If it's a measure of where we are, very little in our 50th Independence anniversary celebration stood out as a roadmap for the next five years, far less 50. Our Prime Minister is having an epiphany since the Olympic triumph, motorcades and various anniversary celebrations. But, it's obvious that both the Prime Minister and her Government are running out of ideas, as they face up to the realities of a tough economy, unyielding crime, and their own limitations.
In her address to the nation on the 50th Independence anniversary, the Prime Minister spoke about her, "firm view that we are about to embark on a promising new era in the history of our young nation".
She expressed an intention to, "pursue specific ways to begin a transformation of our society", and predictably laid on the usual plan to pursue a two-prong approach of, "a strong social programme that includes an intensifying of sports activity, mentorship, education, skills training and employment", "while the other arm is about an aggressive zero-tolerance intervention in all hot spot areas."
Along the way the PM must surely have forgotten her dreams for Colour Me Orange, Hoops for Life and the three-month State of Emergency and national curfew.
Save for a passing reference to the 50th anniversary celebrations, this column has not been high on the achievement. It can be viewed with cynicism: measured chronologically it will come if you stick around long enough. But measured by maturity and achievement, we cannot be satisfied with where we are, and specifically this fear which has consumed us. At 50, we have to act.
Understandably, after 1962 we needed time to become accustomed to managing our own affairs, but our experiments have taken too long. When you look through the list of outstanding citizens, we should worry whether we have the conditions which will produce minds and skills of that quality.
We must worry whether we can produce more like James and Naipaul; like Wilkes, Mottley, Crawford and now Walcott; like Lara and Gomes; like Jean Pierre and Yorke, Patasar, Sparrow, Kitch, Winsford "Joker" Devine, Chalkdust and Merchant; and like Williams and ANR Robinson.
In many articles, I have called for a retreat to communities and schools, to recreate the strength, character and individualism which will serve as the foundation of our efforts to retrieve, retrofit and rebuild.
Every week I lament the bad and ugly, leaving little time and space for any discussion on the good. Admittedly, there is very little material which catches attention, amidst the constant flow of crime, bad politics and poor governance.
I believe that at 50 our energy should shift from defending those whom we support, and we should instead concern ourselves with what we are against. Hundreds of thousands of citizens cannot be dissatisfied and powerless at the same time.
What we have can be described in terms of the good, the bad and the ugly. Amongst the good is a sturdy education system which reaches into the rural areas and is strengthened by the mix of State and denominational control.
We have great educators across the country, many of whom triumph despite the limitations of resources and rewards. And we have a casual, and sometimes too casual, belief in our ability to overcome our odds, if we feel the need to.
Against the good are things which are just simply bad. We have a penchant for finding ourselves in debacles, scandals and mysteries; a difficulty with treating sensibly with people and things we obviously love —our children and seniors; pan, calypso, Carnival, tassa, chutney; our sportsmen and women; and our writers, academics and other innovators.
And there are our downright ugly elements. These are of course headlined by crime; a marauding lack of civility, and a get-rich quick attitude, most times with dreams of foraging at the Treasury.
It was obvious that approaching 50, we struggled to get our celebrations and celebratory mood going, because we knew that whatever we did, some will support, some will oppose, and all will forget.
A search for 50 persons to honour was bound to be consumed by rage, race and a desire to rewrite the truths of history. A CD compilation was bound to have a liner stamped with some sort of political flavour and personal favour, and alas, our adornments inevitably fell into interpretation: was it one party's yellow fringing the national colours, or was it actually gold, emphasising our reaching 50?
In the midst of the celebrations it was not surprising that Dr Eric Williams's place in our history, his centrality and the quality of our recognition of him is still a matter of debate.
Unsurprising, because even Williams's party has struggled to position his achievements and balance it with the troubles of the later years of his leadership. Remember, it took a long 30 years after Independence for Williams to receive the country's highest honour.
He, Williams, was preceded by outstanding athletes and a beauty queen; a pair of navigators; several politicians; medical doctors, lawyers and various other persons.
Like Williams, Capildeo, James and Clarke, many of those whom the Prime Minister has hailed as, "global heroes", "men and women who have excelled bringing us gold, silver and bronze, record-breaking scores, titles in beauty and the fashion industry, Nobel prizes", got to those achievements despite us.
In typical fashion, we not only jumped on their bandwagon, but we assumed control of it, albeit temporarily. And thankfully, in many cases our short memories and shorter interest saw us fall off, just as quickly as we bounded on.
We may have gotten past 50 without a roadmap, but with crime, a tough economy, and various elements of bad and ugly, we have to behave like we know what we are doing and stop playing spoilt child.
• Clarence Rambharat is an
attorney and a university lecturer