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The culture of the 1970s

The culture of the 1970s

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by Oscar Allen

I am making a paraphrase of Ulyanov Lenin, the Russian revolutionary, when I ask:

Would it not be better if the salutations addressed to the nation were more frequently accompanied by a profound analysis of the reasons why St. Vincent and the Grenadines maintains a robust political discourse amidst a fractured social reality? {{more}}

One of the questions we need to answer is: How do we manage to keep national conversations safe and healthy?

The fact is that the leaders of opinion in our nation, and the leaders of innovation and action all share a certain culture which I will call the culture of our independence. Now I am not saying that Jules Ferdinand, Jomo Thomas and Nicole Sylvester come from the same mental mould. My point is this: On balance, there is one bedrock from which we raise our thoughts, launch our actions, create our controversies, nurture our spite, imagine our futures and sing our psalms. It is a bedrock of inspirational visions that re-emerged 30 or so years ago in a deep movement of Vincentian and Caribbean people’s magma. What that revolutionary movement still contributes to the nation, its people, points of view, high quality commitment, integrity and the fundamental propositions of social justice, the rising of the poor, a covenant of “Never Again” with our indigenous and black population, the nation before the party, and the interests of the nation before the interests of powerful elites from overseas.

Whoever takes the lead in social conversation has to respond to these agendas. More than that, most of the voices in the press, on the radio, singing the calypsoes, in the NGOs, in professions and parliament, are voices of those formed in the 1970s, or the offspring of the 1970s. A short list includes Cecil Blazer Williams, Renrick Rose, Kevin Malcolm, Edgar Adams, Nelcia Robinson, Keith Joseph, Hugh Ragguette, Ken John, Eduardo Lynch, Dessima Hamilton, Erica Morgan, Robert FitzPatrick, Simeon Greene, Ferdie Toney, Joye Browne, Robert Patches Knights, Cheryl Johnson, Laferne Cato, Ellsworth John, Parnel Campbell, Cecil Ryan, Cyprian Neehall, Noel Jackson, Kayan Yankie Andrews, Arnhim Eustace, Victor Cuffy, Adrian Saunders, Junior Cottle, Edwin Snagg, Errol Age Rose, Ralph Gonsalves, Kayamba Horne, Mark DaSilva and Kay Bacchus Brown.

Any action or conversation that these people take part in is robust and enriching. It is they who ensure that dialogue among Vincentians does not reach lunatic intensity.

When we pull together the people of the 1970s, the vehicle that they invented – the United People’s Movement, the institutions and activities that they pioneered and moulded from the Teachers Credit Union, National Commercial Bank to Ferdies Footsteps and the NEWS, along with the quiet careers they built in the public service and public service and professional life – all of this comes to constitute the volcanic cove of our culture of independence. That is what we celebrate in 2004 as the triumph of 25 years of nationhood.

Today’s constitutional reform process, for example, is a more elaborate expression of the subaltern process of 1978 when a People’s National Independence Committee carried out consultations and presented its proposals to government. (See photo.) Henry Williams, Mike Browne, Renrick Rose and Adrian Fraser were officers of that constitution committee.

Our nation today must treasure the men and women whose shoulders carried the culture of our independence for more than 25 years. Generally they seek no honour; they simply do their duty. At this season of mindless salutations and memoryless thanksgiving, it is my duty to salute our fellow citizens and comrades who make our nationhood noble.

I thank God and our ancestors for your gift to the nation and I urge this upon you for consideration: The culture of our independence is not enough today; the nation is fractured, justice is compromised and peace is beginning a new migration. Another united peoples movement – but not a party – must shape the peace of the coming 25 years.