Round Table with Oscar
April 9, 2013

Dissent, critique, patriotism

Dissent does sound like a bad word doesn’t it? Certainly, in many nations, those people who dissent, who hold an opinion different from those established in power, face heavy manners. In fact, whether you look at old monarchies turning towards democracies like Britain, or maturing communist states like Cuba, or resistant dictatorships as in Syria, dissent is bad for your health, your security and your family. And yet today, dissent receives high ratings, recognition and solidarity worldwide. In one discussion in the Cameroons, they describe dissent as a higher form of patriotism. I like that.{{more}}
What this means is that those who do not express dissent, but rather “assent” to the uneven quality of power and rule are lower class patriots. Because there is something about power, when you hold and wield it, it makes you conservative. The power does not expand to reach and embrace and distribute itself into the hands of the other opinion, the dissent. Such power which excludes must therefore breed dissent. What we are observing today is a new phenomenon. Patriotic Dissent is almost a new world order. Something like a ‘Dissent International’ might almost emerge!

Now, don’t go overboard with me because not every patriotic dissent has the seeds of justice, peace and the wholesome welfare of vulnerable people and sites embedded in the path it is taking. Patriotic movements are contradictory, especially when they are large and varied. That is why, along with dissent, such movements must embody ‘Critique’. A critical conversation and a constructive momentum must become part of the Dissent. 



We may explain the difference between Dissent and Critique in this crude way. “Dissent” comes at you with an opposing opinion or position. It presents a valid opposition. “Critique”, on the other hand, comes searching for the proposition that you missed out when you made your statement or policy or programme. While Dissent may demolish a situation or government or a specific policy and even replace it, Critique is a movement of dissent, deconstruction and re-innovation. Critique opens up hidden possibilities. Look at our two-party politics and its history in the Caribbean.
It is a politics of dissent and opposition, not a politics of genuine ‘Critique’. One government goes, an opposition replaces it, but the substance and the culture of power does not change. It still excludes, victimizes, reformulates the way to mummify the citizens more elegantly, and generates equal dissent. To take a more congenial example of critique, Adrian Fraser recently touched slightly on the resurrection of Jesus the Galilean. The following which Jesus caused to emerge was a Dissent/Critique movement. Undoubtedly, there was social dissent in the movement.
He did not hesitate to point to corrupt hypocritical God Blessing and Temple ruling elites disguised as shepherds appointed by Torah (Moses’ Law) and God. Yet Dissent and opposition does not strike us as the only or even the most important factor in the practice of this servant of God. Reflect on Jesus’ relations with the rural poor, the urban oppressed, the distressed middle classes, and visit the “school” he used to teach.
A quick read of Matthew’s course outline in chapter 5 to 7 will show how Dissent becomes enriched and reconstructed with Critique —New Living practices. No tomb could hold back the seed of salvific liberation that he sowed and showed during his life. Clearly power didn’t derange or diminish him. His vision was not for him to replace those who opposed him, but to empower in an unconquerable way, a people for God!


To engage in the practice of dissent is the duty of all patriotic citizens. Do it simply at the workplace. Strange enough, your dissent could take the form of doing your duties rigorously, while others slouch for one reason or another. Dissent could be to take up your place more intelligently and militantly in the trade union.
I am of the view too that dissent could mean a refusal to vote at general elections when parties refuse to present a creative critique of power and policy as they come to woo us. But patriotism calls us to go further than Dissent. Critique begins with us, with me and the unhealthy vision I have accepted of me and of you and of our institutions and our future. We need to hold each other’s hands, and go to school together, as we contemplate and plan to move from “assent” to Dissent and to Critique. What a country we will build.