R. Rose
September 23, 2014
Obsession not a solution

More and more, comments on the state of politics in SVG seem to be concluding on a negative note. It is fair to say that there are very few who have openly professed optimism about the state of our society in general and in politics in particular, and with some reason too. It is easy to be overcome by the many wrongs and ills, so swiftly highlighted by the traditional and social media these days, that we often lose a sense of balance and objectivity.{{more}}

What for me is most galling is our failure to try to analyse why things are like this at the moment as a basis for trying to find solutions to what appears to be wrong with our society. Worse, in the absence of any sound analysis, there are those who, apparently so obsessed with the politics of the individual that they can go no further than translate this into an obsession with the current Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

Now such obsession with “Doctor Politics” is by no means new, nor is it unique to St Vincent and the Grenadines. We have had it before during the 16 years when Sir James Mitchell was PM (1984-2000), though admittedly not to the same extent, and even to a lesser degree when Sir James’ predecessor, the late Milton Cato, ruled the roost. In fact, Cato was even termed “dictator” by some of us, a description which seems ridiculous today, in light of what has followed him.

Other long-serving leaders in the Caribbean have also attracted this obsession, justifiably or not, ranging from Dr Eric Williams in Trinidad and Tobago to the Birds of Antigua, and even those who wrecked the Grenada Revolution in 1983, ascribed what they perceived as the “dangers facing the Revolution” to the alleged “weaknesses” of the late Maurice Bishop. This is but an extreme example of where such obsession can take you, but it is timely for us, for we risk similar danger.

We have reached the stage where we risk losing the gift of critical thought and where every problem, and consequently every solution seems to revolve around the personality of PM Gonsalves. And mind you, not just his critics are guilty of this; many of his own supporters are as well.

I have news for all these naysayers and blind believers; life does not start or end with Ralph Gonsalves. He is an important part of our political and social architecture, but just a part nevertheless. The myopic obsession can only do us all much harm, either in the false belief that all we have to do to get the society right is to end Gonsalves’ political stewardship, or that if we keep him, all must be well.

Those short-sighted views are often taken to ridiculous conclusions. Thus, on the one hand, supposedly “responsible” politicians go abroad, ostensibly to promote their political cause, but end up with the outrageous statement that this current government is “the worst ever” in the history of SVG. Now, one can have one’s beef with the current administration, and there is certainly no shortage of issues there; but to say this has been our “worst” government, flies in the face of all logic, common sense and objectivity.

Conversely, to put forward the view that “only the Comrade” can run this country, or that all will be doom and gloom post-ULP, is to ignore the powerful role of our people. They have shown on numerous occasions, before independence and afterwards, what an important force for good the mobilised force of the working people can be.

Our society has, undoubtedly, many ills and deficiencies, but ours is not a unique case in the Caribbean. In fact, in many respects we are certainly no worse off than many of our neighbours, as any objective examination will reveal. The issue here is, what lies at the root of our problems? Do we have a peculiar Vincentian disease or is our affliction, one which we share with our neighbours, as is the case with chikungunya?

What is the political virus which is affecting us? How is it spread and by whom? And what is the corrective and preventative measures we should take?

This can be the only sensible approach, not more moans, groans and hopelessness. Let’s continue this conversation next week.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.