Wednesday, November 5, 2008
President Barack Obama – what difference will this make?
But for us in the Caribbean and others around the world, we’ve been watching America all our lives and in recent times many of us have wondered what on earth has been going on? America, whether they like it or not, is on show to the World 24-7, 365.
We out here, granted, get much more balanced (inclusive of other viewpoints) news reporting on much that happens and maybe we can more easily see what’s done wrong partly because of that. But much more than this, I think it’s because we live daily with the lapping waves as well as the tsunamis caused by what America does, not just in the world arena, but also on its home turf: Our tourism industries for instance - for us in the Caribbean, often our economic lifeline – flutter and flail like the tails of unbalanced kites in the eddies of America’s local economic affairs and every other aspect of our lives gets hit by those tails as they pass over.
I know many people have stated their hopes that having a Black President will mean more sympathetic relations with America for the Caribbean because we are (largely) black– I don’t believe this for one moment. Mr. Obama is the President Elect of America, not the world, and no matter how real it is that America affects the whole world – free as well as not-so-free – there is no reason why he would not, or should not, put America’s interests fair and square, firmly first. Indeed ironically, I think those who can see a bigger, perhaps deeper, picture hope that this is really what happens since much of what has been done in America’s name has certainly not been in her best interests at all.
A healthy, happy America, dealing with its real social issues, economic issues, global responsibilities would be to all of our benefit. I do believe there is a window of opportunity for us if Mr. Obama is able to steer America in directions that put it more at peace with the world politically, ideologically and economically. The catch is, are we ready and able ourselves?
For us in the Caribbean, I hope we will see a better attitude to Fair Trade, I hope we will be inspired to believe more in ourselves as Nations and even more importantly, as a region that needs to come together. In order for these things to happen we need to be able and ready to produce goods and services reliably of a standard quality; not the cheapest, because we just don’t have that in our socio-economic make up, but good quality that can compete as fair trade products. This will redound to benefit our own self-image as we become associated with and recognized for quality and reliability.
We need to drop our inter-island divisions, and to do so, we need to find ways to even out our own inequalities, but I strongly feel that we should not allow the continuing existence of inequalities to stop us – every country and economic partnership has areas of lesser and greater wealth and opportunity - the recognition of this, and the consistent working on it is a necessary part of Nation Building, Economic Partnership or Political Integration.
We need to stop undertaking programmes that are half-baked just to be able to say that we used EU or World Bank grant funding so we can get another grant next year. For this, we need to find ways to be more pro-active, on the ball – plan ahead and not rush to catch a deadline. We need to develop appropriate, useful solutions and for this we need to look inward and foster creativity in all spheres of Caribbean life so we can see our own solutions and not have to resort to ill-fitted generic hand-me-downs.
Have I strayed from the topic? No, I don’t think so. We are at an historic point in our journey. The Caribbean is unlike any other post-Colonial place in the world: made almost entirely of displaced peoples and ruled almost entirely by the descendants of the people enslaved by the Colonials. We have a unique position, unique problems, unique hang-ups. We need to look North and be inspired by the – often stumbling, often frightening – giant and see that her people made a big, not easy, step forward. Spurred on, no doubt by the current President’s amazing blunders and the resultant nosedive in world opinion of, as well as American satisfaction with, America, but a big step nonetheless.
We need to be able to look at ourselves and take the steps we need to take, stand up for better governance, stand up for fairer trade and fairer practices, real transparency and less corruption. And that means for many of us, change what we are accustomed to, what we are prepared to do and accept. We need to speak out and act, not for our own personal gains at the expense of others, but for our National and Regional good, believing that this will be the road to our own better lives.