Growing But Not Maturing

WHEN will St Lucia and St Lucians reach the age of maturity?

Next Wednesday, we will be 38 years an independent nation. Put alongside other countries, it is not a very long time, but in the Caribbean context it is, considering that our sister Caribbean Community countries Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago started on the independence trail a mere 17 years before us.

There’s been considerable growth in St Lucia since 1979. For one the population has increased, and the various sectors of the economy have blossomed. The banana industry has declined, but tourism has grown, or so we are told. We have expanded and modernized much of our infrastructure with buildings and services, highways and institutions. Indeed, someone coming back to St Lucia for the first time in a while would marvel at some of our accomplishments. Despite the challenging times, especially in the last decade, St Lucia has still been able to give the impression of a bustling little country, ready for takeoff.

The same, however, cannot be said for the people of St Lucia. Thirty eight years of independence has not brought with it maturity in our people to match the advancements that have been made elsewhere. If anything, there has been a sharp decline in our state of maturity that is now tearing us apart, reducing us to a nation of enemies, rather than countrymen and women moving with a common purpose.

Take the matter of the appointment of a deputy speaker for the House of Assembly. Should the government by now, not have demonstrated its maturity, by calling off the stalemate that exists and appoint one of its own to the position? On the other hand, should the opposition itself not have grasped the opportunity to share in the leadership of this chamber of parliament, and give some sense of bipartisanship at the top of the order? Instead both sides continue to play silly games over the appointment, one even wanting to go to court over it.

But our lack of maturity extends into the public domain as well. For starters, are there any regulations here governing radio and television broadcasting? It does not seem so, considering what we have been hearing. Does the very abusive and obscene tirade that we witnessed earlier in the week on television, constitute maturity in our media? Will anyone be held accountable for this blatant insult to the integrity of the viewers?

Then there is the equally despicable and offensive clash between two St Lucians both based overseas that had social media on fire some days ago. Indeed, social media has become a free-for-all, where people can be abused and defamed at will. In some respects this kind of content is now making its way into mainstream media and this is frightening. Even some of our announcers and show hosts these days are presenting programmes and leading discussions on issues that demonstrate their lack of maturity in handling such issues.

Our lack of maturity also shows up in the way we react and respond to provocation or any kind of confrontation. The fact that we have recorded 15 homicides so far for the year, does not give the impression of a people capable of resolving issues or difficulties with any degree of maturity.

Immaturity also leads to indiscipline and shows its head when public servants leak confidential documents into the public domain for the purpose of creating political mischief, when we ignore traffic lights, urinate in public places, disturb others with loud music, destroy public property or refuse to accept correction.

A lot of our people still give the impression of not knowing basic right from wrong and that comes across very clearly in some of the contributions that we hear to call-in programmes on radio and television. People do not understand that they need to educate themselves on issues before they can give an informed opinion about anything.

We have a lot to correct in this country if we are to truly say that we are growing or maturing along with it. Independence gave us the right to conduct our own affairs. It’s time we begin to do this.

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