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Independence is a doorway

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by Oscar Allen 24.OCT.08

At the Independence Festival of One people, One Nation, now moved to Friday, 31st October, Heritage Square will come alive with new meaning. We will confront the Heritage of our Independence. Revolutionary opportunities have come with Independence, opportunities which colonialism repressed, kept to itself, and told us not to go there.{{more}} Now, even more than in colonial times, we citizens of St.Vincent and the Grenadines must learn both to appreciate and to question, both to call for and to create the new life that comes with our new powers. We have to answer this question: What have we done, or not done, with our Independence?

Let us fix our gauge, therefore, on one of the internal opportunities which have become opened or remained closed as well as one of the external opportunities.

One People:

It was colonial policy and ideology to denigrate and dishonour and divide our people while it honoured the people of England. So our population was a split population. One value dividing line was race, colour and physiognomy; another was education (of course, the colonial rulers ruled over education), another dividing line was place of residence (a black unschooled town dweller was better than a black unschooled country dweller!); other valuation lines were the property/capital line, the labour value/skill line. All these things divided our people before independence. The Jamaican scholar Sylvia Winter calls these dividing lines “multiple modes of coercion and power relations…”, our ways and means to subjugate, divide and to rule. Independence has, however, opened the door for us to construct one people, one nation, sharing one vision of upliftment. To overcome each of these discrimination factors, there must be a particular approach and strategy. It would be dotish to try to abolish race and colour and “white” aesthetics, but the social elevation, cultic isolation of “colour”, media denigration of black must be deliberately targeted in order to construct one people out of culturally uneven segments.

Even as we promote the liberation of education opportunity to more persons with a university graduate in each home, what constructive and unifying vision do we have driving us? Are we going for more trained professionals who will provide more services to the economy at home and abroad and keep economic and their personal growth steady while the poor keep faith? Is one of the objectives to educate the political leaders of tomorrow, or of this evening, into an intellectual or petit bourgeoisie of some sort – exercising power and enriching their class? Alternatively, the liberation of education opportunity can have as its driving theme: To make the education of each, the condition for the development of all… that would be the opposite of the colonial policy which was educate to divide and rule.

There has not been enough deliberate thought and policy to construct national unity. As we celebrate 29 years of Independence and examine what we have done with it, let us resolve to open more doors to unity among ourselves.

One Nation Region

While Haiti was struggling for its independence, one of its earlier constitutions declared that any black person who landed on Haitian soil became a free citizen of Haiti. That was more than 200 years ago, an offer of liberation to oppressed and enslaved Africans at the time. It can even be seen as a foretaste of regional integration! The British, who did share their passport with us, played around with convenient administrative integration in the islands and Guyana, offering independence to a Federation of its West Indies. Today, we still tinker with Caribbean integration. We take one step sideways, two steps backwards in an expensive dance. In 29 years, we have probably attended more than 500 regional meetings of officials! The Haitian principle is definitely a good one. 40 years ago, two Guyanese economists, Havelock Brewster and Clive Thomas, proposed another economic principle: joint production for the regional and external market. Only the farmers in banana followed this principle, halfway. Thomas, in 1984, showed how to renew the sugar cane industry by turning it, on a regional level, into a sucro-chemical industrial complex, manufacturing food, fertilizer, medicines, plastics etc from sugar based ethanol. The opportunities for people based and industrial regional integration were there, the leadership saw only problems. Let us ask Brewster and Thomas to facilitate the broad consultations on the Trinidad Tobago to St. Lucia “press conference” proposal. One Nation in the Caribbean could shift the world.