Our Readers' Opinions
August 17, 2010
Expose the myth

by Oscar Allen Tue, Aug 17, 2010

It is not enough for us to exchange
The political parties in government
From time to time: that is good,
But it is just not enough.
(T. Smith 2010 vs. S. Huntington et al)

In the words above, Smith shows a deep concern for our historical reality of political stagnation, and I want to consider his observation because it makes sense. It also echoes the sentiments of many other observers who are uncomfortable with blind party devotion and tribal politics.{{more}} Grantley Ipa Constance has advised us to Put our Country before Our Party, and the People’s Movement for Change (PMC) has raised the controversial banner of “people before (party) Politics: Country above Self”.

I think we should give another examination to our feverish rush to accomplish democratic social change by the principal route of exchanging parties in power. Is it working? What are our results? Are we more in charge of change? Is the community enjoying greater harmony? Have wealth and poverty interrogated each other? Do we understand what we have been doing to ourselves by putting a man and a myth in command? Is our finger in the ink any evidence that our hands and minds are working for real change?

Change requires critical knowledge. I want to take up two attractive points which the late educator Paolo Freire made quite often. First, he insisted: “I cannot denounce (read ‘expose’) the dehumanising structure if I do not penetrate it to know it”.

In his way, Freire is telling us what some of us know, that to change a power/structure that does not dignify nor uplift the people unconditionally, does not mean merely changing the people who are in charge of it. It goes deeper, we have to understand the internal operations of the oppression, unfold its schematic design, so that we may act on it at the heart of it. Chanting down Gonsalves or making Eustace look small does not tell us one thing about the mode of operation of oppression. Freire and Smith are adamant. If you merely change Ralph Gonsalves’ ULP for NDP’s Arnhim Eustace or Mr. Ivan O’Neal, it will not be enough to reverse the oppression among us.

Freire claims also that we have to destroy the myth that confuses and confounds us into thinking like a voting machine. He calls this action “conscientisation”. I cite here a part of what Freire presented at a Caribbean workshop that he led in 1974. Ferdie Toney shared this with us:

Conscientisation produces the destruction of myths. It is obvious and striking but the oppressors will Never be able to stimulate conscientisation for Liberation. How can one destroy myths while remaining an oppressor?

Let me try to apply this point of Freire to our thinking about change. Many of us will recall that much of the time over the past 25 years or so, we clung to one myth in our politics. The myth that we must “Look to the Leader” for our development. Only he is competent. There are at least 2 sad consequences. First, we are at this moment now looking for a new great leader! Secondly, without a great leader, we citizens have no roots, no rudder, no connection to meaningful existence. That is the dangerous effect of the myth of “the leader”. Let us just look at ourselves a bit more. When we earn our social and political and even professional significance largely through being connected to the leader, we have to defend the leader to dignify ourselves. We have to constantly update and upgrade our standing with the leader; sing his anthem, in order to stay on board or to get ahead. The myth of the leader dehumanises us and distorts our self worth. When we exalt one leader we have to demonise any other pretender, and further we have to allow the leader to control the process of succession. He may take whom he wants. He shall have what he wants from us.

If we agree that the oppressive leader dominates us through such mythmaking, Freire’s point is valid.

“Conscientisation produces the destruction of myths” not their recycling. Critical knowledge is important. Are we willing and ready to move towards a social and political reality without myths and mystification? Shall we construct a people’s movement for change among ourselves based on an intimate and penetrating knowledge of our reality? Certainly, in my view, the way is open for a liberating politics, not an oppression exchange. Our two recent great “Leaders”, James Mitchell and Ralph Gonsalves are weakened and can be fully retired. The way is open. We must affirm that fact with a proactive denouncing of the recycling of our disgrace, and the practical announcing of our rising.

Along with political parties, let us assemble in other agencies to broaden our commitment, penetrate our reality and enrich our grasp of our tasks. Let us repeat to each other what Smith says to us: it is not enough to exchange oppressors.