Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.(iWN file photo)

By *Jomo Sanga Thomas

(Plain Talk, April 18, 2019)

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

“I won’t tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world’s voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely  — or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now. Choose!” — Oscar Wilde

We are at a crucial point in our society where the cult of personality and political correctness has become permanent features of the political firmament.  The sole intent of the power elite is to intimidate a large swath of society, friend and foe alike, into reluctant obedience.

All of us must decide what kind of future we want for ourselves and our children, our neighbours and the nation we call home. We must decide to speak up now or risk being enslaved by an overbearing orthodoxy that desires strict conformity; speaking up does not mean blind and mindless opposition.  As Ta-Nahisi Coates says, “it must mean placing our leaders and nation under unrelenting scrutiny because they are all we have got”.

We must never become so complacent so as to allow extreme minority voices to rule over the reasonable majority. It is a truism that the world will not be destroyed only by those who do wrong or evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.

Many of us went to the best schools, pursued outstanding careers and made successes of ourselves. However, we have been indoctrinated to believe the opinion moulders and mind benders. The sad truth remains that we were trained, rather than educated. We cannot really claim to be educated if we never question prevailing reality or take life alternating risks in pursuit of what we believe.

How many of us are afraid to speak our minds? How many of us have seen friends, acquaintances, family members or anyone shamed, intimidated or brutalised into submission for speaking their minds? How many of us practice self-censorship, afraid to rouse the maddening mob, even when that mob is perceived, often incorrectly, to be the majority? How many of us are too scared to have our lives ruined, simply for standing up for what we believe in?

The people who try to silence those who dissent against popular belief are scared of individual thought. They attempt to silent contrarian views not because their ideas are intellectually superior, but because they are fragile.  They don’t know how to coherently and confidently defend their ideas against scrutiny.  They offer rage and slander instead of enlightened conversation.  Their mantra remains, wrong forum, not here, not now!

They want to shut down debate and conversation so that they can stay safe and certain in their conceited and deceitful bubbles.  They don’t want to doubt their current beliefs; they refuse to grow and to acknowledge that they might be wrong.  They confuse and conflate their views with what is right for the nation and its people. They have complete disregard for informed debate and policy opinions that differ from theirs.

We need people to speak up, now more than ever.  We need more people to be vocal and question the authority of those in control of our financial, educational, religious, and power corridors.

Don’t be fooled, as Noam Chomsky insightfully said in his book, the Common Good “the smart way to keep a society passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum”.

Many of us in modern society fall for this narrowing public space because we are cowards. We never speak up and say what we really want to say because we all believe we will suffer alone and be ridiculed. We think we will lose everything and gain nothing, so why speak up at all?  We are all waiting for the hero to emerge and save the day, but never expect to be the hero ourselves.  We can be the hero that saves ourselves and everyone else if we are courageous enough to face the intimidating and oppressive forces.

We are allowing other people to think for us. We are lazy and unwilling to examine our own beliefs. We echo words that we have seen or heard before and insist that they are our own.  We look confident on the outside but we crumble under critical examination.  We are the herd, led mindlessly, unable to go off into the distance on our own.

We must display some backbone when we face adversity. A lot of us have no confidence in our ideas and principles. Why? Because we don’t spend time thinking about what we actually believe.

We have a general understanding of what kind of life’s rules we live by and what we might believe in, but when push comes to shove, we are willing to abandon everything and betray everyone, just to save our own skin.

The important thing to think about here is to pick our battles. We don’t want to say something completely outrageous to rile up controversy. We want to speak carefully and truthfully about our ideas and minimise our mistakes as much as possible so that our detractors will have nothing to criticise. Their criticism of genuine change agents will be seen as nothing more than wild bluster.

Avoid mindless debates whose only result will be plenty heat and little light, but do not shy away from conversations that may bring others with an open mind closer to accepting and listening to your perspective. If you want to live as a free thinker, you must be ready to defend your ideas to the grave. Stand your ground and never apologise for stating your beliefs and your honest thoughts.  

Although we must all strive to be open minded and ready to change our mind if our opponent makes irrefutable and reasonable points, we must make sure they are given a good challenge and not fall victim to intimidation.

We can only hope that, sometime soon, more of us who are fearful, or exercise a callous indifference to the plight of others, will grow tired of being silent.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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 news.iwitness@gmail.com.

6 replies on “It’s crunch time Vincentians”

  1. Jomo should pay attention to his own words; follow his own advice, because he does not. The part I disagree with in his rant of this article is when he says to defend your ideas to the grave. This is very stupid. Maybe he worded it incorrectly. He himself is so arrogant that he would not admit to making a mistake, but will then continue when he is wrong. It takes more courage to admit when you are wrong and make a change, than it does to insist you are right when you are not. If he ever does admit he is wrong, he will never correct it because he lacks the moral conviction and the strength to do so. For example: The reparations issue has been exposed as a temporary relief for blacks to “feel good” but at the same time takes away all dignity and changes absolutely nothing for the better except to give some politicians some temporary spending money for thier own political agenda. Any victory would become an “anti-victory”.

    No one should defend an idea to the grave. It is however a matter of free choice to defend your CONVICTIONS to the grave. I personally chose to defend humanity to the fullest, but not to the grave. The dead can no longer fight. In my opinion Jomo supports wrongness much of the time but believes he can “school” us on how to conduct our lives which indicates that if he gains a very powerful position…we should all watch out!

  2. Jomo is obviously suffering from false consciousness which is a term used primarily by Marxist sociologists to describe ways in which material, ideological, and institutional processes are said to mislead members of the proletariat and other class actors within capitalist societies, concealing the exploitation intrinsic to the social relations between classes.

    Jomo should carefully analyse what he did in parliament when he allowed Gonsalves to bully him into accepting a false positive and then changing the no confidence vote into a vote of confidence. Although he realized he had made a mistake was unable to go back to parliament and rectify the same.

    Jomo needs to big up and stop the old socialist act of blind acceptance of what Gonalves does and says, the blind solidarity. He is probably wrestling with that on a daily basis but his blinkered appliance of right and wrong gets the better of him.

  3. Ricardo Francis says:

    Jomo Thomas, Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP do not believe in Freedom and Democracy. Political Correctness is a core component of the POLITICAL LEFT. Political correctness stifles Freedom and Democracy. The ULP is altering our history to create their own history, to control our freedom and enslave our minds, and this George Orwell quote says it all:“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell must be rolling in his grave. Here is a short video on Political Correctness:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AFtADPRNw0

    Ricardo Francis, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Waiting and in the Making

  4. Respect to what you have to say Jomo dear fellow! This is your best performance to date so far, and if we truly love our people and our nation, the way is thus there open for both you and others like you, to step up to the mark and stop playing the hypocrite! You write of the power elite. Look about you and ask the question who are the power elite in this country and who shuts down debates here? Who indeed who is denying us that “Freedom of Information Bill”?

    Moreover, let us have no more of yours and the Gonsalves family nonsensical socialistic drivel! For yours and the ULP’s lurch towards that Cuban / Venezuelan brand has not brought us any real benefits and nor can it ever do us any possible good. See what harm its overarching glaring nepotism and the well-used rampant crony capitalism has brought to this small nation of ours.

    Now as Bob Marley had reminded us “none but our self can free our minds”! With free minds, the world therefore, will indeed be ours, and ours to make our restful residing place, and gone would be the bounds of our wretched slavery, that as we all know, is so limiting.

    And what a task we face therefore, in the struggle for real freedom, with a Stalinist regime, that you yourself is very much a functioning fundamental part of, a regime determined in establishing its dynastic family rule over this small country, to the detriment of its people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHh1NIfkwHE

  5. If this article was written by someone else, would the responses be the same? My, be one day we would begin to read without our political glasses and just may be, we may see how we limit our self by not even entertaining anything that may question our beliefs, which by the way are not true false or else, they are just beliefs. We Behave as if sheep are the only animals. That’s why we lose out when brilliant minds give up under the need to be under the conform umbrella. I now the young people listen and I am sure the identify with Mr Thomas and would not conform to the status quoi like sheep. But question every thing and above all think for them self. Speaking up .

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