Our Readers' Opinions
July 4, 2008
Creating Change – Integrating Perspectives


by: Bertram A John

Drs Fraser and John commented recently on a piece I’d written some time ago, and which the Editor published under the ominous, but evidently effective title “SVG will be changed forever!” Dr. Fraser, thank you for the serious consideration you gave the piece. I have, of course, been paying close attention to your thoughtful writing for years.{{more}}

Dr. John was a favorite teacher whose sensitivity conveyed far more than the French language that was his charge. I have indeed been trying to engage a discussion that considers, among other things, how we shape a future. This to me requires that we work at developing a context for understanding how we got here… “From whence we came” (Adrian) it is only with a deepened understanding of the values that got us here – (and this involved disturbing some skeletons and other buried treasure) – that we can frame a sense of direction. Direction makes sense only in the context of one’s reality. The role of the Diaspora is critical to this exercise. Our memory of those values helps keep us intact, so we are sensitive to them in contrast to the way that the urge for progress dilutes them in many local Vincies. The dispersed Vincentians have a significant role to develop in relation to the double – edged sword that remittances constitute. Garth Rattray in the Jamaica Gleaner – Inner-city mothers and crime- (Monday May 12, 2008) points out how even remittances can be leveraged for illicit products when there is implicit community, and family support for such activity. All these issues are elements in a change process in which SVG is involved, and we all need to pay attention.

We have actually arrived at the point where South – South trade and investment have gained momentum. This, if anything, should suggest to all of us the tempo at which change is overtaking our world. The reality is that we have to adapt to these changes, ready or not. Our adaptive strength lies in what we have learned from this incredible journey that our people have lived. Our unity depends on how well we understand how much we have shared along the way. To the extent that we achieve unity, our perspective will be broadened. We will know when we get to that point, because we’ll see each other differently. For example, we would reliably expect more of each other. We would each then be sharing more of ourselves, wouldn’t we? That is itself significant growth. Purpose cannot exist without unity. When we get there, to useful unity, we’ll have a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose allows us to set goals. Without goals, there is no there. When we have goals, we’ll know where we are going. Then we can talk about whether we are going in the right direction. The question is, do we want to go there? This is where I would want to talk about leadership. Leadership is about managing change, shaping the context. If we want to get there, we have to engage in the type of discussion that would seriously assess the qualities that we consider necessary for the tasks of leadership, because there are many.

The need in SVG is – Unity. It is imperative, if our people are to move forward! It is the least we should demand of those who would lead. Unity can emerge only through an understanding of who we are, through an understanding of our story- and the way that our individual narratives connect to that story. Moreover, the strength of this identity lies in its capacity to bring meaning to what often seems like disparate narratives. Leadership involves the ability to increase the level of our thinking, through preparing the context required for broadening and deepening our perspectives, and liberating the creative energies of the community. Leadership at its best creates the space for the dynamic interplay that produces change. The people make change happen. This principle actually expresses itself rather well each year, and across the years, as the nation celebrates itself through the burst of creative energy that is carnival. How then do we translate the limited goals of carnival into the more elaborate and protracted matter of a people’s destiny?

SVG has become a community with a growing, and complex set of stakeholders. Getting a shared vision is challenging, but those negotiating skills are abundantly distributed in SVG. Where we position ourselves is up to us. The clearer our perspective, the better our judgment will be. A shift in perspective makes it possible to apply new configurations to issues before us, and to find different, and more effective solutions to problems. It extends our frame of reference, because when I have to consider the perspective of the “other”, I can no longer maintain my egocentric view of reality. I now have the advantage of new and different information that I am challenged reconcile with my old view. This is an example of change at a basic level. When we understand the rule, the need to integrate the old with the new and to reorganize the way we approach information in general, we can say that change is qualitative, and transformative. The value of a broadened perspective is incalculable. A person who understands his or her belongingness as a part of our journey is far less likely to aggress on family and community. One who has a sense of purpose is not likely to become destructive. Moreover, as a part of a focused dynamic community one is challenged to contribute to its goals.

One theme that reverberates throughout the literature is that early experiences of failure that are not counteracted by meaningful experiences of success correlate strongly with later antisocial behavior. We must increase the space and opportunity for youth to find success even before they desperately need it. The investment we make in their wellbeing is of paramount importance. The problem is not that we lack ideas about how to fix the difficulties in the community; rather it lies in the structural and functional fixedness in our approach. We must engage the active leadership, participation, and perspectives of families, youth, and community- based organizations organically in any attempt to solve problems.