IN less than two weeks, Saint Lucians at home and abroad will be in celebratory mood as they usher in the 39th year of Independence from Britain. But almost four decades since abandoning colonial chains and pressing forward as an independent nation, there are clear reminders that many people think they are not as free as they thought they would be post-Independence.
For starters, over the years, controversial decisions have been taken by successive administrations with little or no participation from the citizenry who, unwittingly, are left to either finance or bear the shame of the blowback from such policies whenever they go awry.
Consider, for example, how the sale (or proposed sale) of prime lands is done quite often silently to foreign investors without citizens not even getting a whiff of such deals. Consider, too, that many qualified Saint Lucian academics and technocrats are passed over for key positions or for providing crucial know-how in favour of folks from the metropoles who invariably have to consult with local consultants for traditional wisdom, anyway.
Over the years, there has been a growing disenchantment among many Saint Lucians who think that the need for much-needed development has trumped that of respect for patrimony. That is why many Saint Lucians seem so inclined to treat visitors to the island in the most affable manner but treat each other with disdain. For the thousands of visitors who have been coming here for years, a few of them must have picked up on that fact.
Another reason why people seem to never treat Independence celebrations with any sense of pride or reverence has to do with which party is in power at the time. Ostensibly, many people think that showing up Independence-themed events is analogous to tacitly endorsing that everything is fair and well in Fair Helen – so they just do not attend. Hence the reason why it’s easier to pull a massive crowd at a carnival event than at an Independence event.
Granted that in the final analysis people cannot be taught national pride, there must be some unique quality about Saint Lucians that must demonstrate their love and loyalty to country. While it might be easier for Saint Lucians to complain that things are not all perfect in the homeland, there is that ever-present defense that shoots down any disparaging remark about Saint Lucia whenever such a remark emanates from across these shores. Why, then, should that pride not translate into a love for country and its freedoms that still remain?
This year, every Saint Lucian should endeavour to reach across the aisle to make amends with the not-so-perfect manner in which we have treated each other over the years. We should also identify some of the things that still make us feel proud about being Saint Lucian. Attend a lecture and learn something new. Plant a calabash tree. Read up on our history, be more cognizant of the present and see how we all fit into the future Saint Lucia which we are placing into the stewardship of our progeny.
Understandably, true independence means that one is free to do whatever one wants, including not adhering to even the above advice. But just think about this for a minute: would the powers-that-be really feel that confident to always do things their way – without our participation, not even a referendum on key issues – if they really thought we felt we were independent and free enough to convince them otherwise? Nevertheless, by standing up and being proud about one’s independence regardless of whatever happens in the homeland, proves that pride for country is not seasonal and expedient, but real.