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Here I stand

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It is good occasionally to sit back and try to understand yourself, perhaps to determine what is shaping your life or has shaped it. I sometimes look in my mirror to see if there is something on my forehead labelled ‘political’. To a number of people, I seem to have a political agenda that drives them crazy. For me, this is not new, although it has become more charged.{{more}} I always seem to be targeted by existing governments and their sympathizers. The original Labour Party came to the conclusion that I was dangling for a run for the Central Leeward constituency and so made things difficult for me. I was, years later, labelled dean of the anti-Mitchell forces. In all of this, there had never before been any hostility nor antagonism. Now, I am supposed to be an advisor to the NDP and by extension an NDP partisan. And to them that is my mission. The persons levying those accusations are really projecting their own images and language into the story. Moreover, it is as if it is a crime to support anything that is not in keeping with the official song sheet. When the matter of the Cross Country Road first emerged and an Antiguan group was mandated to do an environmental profile, I was one of the persons interviewed. I stated upfront my opposition to the project. In their report this was stated. Yet, when I wrote my first article on the Cross Country Road, I was said to be mouthing the position of the NDP. A classic case of building a straw man!

Now, what drives me? First, love for country and an approach to life, shaped by my upbringing, socialization by family and the community in which I was born. The realization of the impact of community came clearly when I moved to Cane Garden. Cane Garden is a collection of houses with people possibly living in them. It is possible for years not to know who lives in them. To me, a community should have a school, playground and church. Of course, the argument can be made that it is simply a part of a broader community, but then there are not many avenues for socialization and the houses are like barriers. I was grounded by my socialization in Barrouallie. I played cricket and football with anyone who played these games and virtually lived in the park, one that produced many great cricketers, but is now destroyed. On Sundays, I took lunch to less fortunate neighbours. In my first year at the Grammar School, I took a team from Barrouallie to play against a Grammar School team, led by Dwight Venner, recently retired from the ECCB. One of our best bowlers had never worn shoes before. We helped him to get shoes, but weren’t sure how that would have affected his performance. As I reflect on this, I am reminded of a 1900 incident. The West Indies were playing Gloucestershire. One of our bowlers, Woods, asked Captain Aucher Warner to allow him to bowl barefooted, a request that was refused. Later, when he was being plummeted all over the field, he pleaded again; “Let me take off one – just one and I could get him”! In the days when a job in the government service carried with it security and teaching at the Grammar School among the better jobs available, I chose to give that up to coordinate a community project at the Glebe in Barrouallie.

Speaking about love of country, I have never had a desire to live outside of SVG; have never worked outside. So, SVG means a lot to me and Barrouallie runs in my veins. I still worship at the Methodist Church that was about 40 yards from my home. After graduating with a PhD, I resisted the temptation to take up opportunities elsewhere and worked as coordinator of a regional NGO, CARIPEDA. This stimulated me and was in line with what I did earlier at the Glebe. All of this shaped my outlook on life. Fortunately, I had never had to beg a government for anything. Well, not fully! After graduating with my first degree, I asked for an extra year to do a Master’s programme, but was told that the country was not in need of such a being.

I say all of this to make the point that my only political agenda has to do with the development of this land. When I write, I don’t expect everyone to share my views and will always welcome criticism, not based on a supposedly hidden agenda, but on what I write. Writing relaxes. As a newspaper columnist I am aware that I am writing for the general public and so am careful about the use of irony, metaphor and paradox, since in SVG things are taken quite literally. I feel free writing because I am not burdened by hidden agendas. Those who criticize my writings will do well to first understand what I write, rather than rush to create a straw man. I believe that I am a good counterpuncher, so one has to be advised. Two of my professors both authorities in their fields – History of the British Empire and of the Renaissance – shaped my intellectual thought patterns. I could never forget when in my first class in Renaissance studies, my class was given an assignment to review a book, The Waning of the Middle Ages, written in 1924. I scratched my head, but then went about acing my assignment. My other professor would take anything and demolish it. That was his approach. Never take things on face value and always develop a critical view of everything you read and hear. So, this is where I stand!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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