By Vinny Newton
Vincentians have, as do individuals with a similar history as ours, longed for more and better amidst the backdrop of being a third world country and developing nation with a past of colonial rule, indentureship and slavery. But, when one couples this kind of history with an individual’s experiences of having faced a series of negative and unfortunate situations in their personal life and are parented by, or submerged in a society where people are afraid to celebrate positive and good, hope is faced with fear or it is lost altogether. This is largely the mindset of many Vincentians. This is our challenge as we face a changing world and struggle to lift our game, work ethic and inspire motivation in our villages and towns. Not that this mindset lacks legitimate causes, but that it merits changing for the better of us all, as a people and country.
The average Vincentian seems to suffer confusion and cloudiness in the reasoning process regarding controversial issues. Stating this here, however, is not a complaint, just a pertinent fact. This is manifest in the workplace, small organisations and in particular in conversations regarding politics and religion. This inability to examine issues more objectively is often based on inner fears, negative past experiences and a lack of factual knowledge. If change is to happen in our society, this mindset needs aggressive introspection. It is a kind of emancipation that cannot occur with legislation. It is akin to having a law written on the heart and not on tables of stone. We cannot legislate values directly. However, they can be taught and Vincentians must study and be patient to shape change and evoke behavioural habit improvements matching their dreams for our nation.
It is one thing to despise the status quo. It is another dilemma when there is no vision of what things need to be like.
Do you have a vision for a St. Vincent where there are no individuals loitering around our towns and villages aimlessly? Where all our buildings are well kept and clean? Where all drivers are law-abiding? Where government workers are applauded because they do their work efficiently and effectively, with professionalism? Where there is no littering or uncleanliness? Where we speak politely and respectfully to each other and visitors? Where parents are functional and children are disciplined and morally aware? Or do you find yourself thinking and saying: “This country has no direction whatsoever”? Or, “Vincentians will never like and appreciate anything good”, ‘They will always be backward”, “These young people will never amount to anything”. These, and other hopeless remarks.
What are some of the inner fears of many Vincentians? It is that their elected government will fail them and their expectations. It is that their jobs will be jeopardised when they perform well and by doing so they “show up” the inefficiency of co-workers. They are likely to be oppressed and given all the work in their job cause they perform well. So, they are afraid of standing out. Others fear that their significant others will be unfaithful. Or, that, their children will disappoint them. There is the dread that their property will be burglarized or their farm produce stolen. Some worry that they will become financially incapable or never meet their financial goals and obligations. Others are terrified that their relationships will fail.
Every Vincentian, if they are honest, can relay many negative experiences coming down through their family line. This may be true of every family on earth. The “sins of the father to the third and fourth generation” is one thing to deal with. Nobody chooses his or her parents nor bloodline. But, a history of slavery and oppression sets up generational cycles of self-defeat, self-doubt, negativity, pessimism, abuse and the fear of hoping and dreaming beyond ordinary. Many do not examine their generational curses, or how they were parented and how they need to parent their children with all this in view.
However, if we can teach and inspire each other to examine those, find solutions to rise above them and become more productive and morally strong and dignified citizens, we will certainly have something to celebrate every Emancipation, Abolition, National Heroes and other significant days.
Lewd partying, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual immorality, crime, cycles of broken relationships, racism, small mindedness are all behaviours associated with the inability, lack in skill and fear of stopping these cycles. When humans cannot dream greatness for themselves it is because they are honestly but, unfortunately, trapped under a cloud of negative cycles with no skill to become truly free. Any temporary pleasure to numb the pain of their reality will be the urgent choice. This is an epidemic in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Our economy is to some extent built on it. Substance abuse is even seen as cool and part of being sociable. We settle for this when we think we cannot be greater and achieve more with moral integrity.
A history of poverty and a background of oppression can also set up individuals for a kind of paranoia. The kind that colours their ability to distinguish between the possibility of danger and integrity being in something that is, or that represents an opportunity for them to climb out of their poor state, and oppression. Their state of lack harbours a depression rendering them at times unable to recognise a position of more and better. When we could state this as a pertinent fact towards change and not as a mere complaint, we have begun travelling the hopeful road.
There is an intellectual revolution needed in every place in SVG where we are offered shade from our tropical sun. Having a cool head is something we have to strive for in our conversations and innovations to bring us up, and out. The destination we seek is a place where we are confident, but not arrogant. Where we are sure about the worth of our words having substance and not needing volume to overcompensate. We feel liberated but not with careless abandon. Unafraid to smile and be unnecessarily kind because there is no longer a submission to threats of being victimised. Hopeful, because we have innovated strategies and timelines for the changes we have studied and so we see them feasible. We understand there is dignity in service without gain. That hard work is a privilege and begging is not dignified. We have no fear of following leaders or being led, as it makes no difference, as long as the job gets done.
I will like to positively say again that this change has begun. It has to become viral and a habit taking over our society and culture to an extent where we reclaim Hairouna as our legitimate name. And this, regardless of the political party in power conveniently blamed for everything. This is a change in the behaviour of the people for the people. A change in the thinking, conversation, behaviour and actions of all Vincentians for Vincentians focused, steadfast, relentless and intentional.
Every institution in our lands must understand that until we achieve this, we will be following models of liberation viewed in other lands that offer alien solutions that often do not fit our problems. The Vincentian dream is legitimate. The Vincentian nationality is already envied. The Vincentian land is already fertile and beautiful. The Vincentian seas are already magical.
When we join in the mindset of other people of colour under oppression in other lands, we are bringing into our mindscape problems that are distracting to our unique local challenges and growth. When we borrow their entertainment as well and cultural ways we are at times yielding to their cycles of negativity and ways they medicate their society pains and suffering. In fact, when we find their suffering and negativity entertaining, we are stunting our own chances at growth. Nationally, this is how the media might have hurt our nation most.
This, in turn, gets in the way of us understanding our legitimacy and liberation from negative control in our immediate situations. We must instead intelligently identify and address oppression as it exists here, locally. This will unite us in such a way that we will be a bigger force to reckon with globally. All members of our society must have a view of who and what we can and must be. All Vincentians must understand, want and must study and discuss this change. All Vincentians must see our country as rising far above all our Caribbean neighbours and becoming an example and success story to inspire them. All Vincentians must love their own kind and not be distracted by the racial contaminating preoccupations of the outside world. All Vincentians must be free from the kind of jealousy that allows them to celebrate the successes of their own kind. All Vincentians must, in fact, practice forgiveness to heal our society. All Vincentians must interpret history only towards a better future for us and declare “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…”
We can and we must. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it is now time.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].