Our Readers' Opinions
December 4, 2015
Some thoughts on elections in St Vincent

Editor: There is a popular beer ad that usually airs on SVG television. In this ad, there are some actors who smear blue, green and yellow paint on their faces to the lyrics “we love we community, ‘cause we Vincy” and “we live in unity ‘cause we Vincy”. While this ad may be brilliant as a marketing strategy, I usually give a wry laugh when I think about it in terms of our current political context.{{more}} The sentiments about “living in unity because we Vincy” suggests that we, as Vincentians, recognize, share and work towards our common goals. However, such ideas ring hollow when juxtaposed with the hostile exchanges I witness on a regular basis in these politically charged times. In many instances, these exchanges consist of supporters of all sides pointing out the failings of their opponents. In so doing, they fail to engage each other on national concerns, but talk past each other in a bid to score meaningless political points. Perhaps this is to be expected. The temptation is always there and it is strong; but what would be actually useful is critical engagement on the proposals put forward by respective parties, with an aim to select the best options.

How do we get to that point? The central concern here regards immersive and honest engagement with national issues on a regular basis and not the ‘gotcha’ type quarrels that crop up around election season. This idea of immersive and honest engagement relates directly to a larger concern, which is our national identity. Encouraging citizens to engage national issues and see them through “blue, gold and green” coloured lenses requires that we see ourselves as Vincentians first, to imagine ourselves as sitting directly at the table where policy decisions that have national implications are made and to see ourselves as having a direct stake in these decisions. Currently, we “talk politics”, but after the elections are finished, very few of us follow up. Currently, we either extol the virtues of our leaders or we demonize the opponent and his/her supporters. In extreme cases, we practise what DL Smith describes as the dehumanizing principle, where our moral inhibition about mistreating fellow human beings is decommissioned and where we justify harmful acts against fellow Vincentians because of their choice of representation, or because these acts are alleged to have been committed by our leaders.

Either way we miss opportunities to hold our leaders accountable for what they promise they would do, what they actually do and what they fail to do.

My belief is that a national sense of self, informed by our sociopolitical history, will engender participation in our national governance during and beyond election season. A national sense of self would encourage us to recognize that if some of us are experiencing hardship, then that hardship affects us all, because we would really love our community and we would really want to live in unity. More importantly, it would mean we see our leaders as serving us and not us being beholden to them. Certainly our constitution bestows a great deal of power to our elected officials, but having a national sense of self would encourage us to see them as answerable to us all the times, and not just around election time, and to see them as not doing us favours by running for an office.

I am not advocating vulgar nationalism. Presently we are at the opposite. What I would love to see is a stronger sense of self, self-love and then genuine 365 days a year of the love of others. Love of national self will in the end reject any policy that harms some sectors of our society, even as it rewards others. Love of national self will advocate for accountability from those who are elected to serve us and would participate in national governance on a regular basis.

Love of national self would seek to protect the weak and vulnerable sectors of our society, would not dehumanize and then justify committing harmful acts against the body politic. Love of national self would mean someone saying “If you cut me, I will bleed blue, gold and green” and believing it.

Debra Providence (PhD)