November 7, 2014

A tale of two societies

St Vincent and the Grenadines is a small country, but with two societies that are drifting further and further apart. Not even a Bailey bridge will be able to keep them together in the short run. The longer this state exists, the greater will be the task of building a permanent bridge that can bind them. This is a job not for the construction people, but for all of us, politicians, churches, young people, in fact, all who love their country.{{more}} Unfortunately, too many of us love ourselves at the expense of country. We have an extremely selfish attitude – once we are satisfied, ‘to hell with country’. It is all about us.

One of the two societies is pampered and promised all the good things of life if they would only be quiet and just believe. The other is treated as if it is not part of the nation state, as though its people are demons with nothing to contribute, doing only what demons are supposed to do. Their problem is that they express dissatisfaction with the way the nation is playing itself out and refuse to live the lie that the country has become. It is something else to hear residents of both societies held together by the Bailey bridge speak. You are forced to conclude that they do not inhabit the same physical and mental space.

One holds power and their technicians try to show the other that they are really not seeing and feeling what they feel and say. It is all a fiction of the imagination. What is necessary for them to do is to become messengers that will spread the good news about the life that should exist in their imagination. It is not necessary for them to construct the good life. That is done already. There is room only for the messenger. It is only their deficiencies and worthlessness that hold them where they are. The other society, unfortunately, requires special skills that some will never achieve. What are these skills or talents? First an imagination that is so incredibly fertile that anything will grow on it; a mind that will believe anything, a mind that is so creative that it can see white and once prompted, call it black. To do this is to demonstrate the qualities of a good citizen. It is a requirement that their minds be in hibernation, buttressed by a trance that suspends reality and places itself in a state of suspended animation.

There is tension in the air when both societies cross the bridge. There is no conversation, no reason to be polite. There is a Cold War and the airwaves become the weapon of choice, as spoken pellets bombard the ear, a real ear raid. The two areas where civility is supposed to reign are the churches and schools, but even these appear under threat. Students in school are beginning to exhibit the kind of behaviour that comes from their side of the bridge. We have to hope for the best. Civility is supposed to prevail in Church, since the inhabitants of both societies claim to believe in a common Super-being, but unfortunately they take different messages away from the Church. I said last week that the gospel has to be continually forwarded to a new address. This is a tremendous challenge, for one has to begin by asking if they really worship the same God. In any event, some of the new addresses are not prepared to accept the message, since they get their message from elsewhere and this is what stirs them. The Church’s message might be acceptable in church, but not when they return to their new addresses.

SVG suffers, for there is really no national consciousness, despite the facade we find, especially on the anniversary of Independence. Without national consciousness, there can be no development, so even that is suspended. As the cake gets smaller or fails to grow, the tension between the societies will increase, since the cake has special names on it. It is those names that matter. If the means for building a bigger cake had not been sabotaged, as it appears, the tension between the societies would have disappeared, as each will get piece of it and would have taken pride in baking it. But who benefits from having a cake that cannot feed all it is supposed to feed? That is the million dollar question and when we answer that question we will have started the process of baking a new and bigger cake.

The problem is that even those who only get the crumbs from the cake take pride in it. They do not see the possibility of baking a bigger cake. Why should those people from the other side of the bridge be given the privilege of eating their cake? Remember it is their cake, not the nation’s cake, for to them the country doesn’t exist, but their society exists. That nation thing is something they will reserve for October 27.

Crime and violence cut across both societies, since all are on tenterhooks and don’t realise that these will eventually consume them all if left unattended. This does not raise a stir, since there are those who feel that this is the only way it can be. After all it is happening elsewhere! How many murders have been committed this year? Over thirty, I believe. Remember they came for the Catholics and we were not Catholics, so we did nothing and in fact even defended and applauded those guilty of the atrocities. Then it reached us and at that point the wire bend and the story end.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.