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Do we really care?

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I was happy to see a statement by the Christian Council on the ‘political tension’ in SVG. While I appreciate this and of course, welcome it, I wonder if it is not a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Perhaps, as some will say, better late than never! Tension has been building here for a long time and can easily manifest itself in ways that we find distasteful. We have, therefore, to act urgently on matters that affect the smooth running of our society and not wait until things get out of hand. We have to be proactive and not simply reactive.{{more}} The Council has called on the Commissioner of Police to ‘exercise discretion and wisdom’ while striving to preserve law and order. We have always to protect people’s right to protest. Outside of an election, this is one of the few avenues we have to highlight our concerns. We do not always have to agree with a protest to accept that it is a right which we ought to cherish and uphold. At the same time, protesters have certain obligations. This is the framework, but granted it is not as simple as this, for there is often action and reaction.

The Council is suggesting a meeting of different civil society organizations. This is a good suggestion, but who takes the lead and where are these organizations? One of the sad things about our country is that civil society organizations have lost a lot of their credibility and often reflect only the whims, fancies and desires of their leaders. Even the Church has to be singled out. One understands the need to preserve unity within the Church, but that can only be done by standing up for what is right and Christian, regardless. Ultimately, those who criticize your willingness to act on principle will respect you, and respect is always a cherished quality.

While speaking about the Church, I have to express my regret that the Catholic Bishop Jason Gordon has left our shores. To me, he represented what the Church should be in terms of its effort to fight for social justice and its role in civil society. He was approachable, easy to relate to, very down-to-earth and fearless. When he spoke, he made a lot of sense to me, especially in terms of how he related the gospel to everyday living. I say all of this because I have been very impressed with the role that Pope Francis is playing and often wished that our churches could move along the path to which he appears to be pointing. I have never really been fond of Popes, having studied the lives of some of the early ones. I have often expressed the desire to see the Church play a more active role in society, one that goes beyond simply catering to the spiritual needs of its congregations.

The Council’s statement highlighted an issue that we really need to talk about. It said, “Much of our conflicts are informed or exasperated by the irresponsible use of or a manipulation of information.” In our society, it is often difficult to know what is true or not true. For one, information is often not readily available to the public. This then provides a fertile climate for the spread of rumour. Moreover, when information is not provided, the tendency, consciously or not, is often to try to pull it out. So, rumours and half-truths abound and eventually we get the real story, amidst accusations of distortions and maliciousness. Why is there that reluctance to provide information? This, of course, is a rhetorical question. There are many things happening in our society that we know little about, but those who have the information embrace it as though it is their personal property. Any sane, democratic society needs an informed public.

Little is being said about how our country will move on to ensure the livelihood of our people. What provisions are we making to cater to the hundreds of students who leave school every year? Alejandro Werner, director of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere department, stressed the importance of resolving domestic challenges to ensure economic growth, which is seen as ‘tepid’. But what are our domestic challenges? We skip this and pin all the blame for our economic misfortunes on the global economic climate. But, as I have said before, the key to our moving forward in this climate is our ability to utilize the economic space we have. To do this we have to resolve those challenges. All the human resources of the country have to be mobilized to deal with this issue. It is a people’s issue, not a party issue! What is really driving our economy, that is, if it is being driven? What are the commanding heights of our economy? What is the level of our unemployment? We seem not to want to tackle this and throw out figures that we know are incorrect. We are bad at data collection, but how can we move forward without adequate data to inform whatever plans we need to develop? I am very concerned about our unemployment rate. If you check carefully, you would realize that any job advertised today is likely to have hundreds of applicants, sometimes even from persons who do not qualify. We have to face up to this! Do we understand what it means, never to have worked? Among other things is the environment that it creates for crime. We cannot continue to drift aimlessly and to depend solely on sources and forces from outside of the country to save us; but then do we really care?

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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