Well, one Caribbean leader has had the guts to say it. Some of his colleagues might refer to his candid boldness though as “the temerity”. But, truth be told, it needed to be said.
Much like the pervasive fallout from the lingering world recession, the scourge of mendicancy, as we have pointed out before, is sweeping the Caribbean. And Caribbean leader Dr Kenny Anthony, much like the others, ought to know.
His public admission should be a relief for his more timid confederates, who are so practised in being politically correct that the upshot is the distortion of message and self. The St Lucian prime minister’s position is pellucid.
“We are not developing people who are independent, people who are courageous, people who are anxious to find solutions to their problems, people who are willing to take responsibility for what they do . . . .
“What has happened,” Dr Anthony told students and academics at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus on Tuesday night, “is that we have created an elaborate system of mendicancy at the highest levels of decision making, percolating right into the political system at the lowest level . . . . And if you want symptoms of what I am talking about, these days you have to pay people to want to vote for you.
“They tell you plainly and bluntly that if you want them to vote for you, then pass [the blinza] . . . .”
The irritating cirumstance of this is that some politicians capitulate and it becomes a habit. Unfortunately, the habit, which is bound to be greater in extent, when passed from partisan incumbent to successor, continues to erode self-esteem and independence on the one hand, and political integrity on the other.
To create the Caribbean Community that Dr Anthony would rather envisage, we –– politician and citizen –– must decide that this regional exercise in beggary does not and cannot serve us well, and so toss this despicable and evil habit into the garbage can of canker.
The cynic will wager that the insidious habit will go nowhere –– at least not any time soon. After all, our Prime Minister in fury and in a flurry had condemned the alleged practice of vote buying in Barbados’ last general election in February and was to have had it investigated, and its perpetrators probably punished. But like most manifestations of national outrage and promises of action, the buy-vote outcry has since dissipated into silence and nothingness.
And Dr Anthony was not only critical of Mr Everyman; he had it in for those on the corporate side of things too.
“Nobody in these islands wants to undertake an investment unless they’re getting incentives from the governments. It has to start with what the governments can do for you, what the governments can give you . . . .”
Truly, it is not unusual to hear one sector complaining about not getting as much as the other, or being left out altogether, or that the other had received too much.
Habits are hard to break, we in this neck of the woods tend to philosophize. But the Trinidadian-born American author Steven Pressfield has an enlighteningly proactive view about it.
“We can never free ourselves from habits. The human being is a creature of habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones. We can trade in the habits of the amateur and the addict for the practice of the professional and the committed artist or entrepreneur.”
We add: we can exchange dishonesty for the honourable and for transparency; bribery for the incorruptible and for wholesomeness.
And so we empathize with Dr Anthony when he laments that our governments in the Caribbean are developing societies that understand only the language of patronage, spurred by their very own domestic agendas. But it does worry us that this leader himself has all but given up when he alludes to his assessment that the Caribbean “has lost the battle to create people or produce people who are resilient”.
Wherefore then the West Indies people? Where to Caribbean Community nationals? Shall we approach the Caribbean Court of Justice for the answers?
Not really. For all of Dr Anthony’s frustration he does offer some worthwhile advice.
“This is a period when the region should be engaged in self-reflection in a way that it has never ever done before . . . . The historical opportunity has presented itself and we are handling it very badly . . . .”
But then, as the St Lucian prime minister has admitted, “we don’t like frank talk. We don’t like open talk. We don’t like honest talk”.
Actually our leaders like to bury their heads in the sand; and when they do pull their craniums out, they exhale endless silicondioxide and puffery.
We do need to rethink!