Life must be more than cold hard facts
November 10, 2006

Life must be more than cold hard facts

In a close analogy to the biblical precept that faith without works is dead, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has suggested that there is an umbilical link between science and the humanities.

In a thought provoking – and politically poking – speech to a prize giving ceremony in Trinidad last week, he took a swipe at Vincentian “hardened” journalists and “unlearnt” talk show hosts whom he said were resisting the very change that they themselves allege the society needed and advocate.{{more}}

In his 30-minute speech he argued a case that life must be more than cold hard facts associated with sciences and scientific approaches but must be people-centered.

“My preliminary contention … is that the scientific world itself with its preoccupation with research or teaching, touching and concerning the physical or material universes or wholes, has a necessary umbilical connection with the academic disciplines of ‘humanities’ and ‘education’, he told the Prize Award Ceremony for outstanding students of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies last week.

In his speech, the former attorney-at-law, argued that ‘the humanities’ and ‘education’ were “self-evidently critical to the embracing twins of ‘living and production'”.

In arguing his case, Dr Gonsalves, quoted from his December 6, 2006 Budget address in which he rebuked “narrow-minded” economists who regarded their discipline as a science onto itself, divorced of the realities of the humans in the societies they ought to be serving. This view of economics as merely a series of technical functions, Gonsalves said, would lead to “incorrect analysis, pseudo-science, wrong prescriptions, inertia at best, disaster at worse”.

He also quoted from his 27th Anniversary of Independence speech in which he contended that historically, and contemporarily, a reduction of material poverty and increased wealth have often, though not always, nurtured in the human breast a poverty of the spirit and a destitution of the soul and he asked why? Was it a case that whether poverty of spirit and morality naturally followed affluence?

The answers and solutions to these, he contended, were to be found not in ‘science’ but in the ‘humanities’ and ‘education’.

He also was critical of certain sections of the Vincentian society who don’t see eye to eye with this thesis and whose behaviours, he insinuated, were cast in stone for their own selfish benefit.

“Much of what I have said may be greeted by many, especially hardened journalists, particularly unlearnt talk-show hosts, and politicians, with profound skepticism and even cynicism. That, too, is an expected response by some in these times. The very circumstances which demand an alteration in behaviour are those which continue to induce a resistance to change by those who, upon a critical analysis, benefit from any existing social disorder. They, from their respective perches of influence, power or authority, see their continued occupation of elite roles as wrapped up in their continued manipulation of individuals as if these persons were atoms manipulated in the physicist’s laboratory,” he said, adding “but the times, they are a-changing!”

In a companion issue – that of communication – he said that the students of ‘humanities’ and ‘education’ needed to communicate and this meant the use of appropriate and understandable language. On the other hand, he advanced an argument that a corruption of language is the first sign that there are infelicities, corrupt practices and dissimulation at hand.

“Making the language wretched is a mask for something ignoble. Idioms of opaque abstraction deceive citizens and make incomprehensible that which ought to be straightforward,” he posited.

He cited some examples such as: “an interim contingency planning process of indeterminate nature which focuses on a polycentric multi-polar paradigm”?

Another was: “Labour market rigidities which are to be restructured to enhance market-led competitiveness”.

“This terrible corruption of language has migrated to us from North America and Europe,” said Dr Gonsalves who urged the students not to sit on the fence but to be decisive in the life ahead.

“All of us gathered here have come from yesterday with our limiting burdens but we must face tomorrow with our enabling strengths. In our quest for an ennobling life and work it is possible to glimpse morning before the sun; possible to see early where sunset might stain anticipated night. In the process, let us eschew the building of shining governments of the damned. Always, the humanities, education, and edification are the head corner stones which no builder can reasonably reject,” he concluded.