R. Rose
March 5, 2013

Let’s show respect, reverence for our heroes

Local historian Dr Adrian Fraser has set a very positive tone for National Heritage Month, this month of March, when we honour the invaluable contributions of our nation-builders, including our sole national hero, Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer. His lecture last week in support of his contention that George A. McIntosh should join Chatoyer on that exalted national pedestal, presented a most fitting backdrop to this distinguished month.{{more}}

It is my fervent hope that such an introduction as provided by Dr Fraser will contribute towards lifting the level of public debate and discussion. Such an elevation is sorely needed in our society, given the crap which dominates the daily exchange of opinions in the media. Our heroes surely deserve much better than the fare we serve up daily. In one breath we talk of honouring our heroes and cherishing the memory of their contribution towards national development, but on the other, we literally drag our country’s good name through the muck and stench of the worst forms of partisan politics.

This does little to ennoble our nation and people or to enrich public discourse. Instead of trying to focus and to bring out all that is good and noble in us, we find ourselves wallowing in the filth being generated by many politicians and political charlatans. Our level of discussion so often degenerates into “who did what, where, when and why”, relatively trivial issues, “who lie”, “whose mouth nasty”, and the resort to “sue” and counter-sue before the local courts.

What is this state of affairs doing to our national psyche? How can this state of degeneration help to ennoble us, to make us worthy successors and inheritors of the sacred mantle passed from Chatoyer to McIntosh to Joshua and successive generations? Is such a daily diet of diatribe all we can serve on the national plate?

It is not that current issues and personal misdemeanours do not count, but we have to be able to place them in their proper perspective. The focus on personalities, on who is right or wrong, rather than what are the solutions to our multiple challenges, is not helping us to grow and develop. We are fast approaching the sickening stage where salacious gossip and mud-slinging, the drawing of imaginary lines, are gnawing away at our ability to keep our nation together, weakening our national resolve.

If we really love personality discussion, then March is the best month to train our attention on the glorious achievements of many remarkable Vincentian patriots. We have in fact started a process to try and arrive at a consensus on designating national heroes. Yet, even in that pursuit, political partisanship seems to influence the consideration of some who should know better. As if not conscious of the elevated status of a national hero, names are being tossed in the ring, confusing solid contributions to nation-building with hero status.

Clear guidelines have been given to guide us in expressing our choices. For one, the outstanding contribution of any candidate considered must have “altered positively the course of the history of our country”. Then, that contribution must have been exemplified by “visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and attainment of the highest excellence” to the benefit of our country as a whole. Thirdly, any candidate for this revered status, must have “through heroic exploits and sacrifices, contributed to the improvement of the economic, social and political conditions” of SVG generally.

From the above it is clear that the field can only be very limited. Dr Fraser makes a strong case for McIntosh’s inclusion, which few can dispute. Importantly, he has carried the discussion to another plane, a level which must be maintained. But it is also more than who deserves such status; it is also about how we value such a position.

For instance, our official calendar of events for March omits the birth date commemoration of two candidates for national hero, McIntosh and captain Hugh Mulzac. We have allowed the precious residences and “stomping grounds” of McIntosh, Ebenezer Joshua and Robert Milton Cato to fall into private hands. We have no relics, no shrines to show our young ones. The sacred Workingmen’s Hall, fondly called “Association Hall”, is now a warehouse; the historic Market Square, scene of the major political battles of the 20th century, is now no more.

So, how serious are we about our national heritage? We need to do much more to make it meaningful and everlasting.

Renwick Rose is a

community activist

and social com-mentator.