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Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Whale of a Time


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Some of us who are neither pro-whalers nor anti-whalers and who are seeking to arrive at a position on this important issue are deeply disappointed with the local debate before and during the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The level and content of the local debate underscored the need for a national library in Antigua and Barbuda with access to modern scientific journals. One may argue (successfully) that such journals and other materials are available on the internet with and without subscription. But those of us who frequently access these data encounter periods of disinterest and lonesomeness largely because information must be properly disseminated, churned and debated in a civilised way to be of real and lasting value.

The way information is shared says a lot about us. Simply visiting a library to borrow a book or to nestle in the unique aroma of reams of data, or surfing the internet until you are bubbling with information all fall short of the needs of a modern society. In Antigua and Barbuda we have to ferment and nurture a culture of dialog that will secure the proper format for healthy, social discourse.

The entire whaling issue is so complex it demands a diverse panel of real experts presenting and jostling scientific, economic and other relevant data in a local, public forum. This should be one of the functions of a national institute of social, natural and medical sciences. Commonsense, logic and truth tend to carry a transparent quality that most people can see through.

Before anyone makes the vile suggestion that we ask Japan for a national library to complement the school of fishes from the fishing complexes, let me simply suggest that we ask Japan for assistance from some of its manga artists. Manga is the Japanese word for comics and Japan has become the world leader in this art form.

When the whale swallowed Jonah it represented the myth of someone going into darkness and emerging transformed. In our local, manga version, we the Jonahs on all sides of the whale debate need to swallow our whales of self-righteousness and emerge transformed with a more reasoned, balanced, civil and sincere approach to the way we discuss issues of national and international import.

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