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Thursday, November 4, 2010


Give Them Work To Do

Dr. Lester CN Simon-Hazlewood

When I was a little boy attending primary school, I was quiet and rotund and called all sorts of names. I was an easy target for the bullies, until I engaged the superhuman strength of one of my female cousins. Just the mention of her name and that she was from Cedar Grove would send them packing. The sequence of insult, damage or punishment followed by my call and her response, was so remarkably efficient, effective and Pavlovian, I wondered if I had deliberately and gratifyingly provoked them.

One of the bullies and his Gordian knot of infidels would assault poor, little, innocent me, after I had nervously removed from my own anatomical shoulder, a blade of grass he had harvested from nature, transplanted and called his cultivated own. He might box me and I would display a pensive (and expensive) countenance; and then bawl out for my cousin. It was early training at thinking outside of the box.

Some people just love to fight. They fight when they are right. They fight when they are wrong. They fight all day and fight all night long. Some people just love to jump over fences. They will scale high walls with a garland of barbed wire to enter a free function. And, on discovering the function was free, they will bellow mouthfuls of expletives and gracefully exit the very same way they came in.

Someone has to tell some members of our tribe that the old revolution is over. It was televised. A new revolution is on. But they know this. They also know and believe that, based on all the fighting (and jumping fences) they have done historically, they are the only ones who can run things. Or, can it be that the clamour, the chatter and clatter, and promises, if provoked, to batter and shatter, are mere symptoms arising from and disguising the essential heart of the matter?

A revolution is said to be a large change in a short time. Our independent nation, twenty-nine years old, needs another revolution. Call some members of our tribe what you like. Subtract whatever, whichever and whomever from their past leader. And subtraction and division are in order but you know how they are afraid now of mathematics. They will still have a past to reckon with and a future to fight for.

Warriors do die but they die very badly from inaction. Atrophy sets in and gnaws their lives away. Look at the elderly cast aside with nothing to do but think. Thoughts without deeds are like ploughs without fields. Their arthritic hands and feet disappear and they soon go tumbling after.

When the cry goes out for nation building and nation building stands still, it is not because people are not nation builders. We have to understand this very clearly lest we spend stone-heaps of time firing at a target that does not exist. We are all nation builders but we want to build the nation the way we see it. And the way we see it is uniquely different from the views of others, if views they have at all.

We know the answer to our problems. When we had a problem with the snake, we brought in the mongoose. After the snake died, the poor mongoose, with nothing to do, started to feed on the chickens. Pity they did not have a mongoose to eat the first snake, or wish that Adam had been smart enough, and not a vegetarian, to refuse the apple and barbecue the snake instead.

I remember the May 68 protests in France. Two of the graffiti from that era that bear recalling are: “Those who lack imagination cannot imagine what is lacking” and “The future will only contain what we put into it now.” Can we imagine what we have to do to shape a prosperous future for Antigua and Barbuda? Let us assume that the others members of our tribe are found guilty of whatever they are accused, and more even. What does it gain Antigua and Barbuda to go through these bruising battles in court after court and end up with national concussion at best or Alzheimer’s at worst? If we can do mathematics inside the court now, surely we can do the same mathematics outside the court and use subtraction to save long division.

In war and in politics, strategy is vital. Sometimes you have to do the unexpected. Before the days of adequate and affordable security I used to contemplate my response to a burglar breaking into our home; through a window perhaps. Might I express sincere gratitude to him for proving right my suspicions about the vagrant window and solicit his able assistance, at a negotiable price of course, in finding the notorious carpenter (probably his friend) who had done such a terrible job installing the windows?

The local political battle is hot and sticky. The country is tired and weary. Combatants are approaching that point when, if provoked, they warn, they will hawk and spit in the beverage for no one to drink. A large change is required in a short time: A revolution. You know their strategy, so calling their bluff will be too easy for your right and might. No. That is not a revolution. That is simply going round and round and round.

Drop your weapons and leave them with theirs. It is not a sign of weakness. It is the maximum strength and the moral high ground of which you boast that force you to compel them to do the same. Throw down the gauntlet of peace and reconciliation and force them to take it up. Give them work to do. Give them really hard work to do.

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