News Americas, ATLANTA, GA, Tues. Dec. 30. 2014: Just when 2014 was coming to an uneventful close, Caribbean Heads of Government magnificently failed to act diligently and decisively. They did not ensure that a highly qualified Caribbean professional -Sir Ronald Sanders – with global influence, pragmatic experience and academic clout, got a fair chance to emerge as the next Commonwealth Secretary General.
How long shall we squander regional thinking and innovative problem solving for the empty optics of small island pride?
In stating his reason for withdrawing for the contention of this post, Sir Ron said: “There is nothing I hold more strongly than the desire to advance the interests of the CARICOM region and those of the Commonwealth. My working life in several Caribbean and Commonwealth capacities and my published writing bear evidence of such.”
Deeply ingrained habits have followed our minds into bondage. The vicious cycle of victimizing ourselves, staunchly climbs and lingers. It now seems that for generations to come, we have made up our minds that it is imprudent to think and act wisely as a collective. This is epic!
But we need to go about the business of standing inside of ourselves and unleashing that impenetrable urge to grow. Operating on the global chessboard is the art of strategic intelligence. We need to expand our horizons and assume collective responsibility for the quality of Caribbean life.
Perhaps the lesson learnt in 2014 is this: We cannot underestimate the insularity of Caribbean leaders in hugging a sterile addiction to our undermining. Most are in love with the turning of the Caribbean mind in the opposite direction it needs to go for regional prosperity.
The footprints of this self-inflicted tragedy were apparent in 2014. Our leaders gladly accepted strategic cliffs for fleeting national rainbows. This, they continue to do, to the perennial detriment of real regionalism.
Have mercy! This is an assault against our fore parents. Their rich legacy of honor determination and justice has been betrayed. Yet, they are calling us to forge a path for the emancipation of our minds, bodies and souls.
At the cusp on 2015, tears are flooding the Caribbean spirit as we contemplate the challenges ahead. Little wonder why the region hasn’t produced more men and women of political courage, innovation and wisdom. These unpredictable but tough times call for leaders who are prepared to risk their political futures for excellence in the name of integrity and long-term planning.
There is a hard truth to absorb. Although independence abounds in brand name, the Caribbean is unfree in democratic advancement. We accept outdated structures that were never crafted for our progress. We are producing political parties that are concerned with personal survival rather than regional development. Shallow niceties are preferred to solid constructive critiques.
For heaven’s sake, CARICOM needs ‘backbone inspirators.’ These are thought-leaders who will challenge each other to greatness. They will dare to infuse our poised imagination with feline creativity for regional renewal.
We are coughing up elected officials and seat wiping followers, who are more prepared to look for loopholes in our constitutions than identify reforms that will expand our democracy.
Perhaps that is why we have been reducing regionalism to optical illusion frequently interrupted with eminent eloquence and charitable noise.
I cannot wait for us to see each other as priceless, precious gifts. The value of valuing regionalism isn’t a fantasy, it is a functional necessity. Only self-love will replace that rotting inclination to uncritically feel that foreign is superior and the spectacular is imported. Every New Year offers us the opportunity to slaughter inadequacy or the next generation will drown in a sea of spiritual jeopardy.
As 2015 breaks the horizon we must heed the counsel of Eleanor Roosevelt reminding us that no one can make us feel inferior without our consent. If we are not intentional about finding strategic solidarity and community within the region, the Caribbean will simply be held hostage to narrow agendas by deliberate means.
Fingers crossed; maybe CARICOM may escape that verdict of becoming symbolically alive but functionally dead. Thriving in 2015 requires a new strength and optimism, plus wider scope and speed to confront the emerging energy, security, social and economic crisis beating down on the Caribbean.
2015 beacons us to nurture the passion that defines the benefits of fostering a Caribbean civilization—one that should sustain us. If successful events and positive circumstances have their origin in our mindscape, then we have to create a sustainable action vision where all of us can truly become good citizens in the service of workable regionalism.
In this time zone of shifting from past to future, the Caribbean is diving into deeper waters where the emptiness of values is tearing away at the rugged coastline of our psyches.
Warring against our regional self-esteem is neither a viable strategy nor a meaningful philosophy.
Four weeks ago, it was paradoxical that Caribbean leaders celebrated their sustained advocacy for the US to normalize relationship with Cuba. They clapped their hands as their voices were finally heard, demonstrated when President Obama made a geo-political decision to cement the mutual interests of the USA and Cuba.
Notwithstanding this potent victory, CARICOM did very little to encourage Cuba to integrate itself into the democratic traditions and liberal cultural landscape that the Caribbean has sought to foster. To make the wounded whole and to hold the wounded, 2015 screams for a sustainable action vision.
We have to downsize our insecurities. Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago are more friends than enemies. Guyana and Venezuela have far more things in common than things that separate. Barbados and Antigua & Barbuda are closer in pedigree than not. St. Kitts & Nevis, Montserrat, Tortola, Anguilla, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines share the same star.
Beyond obvious fact, there is faith that works. It requires a consortium of private and public institutions with affinities for reconciling national interests with fruitful regional compromise. Actionable regionalism will not happen without a consciousness that seeks to harmonize the dignity of ordinary citizens with preserving our civilization.
We can do effective things: Appreciate our ecological good. Practice public morality. Use our minds to expand new economic frontiers, invent new technologies. Develop real solutions to improve our livelihoods. And tap into that reservoir of Caribbean talents.
Will our wounds fester? Yes. But healing is possible. If we remain true to our status as trustees of this Garden of Eden— rich in faith, hope and charity, and bountiful in the resilience of our people, success awaits. Time to summons our collective betterment; time to transcend the defects of small island-centered behaviors.
Dr. Isaac Newton is an International Leadership and Change Management Consultant and Political Adviser. He specializes in Government and Business Relations, and Sustainable Development Projects. Dr. Newton works extensively, in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, education, leadership, political, social, and faith based issues.