ALL AH WE IS ONE: Debate continues
WHEN IN 2012, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago had reached their 50th anniversary of Independence milestones, the Caribbean had its first opportunity to engage in the process of post-Independence reflections.
Several conferences and colloquia were organised affording regional academics the opportunity to intervene into these debates.
When, on one such occasion in 2012, I was invited by the Lloyd Best Foundation of Trinidad to reflect on the way forward, I called for a “second Independence revolution”.
Among other things, I suggested that we make an “inventory of all the old questions and demands that were put on the agenda during the first Independence revolution and . . . then produce a balance sheet of what was achieved, what failed, what is no longer relevant or critical, and what is still essential”.
It was therefore extremely gratifying to hear the Prime Minister of Barbados Freundel Stuart use similar terms in a speech in 2016 in which he invited the Barbadian public to reflect on their own Independence experience.
What was disappointing, however, was that Stuart’s call for reflection was confined to the “values” of the society, while studiously ignoring the areas over which citizens and government can exert direct influence: institutions, symbols, class and social relations, and economic and social policy. In typical Stuartese, he promoted the abstract while skirting around the concrete.
Despite a Government-sponsored University of the West Indies (UWI) study on “values”, it is less likely that a government can change “values” than it can change the institutions, symbols and policies through which our Independence can be given greater meaning.
It is for these reasons that a lecture by a young UWI academic, Dr Kristina Hinds Harrison, last Thursday, November 10, proved such a timely intervention into the 50th anniversary reflections for Barbados.
Speaking as part of the UWI-organised 50th anniversary lecture series, Hinds-Harrison’s topic, Political Development In Barbados Since Independence – A Perspective From The Post-Independence Generation, presented a platform for placing on the agenda future-oriented issues not previously raised.
The strength of her talk resided in her fearlessness in addressing the questions of the symbols, practices and policies which no one in the Government, despite all of the razzmatazz of the 50th anniversary celebration, has dared to address.
Her lecture left a clear sense that the next generation will not tolerate the limited democracy with its failures of accountability, transparency and information sharing. They are intolerant of the continued racist symbolism and iconography – such as monarchical status and Nelson’s statue – and they will not tolerate the childish opportunistic Machiavellianism that passes for party politics.
Perhaps, the best gift that the ruling administration can give to Barbados in its 50th year is, instead of a mere passing mention to republican status, to concretely pursue it as an actual goal. Stuart must wake up from his digressive abstractions and pursue something concrete.
•Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email: [email protected]