Trans-colo­nial col­lab­o­ra­tion in St Lu­cia’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Har­vey Cenac The au­thor is the Chief Vi­sion­ary Of­fi­cer of Seed Foun­da­tion Inc in Soufriere

The ti­tle is meant to be de­lib­er­ate and thought­pro­vok­ing, in par­tic­u­lar, to the sen­sa­tion­al­ist spec­tre of see­ing Saint Lu­cians as sub­jects and ob­jects, rather than as a peo­ple and agents of rad­i­cal, hemi­spheric, eco­nomic, and so­cial change. How­ever, whether one un­der­stands or not, there is a com­mon in­ter­pre­ta­tion of alarm that is in­voked by a per­snick­ety po­lit­i­cal leader, re­lat­ing to Nic­colò Machi­avelli sys­tems, which is about to re­write who we are as a peo­ple, and the her­itage of be­ing Saint Lu­cian.

In im­prac­ti­cal terms, Saint Lu­cians are pre­dis­posed to a post-elec­tion po­lit­i­cal sub­jec­tiv­ity to Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet, aided by his cabi­net col­leagues, that has never been ex­pe­ri­enced both on a prac­ti­cal or imag­i­na­tive level. This will en­ter into our lives and dis­turb the cre­ativ­ity and re­solve of a peo­ple, dur­ing un­cer­tain and dif­fi­cult times, to fight and achieve some mea­sure of in­flu­ence, even con­trol, over our liveli­hoods.

The crit­i­cal con­stant that must be em­pha­sised is that there has al­ways been a con­scious choice about our “way of be­ing” in the Caribbean, a per­spec­tive that has its ground­ing out­side of what schol­ars com­monly con­sid­ered to be the twin spec­tres of colo­nial­ism ver­sus na­tional sub­jec­tiv­ity.

In this re­gard, when an artist de­vel­ops mu­si­cal rhythms, like cul­tural am­bas­sador and devel­oper Bob Mar­ley did, or when a re­li­gious rit­ual is in­tro­duced in a re­li­gion in the Caribbean, that na­tion does not ne­c­es­sar­ily lose a sense of its com­po­nents.

Not the least of which as well, the study of our po­lit­i­cal his­tory has di­min­ished fewer stu­dents, and el­ders are be­ing ex­posed to and thus lack the trans­for­ma­tion to en­rich the na­tional story in this age of ex­treme par­ti­san­ship, and the so-called demo­cratic process.

Hence, Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet is now tak­ing Saint Lu­cia down a path, as na­tive Saint Lu­cians (ex­clu­sive of him­self) pref­aced with voter il­lit­er­acy and wide­spread poverty, where the ma­jor­ity wor­ship that which is per­ceived as “for­eign, white and wealthy“and be­lieve oth­ers will look af­ter their in­ter­ests. This is risky, and stands a greater chance of los­ing the essence of our true iden­tity.

The large num­ber of port­fo­lios that Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet has al­lo­cated to him­self, and his de­ci­sion to chair the Cabi­net of Min­is­ters, as the “Min­is­ter of Ev­ery­thing” while globetrotting aim­lessly, is be­ing viewed by many as the re­turn to rule and con­trol by the elite rul­ing class, and the plan­ta­tion eco­nomic pat­tern termed ‘eco­nomic zones by spe­cial in­ter­est’ that was dom­i­nant dur­ing the colo­nial and post-colo­nial pe­ri­ods.

My own sense of op­ti­mism for Saint Lu­cia lies not in a trans-colo­nial col­lab­o­ra­tion sys­tem by Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet in a geopo­lit­i­cal re­gion that has had in its his­tory a peo­ple, both African and French Ne­groes, oc­cu­py­ing the re­gion since the 18th cen­tury.

Saint Lu­cia’s most im­por­tant man­i­fes­ta­tion of his­tor­i­cal ar­rest or mis­ad­ven­ture of­ten goes un­der the ti­tle of democ­racy. One would think that this term has a ba­sic loy­alty to the na­tion rather than to a trans-colo­nial leader. The ar­gu­ment so far has been to give Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet a chance, pur­port­ing that Saint Lu­cia will be bet­ter de­vel­oped by a trans­colo­nial­ist.

May I re­call to mem­ory that most gifts from trans­colo­nial­ists are very small, and min­i­mal; they are never re­ally gifts, but in­stead more of a com­pen­satory value, pre­vi­ously gained. Nev­er­the­less, it be­comes fashionable to speak of “change” or “chingch­ing”; an as­ser­tion that has im­pli­ca­tions in the so­cioe­co­nomic and po­lit­i­cal spheres and it can be shown for a broad re­vi­sion­ist of con­ven­tional pol­i­tics to the his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive that merely re­count the do­ings of queasy elites that shaped the na­tion’s past.

The ev­i­dence I have ac­cu­mu­lated from the three-months-old Chas­tanet ad­min­is­tra­tion has led me to be­lieve that trans-colo­nial col­lab­o­ra­tion is not in­trin­si­cally eman­ci­pa­tory, par­tic­i­pa­tory, or pro­gres­sive. This tra­jec­tory is what Dr Eric Wil­liams had the­o­rised as “stag­gered de­vel­op­ment” in the re­gion, and is par­tic­u­larly poignant when one con­sid­ers the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind and po­ten­tial suc­cess of trans-colo­nial free­dom-seek­ing ef­forts among pop­u­la­tions of colour.

That be­ing said, Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet, as a trans­colo­nial­ist, has man­i­fested an ide­al­is­tic im­pulse to imag­ine an­other world that could re­sult in im­proved ma­te­rial cir­cum­stances or mod­erni­sa­tion as a way to re-de­velop Saint Lu­cia. This as­ser­tion has im­pli­ca­tion in the so­cio-eco­nomic spheres and will be shown to be false in all re­spects.

It might be worth not­ing that, un­der most trans-colo­nial­ists, there is al­ways a claim of growth and de­vel­op­ment, which means that goods and ser­vices of a cer­tain type might be on the in­crease. How­ever, the profit goes abroad and the econ­omy be­comes more and more de­pen­dent on spe­cial in­ter­ests; as in all cases, there is never pro­vi­sion for mak­ing the econ­omy self­sus­tain­able and fo­cused on its own na­tional goals.

Mean­while the Chas­tanet-led ad­min­is­tra­tion’s first 100 days has achieved noth­ing tan­gi­ble, no pol­icy of sub­stance that res­onates “change”, but ego­cen­tric pos­tur­ing un­der self-in­flicted pres­sure to de­liver on elec­tion prom­ises of com­mon lies and de­ceit that few find in­ad­mis­si­ble, ex­cept the mass of il­lit­er­ate poor and un­der­e­d­u­cated who cling on for dear life.

The de­sired change will not be easy when a vi­tal part of this coun­try’s con­tin­u­ing demo­cratic dis­cus­sion is dis­ap­pear­ing. Pro­pa­ganda ma­chines are con­di­tion­ing the minds of Saint Lu­cians to be­lieve that only Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet un­der­stands their plight, even if it’s a far cry from the truth.

It mat­ters now more than ever that knowl­edge of our po­lit­i­cal past is cru­cial, as it would serve as a rem­edy to the mis­use of his­tory by our cur­rent po­lit­i­cal mis­fits and save us from be­ing be­wil­dered by par­al­lel false prophets. And it cer­tainly would help us bet­ter un­der­stand the likely ef­fects of ac­tions through the ac­qui­si­tion of in­sight and ma­tu­rity.

One might find my state­ments to be ex­trav­a­gant or nega­tive. But they are pre­sented only be­cause Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet as a trans­ac­tional, trans-colo­nial leader will have a dele­te­ri­ous ef­fect on the psy­che of Saint Lu­cians.

There ap­pears to be lit­tle ef­fort to fill the void, never mind the mantra “bring­ing the truth to light”. Saint Lu­cians will have to com­bat the re­doubtable in­flu­ence of Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet, be­gin­ning with his­tor­i­cal lessons to iden­tify po­lit­i­cal his­tory, make lit­er­acy a pri­or­ity, and use the ex­pe­ri­ence of ed­u­ca­tors and min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion, Dr Gale Rigob­ert, to en­act poli­cies that bol­ster the teach­ing of po­lit­i­cal his­tory and civics with­out politi­cis­ing the process. With­out both for­mal and in­for­mal ed­u­ca­tion, it will be im­pos­si­ble for Saint Lu­cia to get to pre­ferred des­ti­na­tion, and against such trans-colo­nial­ist views of Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet.

There is hardly any doubt; the writ­ing is on the wall. It is an un­man­age­able chal­lenge for Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet’s ad­min­is­tra­tion’s his­tor­i­cal delu­sion, parochial­ism and in­con­ve­nient truths.

Is Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter shack­led by in­vis­i­ble chains or do they re­side in the jaun­diced eyes of his de­trac­tors?

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