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Roll back of the cultural influences

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BLACK HISTORY MONTH In the two previous columns, we explained some positive socio-cultural and political influences of the “Black Power” era. Today I want to look at how a great ROLL-BACK as I term it, has occurred in relation to these influences and their replacement by negative foreign attitudes throughout our entire society.

But before doing this, there is one other positive aspect which deserves mention. It pertains to the promotion of women’s rights and equality. Two weeks from today, on March 8th, SVG will join the rest of the international community in commemorating International Women’s Day (IWD). {{more}} For many in the Caribbean, 1975 is regarded as a watershed year in highlighting the struggle of women for equality, this being the year that the United Nations organized its historic international Conference on women and declared the decade 1975-1985 as its Decade for Women.

However one year before that, the local black progressive movement had organized its own International Women’s Day (IWD) activities here. Women representing the organizations then active such as BLAC (Black Liberation Action Committee), OBCA (the Organization for Black Cultural Awareness) and the Local Entertainers Association (LEA) participated in those activities. This was to set the scene for the annual commemoration of this historic day with its scope broadened and falling under the aegis of the National Council of Women (NCW). It was the progressive movement to which much credit must go for leadership in this sphere not just in activities like IWD, but in promoting women’s active participation on an equal basis in everyday life.

It also had a significant influence on many brothers in the struggle, helping them to live up to their responsibilities in the family, to their partners and to their children. More and more one began to see fathers, particularly younger ones, beginning to shoulder part of the responsibilities of child care. A greater respect for women, a frowning on the practice of domestic violence and a greater effort to foster collective responsibility were some of the fruits of the work on gender issues in those days.

THE ROLL BACK

Our society has advanced in several ways over the past three decades. Yet many of these advances are infrastructural, technological and educational, at least in a formal sense. In many ways we have not been able to maintain and build on the social, political and human advances of the sixties/seventies period. The progressive movement and the spread of progressive ideas and practices have certainly suffered.

There are many examples, cultural expressions being one major casualty area. For instance, there have been major erosions in all the areas mentioned in this series of articles-dress, artistic expression, including content, even human behaviour. The “Black is Beautiful” era gave way to an unprecedented onslaught on the expression of our pride in ourselves as evidenced by the bleach creams, hair straighteners etc. The rise of the Rastafarian movement has been perhaps the saving grace in this area. Caribbean men of the seventies, even at a formal level, eventually put away the “jacket and tie” as a measure of respectability, opting for a graceful shirt jack and its more formal varieties, as befits a tropical people. Today we are even more “collarised”, if not colonized, than before. Years of struggle forced foreign banks and other such institutions to accept a decent tie-less variety of dress; today, without coercion, we are into three- piece suits and all, irrespective of the time of day or the temperature. And all the teachings about respect for our sisters seem to have gone out of the window. Young men flog and brag about it and “educated” young women seem to accept. Not even many of the women respect themselves any more. The music of today says it all.

Unfortunately this is not a dissertation on cultural influences, merely some pointed comments, but we must ask ourselves, how did this roll-back occur? And beyond that, can it be reversed? There is no single cause though much of it bears some correlation to the spread of technology thereby facilitating greater foreign cultural penetration. There is no doubt in this regard. As a Caribbean patriot, it is my opinion that one of the most significant factors aiding in this cultural, and political degeneration was the implosion of the Grenada Revolution in 1983.

That Revolution had given practical political expression to all the hopes and aspirations of Caribbean people for a new, made-in-the Caribbean dispensation. When it blew up, so did those Caribbean dreams turn into a nightmare, two decades of political kow-towing to foreign domination, twenty-odd years of replacing Stalin, Bob Marley and Gabby with the trash of today which glorifies drugs, sex and violence and denigrates our women, a period that has seen the Caribbean struggle for justice and dignity seriously compromised.

Yet in the midst of all this, there is enough evidence to prove that all is not lost, that we can , like the Phoenix, arise from the ashes once more and scale the ladder to hold aloft the banner of our Caribbean civilization. But those thoughts are for another day, another column ….

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