Over the past generations, starting in the 1960s, in SVG, half a dozen streams of thought have been coming together to form a river, even a flood, that we need to confront and manage unemotionally. Is a serious thing. We will need to redraw the colonial map and economic geography of St Vincent and the Grenadines, because if we don’t, they are leading to an unstoppable tsunami complex. They will completely wash away our brain cells, our social economy, our national pride, our infrastructure, our beachfronts, our mountainsides and even our gravesides.
This is a political statement. Unambiguously so, because it is pointing to a political fact that we have neglected to embrace as we moved towards constitutional independence. As a majority uprooted African people, during the last 100 years or more, we did not take on board and fulfil the full anticolonial territorality of our massacred and traumatised Carib/Garifuna predecessors. Their vision was to control and govern their whole territory, their nation. As colonized Vincentians, however, while we fought for our labour freedom from slavery and fought too to get land to develop livelihoods as a national anti-plantocracy peasantry, and to gain rights to urban and profesional opportunity; we have accepted the political-economic sovereignty, the map, and the territorial plan of colonialism. We owe apologies to our national hero Joseph Chatoyer and his forces, and we need to rejoin the struggle at our level today to remap SVG and launch our postcolonial journey.
When Mr Byers, a British surveyor drew his map(s) of St Vincent at the time that the Carib/Garifuna were defending our country, the colonizing map was a design to capture native (Vincentian) land above Byera for foreign British plantations to exploit. Our people under Joseph Chatoyer and others fought and died to defeat that map and that economic geography of pillaging the rich volcanic soils for foreign profits. The struggle to withdraw our map from colonialism is a long overdue task. It has clearly also an objective to see our territory not uniquely as an economic asset to be captured, sold, leased and abused as a tool of foreign and political capital, and ‘jobs’ for natives, but as habitat, homeland and place of community prosperity and harmony that we share with neighbours. We owe it to ourselves to reimagine that dream for our homeland and nation, and to pass it on excitingly to those in our arms and care.
THE SWOLLEN RIVER OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Long before the British High Court Judge called the Buccament Resort project an illegal, dishonest and criminal Ponzi Scheme in his recent judgement, conscious Vincentians knew that the entrepreneur David Ames and his local backers were a bunch of wheelers and dealers. From the start, the violent force of the state wrenched the land at Buccament from the farmers to present it to the British pirate. Chatoyer groaned and writhed because it was not the British Commander, Alexander Leith who stole the land now, it was his own people, his Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the one who said that Chatoyer was his hero and the nation’s examplar.
The map of SVG in this period of our independence is becoming a colonial rag. Canouan investors are in our Cabinet, or our Cabinet meets in Canouan for advice about the international airport. Vincentian Canouanites need permission to go to their own bayside. There seems to be a lining up of beach and coastal sites to become colonial homes and reserves, from Mt. Wynne, Peter’s Hope, Arnos Vale, and perhaps Richmond and wherever our rulers’ rulers mark the map. When our governments have to curry-favour and hold comforting hands with investors like Dr Rolla, David Ames,… to get jobs for Vincentians, the geography map and our economic sovereignty are no longer ours. Fortunately, a strong brand of Vincentian commonsense is not only taking in these developments, but also holding on to a sense of ownership and care of our nation.
And we must draw over the map of SVG. Just as common sense led ‘us’ to put away a cross country road that was a danger to our terrain, so we will redesign the social topography and mental engineering that colonialism left us with. A ‘postcolonial’ SVG cannot continue to be made up of one city facing overseas, and 100 barracks communities, each with a school, churches, park and road, now with the addition of self-contained luxury tourist enclaves. The map must change, colonial economic mentalities must be erased, people must become citizens, Chatoyer must be emulated, forests, riverbeds, infrastructure and human habitats must become decent community/national commons. The consciousness is growing for a new nation to join a revolutionary region to unite, envision and organize a future of justice, abundance and joy. A new Caribbean map.