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When will we begin to take responsibility?

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We have to rid ourselves of this tendency to blame our shortcomings on slavery. There is, of course, no denying that we have been confronted with both the positive and negative legacies that emerged from that period of our history. But that was 176 years ago! While we dwell on the negatives, we have never seriously embraced the positives and recognized them as guides.{{more}} The positives, for me, have to do with the role of our slave ancestors in bringing about their own freedom; in the creating and building of villages; in fact, both during and after slavery it was they who helped to make the society function. Many of the negatives are psychological, although matters like the ownership of land impacted on the society in a major way long after slavery ended. All of this we have to admit, but it is time we begin to assume responsibility for our shortcomings. In fact, even in moving beyond the matter of slavery, we seem always to have to find external bogeys.

We exist in a global environment where the big powers call the shots. The World Bank, the IMF and other international financial institutions are not there for our benefit; so, when we make a mess of things and have to call on them, we are not in a position to dictate the terms they prescribe and have to swallow whatever bitter pills they give us. My major problem here is that we do not fully and efficiently utilize the space we have. Surely there are matters over which we have control, but the manner in which we handle those makes it difficult for us to deal with whatever comes from outside, especially when we seem always to expect that the answers lie outside. We wait on developments elsewhere to see us through, seemingly unaware that we have first got to begin the process of addressing them.

Some years ago, in dealing with problems that had surfaced when the Canouan project got off the ground, I made the point that for any major project to be successful the people have to be involved from the beginning and must have a clear understanding of what is being undertaken. They then have the opportunity to raise issues related to how these projects are likely to impact on them and will have a better idea of the problems likely to emerge and of the sacrifices they will be called upon to make. A similar thing happened with the airport project. We now realise that we have had to make major sacrifices, but many of us felt that it was going to be easy, that the “coalition of the willing,” so-called, would have done it all for us. The airport is certainly the largest project that we have undertaken and probably will be our largest project ever. In a small country, with limited resources, no effort should have been spared to get the population on board. Hence my point that we do not fully and effectively do the things we can do and need to do to create the climate for success.

It is one thing to come up with all sorts of fanciful sounding plans, but in the final analysis success depends on people. Are we prepared? Do we feel that we have a stake in them? I pay a lot of attention to what I call mindset – that is to attitude, approach and commitment. This determines how we go about things. Additionally, we are always looking around for “political saviours,” all ready to sit back and wait for the goodies to fall. We put out our hands for the bread without ever helping to make it, since we do not see ourselves as part of the process. Our role, some of us think, is limited to our brief visit to the polling booth once every five years. I have often said that politicians do what they think they can get away with. The fact that we sit back without being active participants means that there is little pressure on the political directorate.

There is still too much ignorance in this country. By this I am not referring to what some might call the “unlettered and untutored.” In many cases, basic common sense is what is needed. We all possess this, but fail to use it and to exercise it in whatever we do. We develop hatred for one another, based on very personal and petty fancies and the need to protect our own turf or what we think is our turf. Very often, we cannot verbalize our disagreements and this is where the problem begins, for any little disagreement, even in our homes, very often leads to physical abuse or even criminal activity. I understand the many pressures that confront us and the need sometimes to ensure that we protect whatever we have, regardless of how we got it. But there must be a limit to this, for otherwise, we lose all sense of being and all sense of community. When are we going to hold a mirror up to ourselves and see what is looking back at us from the other end? We live in a small society where we have to relate to each other. We function, with the expectation that we understand what is expected of us. Failure to do this creates problems and all hell breaks loose, for it provides a free-for-all. When will we begin to take responsibility for our shortcomings? For we cannot move ahead without being aware of them. But, of course, we first have to accept that we have shortcomings.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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