CARICOM out of align­ment with Trump­ism

Jamaica Gleaner - - SATURDAY TALK -

BTHE EDITOR, Sir: ELOW ARE ex­cerpts of a pre­sen­ta­tion by vice chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of the West Indies, Sir Hi­lary Beck­les, at a forum at the UWI Re­gional Head­quar­ters on Novem­ber 9, 2016 ti­tled ‘The Caribbean Say on USA To­day’.

The seis­mic, but surely pre­dictable shift in the po­lit­i­cal nar­ra­tive of the USA pres­i­den­tial elec­tions has thrown CaribbeanUSA re­la­tion­ships out of align­ment. More so than many parts of the world, the Caribbean states in the CARICOM sub­re­gion have sought to align their eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal strate­gies with those of the USA in search of an ef­fec­tive align­ment. This devel­op­ment agenda has led crit­ics to sug­gest that it has been more than align­ment but a sub­servient cul­ture of com­pli­ance.

The search for po­lit­i­cal align­ment since in­de­pen­dence was tur­bu­lent but never morally dis­re­spect­ful. The two-party democ­racy sys­tem that we both share has spawned a cel­e­bra­tion of the po­lit­i­cal cen­tre while recognising that a so­cial­ist Left and a con­ser­va­tive Right have pow­er­ful con­stituen­cies to rep­re­sent.

The US elec­toral call for an ex­treme shift to the right orig­i­nates with those groups who pre­fer a so­ci­ety based on Chris­tian fun­da­men­tal­ism, white cor­po­rate elitism, mil­i­tary na­tion­al­ism, eth­nic sol­i­dar­ity, and the iron rule of com­mu­ni­ties by mil­i­tarised po­lice. They have re­jected the con­cepts of mul­tira­cial­ism, so­cial lib­er­al­ism, com­mu­nity in­clu­sive­ness, ra­cial equal­ity, gen­der jus­tice and equal­ity, and the so­cial role of govern­ment to pro­vide health care and pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion for the poor.

In the clash of philoso­phies, the Trump­ists have won, leav­ing the Caribbean na­tions that have gen­er­ally been aligned to what Amer­i­cans now call ‘Oba­maism’ – so­cial in­clu­sion, to­gether we can, equal­ity and equal jus­tice for all-out on left field with­out the ball and a ref­eree blow­ing a whis­tle.

Clin­ton’s ‘Stronger To­gether’ has evolved from ‘Yes, We Can’, both con­nected to our ‘Out of Many, One Peo­ple’ and ‘rain­bow na­tion’. These re­jected philoso­phies of how best to or­gan­ise a so­ci­ety im­ply dis­dain for the Caribbean world view that has pushed democ­racy far be­hind where white Amer­ica feels com­fort­able. CARICOM is, there­fore, out of po­lit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal align­ment with Trump­ism.

But more dis­turb­ing for CARICOM is the fear of los­ing eco­nomic align­ment. The frag­ile eco­nomic re­cov­ery of the re­gion is threat­ened by the eco­nomic nar­ra­tive of Trump that calls for an aban­don­ment of NAFTA, re­jec­tion of the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship Agree­ment, a trade war with China, greater do­mes­tic pro­tec­tion­ism, and a cel­e­bra­tion of Rus­sia over the Euro­pean Union. These un­leashed fi­nan­cial forces, real or imag­ined, will ad­versely af­fect world trade, leav­ing the Caribbean on the down­side of the swing.

The re­set of global diplo­macy driven by the rise of eth­nic na­tion­al­ism in the USA and in Western Europe will af­fect not only the cul­tural sen­si­bil­ity of Latin Amer­ica, but Asia, and Africa. With school­child­ren in US states call­ing for ‘white power’ and women re­jected as un­wor­thy sex­ual oth­ers, do­mes­tic diplo­macy through­out the world will, joined with for­mal pol­i­tics, cre­ate a re­stricted global com­mer­cial cul­ture that will ad­versely af­fect global trade and com­mer­cial re­la­tions.


The moral re­dun­dancy of the Re­pub­li­can cam­paign has sent shiv­ers down the Caribbean soul, a place that has been de­mand­ing so­cial so­phis­ti­ca­tion from lead­ers. Pub­lic dis­re­spect for women has been re­jected and ra­cial big­otry ban­ished from our po­lit­i­cal life.

The Caribbean has done well to put the raw as­pects of its his­tory be­hind it in a search for com­mon ground on which to build our young democ­ra­cies. In this re­gard, also, Trump­ism is not au­gur­ing well for the Caribbean. As we seek to keep our economies aligned with the fis­cal and fi­nan­cial strate­gies of the USA, we are now out of align­ment morally, spir­i­tu­ally, so­cially, and cul­tur­ally.

CARICOM is cur­rently vi­brat­ing within this non-align­ment. Our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have rightly ex­pressed salu­ta­tions in the di­rec­tion of the pres­i­dent-elect, but will he ever re­flect upon our best wishes, visit with us, and by way of gen­eros­ity “hail CARICOM and big up Ja­maica?” HI­LARY BECK­LES Vice Chan­cel­lor, UWI

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