Tuesday, 01 November 2011 02:30
By Dr Isaac Newton
What is the most important idea about Independence that we should encourage? We will glowingly participate in Antigua & Barbuda’s 30th birthday on November 1 without one iota of concern for the greater good.
Our theme this year is tenderly worded: "Antigua and Barbuda, One Family, Moving Towards a Secured Future".
Placing Independence between comfort and memory feels every bit as much as today’s tension between austerity and stimulus in reviving the global economy. We have to constructively examine our notions of Independence so that the life-quality content of it does not get flattened out. In fact, if some of us were to be arrested for practicing the true meaning of Independence, we’d get off on technicalities.
It is by the laws, customs, practices, and policies of our country that the conscience of the masses is being raped. When Antigua & Barbuda and every other CARICOM country takes care of its youth, its poor, its elderly, and its homeless, there will be everything to celebrate for.
CARICOM nations on Independence steroids will not survive. Liberty is full of paradox, and requires cultivating an active commitment to make freedom count in quality of life terms.
Beyond One Family Chatter
The admirable struggle for freedom and prosperity that former generations executed on our behalf is being dismissed by state-sponsored deception of cyclical One Family chatter. Nation-building family is based on deep relationships saturated by an intelligence and love, even a ripeness, to sacrifice for the common good.
I don’t believe that only our political leaders are guilty of mindless Independence celebrations. The man and woman on the street don’t mind the beating of the drums, or they would have already revolted against a nation that Independence has made poorer.
Sloganeering about One Family once a year while living like ruthless strangers, conniving neighbors, and political enemies most of the time, equals right intentions gone blind.
Independence relies on the governance of the self. Investing in the people - their hopes and sense of destiny, and positioning them to make a difference in the wider world, is what self-governance is all about.
Comparing where we are today with what our foreparents achieved reveals that we simply do not place enough value on our freedom. They did so much with so little, while we are doing nothing with so much.Enough Time
There is, however, historical legacy worthy of celebration, especially if we put the dream of our foreparents on a tightrope between past failures and contemporary opportunities for success.
We should stop advancing chaotic policies that make us “thrive in the chaos” of joblessness, crime, and self-hating, disregard for local talent, and rein in these self-inflicted atrocities.
Thirty years is enough time for us to recover from small thinking and begin to affirm a grand vision of national development and regional progress. But we must embrace values-based politics.
Values-based politics is premised on transparent principles of ecological good, responsible innovation in the commercial and public sectors, grassroots empowerment of the masses, self-feeding agriculture, a bold, trustworthy and fair-minded media, leadership accountability, and a people confident enough to dream big and make that dream come true.
A First Aid response is not enough to cure the disease of false consciousness. But if we break through it for a moment, probing questions work better than self-loathing praise.
When shall our obsession with Independence lead us to equitable, actionable, and thoughtful plans that strengthen our unfolding democracy?
When will our best thinkers work together with practitioners to devise a path to our economically sustainable capability?
When shall we cultivate a revolting public willing to effectively assess, and capable of transforming the structures of our political economy by means of civil disobedience that produces either corrective actions by our leaders or their resignations?
When shall contested visions of national development and regional advancement be rigorously debated and defended on the best ideas, instead of pointless meetings, wasteful excuses, and hideous suspicions?
When will we learn to have a regional idea that we are willing to die for, and won’t budge for all the money in the world?
When shall our colleges and universities become the economic and social flagship for solving national and regional challenges? Now What?
Several weeks ago, Dr Oswald Thomas and I were in Guyana on an important executive advisory. With curiosity and admiration, we embraced an invitation by a prominent member of Parliament to attend a thanksgiving service.
Our ecumenical mindset affirmed expressions of faith hungry for deep meaning. The Imam tugged on our sense of gratitude that rises up from some deep spiritual imagery of God’s blessings on our lives.
Sharing from the courage and wisdom of his Muslim tradition, the Imam invited us to look past our comfort zones and apply spiritual energies to eradicate the injustices in our immediate family, community, country, and world at large.
As the Imam explained it, there are three responses to inequitable structures and social evils. First, we must challenge injustices with our hands. Then we must speak openly against them with our voices, even in the absence of support from others. If all else fails, we must hate injustices with our hearts.
Perhaps it will take our entire anatomy to celebrate our 30th anniversary of Independence. It may also take all the patience at our disposal, and presence of mind, to convert the unbearable chatter of One Family into a national garden alive with the flowers of brains, legs, eyes, and hands.
Are you ready to help Antigua & Barbuda and the entire CARICOM region turn its human capital into a beautiful garden?
If a wish is a dream that’s wide awake, I wish to see Independence not as a denial of celebration, but as a different way of living it. It is admittedly, collective expressions of meaningfulness. But it is also a deep and abiding discovery of our rich cultural identity without self-questioning.
With your hands, Antigua & Barbuda can be a garden of bliss, if you make your conscience the headquarters for national and regional progress.
From Guyana in the south, to Jamaica in the north, including all the islands in between, if celebrating Independence does not move from fact to value, CARICOM’s shortcomings will keep us from freedom’ s generous gifts.
With your hands, every Caribbeaner should act boldly so that national birthdays take special meaning and enduring purpose. In a sense, Independence is metaphorical caring that prioritizes the Commonwealth, and that uses shared infrastructure to facilitate entrepreneurial education and healthcare for all.
That’s all there is to Independence. There isn’t anything more.
Dr Isaac Newton is an International Leadership and Change Management Consultant and Political Adviser. He specializes in Government and Business Relations, and Sustainable Development Projects. Dr. Newton works extensively, in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, education, leadership, political, social, and faith based issues.