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Tuesday, February 19, 2013


“Thinking” may be a simple word but it involves highly complex cognitive operations and applications with limitless ramifications. We tend to say that "we are thinking of a person or phenomenon" - especially if we have been “struck” by it. Generally, that “kind of thinking” involves some form of retrospection or reflection.

At the other end of the continuum, we can "think for" - as opposed to "thinking of".

In this article, the writer contends that the former may not only be more proactive but equally more desirable - particularly in problem-solving contexts. The writer further challenges readers to move from one “thinking frame” to another and exhorts them to do so for the sake of country. The "thinking for" frame is my preferred option because, in my view, it summons our rational faculties to a greater degree; the "thinking of" frame tends to conjure up more emotional feelings than invoke rational thought.

Having said the above, let me however hasten to add that it’s not an “either-or” situation - it’s more a matter of degree. While “thinking of” may unquestionably evoke feelings of love, empathy and an ethic of care that may appeal to our patriotic instincts (and in that sense may be of immense value), in a scientific sense, it may not be a "problem-solver". However, “thinking of” someone or something may induce action; but that by itself is not enough to solve the problem. We need to go further (and I will explain later); hence, my preference for the "thinking for" instead of the "thinking of" option, especially in situations that require problem-solving.

In this article, the writer seeks to encourage the reader who may be already thinking of our problems to go further by engaging himself/herself in profound intellectual exercises focusing on national problem-solving. It is apparent that at this point in time, our country is riddled with problems of a historical, geopolitical, social, economic and moral nature; and we need to participate in a national debate on the way forward.

The so called "discovery" of the Caribbean by the West and the subsequent birth of Caribbean civilisation has done good but not the best for us. It may have brought the unbound Prometheus to our shores, only to result in much “development” havoc.

To illustrate, let’s try to marry the “hypothetical” considerations above with some practical lessons from history.

Let us begin by agreeing that the West benefited tremendously from the exploitation of the human and material resources of Caribbean. We might even want to agree that the Caribbean contributed substantially to the growth of European empires/world powers they were (or still are) by creating untold wealth for them under an unjust and oppressive system of slavery. We can even argue that we continued to be their “economic slaves” long after the abolition of slavery.

Let us also agree that the Caribbean gave the USA solid geopolitical leverage during the days of the cold war, so much so we were referred to as the US backyard.

What have we got for those contributions we have made? Today, after they have plundered our resources through their colonial and post-colonial economic model of slavery, both Uncle Sam and our Mother Country have unceremoniously dumped us into the garbage bin of poverty and indigence, where we continue to decay economically and socially.

Esteemed scholars like Sir Hilary Beckles are now busy on the academic circuit advising CARICOM governments to pursue the age-old agenda of reparations for slavery. I would be happy if Sir Beckles would share with us whatever newly found evidence-based insights he has gathered through study or  thought, or the 'new calculus' he has discovered that would help in that pursuit. Perhaps, in that calculus, there might be "thought experiments" that may have relevance to "unlocking our creativity and transforming our world".

Suffice it to say, that I’m very disappointed with both Britain and the USA for their treatment of the Caribbean. Our mother country bled us dry and in all her greatness and nobility, she has never had the courtesy to demonstrate a sufficiently corresponding measure of reciprocity (not necessarily reparations; but at least sufficient development assistance to consolidate our economic base and aid in the post-banana economic recovery). On the contrary, the Cameron government seems intent on cutting the last navel string of economic survival from the UK end by their decision to implement an oppressive APD tax apparently designed to slowly kill our “UK tourism”.

Obama is an equal, if not greater, disappointment. On the verbal and theoretical levels, he may sound like he is a great statesman with international repute and with a profoundly positive 'world view' (and perhaps that's what makes the whole world love him so dearly - arguably, even more than his own fellow American subjects).

But on a practical level, the policies he implements suggest he is just another 'territorial' US leader perhaps with no difference from his predecessor. While his rhetoric suggests that he is eager to end the oppressive Bush policies, he may have on the contrary consolidated and even perfected some of those policies, making them even more profound than they ever were under Bush. While it is perceived that he may have made major progress in the Mid-East (especially in Iraq and Afghanistan), it is also clear that he has seriously neglected his own Caribbean 'backyard' where his black brothers and sisters - sitting on a nuclear time-bomb of poverty and indigence – dwell in mortal dread of what the future holds for them.

Why are our uncle and mother treating us in this way? Are their actions a consequence or even a function of our ineffective Caribbean diplomacy that has failed us? Is it because we have elected the wrong people to power? Is it the failure of our foreign ministries/agencies and their policies? Is it correct to say that at a time when we need diplomatic dynamism, we are being shortchanged by diplomatic lethargy, with square pegs in round holes? Are we appointing ineffectual non-entities to fill our foreign and diplomatic posts, giving ourselves and our international credibility a further battering?

Indeed, a diplomat may not always need a PhD in international relations to be effective but s/he must demonstrate a sensitivity, a sublime propensity for creativity and imagination. S/he must at least be a “thinker” that the world community would want to listen to when s/he speaks.

Why do we have the world’s highest density of Nobel laureates but have such a dearth of creative talent in the positions that matter? Is the high density of Nobel laureates just a statistic or is there something wrong with the chemistry of our leaders or the protective cocoon of advisors/consultants/colleagues that advise on those critical appointments or both? This is a moot point certainly worthy of research.

St. Lucia is 34 years old this year. She may not be a mature, post-formal thinker; but she is now in her primy nature and resplendent with energy. If I may borrow from Eriksonian theory, she is at the transitional stage from the pursuit of “identity” to the pursuit of “generativity”. However, it looks like there is more stagnation than generativity on the horizon for us and mere introspection will not help her solve her problems of state. We need to pursue “appropriate action” to avoid falling into the black hole of stagnation.

The obvious question is: In the context of the imploding social and economic problems plaguing her, does she have the wherewithal to hoist herself from the black hole of stagnation and despair? She may not have it wherewithal materially; but she sure has it intellectually. She needs a massive intellectual injection into her development planning to include not just a narrow blueprint for growth but also an effective intellectual strategy to “confront the West” and bring them to their senses. It may be time to rock the boat using the intellectual might and resources we may be renowned for, that is, if we still have them. It is time that we use our intellectual might to leverage our position in the world.

Yes! We might be geographic midgets; but we have shown the world we have the highest density of intellectual giants in the universe. That may well be the key to "unlocking our creativity and transforming our world"

I want wish you a happy 34th anniversary of independence. I also want to go further to challenge you to use this year to 'think' for your country! I challenge you to think of ways 'outside of the box' that your country's economy can move forward! Use your thinking as the key to unlock your creativity and ultimately to transform St. Lucia.

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