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Nation Talk – 3

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I want us to look critically at ourselves as a nation and as a people. When we open our eyes discerningly, what we see makes us stop in wonder. Caribbean people have had 400 years and more experience in building and maintaining projects and civilizations in Europe, in North America, in Central America and even in South America.{{more}} From the bloodstained Arawaks’ gold and exotics which the Spaniards took, to the blood soaked battlefields of Iraq, we Caribbeans have not yet told the story of our splintered place in the ravishing civilizations that flaunt their glories in our Arawak, Kalina, African and subcontinent Asian faces. Let us just recount an anecdote and seek instruction from it for our Vincentian nationhood.

SPLINTERED PEOPLE

In 1950, we in SVG were about 66,500 persons, at that time, we were a striving community. Full, or naked voting rights, would come in 1951. Soon cotton, arrowroot and banana would compete for our sweat and hillside lands, and then the British Parliament, crown and colonial office invited us to migrate to England to become full citizens, to work there and enjoy British life. We went by the boatloads. Let us fast forward to 1979. By then, Vincentian Caribbeans in Britain had completed the project the British had set for them. The war torn Britain had recovered. Industry was on its feet, the Health service was in good hands and transport services were reliable and housing was good. Britain would still accept our bananas, but to go to England and get citizen rights, that was over. The 1981 Nationalities Act passed by the parliament abolished the automatic right of Vincentians born in Britain to be British citizens! That was a kind of Independence gift to us for 30 years of our civilizing toil to build back Britain.

Notice this: in 1950, we had a population of 66,500; by the time of our Independence, our population (1980) was 97,845, but in that time, 20,000 Vincentians had already emigrated to Britain. Our talent and our social capital as a people in that critical period of political, economic and cultural capacity building were weakened, splintered and stolen. When we listen to the colonial argumentation, it tells us that we must be thankful that the British took out our ‘Surplus” population, because no way could we have supported all these people in SVG. Truly, if in 1979, our population had been say 120 or 130 thousand, both the challenges and the potential during that period would have been more significant. Perhaps more enterprising banana growers, more challenging political candidates, more enterprises, more pressure on the colonial office to provide schools and social services, more moral and spiritual guides and while we are on the point of the quality of social life, there is a point to note from the population statistics. It relates to child socialization.

In 1980, our population included 46,500 children (aged 0 to 19 years). To provide “maintenance”, mentoring and male parenting, there were 9,000 males of parenting age (20-54 years), as against 13,000 such females. These statistics merit some thought. What did this large emigration to Britain do to our society and our male female interactions and disciplines? What delinquencies do the relative absence of male parents and “guardians/gatekeepers” lead to among children and boys? What does the restructuring of British civilization by our men and women contribute to the destruction of our own civilizing forces?

If at Independence time, we had a community of 46,000 children, and only 9,000 “percentage” men (a ratio of 5 children to one father figure) then we begin our independence with a built-in challenge and deficiency. Do we see any impacts from that legacy of splintered generations?

Small nations like the Caribbean, and SVG, cannot benefit from continuing a colonial type policy of splintering our people and nation. We may wish to seek credit for what we have done for other civilizations in the past, but today we have to undo the splintering of our nation. Our tasks are to consolidate our Vincentian people here at home, and abroad, around a national self-civilizing project. We must also integrate into a programme of Caribbean-cultured governance, and we will have to draw from the recourses we have provided for others to galvanise our effort and impact.

British type governance and politics create splinters; we know that. That is why we will not march behind those who offer us British gifts. Desplintering our nation makes its own road.

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