A couple of (unusually) unequivocal VOICE editorials in March really caught my attention and made me think, ‘Plus ça change…’ They put me in mind of a very candid speech given in 1990 (the year is highly significant!) by my sister Claudia (now resident in the Czech Republic) when, as a well-respected, popular Resident Tutor, she addressed the graduating class of the St Lucia Teachers’ College, and examined some of the ‘’gut’’ issues of the day together with the various crises of confidence afflicting the society at the time. You will see that that speech could very well be delivered in the Saint Lucia of today and still be more than applicable. I would love to be able to reproduce it in its entirety but it is rather lengthy, so I hope to deliver it in parts. Here is the first.
Her central proposition was that “This Saint Luca is our personal environment and our heritage – this gift that we carry with us into Nationhood – enrichable only by our commitment and indeed, our privilege, in this long moment of time, to preserve, to nurture and to care.” She went on to decry the fact that over the past several months, “our young Nation, barely emergent from itis swaddling clothes has been wracked by a series of public and private controversies of an extraordinary nature which have threatened to destroy the very social fabric of our country.’’
She proceeded: We have inadvertently been caught up in a debilitating and ultimately futile debate on who is right and who is wrong – a debate which frequently yields partial or subjective conclusions, reflecting the particular biases or preferences of the participants, irrespective of which particular bandwagon they may happen to be riding.
And here’s the crux of the matter: It has occurred to me that in the general confusion, many of us, St Lucians, are missing the essential moot: the real, fundamental question which should be exercising our minds and engaging our energies is not ‘who is right’, but ‘WHAT IS RIGHT?’ And I (the writer of this current article) ask, How many Saint Lucians appeal to their higher selves and connect with their better angels in such matters? How many just simply go with that from which they can benefit in material ways, putting themselves up for sale, allowing themselves to be bought, whether directly or indirectly, no questions asked?
‘’For it is only when this society has established and articulated clear, objective standards concerning what is an acceptable code of conduct for holders of public offices that we will have a yardstick against which to measure and assess the rights and wrongs of any given case or action by them.
In many older, more established societies with a long history of self-government, certain time-honoured conventions have evolved leading to a certain tone and atmosphere surrounding the conduct of public business and enhancing the democratic process through sensitive response to public opinion. On occasion, and particularly in times of crisis, these conventions have played an even more significant role than the formal instruments around which they are centred. It is this intangible ‘spirit’ as much as the substance of any Constitution or Law which guarantees its effectiveness and general acceptance.
It is quite clear then that since one cannot legislate for every conceivable eventuality, greater social and political maturity can only be achieved through the development of appropriate codes and standards, securely held and equally firmly upheld.”
She goes on to discuss the nexus between the foregoing and the classroom teacher (remember she’s addressing teachers), as well as the Family and the Polity. And then she arrives at a discussion of the Constitution, with which I shall continue next weekend.