Are We Mov­ing In Cir­cles and For How Much Longer?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - Peter Josie

In a book­let to be pub­lished ti­tled “Repa­ra­tions Con­fer­ence” I at­tempt to por­tray a gather­ing of per­sons on an is­land in the Caribbean. Their pur­pose is to dis­cuss repa­ra­tions—claim­ing their an­ces­tors’ wages for slave labour. In my read­ings I chance upon the fol­low­ing pas­sage by Wil­liam Lloyd Gar­ri­son (Bos­ton, May 1, 1845) in his pref­ace to “Nar­ra­tive of the Life of Fred­er­ick Dou­glas”. Gar­ri­son wrote: “It may, per­haps, be fairly ques­tioned, whether any other por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion of the earth could have en­dured the pri­va­tions, suf­fer­ings and hor­rors of slav­ery, with­out hav­ing be­come more de­graded in the scale of hu­man­ity than the slaves of African de­scent. Noth­ing has been left un­done to crip­ple their in­tel­lects, darken their minds, de­base their mo­ral na­ture, oblit­er­ate all traces of their re­la­tion­ship to mankind; and yet how won­der­fully they have sus­tained the mighty load of a most fright­ful bondage, un­der which they have been groan­ing for cen­turies!”

No­bel win­ner Sir Arthur Lewis and other in­tel­lec­tu­als have elab­o­rated on the ob­ser­va­tions by Gar­ri­son and fash­ioned ap­pro­pri­ate mod­els of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for the post-slav­ery colo­nial ex­pe­ri­ence. Sir Arthur has pos­tu­lated that if the wages owed to slave labour were to be paid to these Caribbean is­lands, they would be much fur­ther de­vel­oped so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally. The dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture of the schol­ar­ship of Lewis and oth­ers is in­tel­lec­tual hon­esty and re­search. One per­ceives in Lewis a stu­dious de­ter­mi­na­tion to an­swer ques­tions of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment fairly and truth­fully. By con­stant re­search and by ex­am­in­ing var­i­ous de­vel­op­ment mod­els, he de­vel­oped the­o­ries that stood the test of time. Men such as Sir Arthur did not pan­der to pop­u­lar po­lit­i­cal pro­pa­ganda; nei­ther did they con­fuse racism with eco­nom­ics, or the value of labour and sav­ings, with po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy.

It is un­for­tu­nate that so lit­tle at­ten­tion is paid to the works of such great thinkers, es­pe­cially as we con­tinue to ob­serve our Cre­ole her­itage, seem­ingly with­out fur­ther study and re­search. Some may be tempted to crit­i­cize Sir Arthur and set aside his work be­cause he was not versed in our Cre­ole folk­ways. Nei­ther is his nephew, the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Dr Vaughan Lewis. In fact, some short-sighted in­di­vid­u­als, pre­tend­ing to be more in­tel­lec­tu­ally mus­cu­lar than they are, tend to dis­miss Dr Vaughan Lewis as just an­other prop for the failed An­thony gov­ern­ment. These same peo­ple with their flawed think­ing have turned the Jounen Kweyol cel­e­bra­tions into a cash cow for friends and rel­a­tives.

I have ex­am­ined these an­nual Cre­ole fes­ti­vals, and ar­rived at the same un­sat­is­fac­tory con­clu­sion: they seem in con­stant cir­cu­lar mo­tion as re­gards our cul­ture, our pol­i­tics and other as­pects of our lives. No demon­stra­ble link is ever of­fered to the present. Pol­i­tics al­ways seems to in­trude. A case in point: the prox­im­ity be­tween the last Labour Party con­fer­ence in Choiseul and Jounen Kweyol ac­tiv­i­ties may have been mere co­in­ci­dence. Still, a deeper com­par­a­tive anal­y­sis would re­veal the same flaws and sug­gest the same so­lu­tions from ob­serv­ing these two sep­a­rate events: the party plat­form and Jounen Kweyol.

If cul­ture is the dy­namic phe­nom­e­non that ex­perts de­scribe, then surely, some lin­ear move­ment from the things of the past to­wards the present should point to progress in cre­ative do­ing, see­ing and feel­ing. The sad re­al­ity is that those charged with or­gan­is­ing Jounen Kweyol are blind to the dy­namism of cul­ture. These cel­e­bra­tions are a repet­i­tive an­nual af­fair, rather than a demon­stra­tion of the cul­tural ad­just­ments and strides our grand­par­ents made in mov­ing for­ward with their hard-won free­doms—from slav­ery to the present. The coal pot and the home-made me­tal stoves and ovens take cen­tre stage. That which has re­placed them is hid­den from view, per­haps be­cause they ex­pose our lack of mas­tery of sim­ple tech­nol­ogy—and think­ing. There is, I be­lieve, a need to study why we have not fash­ioned more ad­vanced agri­cul­ture tools that, for ex­am­ple, would lighten our work on the farm.

The same lack of for­ward move­ment, or, im­prove­ment if you pre­fer, is demon­strated in our pol­i­tics. There is a deter­mined mind-set that sug­gests cer­tain per­sons are en­dowed with more le­git­i­macy for pol­i­tics than oth­ers, due to their darker skin tone and mas­tery of the Cre­ole lan­guage. Such fool­ish plat­form rhetoric also sug­gests that a busi­ness­man has no place in lo­cal pol­i­tics. The lack of com­pe­tence in Cre­ole as dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the job of prime min­is­ter is of­ten twisted to con­fuse. Allen Chas­tanet’s op­po­nents have sug­gested that he lacks Saint Lu­cian sen­si­bil­i­ties and only knows pri­vate sec­tor busi­ness. His ac­cusers fail to point out that he once worked as a cadet of­fi­cer in John Comp­ton’s Cen­tral Plan­ning Unit (CPU), as an econ­o­mist with the likes of Sir Dwight Ven­ner and Aus­bert d’Au­vergne. They fail to in­form us that he worked in Wash­ing­ton DC as deputy di­rec­tor at ECIPS, un­der di­rec­tor Swin­burn Lestrade. (ECIPS was a US gov­ern­ment agency de­signed to as­sist East Caribbean States.) In 1988-90 he ob­tained a Mas­ter’s de­gree in Eco­nom­ics at Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity in Wash­ing­ton. What bet­ter prepa­ra­tion for a fu­ture Min­is­ter of Fi­nance?

There is no need for a Saint Lu­cian politi­cian who pro­fesses su­pe­rior in­tel­lect to em­u­late US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in his hate­ful di­a­tribe. Those who call them­selves pro­gres­sive should dis­tance them­selves from such hate­ful and racist speech. And the peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia should be spared the dis­sem­i­na­tion of such crass and big­oted re­marks. Lies and in­tel­lec­tual dis­hon­esty (I refuse to call it fake news) need to be called what they are. To in­flict them on peo­ple still suf­fer­ing from past abuse and ne­glect is wicked and im­moral.

When one looks at Jounen Kweyol ac­tiv­i­ties against the back­drop of the re­cent Labour Party con­fer­ence, one is im­me­di­ately struck by the sim­i­lar­ity of their cir­cuitous na­ture. They both seem caught in the clay from which the Choiseul ar­ti­san fash­ions his beloved coal pot. We need to fo­cus on re­mov­ing the ob­sta­cles to cre­ative ef­fort, as the coal pot ar­ti­san does, and press for­ward with con­fi­dence as we re­pair the past and fash­ion the fu­ture.

What are we learn­ing from Jounen Kweyol? Is it just an­other stuck-in-the-mud, mean­ing­less fes­ti­val?

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