One of the hallmarks of an evolving and healthy democracy is the existence and encouragement of thinkers to examine, formally or informally, and share on matters of national interest from a balanced and informed perspective.
Normally, participation is via institutions such as places of higher education. Groups of able individuals, in various disciplines, may also analyse and comment on national issues as opposed to operating as partisan ‘prop-ups’ or intellectual mercenaries. Every country needs rich people and thinkers to spearhead its development simply because the poor and the uneducated cannot do it. The value of such capacity is self-evident.
Unlike elitism, thinkers help the people to breathe fresh air surrounding matters of culture, the economy, law and order, and society. Typically, they seek to elevate national discourse through publications, round-tables, lectures and other presentations. People trust and respect them because they do not breathe the choking air of ‘party! party’!
Our Grenada is intellectually poor, not for lack of capacity, but for unwillingness to be broad-minded and to help ordinary citizens to better come to terms with the many issues of national life. Many, who are otherwise well able, locate themselves within political parties and thereafter become a loss to society because the causes they represent and promote are mostly very narrow. In any event, they seem happy for the personal benefits of association while having little concern for expanding popular wisdom and understanding.
It is the lack of understanding that provides fertile soil for the nurturing of the dictatorship of the political parties in Grenada. In these circumstances of dominance, the limitations of the parties become the limitations of the society, leaving the people unenlightened and worse off. In fact, the situation is so laden with suspicion that some people tell themselves that anyone who expresses bold opinions in the public domain must be seeking to form a political party or to harm one party and promote the other!
So then, the problem has become cultural, strangely so, as those Calypsonians who sing political and social commentary are not thought of as intending to form party, but as supporting party A or B. Having boxed ourselves in by such thinking, we deny ourselves the opportunity to exchange and to engage as responsible citizens and not as mindless followers of a particular party.
The wider point here is that there is at least one loose group of persons who choose melody and rendition to make public statements on national issues. However, people are not followers of Calypsonians.
Put differently, Calypsonians are not leaders of the people and it is debatable that they effectively shape public opinion.
So who will speak up for Grenada? Some Grenadian sons at SGU offered a few public lectures a couple years ago, but attendees soon found them out! They were hardly seeking to educate the people, but to indict an unnamed but identifiable political target.
In the Book of Proverbs such behaviour is referred to as “tricks and traps”! The education of the people calls for a standard of genuineness, just so! The transfer or sharing of knowledge does not have to be made with a particular payday in mind. When experienced in this way, the enabler is a patriot, worthy of respect and admiration by the people.
A society that is starved of constructive and reasoned discourse is sleep-walking and cannot get far; it cannot be preparing its youth for leadership; it cannot be advancing its democracy. That society will be intolerant of divergent views and, quite foreseeably, is actually preparing itself for dictatorship.
Grenada has thousands of well-educated sons and daughters, as well as thousands of self-made citizens of good, old-fashioned learning with practical experience and strong value systems to back it up. But they tend to speak in whispers. We are not reasoning about our state of affairs. We are not inviting the children to sit at the feet of reason and learning. We are all guilty of a massive letdown. We need a saving grace!
Therefore, it is urgent and necessary that we turn to younger generations of Grenadians for leadership after the upcoming elections.
That departure will require an appetite for openness, reason and boldness of spirit to create a new music and mood in our Spice Isles.
Those of us who are over or pushing sixty stand indicted for grave political wrongs and omissions against the people. Yet it is not so much that we did wrong, but that we continue to think wrong! Whether leftist, right-wing or hybrid it makes no difference.
Listen to the newly-elected Prime Minster of The Bahamas when he says that the people should never allow politicians to be in charge again.
Put differently, it is time for governance by and for the people.
All of this and more can be activated by those who fear the destination of our current course in public affairs and the state of the society.
Good citizens must resolve to reach out to our ten and twelve year-olds and begin to train and reason with them on governance, government, public service, public policy, democracy and development.
The resolve must be found to stay the course, in the good name of patriotism.
Now is the time to subdue ‘personal ambition’ and multiply ‘service to Nation’. When we begin to experience that ‘age of reason’ word will go out that something is sweet in the Spice Isles!