Caribbean Cultural Armageddon Beckons
The Caribbean Is One Nation.
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A few weeks ago we had reason to comment on the remarks made by Prime Minister Kenny Anthony of Saint Lucia. Remarks made while addressing a group of people in Barbados. We would have thought that these comments would have had the Caribbean in intellectual turmoil. That Caribbean peoples would have been up in arms, no pun intended. We would have estimated that the highest councils of Caribbean governance would have been meeting, in extended seasons, to first assess the validity of the comments made, identify the countries most at risk, measure the possibility for contagion and adopt measures with hard implementation dates, aimed at changing the status quo of which the goodly Prime Minister spoke. We would have thought that leadership in civil society, from cooperatives to NGO’s, from youth groups to groups for the aged, from workers unions to corporate groupings, would have sought to have a discussion on this economic Armageddon of which Anthony spoke. We were wrong!
This seeming inertia, we can only estimate, may represent the current state of a defeated people. A people that seems to have lost their will to survive. And there is much circumstantial evidence that may serve to support this argument. We have for more than twenty years seen symptoms of cultural death expressed in cricket, for example. Over the past few weeks we have for the umpteenth time seen our team humbled in two test matches by the Indians. This, after all kinds of braggadocio by the captain. After, all kinds of high performance centres and other institutional frameworks which our players from the period of global dominance, in cricket, never had. This was a time when we had political ‘leaders’ like Eric Williams, Michael Manley, Errol Barrow, Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan and so on. Some say that we are not to expect our sports men and women to excel when the political and economic culture is anemic, at best. Of course, there is always the exception that proves the rule. One may cite the emergence of Usain Bolt and the production line of track and field athletes that Jamaica has brought to dominate the world, though extra-regional forces are busily using technology and drug testing to defeat this victory. This phenomenon, in athletics, is less obvious for other Caribbean countries.
Others may want to locate the comments of Dr. Anthony within a global economic problem and one could cite all types of factoids to make this a highly persuasive argument. We are also likely to concur, but is this to be the only measure of the so-called Caribbean man, Caribbean woman? Why should we consign ourselves to the fate of others, axiomatically? A fate we had no role in creating. What kind of creeping fatalism are we witnessing and what has to happen to change that trajectory? What are the strengths of smallness that could be deployed to redirect this arc? It has been argued that smallness may have some exclusive elements which are able to change culture. These may include speed of adaptation, nimbleness, smaller numbers, better cohesion, a collectivist mindset, etc. Can these not be deployed in a revivalist campaign to save the Caribbean of what Dr. Anthony showed the strength of character to speak about publicly?
As far as we can see business continues per usual. We have not seen an emergency meetings of any parliament to discuss Anthony’s revelations. We have not seen any ministers of finance in the Caribbean coming clean and taking the peoples of the region in their confidence. The reverse is true, government ministers in the Caribbean seem to be doubling down with their business as usual attitude. In Barbados, the political opposition, to their credit, tried bringing a no confidence motion before Dr. Anthony’s remarks but that same opposition, when last in government, could itself to accused of creating the condition of the collapse of which Dr. Anthony now speaks. In addition the public seems to have a relatively high degree of inertia about the ability of either of the two dominant political parties to solve current problems. For Barbados there can no third way. It must be either B or D. No middle ground!
In media we fear no better. Across all spectrums there is no appetite to engage the public on this issue in a sustained manner. The influence of a 24/7 news cycle removes collective memory, makes books and individual thinking old fashion, creates an artificial marketplace for what is going to happen next, thereby removing societal demands for solutions to common or common market problems. Most comments on blogs fail to activate the 3.5% of activists needed to transform our region. And even if a critical mass of 3.5% exist there are limited ways of representing the urgent need for action at the centre of the power matrices. Not the fringes.
After nearly 50 years of the Treaty of Chagaramus, numeral Heads of Government meetings, CMSE, all types of bi-lateral agreements and a series of agreements with other blocks, the Caribbean still doesn’t seem to be able to get some basic things right. These could range from inter-island transportation system to the movement of goods and services. These shortcomings will be made worst by a new architecture of international agreement. The annex to the TPP, NAFTA on steroids, as being negotiated with the European and the Americans will have implications for existing agreements with the Caribbean. Not long ago Caribbean leaders spent a lot of political capital to ensure there would have been a trade deal with Europe. These external subversive initiatives are as unknown to the parliaments of European countries as they are to the Congress of the USA, only major global corporations have access. This represents the final stage on the road to fascism. The internal and external circumstances that are impacting the Caribbean and which will be more forceful in coming months, like the Black Death, is creeping up on Caribbean with a silence which could make the estimate of Dr. Anthony far worse. We are really deep into the world of Orwell, the world of Huxley. This is a world which maybe much too difficult for small islands states to survive and prosper. Is this why our leaders are putting their heads in the sand, pretending this new corporate world does not exist? The absence of any serious debate of Dr. Anthony’s recent remarks reeks of helplessness.