by Norris Mitchell
When we consider our roots from whence we came, it should not be too difficult to follow the sequence of events which have led to the present stage of our Caribbean civilisation.
Having just celebrated our 46th year of “political” independence, it should serve us well to retrace our steps historically, and to examine, analyse and (to) consider how we have evolved from the tyranny of the middle passage in the 15th and 16th centuries to what we have become today.
This discourse, however, would not dwell too much on the atrocities of slavery and the pain and suffering of our forefathers by the European slave masters but would move fast-forward into the period of colonisation after slavery was abolished in 1834, when a new global political, economic and social order had been established, at about the same time when beet sugar in Europe was cheaper to produce than cane sugar from paid black labour in the Caribbean (Eric Williams – Capitalism and Slavery).
In 1950 a Caribbean intellectual from Martinique, Aimé Césaire (pronounced A-mere C-zaire) in his polemic entitled “Discourse on Colonialism” had this to say:
“We are facing an era where fools are calling for the renewal of colonialism… the fact is while colonialism in its formal sense might have been dismantled, the colonial state has not. Many of the problems of democracy are products of the old colonial state whose primary difference is the presence of black faces.”
“It has to do with the rise of a new ruling class – the class which Fanon warned us about – who are content with mimicking the colonial masters, whether they are the old-school British or French officers, or the new US corporate rulers… As the true radicals of postcolonial theory will tell you, we are hardly in a “postcolonial” moment. The official apparatus might have been removed, but the political, economic and cultural links established by colonial domination still remain with some alterations.”
“What we have however, hardly reflects our imagination and vision: The same old political parties, the same armies, the same method of labour exploitation, the same education, the same tactics of incarceration, exiling, snuffing out artists and intellectuals who dare to imagine a radically different way of living, who dare to invent the marvellous before our very eyes.”
And, to complement Césaire’s postcolonial list, I would like to add, a national anthem, a coat of arms, a flag and a “prime minister”.
Seven decades on Césaire’s polemics are as relevant today (2020) as it was then; it was he who invented the term Negritude (Black consciousness) which has influenced the thinking of some African leaders and the Black Power movement of recent Caribbean history.
If we are to extricate ourselves from the current obsolete method of governance, it is incumbent on those of us, and the converted – who contemplate “Independence as an inevitable offspring of Colonialism” in our Grenada of 2020 and beyond, to embrace and educate the youth – beginning immediately from the primary school level, into a new way of perceiving and developing their country/our country, to a higher level of consciousness for the benefit of all Grenadians, where the resources of the country are developed and equitably and prudently distributed, and justice for all will become an expected reality. (Paradise regained).
There is too much at stake to allow the current trend of corrupt anglophone political leadership, Grenada included (one-manism), to remain unchallenged. Our Caribbean civilisation in my view has already taken a backward movement in the last two or three decades on account of the current calibre of our political leadership.
To support this conclusion, the following (Grenadian) examples would suffice: The continuing collapse of the infrastructure of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique – the Molinere main road national disaster comes to mind on account of arrogance and gross incompetence resulting in the slippage of the hillside and the road into the sea, for which the Grenada taxpayer will pay dearly, willing or not.
The continued deterioration and neglect of our Capital City. The recent fires bear testimony and bring to the fore the government’s lack of appreciation for the value of Grenada’s patrimony especially our built and cultural heritage, as year after year for the past 20 years no funds are budgeted for repairs to our civic buildings and sites. Fort George, York House, the Market Square, the Public Library, the 3-storey police barracks on Melville Street and Government House come to mind, not forgetting the parking and traffic nightmare in the town and the unaccounted funds from the sale of our passports, with the “giveaway” of our best lands to foreigners in questionable secret deals, not beneficial to Grenada.
In this regard, where does the plan regarding the proposed first “Caribbean Climate-Smart and Resilient City of St George’s” fit in? A new ministry was created in 2018 to conceive, design and execute this ambitious project which, if implemented and properly managed could redefine our Grenadian image and identity. Apart from an occasional statement from the minister on television regarding funding, the public is unaware of any ACTUAL (concrete) groundwork that has been done so far. Let’s hope that this is not another pie in the sky proposal/project to which we have become accustomed.
Additionally, the hijacking of all our democratic institutions, notably of which is the ELECTORAL PROCESS. Is the Supervisor of Election and his staff, who should take instructions from no one including the prime minister, an independent agency as required by our constitution, in order to ensure a free and fair election, which would reflect/represent the will of the people? The emasculation of the Public Service Commission, now reduced to an instrument of victimisation for those in the public service who are perceived to be disloyal to, or untrustworthy by the prime minister. (Read Richard Duncan’s “Walking the straight and narrow – perspective in Grenada’s public administration”). Echoes of the ordeal of Gemma Bain-Horsford, ousted Cabinet Secretary; the concocted Fiscal Protection Act, in order to deprive teachers and public servants of their hard-earned 25% gratuity and pension after almost 30 years of service, as guaranteed in our constitution, and the collapse of our health services.
This latter was highlighted by the unscheduled arrival of a chartered private flight from China, under the cloak of darkness at 2 am on 28 January 2020 at the height of an international coronavirus alert, originating in China. A “caring” government which puts a few investment dollars, the benefits of which are never seen by Grenadians, over the health and wellness of its people, accompanied by rising crime and poverty. (“Not a day without the struggle” – Maurice Bishop).
If the slide is not halted, and the gains and accomplishments made/achieved over the years, are not protected, these could be irrevocably lost, which could perhaps take another century of this backward neo-colonial governance, before it could be regained. The crisis bells are ringing for the urgent reconstruction and remedial action for a political change for the better, in the unacceptable state of Grenadian “democratic” affairs.