THERE is a great deal that I do not understand about the world. However, I fully understand the complexities of poverty and its effects.
According to a CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) report, “The fundamental of all definitions of poverty is the notion of a deficiency of resources.” But, more particular, maybe, the first realization of real/surreal poverty was transmitted in the music “We are the World” or seeing a picture of a hungry child on TV where a “charity” is asking for money to feed the poor.
I recall in 2011, running as an independent candidate in Soufriere, a young mother walking up to me asking for five dollars to buy food to feed her children. This amount is less than US$2 and this mother, like many others I met, were broke, but not broken.
The marginalized communities of Saint Lucia are equipped with smart, talented people who are hustling to make a living. They are wittingly or unwittingly left out of the mainstream of economic advancement through various types of baseless stereotypes about the poor.
However, what if we recognized that what is already working are the poor, who toil the hardest, but in error, what is broken is the format for engagement?
What if we are to realize that the experts and notorious in Saint Lucian context are consultants and consummate pedigrees, and who we need to follow are the poor themselves? Instead of imposing solutions, we should add resources to their burning creativity and ingenuity through the fueling of targeted resources.
Poverty is a struggle for many Saint Lucians. It is a pervasive hidden problem albeit the efforts in keeping poverty alive are rooted in the colonial ideology that promotes Prime Minister Allen Chastanet’s speculative agendas.
One would have thought that Prime Minister Chastanet’s first budget would be a moral testament for helping the poor and strengthening the response of civil protection. But that was not to be. The poor and uninformed supporters have realized that they were literally conned in order to win the election and now feel abandoned left to fend for themselves.
Any budget that does not include or invest in reducing poverty in Saint Lucia cannot be taken seriously, in particular, to the fallacy of Prime Minister Chastanet’s 2017/18 budget approach. It is like, “If there is a pond and you add more water to the pond all boats will rise, only if you have a boat. If you don’t, you will drown.”
Saint Lucians should consider that this is an invitation to rethink past and present flawed strategies as an opportunity to grasp and not walk off of the tired faulty narrative of “Five to Stay Alive” and listen instead to the true stories of the marginalized entrepreneurial citizens in our quest for economic growth.
Saint Lucians ought to not wait for Prime Minister Chastanet to get it right, knowing our capabilities of all that we have dreamed and built with blood and sweat. However, the people kept afloat with our back- breaking work before Prime Minister Chastanet showed up.
Take a look at the hands of your grandmothers, look into the eyes of someone who loves you and let us remember that we are powerful! Individually, we might not have much wealth and power but collectively we are unstoppable. If we are going to live up to our potential, we must lift up the voices of the poor. Desmond Tutu said, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
I would like to point out that democracy in our small island, under the leadership of Prime Minister Chastanet, is receding drastically, in reference to “oppressive ideology” of colonialism that does not have a first-rate reputation.
So much that, it appears, he sees democracy as part of his family’s furniture and not as the fragile system of governance that it really is and, therefore, thinks our nation’s democratic process should only be recognized at the election polls and that we, the people, should not be allowed to interfere with the economic policies he is trying to implement.
But Prime Minister Chastanet is wrong to think that he can dispense democracy when and how he wants!
I would like to argue that, given Prime Minister Chastanet’s blind spot, he does not understand the plight of the poor and the democratic system of governance so much that, instead of the realism, Allen embodies a utopianism approach predicated upon his gross wastefulness and largesse.
So, what is democracy? Aristotle defined democracy as the constitution in which the free and the poor are in the majority control of the government. It would be a mistake to dismiss the significance of ancient Athenian democracy.
What was most pertinent and continues to be relevant of ancient Athenian democracy was the inclusion of the working poor who, not only acquired the right to free speech, but more importantly acquired the right to political judgment that would afford equal weight on decision-making on matters of the State.
Our liberal democracy today does not have its roots in Athenian democracy; it finds its roots in the glorious revolution that produced the Magna Carta in 1215 and in the American constitution; whereas, Athenian democracy focuses on the master-less citizen and in empowering the working poor.
Our liberal democracy today was a charter for masters. Liberal democracy only surfaced when it was possible to fully separate the political sphere to the economic sphere so as to confine the democratic process fully in the political sphere as a democracy-free zone.
Saint Lucia’s future is unpredictable. However, what is envisaged by Prime Minister Chastanet’s leadership, the economic sphere is colonizing the political sphere and eating up its power while they should be separate.
The approach seems bent on the use of liberal democracy so that when he is out of office, what you will have left in Saint Lucia is that one can be in government today but not in power because power would have migrated.
The economic sphere would have eaten into the political sphere of power, making it a free zone of its own. That is where the power will lie — with the specially-crafted self-interest elitist hacks creating new forms of poverty, corruption and waste.
Prime Minister Chastanet’s administration is best explained as a group of predators, successful at eating up their prey. They will feed themselves only and in the end the poor people of Saint Lucia will starve.
If allowed to persist, it is only by a miracle that the working poor of Saint Lucia will be re-empowered, as it were in ancient Athenian democracy. But there is a solution. I think Saint Lucians can afford to be optimistic. But, what will it take? What will it look like?
The answer lies in a political choice, the political will to act, but we must make that choice democratically, even if I hold the view that there is a great deal of hypocrisy on the Prime Minister’s part by keeping poverty alive.
Prime Minister Chastanet needs to know that all forms of colonialism are a crime against humanity. There is no humane colonialism; there is no democratic colonialism, not even Chinese colonialism. We, the people of Saint Lucia, will never accept any form of re-colonization.
I believe history conveys a tribunal of our grandchildren and they will ask the question of grandma and grandpa: Where were you when Allen Chastanet was Prime Minister of Saint Lucia?
In hindsight of history, the most inexplicable or inexcusable result is the simple failure of compassion for the poor.