Bloc-headed view of community
B-L-O-C. That’s right.
Some people see the Caribbean Court of Justice’s ruling in the Shanique Myrie matter as clear advancement of Caribbean community. I say it is, at most, advancement of Caribbean bloc-headedness.
The word we should have been using was bloc. I know community sounds more cozy, but if we are not prepared to approach it with an understanding of its deep implications, it is the wrong word.
Listen: “Come see muh en come live wid muh.” Community is like marriage. It thrives on emotional and spiritual (not in a religious sense) realities that were, obviously, not in the court’s province.
The CARICOM community project, this marriage of sorts, has sputtered and stalled, sputtered and stalled – and big-brain people en even looking at why. Their heads are full of treaties.
So far the powers that be and the “community” evangelists have not shown an understanding of the innards of community, using the word while giving evidence that they mean “bloc”.
As we are seeing everywhere, sameness of race does not create community. Ethnicity does not. Nor religion. Nor does proximity.
So don’t expect it from a shared colonial past, a colonial power’s empire-building agenda or the creation of a shared cricket team on the world’s pitches.
Or from having made “the same trip on the same ship” (Black Stalin, think again!).
Or an imposed ideology.
Community is not the same thing as a working relationship; it is not even the same thing as peaceful coexistence. These things are highly useful, very desirable. That don’ make them community, though.
And as the world continues its descent into social instability, we shall see that forgetfulness about community is a major devil.
The emotional and spiritual sine qua nons of community are sensitivity, affirmation, understanding, appreciation, commitment to the other, and values-convergence – as with a marriage.
When you are going to Japan and China, you learn something about their culture in advance and you bow and sit on floors and so on, but we don’t have enough respect for other islands and their islanders to learn and fit in. Not only is it not a front-burner matter in the Caribbean; it en pun no burner at all!
That en part of the CARICOM project. That is all about ideology, opportunity (or is it opportunism?) and pragmatism.
Tell me, Caribbean people, when others come into your land, do you sense in them that sensitivity, et cetera, or do they just hit you with an arrogant sense of entitlement? Do you get the idea that the crafters and the proponents of the regional integration idea have had the emotional intelligence to foreground these necessities of community?
Yes, we must make sure than man does not treat man unfairly. We absolutely must! But we must also remember that that does not create community.
It is not enough to have the right to come into my house. If we are going to form community, I must sense that you deeply respect me and my place, and my way of doing things, and my years of effort at crafting what I have and the principles that are dear to me. You cannot form community out of opportunity and/or opportunism.
My fear is that many of the people in the forefront of the community drive operate more like ideological automatons than sensitive human beings.
Many Caribbean people are so idea-focused, so intellectualistic, so rationalistic and – if you bin reading me, you know what else I will say – emotionally stunted that instead of coaxing and working with, and showing understanding of the efforts and background and concerns of a set of people into whose long-time sovereign and legitimately exclusive space we want to send as many different people as we can, they take up the verbal and legalistic bludgeon to knock them into Caribbean Community shape.
Failing to show the very marks of emotional and spiritual intelligence that we black people often want white people to demonstrate towards us.
As we push hard for the rights of Caribbean people to move into other Caribbean people’s spaces, we must “teach” and insist on the responsibilities, especially the emotional and spiritual ones, that come with that kind of movement.
Sensitivity is to be extended not only to those who want to move at the prompting and provision of opportunity, but also to those into whose space they want to move. It used to be so – when there was no legalism. But a fixation on rights often breeds arrogance, because that fixation shoves self-responsibility into the background.
Instead of seeing the court’s ruling only through the lens of ideology, we should be driven to a deeper exploration of the missing heart and soul dimensions of our CARICOM undertaking – if we are going to persist in talking about community.
Otherwise our mark will be bloc-headedness (block-headedness too) – not community spirit. Ain’t gine work!
Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email [email protected]