Full Disclosure
July 21, 2006
Emancipation as an aspect of Global Trends

From colonization to modern nation states

The issue of emancipation has always generated intense debate. This is clear from the numerous documentations of global ideas concerning the issue. One major concern for analysts worldwide has been the challenges to so-called Third World economies in the era of globalization. As such, the experience of colonialism, and its resultant impacts on the retardation of developing countries has been extensively explored, in an effort to gain a detailed understanding of its effect in modern times.{{more}}

Analysis is made easier with the assistance of fusing intermittent struggles in different territories engaging persons of different classes and groups, making it most obvious that although emancipation was granted in the year 1834, slavery is still evident in the 21st century.

Indeed, the sovereignty of modern nation states is heavily dependent on their ability to ascertain and maintain sustainable development. In this light, the negative impact of structural adjustment policies on national economies in Third World countries over recent years speaks directly to the inability of such states to be truly emancipated. Moreover, the almost total economic dependence on First World countries that Caribbean states now face can be directly linked to slavery and its derivative – the impoverishment of transplanted races predominantly Africans and Asians to the new world. The dependency as we see it today, between the First World and the Third World is as a direct result of the uprooting of these people left adrift to form a society embodying a political and economic system from their very impoverishment.

August 1, or more precisely midnight on July 31 each year, marks the date when some take a moment to reflect symbolically on the purported abolition of slavery. Purported abolition, since from all appearances what we do celebrate is the abolition of physical slavery and no more.

In 1834, physical slavery was abolished, however various forms of oppression, coercive domination and internationally orchestrated non-liberating vices have plagued the development of all forms of Western civilization the United States of America being an exception. These vices of oppression are either equal to a form of slavery in most respects or mirrors slavery with an extremely high degree of exactness. Though the word slavery if used today to describe any system in specific terms may appear antiquated, globalization may be a more timely replacement in keeping with current trends. Hence the understandable relation, that emancipation can properly be placed as an aspect of global trends.

The period of colonization is always an excellent point of departure, since it represents the watershed period at which the world for the most part was officially introduced to concepts of globalization. Prior to colonization and the period of European exploration of the New World, the concept of globalization was wrapped in mysticism. However, the concept was given birth as a result of the expansionist policies of our former European colonizers. With the expansion of European trade came missionaries, adventurers, explorers and the capitalist embryo. This global interaction between the native people in our region on the one hand and the Europeans on the other hand was the beginning of what today is known as the globalisation.

There is no real evidence that physical emancipation in 1834 materially assisted in changing the exploitative expansionist policies of pre-1834 Europe. What is clear, however, is that the principles which guided the foreign policies of the former colonisers, have merely adopted new shades of the same colour, in some instances new forms of perpetuating old evils in a more refined grade.

One of the greatest pronouncements on the political landscape of the islands in our region in the post-colonial era is the relative political independence obtained. In the case of St. Vincent and the Grenadines independence was obtained on October 27, 1979, some 145 years after physical emancipation of the slaves. The truth be told, in the same manner whereby economic factors led to the demise of the system of physical slavery. So too, it was no longer profitable for the European colonizers to hold unto their colonies. Independence was the result.

It is critical to note that emancipation from physical slavery is merely 171 years old. Further, as it relates to independence from Britain, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has recently gone past 25 years of political independence. This begs the question as to whether since emancipation and independence we have been able to develop a functioning system capable of the effective and efficient governance of our political economy.

Without any doubt independence was a bold and forthright statement, and an attempt to sever ties with the colonial past. After the 1979 Independence date we began the development of a home-grown national identity founded on the formal institutions of our former colonizers. This is the paradox of our development as an independent state. Further, political sovereignty without economic sovereignty is less than half complete. It is at this juncture that the objects of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy should resonate, as it relates to our quest for economic sovereignty.

The post independence experiences are varied throughout the region. Some islands are marred with corrupt politicians, some suffer from the production of diseconomies of scale owing to their relatively limited geographic space and human capital. Other islands have been blessed to have leaders with a vision who through their relentless efforts are capable of navigating through difficult times.

In next week’s article reference will be made to the role of specific global institutions and the function which the present economic international legal jurisprudence supports the thesis that slavery has only evolved, adopting only new forms of the old mill. In 2006, our region may still not be able only to truthfully speak of freedom from the relics of slavery as the achievement derived from the July 31, 1834 event. Well, I may be corrected, but just probably, the freedom of 1834 was really meant to relate to the humanitarian aspect of freedom but not one of economics and political emancipation.