R. Rose
January 8, 2013

Let’s lift level of national discourse in 2013

Greetings, and very best wishes to all our readers and friends for the New Year, 2013.  I trust that you had at least a restful Christmas season. With things as bad as they are globally, it may be wishful thinking to speak about “a prosperous New Year”, as is customary, but we could at a minimum, focus our minds on how to make it a productive one. It has been almost a month since my column last appeared, causing several readers and well-wishers to raise concerns with me. Thanks for these, and by way of explanation, I was abroad and unable to meet the deadline for December 18. The following two Tuesdays were holidays, so we had no midweek edition.{{more}}

This brings me to address another issue, a concern raised by some, at home and abroad, about not always accessing the midweek edition and hence missing my column. I have volunteered to submit my column for the midweek issue, and with persons still accustomed to the weekend edition, some of my readers are missing my contributions. For those, who for one reason or another, have difficulty in accessing a midweek SEARCHLIGHT, it may be best to take out a subscription or make appropriate arrangements.

We have now entered the year 2013, but in spite of all the “New Year” greetings, there is every indication that much of the old thinking is still with us. The level of national discourse, as exhibited in the media, is still focused both on relative trivialities as well as the recitation of recurrent problems and challenges. If we have any resolutions for the 2013 year, high on the list ought to be how we can lift the level of our debate and discussion, including in the House of Assembly where the best examples should be set.

Just take, for instance, our relations with the Republic of Cuba. There is no other country which has provided our people with that level of selfless assistance over the years. Yet, as a country as a whole, the level of reciprocation, in terms of appreciation, is far from what one would expect. One is entitled to agree or disagree with policies of the Cuban government, just as one might hold a different opinion to a good friend on political or social issues, but retain friendship. But to allow deep-seated prejudices to virtually obliterate our appreciation for Cuban assistance in national development does not speak well for us. The Cuban people have just celebrated the 54th anniversary of their revolution, with hardly a murmur of congratulation from us who reap the benefits in terms of education, health and the international airport, in particular. We have no Cuban banks or commercial companies operating here to provide Cuba with any drainage of funds.

The same thinking pervades our outlook on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The President of that Republic, Hugo Chavez, is now critically ill, after four operations for cancer cure. To hear some Vincentians practically rejoicing about his predicament would lead one to believe that Chavez is some “enemy” of ours, who, as the local saying goes, “teef we white fowl”. What has this leader of a country in the Caribbean basin done to us to deserve such hostility? Are we not as a country, and as a people, benefitting from Venezuela’s generosity and largesse? Even the foreign corporations which are engaged in commercial relations with Venezuela, like Sol and Rubis, have a more enlightened outlook than some in our midst.

Those attitudes reflect the sad state of our national discourse. I found it so refreshing that Jomo Thomas had the courage to articulate a broader vision on matters pertaining to religion, in contrast to most of the others, who, whether genuine or not, prefer to genuflect to prevailing and traditional thinking without bothering to think critically. That approach is one which we as a whole, can only benefit from, in our thrust for national development. We, have adopted the talk about “thinking outside the box”, but it seems to be more talk than thinking.

The reality of the world today is one of profound economic and social change. We have to give younger people, fresh ideas, the space to develop. Side by side with the Test cricket that we thought was sacrosanct, there has developed one-day and now T 20 cricket, expanding horizons, challenging the accepted norms. The same is happening in life. We have to wake up to these realities and be prepared to adopt and adapt.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social com- mentator.