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National Reconciliation – Part 3


In SVG right now, we are programmed politically in such a way that we believe ‘negatives’ – without thinking – towards a person in the other party; especially when the temperature in politics gets high! Anytime that the party leadership blows the whistle, our hostility level rises. In fact, some party stalwarts feel it to be their job to keep the fire of the tribal hostility burning day and night on the radio.{{more}} They programme us citizens not to see each other as Vincentian citizens, but as party soldiers engaged and ready for war.

We must take back our emotions, rescue our minds, redirect our imaginations and see each other with different eyes. All of us. Big and Small, smart and slow, Rasta and Baldhead. You know, I listened a near month ago when Prime Minister Gonsalves announced that he was telling his lawyers to settle with Mr Eustace and Mr Cummings over the judgment that the courts had given him against them. It was ‘out of the blue’, during the middle rounds of the budget and it raised my eyebrows. Was Dr Gonsalves also asking Mr Eustace and Cummings not to go ahead with any appeal against the court ruling?

It was Howard Thurman’s essay on Reconciliation which helped me, more than many of the ensuing responses, whether from Mr Eustace, Ms. Baptiste, Mr Rose, Searchlight or other commentators. It is as if Thurman was reminding me of my own principle of critical conversation (Nos. 1 and 2) ‘don’t evaluate, don’t pick sides before you investigate and penetrate the matter before you’. I examined the statement of Dr Gonsalves in the broader context in which it took place and the questions that faced me were: ‘Was this an act of Repentance by the PM’; ‘was he sorry for the case he had brought against these men?’ ‘Was he asking pardon?’

The other question that came to me was this: Was this act of Dr Gonsalves rather an act of ‘Big Mindedness’ or magnanimity, unrepentant even boastful magnanimity? In other words, where was Dr Gonsalves coming from as he reached out to Mr Eustace and Mr Cummings? Was he coming from below in regret and reconciliation? Or was Dr Gonsalves coming from above with righteous largesse for manipulation? The contexts help us to grasp the content of the action.

Thurman made the question even more difficult. Was such an act springing from the moral imperative of love, or was it from a politics of moral pretension? Howard Thurman wrote as follows: “the appearance of love may be used as a technique of social control or for the manipulation of other people…” (Disciplines of the Soul, p.124, United Friends Press). It is after we have had a critical conversation with a statement, or act, or proposition that is facing us that we can move on to see and assess it as an effective step, in this case – towards reconciliation.

When we are caught in the web of party brain drain, we do not consider things critically with a dialectical penetration. We take them uncritically, as emotively as they come before us. All of us are subject to this condition. We now face the reality that intra-national hostility is already built into our politics game plan. How then do we make room for a national coming together and integration? A shake hand and kisses at the top among the drivers of division can’t do it. So what can? Although I have outlined a three step process (24-01-12) of Repent, Re-imagine and Reconnect, a more concrete ‘checklist’ of what should be done seems to be needed before the process of ‘how’ is attempted.

1. Tasks for Citizens – Spend two (2) pleasant hours each week with ‘friends’ in the other party

o Keep a tablespoon of salt (20 pinches) when you listen to your party radio station show

o Discuss and plan action on community issues across party lines

o Call in on radio and advise radio hosts on ration building topics and points

o Other ways.

2. Tasks for Institutions – Promote ‘cross or trans-party’ interaction and employment

o Invite persons from all parties to share tasks at your place

o When leaders step out of line, pull them up firmly and politely

o Abolish the Ministry of Reconciliation.

To be continued