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

(“Plain Talk” March 8, 2024)

By community, we mean a group of people who live closely together and look out for each other’s interests because of a cultural, social, economic, or other bond. In a community, there is an emphasis on common interest, which generally triumphs over personal or individualistic desires. In the African tradition, the adage “it takes a village to raise a child” best reflects what is meant by community.

Over the last 30 to 40 years, we have witnessed a steady erosion of what is best described as the community spirit. The social guardrails that hold our society together show increasing signs of wear and tear. Schools, teachers, religion, churches, and social and cultural organisations have lost sway. Respect for elders is now at an all-time low.

The erosion of social mores, norms, and values did not occur by sudden flight. There has been a calculated, deliberate, and sustained assault on our way of life. Community spirit has given way to individualistic intentions and actions. The assault took many forms but was popularly characterised as Generation X, I, Me, and Z. All emphasised the individual over the community.  Young people were encouraged to follow their dreams instead of the needs and demands of their family, community or nation. 

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Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, best captured the antisocial, radical individualistic mantra when she declared that “there is no such thing as community. Each of us must take responsibility for ourselves.” On its face, there’s some appeal to this notion, except that on deeper study, it is an ideology intended to play a trick on society. Society is not structured or organised to achieve equality of outcome. The society is organised to affect, impact and retard the progress and advancement of most of its members. Some people spend their entire lives preparing to live. And this reality has nothing to do with the absence of individual drive and commitment to personal advancement.

“Wall Street”, the mind-bending Hollywood movie, fed us the new mantra, “Greed is good. Greed is right. Greed works.” Such a rotten expression of excess and selfishness was elevated to a virtue. As this mental assault revved into high gear, lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride, the perennial ‘sins’ of humanity won societal acceptance. These portend destruction, but who cares?  On the other hand, the wholesome and healthy merits implicit in humility, kindness, patience, charity, diligence, temperance and morality are now frowned on by rich and poor, educated and illiterate, men and women alike.

Small wonder then that our country is unravelling before our eyes; our institutions are ramshackle and have fallen into a state of disrepair. Too many of our youth lack guidance and veer towards anger, crime, violence and risky hyper-sexual behaviour. Excessive alcohol and drug consumption forms part of the emerging culture. We crave cheap, junky, salty, oily foods and sugary drinks that, over time, savage our health. These unwelcomed, uncontrolled developments are reflected in the overweight, obese bodies parading our streets. The alarming incidents of diabetes (sugar) and hypertension (pressure), kidney and heart failure, as well as lung disease are clear signs of a public health emergency.

We no longer rely on traditional remedies for ailments honed through centuries of practice, trial and error by our beloved elders and ancestors. Modern “healers” uncritically imbibe Western pro-capitalist profit-seeking notions of health care. They love to cut and remove body parts or prescribe drugs that must be taken for the rest of our natural lives.  Although few persons can point to an herbal medicine that killed or harmed us, we are asked to stay clear because we don’t know the proper dosage. The drugs pushed now are created with supposedly scientific methods, yet the side effects do great harm and often kill us.

Clearly, we cannot continue on this road to personal and societal death. We must inculcate a sharp and decisive turn away from negative energy and practices among our citizens. Emphasis must be placed on the young people because our salvation and our future lie among them.

When our African ancestors said it takes a village to raise a child, they knew from history and practical experience that selfishness was the highway to spiritual and physical death. As a community, we must return to the watch wards ‘all for one and one for all.’ Our very future depends on our efforts of re-education and return.

Henry goes, and Thom returns

Plain Talk pays homage to Justice Esco L. Henry for her service to the legal profession, the cause of justice, and the rule of law in our native land. Justice Henry was elevated to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, and her tenure began on March 1, 2024. As we bid farewell, we wish her good health and a long life in her new role as an appellate judge.

Coming as she did when Justice Gertel Thom was promoted to the appellate court, Justice Henry, like Justice Thom before her, stood steadfastly in defence of the Constitution and the rule of law. She was fair, fearless, courageous and erudite. Considered a taskmaster by many lawyers, she was disciplined, and her decisions were detailed, grounded in law and profound.

Undoubtedly, Gonsalves and his clansmen delight in her departure. She was the metaphorical judicial thorn in their side. For the last decade, she has stood as a single-handed barrier against Gonsalves’ executive excesses. She will long be remembered for ruling that the government’s draconian vaccine mandate policy was “illegal, ultra vires, unconstitutional and procedurally improper”. In another matter, she demanded that the government follow the regulations that govern promotion in the civil service. And in yet another case, addressing the government’s right to transfer civil servants, she reminded the executive that an employee’s family life is a relevant consideration.

Her decisions are, for the most part, unimpeachable. Those public servants awaiting the appeal of her vaccine mandate decision can rest easy with the knowledge that the decision will be upheld. Gonsalves will be made to pay for the indignities he put them through.

Those of us who are saddened by the departure of Justice Henry were heartened when word drooped that her replacement is Justice Gertel Thom. Justice Thom’s famous ruling was that Otto Sam was unfairly and wrongfully dismissed. In the decision, she decided that Otto Sam was unreasonably and illegally dismissed.

Plain Talk welcomes her return. Vincentians can rest assured that the rule of law will be protected with Justice Thom on the bench.

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

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

One reply on “The loss of community and its consequences”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    Jomo makes good points about the downside of individualism aka libertarianism and the upside of communitarianism but is wrong that it began only ” Over the last 30 to 40 years.”

    Its roots lie in slavery where individual survival strategies reigned supreme: supporting the community, namely the slave plantation, would have been a self defeating, even suicidal, phenomenon, regardless of how much massa would have loved it to prevail because it would have enriched him even more.

    Such strategies continued into the post-slavery era, its most distinctive expression being poor community and even neighbourhood solidarity, a feature that has almost imperceptibly accelerated over the decades as ordinary Vincentians and the country as a whole have become more prosperous and more capitalistic, resulting in growing property crime simply because there is now far more for ordinary people to steal and fight over than in our entire history.

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