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Commentary: Saving the Caribbean
Published on January 16, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Dr Isaac Newton

I have cultivated tough hope for CARICOM to reach its majestic ideal. Today, this promise is more likely to be fulfilled two generations in the future. Wreckage of spirit is creating an economic and social catastrophe -- unprecedented and unseen. We are bypassing resurrection for decay. The magnitude of our malady is overwhelming. Without an alternative vision, we drown in doom.

Dr Isaac Newton is an international leadership and change management consultant and political adviser who specialises 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, leadership, political, social, and faith-based issues
January is still with us and already feelings of newness are replaced with horrific stories of crime. We can never gain in police interventions what we’ve lost in moral values. 2014 is beginning to dish out collective punishment for supporting politicians who ignore our best talent for lackluster recruits from foreign lands.

Mismanagement and missed opportunities have weakened our ability to take advantage of international trends to make the Caribbean the best place in the world to do business. I think we have subconsciously accepted, little, less and least by avoiding innovative exploration of inside-out solutions to regional development.

For all this, we pause to ask ourselves how to open doors to restricted resources? How do we escape deprivation of choices for a better future? I am thinking about thousands of young people and elderly folks who are hungry and destitute. I am thinking about the dwindling middle class and the wealthy few whose disconnection is stirring wishes for brighter days. I am thinking about small minded leaders who use half of the country to maintain power and leave the other half outside national productivity.

Prudence sees this challenge as a mindscape of unnatural disasters that can ease our troubling. The dance for free and cheap things continues.

Yet am I deeply concerned that healing voices, most sincerely, continue to plant seeds that help our young people never give up on new possibilities for human empowerment and regional advancement -- personal, ethical and collaborative. As I travel and listen to so many who are fearful, incarcerated and humiliated, and come face-to-face with mental oppression that dehumanizes our region, caring turns into a radical search for pragmatic solutions.

These solutions must resist self-rejection and neat notions of inferiority -- notions that we have mindlessly enshrined as edifying thinking.

I agree the Caribbean colonial struggles are both harming and charming us. They should also alarm us to brutal global forces. These forces no longer permit us to piss in each other’s faces and survive -- without bringing untold torments at our doorsteps.

In the midst of this heartless misery, we feel validated only when “foreign experts” are paid millions to import strategies that were never intended for our victory. Oh, how we justify this imprisonment with delusions of mainstreaming our ambitions. Monkey doesn’t have to do what monkey sees. Try not to fool me with eloquence: “My nose knows what it knows.”

To free the Caribbean from these negative mental traditions transmuted to us -- and summed up as foreign is superior and excellence is imported -- we have to unleash speed and energy. Speed to open up ourselves to the Caribbean’s glory and potential, and energy to establish environmental approval of local ability.

When shall we learn to accept that Caribbean wealth -- concrete and intangible -- does not belong to everyone else across the world, other than island people?

When shall we understand that competence, daring and conscious leadership constitute sources of economic and social prosperity for everyone? Not empty prestige for a few.

These broad concerns have been seducing my intense attention. They are stirring passions for a liberating democratic vision and an inclusive thriving economy. But this vision must be sustained by moral courage and infinite integrity. If such courage and integrity reminds us of our shortsightedness and engages our enormous capacities, the common good will flourish.

I believe that regional self-esteem is partly the answer. Perhaps we are too satisfied with selecting, electing and erecting toxic leadership. Perhaps we praise dysfunctional actions that covertly and overtly discard and discredit us. Maybe we have fully accepted the myth that poverty is okay because we are okay.

I relish reparations for undermining ordinary island talent every day and every night. Who will pay for this magnificent insanity that screams for self-confidence?

We need a magnetic dignity that gives our young people economic and ethical support to achieve greatness. Our religious spaces, homes and communities ought to sustain self-worth. Behaviours that make mincemeat of our people’s aspirations and force Caribbean talent to live in foreign places must go. We have to stop squeezing out the lifeblood of indigenous creativity. It can penetrate the world and be effective at home.

What does this tradition of putting down ourselves signify in 2014 and beyond for ‘Caribbeaners’? Solving this could generate powerful dividends.

The remedy cannot be more education -- experiential and academic -- that reinforces these callous arrangements. We need favourable response from each other to stimulate Caribbean intelligence and social action. Our self-value and interpersonal successes cannot be separated from models of support and nurture. These models should socialize us in attitude and values suited for self-love, change, and regional progress.

We can discover unknown vacancies when we don’t expect what we already know. True. Uncertainties cannot be erased. Yes. We have a long walk to economic freedom, acceptance, and spiritual maturity. This journey requires enlightened followership, actionable leadership, and clarity of purpose.
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