Dr. Isaac Newton
Published: Aug 10, 2012
Is there a sure-footed alternative to CARICOM?
Since the historic failure of the West Indies Federation, our reasons for integration have slipped gently from short-sighted fears into hurricane storms, vanishing under the ruthless winds of self-doubt. Historians have argued that this lofty experiment didn’t work because of concerns over the balancing of weights, personality politics, inhibiting structural factors and the need to hold onto independence.
Except for the advantages of talking about the importance of integration and the need to promote unmatched allegiance to bridging gaps, CARICOM leaders are unable to connect our people with the wider issues that hold the Caribbean together.
I am not convinced that we believe that the efficiencies of integration outweigh our small size. Our shoulder muscles are under intense strain to harness shared values, regardless of minor differences. Yet, the general perception across the Caribbean and in the Diaspora is that integration is for show and tell. It is not for practical use or agreeable value.
This implies that CARICOM is dead to success, but alive as a symbol.
Let me flood us with questions for sober re-thinking. Freeze clever answers.
What image comes to mind when we think of CARICOM? What message is CARICOM communicating to the world? Do we bring anything of relevance to the international community? Why should the G20 take us seriously? When we negotiate with powerful countries, is it from a position of strength or from a disposition of weakness?
Pause. We are usually significant to the superpowers when we are playing their tunes or when they disguise their interests as our benefit. We need to focus on fine-tuning our intrinsic value!
Too many of us carry village politics to global meetings. We are still learning how to turn what we have into something of worth, to the point where we earn the world’s respect. These efforts at self-preservation suggest that we never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, but we must laugh instead of weep over it.
Are Caribbeaners themselves, prepared to figure out homemade solutions to today’s economic ellipse and social starvation, and put political will behind them?
Caught red handed with yesterday’s reality, our burdens are expressed in vicious crimes, grim hopelessness and bitter joblessness. We need a knowledge-based upgrade.
It is clear that we don’t give the Caribbean the best we could muster in a lifetime. We turn common sense wisdom and intellectual capital into enemies when they are best friends.
Outrageous. That’s why we do not make things happen by turning to possibilities yet to be discovered. We prefer to mimic what’s already known.
But can we get more of our academics and grassroots folks to accommodate principled compromise? Our children are waiting for us to epitomize indigenous intelligence, problem solving, courage and innovative risk taking to respond to the new challenges that engulf us.
They want to see us step away from foreign dependency into competitive global interdependency without losing our strategic assets of land, dignity, people and soul.
Can we dare to dream for them? We can transfer to the next generation overcoming instincts riveted in a vision to think creatively and act selflessly. We can encourage our children by example, to function as doing people.
Why not integrate specific island interests into a framework for regional development? On rare occasions, I am prone to believe that our time for action has come and gone. We are too comfortable being carnival-moving and cricket-breathing people without a regional vision.
I don’t think we’ve searched deep enough to find ways that keep us connected to each other. Rather than being most alert under conditions of a stubborn recession with voters’ apathy taking effect, our whole psyche has gone into emergency mode. We are sticking to our unproductive ways.
Integration requires all of the pain of letting go, regrouping and cultural departure from an overload of foreign goods and external solutions. It galvanizes concrete change.
Camouflaged by geography and institutional alliances, there is room for shared prosperity. Psychologically, we can dance and dream. The single most important action we can take to resurrect CARICOM from symbol to success is to find the road to CARICOM’s development, and fight wholeheartedly to achieve it.
We have to demolish trite ideas that ricochet with false beliefs and deep distrust. All action must be about a serious mission. We must break the skin of fear. Who amongst us would rather fight than eat to make CARICOM succeed?
We simply do not have the luxury to avoid the complexities that are involved in CARICOM. We have no time to wear other people’s clothes or copy what worked for the European Union. Confidence inspires creativity and creativity drives competence. We need to do things that stand out from the inside out.
Success and CARICOM must marry in the chapel of real results. They will either enjoy all the provisions and pain of shared love or contaminate their marriage with petty divisions, stealing love on the side, and separate misery. In short, meaningless integration will backfire. Toothless structures can fire back. Mindless talks have repercussions. Putting into action a functional Caribbean Community will become a special sanctuary flourishing like a calm sea.
Another key to the root of our rhythm is to put to rest the subconscious conviction that CARICOM’s success is hammered out in eloquent expressions and round table conferences. These may be necessary but not conclusive.
There is no such thing as Caribbean integration without cultural imagination, emotional goodwill, passion for self actualization and deep spiritual values.
Material objectives alone will not solve our pressing problems or dissolve our weary worries. We need raw audacity cranked up with sustainable action.
That’s why we must educate the young and inspire the grown-ups to reconcile island desires with regional longings. There is greater value in integration than in going it alone.
I want to see an effective CARICOM with soul food and soul, consciousness and confidence, embrace and example, fortune and fortitude. No uptight institution. The two are not intertwined.
Symbols are not irrelevant. They infuse magical charm and cultural energy into our intuition and collective imagination. Applied to the Caribbean, symbols are tour guides to principles of mutuality; they contain common fire, a sense of the greater good and values-based politics with a dash of CARICOM spices. They compel us to act.
• Dr. Isaac Newton is an international leadership and change management consultant and political adviser.
Re-printed with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.