The Independence calendar of activities seems to be growing each year. Almost daily there are activities of one form or another, in almost every sphere of activity. This is a very healthy sign of a society coming to grips with its developmental potential and eager to express pride in our development since independence. From the hesitancy and lack of self-confidence of our pre-Independence days, we are becoming more assertive. Yes, we still have a long way to go but at least we are headed in the right direction.
It is particularly encouraging to note the revival of the Best Village competition for communities. This was a particularly popular sphere of activity in the early days of the New Democratic Party government, associated with former Minister Herbert Young, but fell into abeyance along the way. It remains an excellent avenue both to reinforce community spirit and to carry out environmental education as well. Let us seize the opportunity to build on it.
Another positive development has been the positive reorientation of the Miss SVG Pageant. Among the positive changes has been the stipulation for contestants to initiate and implement community-based projects prior to their grand night on the stage. We seem to be aiming to produce new leaders in this field, not stage bunnies. SVG and the contestants themselves will be much the better off due to this approach.
On a wider level, whatever the shortcomings of the Unity Labour Party administration, it cannot be faulted for its efforts to make Independence more meaningful and to stimulate pride in our nation. The inaugural Independence Day address by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in 2001 was the fist ever attempt by a Vincentian Prime Minister to situate our achievement of Independence in its true historical context. By contrast, one of his predecessors was not only sometimes absent from this most significant national activity, but he was also even absent for the flag-raising ceremony of the new national flag which he had personally initiated and supervised. So much for national leadership.
The importance for post-colonial nations like ours to place emphasis on building patriotism cannot be over-emphasized. We are a people taught to distrust each other, to see each of our racial groupings in negative terms, such as “black people are the worst in the world”; Caribs are drunkards and promiscuous; even the descendants of indentured servants had negative connotations.
Patriotism will help us to understand our true history and the role that these same groups have played in building SVG and instilling pride in our history and accomplishments.