Our Readers' Opinions
August 10, 2007
Animal Farm at conference in Washington

by Dillon Burgin 10.AUG.07

Caribbean heads of government converged on Washington D.C for a meeting with the Caribbean Diaspora. The meeting was nothing short of window dressing. I attended the three-day conference; but I left at the end of the second day. I left early because of my disappointment with the way it was organized. It was obvious to me (and I discovered from conversation with many others that they felt the same way too) that the conference was little more than a social gathering of “experts” and “who is who” in various sectors of the Caribbean Diaspora. In other words the conference was obviously not organized to seriously put in place a machinery to address the many issues confronting the Caribbean.{{more}}

It reminded me of George Orwell’s classic “Animal Farm.” For those who are not familiar with the story here is a brief summary: The animals of Manor Farm had a meeting one day. The elder of the farm (A pig) give a speech to the other animals in which he pointed out to them that few of them will ever know the joy of old age. He goes on to point out to the gathering their plight, stating, “Our farm is rich but we never get our fare share.”

The punch line of the story is that the speech led to a revolution in which the animals took ownership of the farm. They changed its name to “Animal Farm.” They changed the rules also to bring equality to the animals of the farm. The farm functioned smoothly for a while. But there were disgruntled and sly animals that were led by a pig who wanted to live like the former owner, above the rest of the farm. He organized a revolt against the new dispensation and eventually succeeded. In the new farm, the rules changed to what they were under rich farmer Jones. One of the most important rules was “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.”

So although the farm was controlled by animals, the conditions had returned to the same as they were under the oppressive dispensation of an unjust “human” master. The casualties which resulted from the original struggles to change oppressive conditions were soon forgotten one generation later.

I’m afraid that today, we are witnessing the betrayal of the generation that follows the previous generation of slaves and the civil rights leaders who sought to change the social oppression under which the Caribbean emerged. Observe the following examples: 1. Prime Ministers were scheduled to meet with the U.S president at a time that would precede their meeting with the people in the Diaspora. This raises the question of “how well can they represent the concerns of their people?”

2. The “experts’ who were brought in to do presentation for the most part did an excellent job. But why do we need a select group of experts when there are so many people in the gathering who obviously know what the issues affecting our community are. There should be work-groups in which people can devise solutions to the problems.

It was clear to me that the conference was making a grave mistake – it did not factor any faith based organization in the equation. Apparently this was a way of being consistent with the model of the USA which is constantly espousing the notion of separation of church and state. Years ago, some Caribbean scholars argued that one of the main reasons that CARICOM (Caribbean Community) failed as a political and social entity was that they pushed the C.C.C. (Caribbean Conference of Churches) out of the loop. The point of this argument is that if any political organization desires to succeed and to sustain that success, it will be wise to engage the support and integral participation of the faith-based community. After all, the human being is by nature a creature of faith – a religious creature. The faith may rest in a person, a divine reality or even a philosophical concept. Whatever the case, no organization that is serious about the development of people should ignore the contribution of the faith-based community.

The heads of government from the Caribbean seemed to have basically said to the gathering of the Diaspora: your remittances (money sent to relatives from family members in the U.S.A) contribute significantly to our economies. So continue to send them. We are happy to meet with and greet you; see you at the other big social event. Good bye. The conference was a rather blatant insult to the intellectuals, the community activists and the grassroots workers who hardly had an opportunity to share their insights on the fields of expertise. Not to mention that there was no structured opportunity for serious networking of this large group of people who share a deep love for their region of origin – The Caribbean.”

Clearly, the Caribbean is still a far way off of the bull’s eye. The political leaders of the region display an attitude that says “I own the Island.” Yet the truth be told, the budget of these countries individually, and of many of them together is less than the yearly salary of many NBA players in the USA. This raises the question of whether the President of the USA (whoever he is – the reference here is to the office) even take the Caribbean heads seriously. And if he does, the serious question to be asked is why? If we answer this question, it may be the beginning of discovering the true bargaining power of small island developing states. When will the farm change its name? We can begin by engaging the wisdom of God as does the faith community, which is constantly processing and applying it to life’s big questions.

Dillon Burgin is a pastor, an author and a playwright. Email your response to him at dillonburgin@yahoo.com