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National Heroes or National Honours!

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In discussing this with a friend who also saw it, he had come to the same conclusion and found it very impressive. We were obviously on the same wave-length, because we asked the same rhetorical question – What is wrong with us in SVG? There was civility and order. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition shook hands and at the end of the ceremony, the Leader of the Opposition and the wife of the Prime Minister, who is now an elected Member of Parliament embraced each other.{{more}} I tried to imagine that happening in SVG, but concluded that we had already missed the boat. We have gone too far in the opposite direction, in what I refer to as incivility.

We have an image of politics in Jamaica which grew out of the troubles of the 1970s, with the garrison towns and the violence associated with them. This year, however, things seemed to have gone relatively smoothly, even when some of the results were questioned. As I reflect on our situation, it becomes more obvious to me that one cannot isolate what happens in the political field from the way we function generally as a society. What is of concern to me is that we are beginning to develop a feeling that this is how it should be. We begin to take a lot of this incivility for granted and treat uncivil behaviour as if it is part of the normal course of things.

Whenever I travel to any of our neighbouring countries, I see for the most part a sense of order that I do not see in SVG. We have to be clear about this. We can no longer sit back and blame the politicians for this, because we are the ones who, by our willingness to accept anything that is thrown at us, encourage it. Donald Trump had said some months ago that if he stood in the street and shot someone, his followers would still support him. Trump often talks a lot of nonsense, but the reality in SVG is that we are getting dangerously near to that state. Forget the shooting! We will accept and rationalize a lot of things when they come from politicians whom we hold dear and perhaps even fear. I am convinced that the mentality of our people will allow us to applaud any dictator who emerges on the political scene, once he has a particular psychological mindset that can play on our emotions. We need people who can point the way and set an example of proper behaviour. This leads me to the issue of national heroes.

On to another National Heroes Day

On Monday, we are going to bring out all the trappings and ‘ole talk’ about national heroes and then forget them the following day. For almost two years now, I believe, we were asked to make submissions for the declaration of another national hero or heroes. I have always said and will continue to say, that before we move in that direction, there are a number of things that should be put in place and dealt with. We still do not understand the concept of a national hero. Not many of us know the guidelines that have been established for the selection of a national hero. Every year we do virtually the same thing at the obelisk at Dorsetshire Hill. We go through the motions and do this because we feel we have to.

I listened to part of a radio programme during the week, where the discussion seemed to be about national heroes. Persons were phoning in with recommendations about national heroes. One person, if I heard clearly, suggested a policeman whose name I did not hear. But this policeman had served on the Police Force for 37 years and I suspect might have done an excellent job. This seemingly qualifies him to be a national hero, at least in the mind of the caller.

We are getting things mixed up here and my suggestion has been the establishment of a system of national honours before moving on to the selection of another national hero. There are undoubtedly persons who have performed excellently in different fields of endeavour and who need to be honoured. This is, of course, different from making recommendations for national heroes. Once this is put in place, it creates the kind of atmosphere that can facilitate a sober discussion about our next national hero, if we feel that we need one.

My concern about the setting up of a system of national honours would be on the process that is going to be involved. We certainly do not want a system where the politicians select persons based on their party loyalty. So, this needs some discussion and the involvement of people, based not on their support for a particular political party, but level-headed Vincentians who can rise above partisan politics and do justice once they are not hamstrung by the system that is going to be put in place. It is time that we have systems, not only in this area, but generally, that are not beholden to political favours.

So, I end by suggesting that we make a call for a system of national honours where we honour people for service to country and not to political party. Is this too much to ask, or have we gone too far overboard?

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