The Mimic Men (V.S. Naipaul, 1967) presented and examined a Caribbean island nation that had recently attained independence, an independence that brought on an excruciatingly painful and pessimistic existence among the newly independent people. They regarded themselves as floating in a rudderless vessel, unable to establish purpose or direction. There was a longing for the old colonial system to which they had grown accustomed. They loathed giving up the English world, with its rich culture, social pecking order, discipline, success, and achievement that they for so long imitated.
When we look closely at our own nation, we observe a citizenry not far removed from Naipaul’s fictitious island. Our citizens (natives) view their own culture, “customs and traditions, religion, and race to be inferior to those of their master and try to identify themselves with the empire” (Naipaul, 1967). Vincentians have evidently taken on many of these characteristics in the manner they have conducted themselves over the last 30 years.
Cut-off from their old English masters, the homegrown traditions, religious practices, diet, what they eat and what they drink have all but become meaningless to them. They have lost the ability to identify with what have become remote rules and codes. They are different from the master in cultural, traditional, racial, and religious backgrounds, but were never able to successfully associate themselves with the colonizer either. They therefore embrace the features in their socio-cultural existence that most closely match what they saw in their colonial masters.
Hence for the last 30 years -- a mere five years after gaining independence -- they have grabbed on to the closest semblance, the epitome of their colonial past the personalities they believe best suited to lead them: two individuals who they believe gave them legitimacy in the eyes of their former masters.
Still searching for the meaning of their independence, their suffering from displacement, fragmentation, and loss of anything with which to identify, they have indeed become mimic men who imitate and reflect the colonizer's life style, values, and views. The meaning of independence has not yet sunk in for a majority of Vincentians. The psychological issues most newly independent nations are forced to deal with, have not yet been addressed in St Vincent and the Grenadines. They therefore cannot be solved until Vincentian citizens come to the realization that they have been had.
Vincentians will not get close to an experience of independence until they can shake the shackles with which they are still hog-tied. “Without the colonizer, the colonized (Vincentians) see themselves as lost in their postcolonial society that fails to offer a sense of national unity and identity.” So it is quite conceivable that, after all the arguments, debates and discussions are dead and done with, the complexion of our leadership may not change in the next election cycle, despite the deceits, violence and atrocities that have been inflicted upon them over the last 30 years.
If Vincentians are to expect change in the social and economic order under this government and others like it in the future, they are in for an extremely rude awakening. If they believe their society is chaotic today, I predict it is only the beginning of a more barbarous, tumultuous and disorderly environment, as the government seeks to move backward or forward with its chosen economic plans and schemes.
While the current political leader of St Vincent and the Grenadines travels about the world under the pretext of seeking reparations for the plight of formerly shackled people, the notions of colonization, decolonization, history, culture, and race appear to have lost merit in his campaign. He seems to have no understanding of the past or regards it irrelevant in his current campaign. The past may hold no significant merit for the Vincentian leader, as he is instead more concerned about present and future “social and psychological shortcomings” of Caribbean people of other than European ethnicity.
Like the colonial masters, the current prime minister refuses to talk seriously to other elected members of his own party; instead he treats them like children, indispensable in getting him elected but completely valueless once he gains power. The pseudo-representative of the old colonial masters imposes his superiority on Vincentians who are reduced to childlike dependence picking up the crumbs that the government offers them to keep them loyal and subservient.
Hence, by refusing to consider other elected members as possessing any political significance or acknowledge the importance of their task, pushes them as well to an inferior status, and finally to a sense of political dislocation and failure. These individuals, who may possess some attributes with which to help this nation to recover from near economic collapse, are prevented from contributing towards solutions to our country’s problems.
The lack of a political awareness makes the ruling Vincentian politicians absurd characters who suffer from their own insignificance but megalomania -- while at the same time marveling at their own personal accomplishments. With no political reality, there is no real sense of identity and so the citizenry suffer from non-existence, as politics does not have any real meaning on the island that is now controlled, ruled, and exploited by a self-centered “charismatic” individual and his family.
They have in reality written off their real political history or have been made to forget what they previously believed it to be. The new leaders are made out to be progressive revolutionaries while being used and abused by aspiring dictators and the superpowers as political stooges.
Vincentians for the most part still consider colonial education taught to them by the mother country, England, as the primary metric of order. When they study English law, culture and history, they feel it’s their own culture, and any native cultural display, if there is any, is inferior to that of the colonizer. The Vincentian’s colonial education has made him into a homeless man with no self-image. Thus another government like that controlled by the current prime minister may endure forever.
Dane A Bowman
Originally from La Croix, Marriaqua Valley
Current residence: Central Florida