R. Rose - Eye of the Needle
October 11, 2019
Patriotism Must be a Focus of Our “Fortieith”

We are a mere two weeks away from the culmination of our national independence festivities. There are appearances of some flags and buntings but far from as extensive as to express real patriotic feeling on a national scale. We all, well at least most of us, profess this great love for the “Vincy land” but to what extent do we manifest it?

Milestones such as our 40th anniversary are useful occasions to whip up or maintain the patriotic spirit and love for our country but we do not utilize them effectively. Generally, we pin the blame on current-day issues but the roots are far deeper than that. As far back as the date of our first constitutional advancement towards self-rule, Statehood in 1969, we went forward rent asunder by partisan political divisions. The period from 1966 to 1969 turned out to be a precursor of our current political hostilities.

Ten years later, we approached our independence in the same manner, bitterly divided politically to the extent that those divisions even led to former champions of an end to colonial rule actually opposing independence and the emerging national progressive movement, while in principle supportive of national independence, unhappy about the process and the constitutional arrangements.

In many ways, these two sets of occurrences have contributed significantly to the lack of patriotic feelings and the tendency to put partisan political preferences and grievances above love of our country and pride in it. In this regard unfavourable comparisons have been made between the attitudes of many of our people to matters of national pride and patriotism and that of many of our neighbours, similarly plagued like us by political divisions.

Yet after four decades of independence it is more than time for a more mature approach to such issues. The partisan political divisions that are apparent can be put at the feet of both of our political tribes. Both have shared, almost equally, the spoils of power since 1979 and each has contributed, positively and negatively, to our successes and failures since 1979. We have simply not been able to separate our narrow and selfish interests from the national good.

That is a major national challenge, regardless of our personal outlook. The nation cannot progress sufficiently without that sense of unity and national mission. The cultural atmosphere, and I here use cultural not in a narrow sense but in the wider, all-encompassing context, is one big opportunity to address this identity deficiency of ours.

Given the realities of today’s world, the role of the media, both traditional and social, is crucial in helping to build and reinforce that commitment to country above personal or partisan attachments. In our month of independence, shouldn’t our first priority in promotion be “Vincy First” whether in the music we play, the issues we highlight or the agendas we advance?

In this regard, we should all welcome the initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture to once more organize a National Agricultural Exhibition to celebrate our 40th anniversary of independence.

Undoubtedly, that ministry has its own challenges but are those to be put before promoting our accomplishments and potential?

Similarly, the SEARCHLIGHT newspaper has taken the bold step to promote the development of SVG through its “Best of SVG’ initiative, highlighting the entrepreneurial activities of our people. This is one way in recognizing the endeavours of our people but it is just one path to national awards. We have yet to agree on any single system of national recognition, even after 40 years.

Some are still either so deeply wedded to colonialism or, concerned that any national honours may not be recognized outside of our boundaries that they are reluctant to support any system of national awards to replace the current “Queen’s awards”. It is however time that we have a mature national conversation on the issue and arrive at a national consensus on the issue.

In the meantime we have various initiatives and ceremonies honouring various nation- builders. As we move towards SVG’s 40th anniversary, those welcome initiatives are not enough. We need to consciously work on inculcating that spirit of patriotism and national consciousness. Let that be part of the 40th anniversary conversations.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.