by Norris Mitchell
Labour can be classified as physical – the use of the hands, and intellectual or mental – the use of the brain.
On close analysis however, there is a symbiotic connection with both, as physical labour is controlled by the brain while intellectual labour must find cognitive expression through a physical medium in order to be effective.
In general, especially in Third World countries like Grenada we seem to relegate manual labour as inferior to intellectual labour. This mindset could be the residue of slavery when black manual labour was free and was not regarded by the slave masters as a significant input into the global economic equation of the time, until slavery was abolished and free black labour became paid labour. (See Eric Williams Capitalism and Slavery), in a new global economic and social order.
While physical labour is the creative energy which give form and structure to our man-made environment, and transfigure raw material (matter) into useful inventions and commodities, the current impasse between the government and the intellectual workers (teachers and public servants) regarding salary adjustments and statutory increases, has again raised its ugly head, while the 25% pension and gratuity payment remain sub-judice (within the court).
It was George Brizan who christened Grenada “Island of Conflict” and to date we have lived up to that description. There is no time in living memory when negotiations of any type between the government and its employees have been conducted smoothly without acrimony and with a sense of equity and fair play, but rather as if the two sides were in “mortal” combat, which would result in a winner and a loser, instead of a win-win conclusion.
Politics and governance are not beyond morality and a fifteen seat in parliament does not change this concept. It is as if the government is always at odds with the people whom it is supposed to represent, with its take it or leave it attitude. There seem to be no congruence or (mutual) agreement on any issue.
Why should this be so, in an island nation of about 110,000 people? A prima facie assessment by a visitor would not discern this conflict, but we who live here and call Grenada home especially those like me, of yesteryear, who are able to compare Grenada of the 1960s, 70s and even 80s, there is a feeling of “Paradise Lost” as we witness the constant lowering of standards, disrespect for the existential nature of the environment and lawlessness which begins at the top in the casual disregard for our laws and constitution in what appears to be a downward spiral to the bottom.
Labour of both types, manual and intellectual, is the oxygen which fuel progress, development and prosperity of a society. Let us not forget that it is these same workers who achieved the surpluses which the government boasts about. It is also the creative energy (physical, mental and metaphysical) which give us identity and global status in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to small development states like ours, which are regarded as insignificant actors on the global stage.
The stability and empowerment of our local labour unions could provide a solid foundation for upward mobility. A strong middle class represents a strong and progressive society; enacting legislation that stymied the legitimate function of the labour movement in seeking justice and equity for its members is a reminder of a “forgotten” period in our history when Massa was king and his black subjects a commodity, which produced for him exorbitant exported wealth; which remind us of reparation.
The days of slavery and colonialism must not return in the 21st century in the guise of Third World Caribbean politicians via their greed for power and opulence – the ugly face of capitalism (corruption), while maintaining a docile and uneducated population to achieve their ends.
The “Dignity of Labour” that is hard work, high productivity and national integrity is the formula for prosperity. Let’s hope that (the) future negotiating atmosphere would improve to achieve that end in a conducive/cordial environment, as the crisis bells are ringing for a change to this “same old same old” which requires replacement with a new and enlightened VISION for poor Grenada.