Home and Away

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of these ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

There’s some­thing in the air we breathe or the in­creas­ingly scarce wa­ter we drink that causes an is­land ex­is­tence to lead, if not to in­do­lence, then cer­tainly an ac­cep­tance of a lack of ur­gency in ev­ery­day life.

Af­ter hav­ing spent most of this cen­tury on is­land, I have, in re­cent months, been trav­el­ling the globe on busi­ness and plea­sure pick­ing up old re­la­tion­ships and forg­ing new al­liances. And what have struck me most are not the dif­fer­ences be­tween peo­ple, places and in­sti­tu­tions, but the sim­i­lar­i­ties. Peo­ple, in my world, are equal in that we share the same phys­i­cal prop­er­ties, the same in­tel­lec­tual pos­si­bil­i­ties and even the same chal­lenges that oft times lead to bound­less op­por­tu­ni­ties. In my world, it’s all in the mind, the mind­set.

On one trip, I had cause to visit a cen­tre in Scan­di­navia where im­mi­grants are re­ceived. The re­cep­tion area was like a vast, lux­u­ri­ous ho­tel lobby with clean, pol­ished wooden fur­ni­ture, paint­ings on the wall, poster boards full of per­ti­nent, up to date in­for­ma­tion, and a mul­ti­tude of po­lite, in­ter­ested, ef­fi­cient staff ca­pa­ble of solv­ing ev­ery ques­tion or seek­ing ad­vice where needed in air-con­di­tioned ef­fi­ciency.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries have pur­sued a lib­eral im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy in re­cent decades. The pop­u­la­tion of Swe­den, for ex­am­ple, has grown from around 7 mil­lion to not far from 10 mil­lion in the quar­ter of a cen­tury since I left that coun­try to make my home in Saint Lu­cia. Swe­den, it would seem, has be­come a truly mul­ti­cul­tural so­ci­ety that re­spects and wel­comes its new cit­i­zens with open arms. I looked at the faces in the re­cep­tion area, all the peo­ple be­fore me, and re­al­ized that mine was the only white face wait­ing to be served. The wait wasn’t long.

Within min­utes I had been in­ter­viewed, pro­cessed and repa­tri­ated. I watched, lis­tened, ob­served. As far as I could see the re­cep­tion­ists treated ev­ery ap­pli­cant with the same re­spect and con­sid­er­a­tion de­spite the nu­mer­ous lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties. Ev­ery form ex­isted in a mul­ti­tude of lan­guages, even go­ing as far as au­dio ver­sions pre­sum­ably for ap­pli­cants who were il­lit­er­ate.

In the streets of our vil­lage, or rather the vil­lages that make up our com­mu­nity, there were lots of shades and hues, some black, some swarthy, some sal­low, some brown. The shops and supermarkets were minia­ture Tow­ers of Ba­bel pep­pered with bro­ken Swedish. All im­mi­grants are given the op­por­tu­nity to learn Swedish through the om­nipresent adult ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. Al­most ev­ery Swede for that mat­ter takes part in adult ed­u­ca­tion classes one or two evenings a week. Ed­u­ca­tion is a na­tional pas­time, so im­mi­grants learn­ing to speak the lan­guage, so as to more eas­ily as­sim­i­late into so­ci­ety, is noth­ing out of the or­di­nary.

But that is not what this A-Mus­ing is all about. Let me go back to the be­gin­ning, the wa­ter we drink and the air we breathe, and let me ask my­self, “Why do I ac­cept lower stan­dards of ef­fi­ciency and be­hav­iour in Saint Lu­cia, when Saint Lu­cians abroad, away from their ‘home’ en­vi­ron­ment, are just as hard work­ing, ef­fi­cient, re­li­able, hon­est, pleas­ant and pos­i­tive as every­one else?"

Why, in Saint Lu­cia, is it ac­cept­able for peo­ple not to turn up on time, not to keep ap­point­ments, not to com­plete tasks within an agreed time­frame, and not to hon­our agree­ments when those very same Saint Lu­cians, trans­ported to another en­vi­ron­ment, another so­ci­ety, will per­form just as well, just as de­cently, as any­one else and even bet­ter with­out a word of com­plaint?

Why do Saint Lu­cians in Canada ven­ture out in the snow, Saint Lu­cians in Eng­land bat­tle driv­ing rain, Saint Lu­cians in Scan­di­navia wrap up and face freez­ing ice, sleet and snow, while Saint Lu­cians at home stay at home be­cause ‘rain fallin’?

Why, when faced with largesse from abroad, gifts and grants worth mil­lions, wallto-wall com­put­ers, tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tions to drool over, do Saint Lu­cians and Saint Lu­cian au­thor­i­ties al­low state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy to go to waste, unat­tended, un-ser­viced, unloved, and un-or-un­der­uti­lized, while Saint Lu­cians abroad con­tinue to amaze and as­tound with their dex­ter­ity and dis­ci­pline in ev­ery­thing IT?

My fel­low Saint Lu­cians, it is time to wake up. Folks, the idle com­plaint that “Saint Lu­cia ain’t ready” don’t work no more. The world don’t owe you nuthin! Get your act to­gether. You are bet­ter than you know! If you can do it out there, you can do it here. Get off your col­lec­tive asses and get to work – and that in­cludes all of us!

The pre­ced­ing was first pub­lished in the STAR in July 2014.

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