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In a world where power - political and economic - determines who gets to shape the destiny of countries and individuals, "Vision of Change" introduces a completely different paradigm by which those who would lead must live. What is proposed, though not utopian, requires that leaders take an objective look at what has been the status quo for eons and admit that the various -isms have not worked. In "Vision of Change" a call goes forth for the dismantling of the present socio-political system which thrives off evil...
In a world where power - political and economic - determines who gets to shape the destiny of countries and individuals, "Vision of Change" introduces a completely different paradigm by which those who would lead must live. What is proposed, though not utopian, requires that leaders take an objective look at what has been the status quo for eons and admit that the various -isms have not worked. In "Vision of Change" a call goes forth for the dismantling of the present socio-political system which thrives off evil machinations, mal-intention, misinformation and misfortune, and proposes,
instead, governance characterized by spirituality, servant-hood, mutuality and humility. This book will challenge and at times confront.
Power that is no longer exercised under God seeks to play God. Darrell Johnson
The struggle for political power in the lands of the contemporary Caribbean has been disheartening. It is a tale of woe, compounded by economic and industrial unrest, interpersonal and racial conflicts, street violence, criminal activities such as drug trafficking and kidnapping, national rebellion and revolution. In this part of the world, comprised mostly but not entirely of island-states, parliamentary principles and constitutional processes have been perverted and derailed. Political leadership has undermined people-power through personal charisma, intellectual snobbery, deliberate mystification and party manipulation. Underlying the façade of nevertheless touted success is a system of graft, corruption and institutional deceit. Evidently, the cause of democracy has been ill served by persons declaring commitment to gaining and keeping political power while in reality accomplishing no more than the support and maintenance of the 'status quo'.
Consequently, Caribbean people have become, in general, disillusioned and disenchanted with their political realities. After decades of mostly 'dashed' hopes, the rhetoric of politicians today is greeted with much apathy, muted indifference and at times scepticism and even cynicism. In some instances politicians are made to feel the pervasive pessimism that is packaged with insults and even rudeness. Yet, strangely, every five years or so hundreds of thousands of nationals continue to go through the oftentimes violent process that involves campaigning expensively and then casting unwisely a ballot to put a party 'in power'. However noticeably, once that seemingly distasteful task of voting is done, the majority of citizenry retreat into political apathy marked by non-involvement and unreasonable expectations! In some instances, there are individuals who organize chicanery, but most persons retreat to engaging in what may be termed broadly, living a life of indifference to transformational possibilities.
The ruling party ascends with pomp and pageantry and then proceeds to flout the newly acquired authority they once espoused to despise. The now chastened 'Opposition,' both official and unofficial, proceeds to systematically discredit whatever good, bad or indifferent programs that the party in office chooses to announce or attempt. In that regard they tend to have dependable allies among some influential groups in the community. In that social situation among deprived, underdeveloped Caribbean people, the spoils of victory are expected to go to winners and their adherents while members of the 'defeated' community retreat into bitterness and disinterest. The consequence is that the best interest of the people is abandoned in favour of a pervasive spirit of negativity and divisiveness and underdevelopment and poverty remain persistent allies of our rapidly aging democracies.
In regard to this assessment, I found the work of Caribbean scholar, David Hinds' in his discourse on Democracy and Governance in the Anglophone Caribbean to be extremely useful in corroborating my own personal insights and even more importantly in providing ananalysis drawn from the work of notable regional scholars on the state of parliamentary democracy and governance in our nation states. Permit me, therefore to draw attention to some significant comments and conclusions from this paper.
One of the significant observations he made is that while it was generally agreed by several Caribbean scholars that the Westminster model of democracy that characterized our pre and post independence eras had provided some significant level of constitutional order and stability in the region, except for the experiments of Guyana (1968-1992) and Grenada ((1979-1983), it had not contributed to the expected political, social and economic equality and advancement. Hinds remarks:
Instead, the antidemocratic culture that characterized the pre-independence order, despite some modifications at the time of independence, has persisted in the post-colonial era ... It can also reasonably be argued that there has, in our region, been too destructive a competition for political office; too heavy a concentration of power in the hands of the ruling elites, an unhealthy preservation of anti-development party and tribal division, a focus on short term partisan political concerns rather than long-term strategic objectives, and efficient patronage and spoils systems which work against sound and progressive government. Alienation, cynicism and marginalization have been the result, all leading to a perpetuation of underdevelopment.
Not surprisingly then, in light of the limited success of the Westminster Model in the Caribbean to advance quality of life generally and maturity in politics in particular, there is a growing call for at least significant modification of our Westminster system, along with introduction of alternative electoral processes.
Of course, there is general acknowledgment that our inherited system of governance has led to increased democratization of the political structures and broad-based participation by the people of the Caribbean in our post-independence period. But it is also true that under this form of governance, marked characteristically by political party winner taking all the spoils, there is no adequate basis for hoping to see within a reasonably short time the desired and desirable social transformation of our small societies.
While I wholeheartedly agree that the Caribbean needs to seriously examine and reform its present model of governance, to be committed only to structural modification of the system tightens our entrapment to the lie that systemic change by itself can bring about the crucially needed fundamental change. Let's take for example the idea of 'Proportional Representation' now considered by many as a significant alternative. While 'Proportional Representation' as an electoral process, could, no doubt, contribute to the lessening of the present alienation of Opposition parliamentarians and parties and allow more persons to benefit from the process of electoral politics, but important questions relating to this structural change remain to be seriously addressed.
One such critical question would be whether such a modification is, as necessary as it may be, sufficient to foster a mindset of independence/ interdependence among Caribbean peoples? In other words, would such a strategy provide sufficient inducement and motivation to move Caribbean people to adequately accept the full responsibility of freedom that leads to social transformation?
Indeed the question needs to be posed again and again, would it result in a more creative way of understanding and using power? After all, what we are desiring in terms of the vision being cast is a qualitative shift in the way we define ourselves and make meaning of our lives and this can only come about by the way we see ourselves and our world—our worldview.
From where we are at this point in our history, there is urgent need for a re-examination of the philosophical thinking which has so far driven all efforts at change and transformation in our region. Urgently, we need those who will accept this challenge to current thinking. Perhaps the best hope we might entertain in this regard is that Caribbean leaders and scholars will accept the challenge, the urgent and important challenge for a shift in worldview, as they are the ones who through dissemination of ideas fundamentally influence the change process. Indeed, "ideas have consequences".
But can we put our hope in our intellectual elite? We too often have to admit that the coded language of academia is unintelligible to the majority of everyday sufferers and not intended for the comprehension of ordinary citizens. Furthermore, most of the work of our 'brightest' scholars is based on the humanistic-secularist agenda—a materialistic worldview of life.
Could we look to our religious leaders? In regard, to our religious leaders from whom we seek moral and spiritual direction, unlike the men of Issachar who understood the times and therefore knew what to do (1Chronicles 12:32), they have given up on our institutions, our God-given institutions, and have failed to be "salt" and "light", infiltrating and impacting the society with the light of the Kingdom of God and the salt of ethical morality on cutting issues. In truth, Caribbean people, by and large, seem to have abandoned the Church as the institution of hope for social upliftment, and have turned toward political parties and politicians for redemption leadership. Is this where we went wrong? It is a valid question and a probing one. For so wholeheartedly was our shift from religion to politics as our source of well-being that we can be scored for not recognizing or refusing to accept that politicians to whom we entrusted so much of our hopes had feet of clay and knees of weakness.
Today, our politicians are seriously compromised; our intellectuals ideologically confused; and our religious leaders lacking in courage. Of course, there are exceptions—notable exceptions.
Our concern at this time however is our capacity to endure the consequences of our failures brought on by the falsity and hypocrisy of our patterns of behaviour that have maintained the people of this region in a spiralling stage of underdevelopment.
What then must we do? As Caribbean peoples, we need to say like the prodigal in the far country, it is time to stop and take stock. We need to re-assess ourselves in regard to the road we have taken. We need to embark on careful stock-taking of our political, social, religious and cultural realities. And we need to do so now, for time is running out for us. Therefore, we must wake up from our 'historical amnesia' and recognize that all is far from well—we dare not be complaisant. We are scattered geographically but united in confusion over our identity and the poverty of our reality. We are a people in moral retreat.
Consequently, most of our people are apathetic and alienated. In this very dangerous situation we are vulnerable. This means in practical terms that we are in danger of moving from bad to worse. This is because when in such a parlous state desperate people tend to succumb all too readily to expediency over principle. But the easy path ought never to be encouraged. We must fight back to achieve victory. We must resist the temptation to seek easy solutions. We must be prepared to accept the radical, as may be necessary, for us to move forward. But radical must be hastily interpreted not as that which might be imposed with bombs and bullets.
To begin our march toward a new day of hope for the Caribbean let us be clear about our first step. Let us begin to re-conceptualize our understanding of 'power'. At the heart of much of our distress and confusion is the use and misuse of power. Socio-political change is really about the power relationships among people. It is about how power is defined used and shared. Therefore, let us proceed to explore the concept of power we have and the concept of power we need to have.
'Power' as commonly explained in dictionaries is a concept that includes the ability to act; the exercise of a faculty of strength; the exercise of any kind of control, dominion, sway, command, government; and the ability to do or to act. Dictionaries, of course, report meanings in use, and one way to make sense of meanings is to distinguish between kinds. A very helpful definition that distinguishes thus is provided by Richard Foster, who says: "power can destroy or create. The power that destroys demands ascendancy; it demands total control. It destroys relationships ... trust ... dialogue ... integrity. The power that creates is spiritual power, the power that proceeds from God. Creative power sets people free ... produces unity ... it is in stark contrast to human power." Accepting that delineating definition of power, the one that finds endorsement and so selective focus for this discussion is the creative, liberating power that even though radical is the power needed to hopefully lead to desirable Caribbean social transformation. Therefore, this is the concept that will be pursued in this discussion.
POWER: HUMANIZED AND COMPROMISED
Radical problems can be effectively tackled by radical thinking and acting. Therefore a radical concept of power is needed to counter the debilitating despair of current social realities in the Caribbean. The submission is therefore made that our logical first step at this critical juncture in our history is to pursue a fresh appreciation and greater understanding of the radical nature of creative power.
The quest must be preceded however by an assumption that will determine all other assertions—it is the critical assumption that first we must make contact with God, for He is the source of highest rational thought and of all power. He is the One to whom all power belongs. Real power is of God!
What the world waits to see is a nation that understands 'power' differently. The different perspective I speak of is one that emphasizes the internal understanding of the concept of power rather than the external. I speak of the need for all of us to begin to appreciate 'power' for its essence rather than its trappings. I honestly believe that in this region today the need is greater than ever for this new perspective on power. We have only to examine the serious imbalances now a part of our lives—in our families, our institutions and organizations, our marketplace, our region and our world. As independent Caribbean territories, after more than 300 years of British rule, the elitist concept of power needs desperately to be changed. No longer should the political state remain perceived as an end in itself, but instead, as the means of facilitating a new end—one that is the creation of self-governing structures and processes. Such structures and processes will enable people to hold greater responsibility for organizing their economic, social and cultural affairs.
Why is this new perspective so important for us? Because, as Caribbean peoples, we have abrogated our responsibilities to 'the government'! Some governments, of course, have usurped this power, but however installed, 'governments' have become too powerful in our eyes and in our lives. Too many governments have become in effect 'all powerful.' Consequently, people have come to perceive them as all providers, meaning providers of all things. But that thinking is inherently faulty, for it sets up such perceived governments for failure since succeeding in this role is impossible of human achievement. Therefore, the State, given the task to provide all things for all men and women—a task that is physically and spiritually impossible—ends up becoming a state riddled with corruption and characterized by personality or party tyranny.
For such states, lack of integrity is all too evident. One of the important hallmarks of modern political power is its need to be visible. Thus the political directorate must go to great lengths to be seen and heard to maintain its appearance of power, and to protect its territory and prerogatives. This relentless pursuit of power becomes the raison d'être of entire governments. The latter is forced to use power to stay in power—some attempts are subtle while others are open and brash, even rash. For example, a government would use money which should be put into national programs/projects for election campaigns and/or to get the support of special interest groups. Decisions are based on political expediency rather than the real needs of the people.
Excerpted from Vision Of Change by JOAN M. PURCELL Copyright © 2011 by Joan M. Purcell. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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