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Going beyond the politically sexy

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Given the prevailing political and social climate in our country, it is difficult to get attention for matters which are not politically “sexy”. It has reached the stage that unless you are “Comrade-bashing” or “Comrade-worshipping,” it’s like many persons are not tuned in. But, as I have indicated before, the world is much bigger than that, and those of us who have access to the media, cannot just pander to what may be popular; we have sacred duties to help to sensitize, to uplift and to educate.{{more}}

In spite of much greater access to information and the media, one can question whether the level of public debate has been lifted comparatively and whether we are taking advantage of such access to ventilate and discuss the wider issues, outside our narrow insular and political confines, but which have real impact on our development process and hence our standard of living.

For a small underdeveloped country like ours, exposed to the international economic, social and environmental tides, this is tragic. We need to try and understand much more about our global and regional context and not just think that all our problems are either created by or can be solved by our political leaders.

I will never forget the pain and shock that ran through our society, and indeed the Caribbean region, as a result of what is now referred to as “the banana wars,” and the battles that some of us had to fight, not only externally, but internally as well, to try and get our people to understand the wider context. It was so easy to attribute our difficulties purely to “bad management” of the banana industry, (not that there was not much of that), rather than try to comprehend the extent to which the global trading climate was trading, and not in our favour.

That fact has not been altered significantly and has dictated that we do not make shallow analyses of the challenges facing us, lest we come up with simplistic solutions far removed from reality. But the ‘blame game’ is easier to play. It has always been that way, just that it has become far more risky and dangerous in today’s circumstances.

Even when we seem to be getting on the right track, as in the case of the call by Caribbean nations for reparations as a result of genocide and slavery, we can easily go “offline,” if we think it only means responsibility on the part of European nations for such crimes against humanity. It also means that we too, though victims, must re-examine our own attitudes and outlook, with a view towards adopting practices in conformity with what we preach. We too need to change.

That failure to grasp the new realities is costing us dearly. We are slow to adapt to changing circumstances and the rapidly evolving global economy, even as we provide our children with access to the Internet and computer technology. We are still locked into the mentality that someone else needs to “rescue” us, that we are unable to influence our own destiny.

It leaves us easy prey to all kinds of predators – political, financial, religious and social, “easy pickings” for the opportunists among us. It retards our ability to think for ourselves, to use our creative abilities and, in spite of our limitations in size and resources, find the means to survive in a hostile environment.

As I said, these are not very comforting, nor populist words. Yet, they must be written and spoken. It was our weaknesses in not taking the time to engage meaningfully into the political dialogue about constitutional reform, which made us miss so many elements of popular democracy about which we complain today.

Similarly, when the ‘banana wars’ were raging, we didn’t take time to either understand the implications of our joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) or even much later the signing by Caribbean nations of a trade and development agreement with the European Union, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). What does this mean for our young people, how can we benefit from it? Not even in our school system are we trying to educate ourselves on these matters. We can’t go forward like this; there is a whole world much bigger than the ULP and NDP.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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