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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in Cabinet Room on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, the 30th anniversary of his election to Parliament. (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines/Facebook)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in Cabinet Room on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, the 30th anniversary of his election to Parliament. (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines/Facebook)
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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves waxed philosophical on Wednesday as he celebrated 30 years since he was elected to Parliament.

He addressed the question of “satisfaction and dissatisfaction” saying that “two philosophers 1,000 years apart” had also addressed the same matter.

Gonsalves was elected MP for North Central Windward on Feb. 21, 1994 – 15 years after he first contested an election — and seven years before he was elected prime minister.

He has become the longest serving MP continuously in the history of St. Vincent and Grenadines (SVG), as well as the country’s longest serving prime minister.

He is also the oldest person to govern the country and has announced that he would lead his Unity Labour Party (ULP) into the next general elections, which are constitutionally due in be February, 2026 — six months shy of his 80th birthday – but widely expected by November 2025.

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“Now, there’s one thing I want to discuss. And this is a general application. And I want to give my experience and my wisdom and my learning on this subject about satisfaction and dissatisfaction,” he said on NBC Radio during his weekly show on the state-owned radio station.

He said that even in North Central Windward “where so much has been done and in other constituencies, too, across the country by this government, you have satisfactions and you have dissatisfaction. Development is always combined yet uneven”.

Gonsalves said that in 2001, when his ULP came to office, the country was “at a lower level on many material fronts.

“But you’re brought to a higher level. But when you’re brought to the higher level you still have dissatisfactions. You’re satisfied about certain things but are still dissatisfied because in the process of rising, your expectations rise,” the 77-year-old politician said.

He said that what might have satisfied people would not necessarily satisfy their children.

The prime minister said that in 2001, 70% of the people across the country had pipe borne water in their homes and about 70% had an electricity connection.

“Now, 98% and rising in each area,” he said, adding that the country now has 46,000 households, compared to 30,000 in 2001, although the population has only increased by about 1,000 during the same period.

“So, you’re satisfied that you get your water and your light but the children you have, they meet that, they take that for granted,” he said.

He further said that while some people may not go to the secondary school they would have preferred because of their performance in the exams, they each get a place in secondary school.

The prime minister said he visited a school in his constituency, where the students, while happy with the renovation to the building, were asking when they would get tablet computers.

“In 2001, you had under 8,000 vehicles; you have 36,000 or thereabouts,” the prime minister said, adding that. When people were not driving, they might not have realised that the road needed some repairs.

“If a politician says that somebody who has come from this particular level, a lower level, they reach a higher level and making demands on you for something higher, never let it enter your head that the people are ungrateful. Never!” Gonsalves said.

“You have to understand satisfaction and dissatisfaction. They are satisfied as to the progress they have made. But they’re anxious and even dissatisfied about what more needs to be done and may not be done as fast as they want it to be done,” he said, adding that this is what has always driven civilisations to inventions.

The prime minister said a constituent who is in her early 50s who does not have a secondary school education and is working as an attendant in a hospital visited him.

“… and she said, ‘You know, I’m grateful for the job, but we need a bit more money,” Gonsalves said and told listeners that the woman said she had nearly paid off for her fridge and stove but had also bought on hire purchase a washing machine.

“… so, she’s going higher but she needed a little more on she money because she feels that some of the things like that taking up a little bit so she wants to have the same kind of disposable income to do other things even while she gets her new appliance. And that’s perfectly understandable,” Gonsalves said.

He said that in the 13th century Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas addressed the topic of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, as did Nicolo Machiavelli, another Italian, in the 1400s.

Cabinet Room
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and Cabinet members and other government officials in Cabinet Room on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, the 30th anniversary of his election to Parliament. (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines/Facebook)

“Augustin said men and women live overwhelmingly in a condition of permanent dissatisfaction,” Gonsalves said, adding that while the theologian may have been overstating the case, he was “on to a truth. There’ satisfaction and there’s dissatisfaction. They are twins; they’re different sides of the same coin”.

He said Augustine surmised that given the nature of human beings, “You could never be satisfied here on Earth … you will always be dissatisfied.

“So, the solution is not to get involved in things here. Just wait until you go to heaven and there you will be fully satisfied, so you prepare yourself.”

He said that the prophet Jeremiah, at the time of Babylonian captivity long before the birth of Christ, was not quite as despondent in that regard as Augustine.

“Because he gave the instructions to the Hebrew people: work hard, do this, do that, do that, … build up your family values, stay with yourself, marry among yourself and so on. Because after 70 years, we will be free from this Babylonian captivity and things will be better; doesn’t mean that you will not have dissatisfaction. It would be better.”

Gonsalves said that 1,000 year later, in the 1400s Machiavelli advised the princes from the Medici family how to rule.

“He said that because human beings will always have dissatisfactions, the way to address this is not through love but through fear — let them fear you.

“Of course, that’s not wise advice because if people fear you, particularly in a democratic ethos, there will be turbulence and I prefer to accept what the Old and the New Testament tells me about love and what Christ talk about love, not Machiavelli,” Gonsalves said.

“So, both Augustine and Machiavelli, analysing the extent of human dissatisfaction, Augustine say political quietism here, prepare yourself for the heavenly kingdom; Machiavelli said, ‘Listen to me, Medici, the prince, don’t bother with this love thing. Let them fear you because that is the only way you’re going rule.

“What do I say? Satisfaction and dissatisfaction are different sides of the same coin. They form an integrated whole. What you have to do is to understand where you have come from as to where you are so you accept those blessings and those satisfactions and those who help you diligently to come from where you were to where you are, that is more than likely that those persons, if you’re in communion with them, will help you to move from this higher level to lift you even higher.”

Gonsalves said this was the meaning behind the theme of the ULP’s campaign for the 2020 general election — “Lift SVG Higher” — when the party secured an unprecedented fifth consecutive term in office.

“… we don’t select these things by chance…” he said.

2 replies on “Gonsalves waxes philosophical as he celebrates 30 years as an MP”

  1. So sad there is so little to show for such extended episode after consuming soooooo much of public time and funs.

    Such a shame.

    Hope such com to an end soonest.

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