “A nation is made known to itself by the creative and cultural work which grows out of the soil of that society”.

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