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About those lazy Vincentians!

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How often have I heard it said that Vincentians are lazy? Some obviously fit that bill, but it is ageneralization started long ago that was first applied in the period after emancipation. Slavery had to be imposed and whipping administered or they wouldn’t work. In the period after emancipation, the freed persons eagerly sought land of their own, because to continue on the plantations which most of them, in any event, had to do, was to expose themselves to conditions not far removed from slavery. Give them land and opportunity and they were a different people. 

I remember not very long ago at a consultation, farmers accepting that they faced difficulties because “we too lazy”. But they admitted getting to their lands before sunrise and returning after sunset! Imagine! Today, there are all sorts of factors to consider: finding markets and having at times to compete with produce imported that can be grown and made at home; then difficulties working small bits of land that most of them had either purchased or rented, or squatted on, have led them to discourage their children from agriculture. Their future did not seem to lie there!

I am sitting here at Lower Bay, Bequia, making mental notes for my column, after having seen a young lady pass by selling a few heads of lettuce from a small basket. She seemed to have travelled a long distance. I have seen young people at Sion Hill and Cane Garden and different parts of the country selling all kinds of fruits from wooden structures that they had created. I look at people in Kingstown selling all manner of things, often in small quantities. I quite often wonder if they can pay their way home. I regularly meet young people seeking assistance in finding jobs. Admittedly, there are also the criminally-minded ones who try to live off the spoils of what others plant or invest. Why don’t they start their own businesses, we ask? Many do, but fail in the process through lack of business acumen and a climate not conducive to any kind of small scale, or for that matter, large scale business. Some 40 years ago, Walter Rodney observed that the people we often see throughout the Caribbean standing idly at the street corners, were the ones who went to England and virtually took over the transit system. What message does this send?

Are we creating the kind of climate that will facilitate entrepreneurial souls? Some are already taking advantage of opportunities created by the new technology and are doing amazing things. The global marketplace makes things difficult for enterprising businesses with its online shopping for just about everything. How do we survive in this global marketplace? Furthermore, we are still addicted to “things that come from foreign”. Government employment will always be limited, but is too often geared to those who clap the loudest.

Many square pegs occupy round holes and owe their positions largely to those who deck the halls of political power. Dissatisfaction reigns supreme,

as long-standing employees with experience and skills are overlooked for promotion. Development will always be a delusion, once we continue along this way, for even with good projects, implementation becomes a problem. There is so much in our country that has to be changed that I often wonder how and where we start.

There are many “success” stories, but unfortunately, others paint a different picture. Our working people, however, cannot be labelled lazy. With a different climate, providing opportunities that are not circumscribed by political colours, but that encourage all and provide for those willing to invest time, creativity, and energy, we will see a different people.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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