Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Rebranding ourselves

 Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago have been described as “a warm and friendly people who know how to enjoy life as evidenced by the festive celebration of Carnival”.

There is no denying that Trinbagonians know how to “lime” and entertain friends and that noticeable degree of hospitality is something we must never lose.

One of the many challenges we face, however, is finding a distinct brand for ourselves that appeals to the all-inclusive aspect of our rainbow country without trampling on the sensitivities of our diverse people.

As we develop our national identity, perhaps we ought to focus on watchwords that will mark and guide our transition from a developing country to one which has achieved the status of a developed nation.

There is nothing wrong with being known as a fun-loving people but to have that description as our only or main brand suggests a level of superficiality that undermines the substance and core of our being.

For those who would quickly remind me that we have national watchwords — Discipline, Production and Tolerance — given to us by our first prime minister, Dr Eric Williams, I suggest that in addition to these powerful words of guidance, there needs to be an expression of ideas that each citizen is prepared to buy into and implement in his/her daily life.

In some countries, the start of each decade is marked by specific words or goals so that the population is made aware of the objectives and works towards achieving the stated purpose. 

So whether it is a time for patriotism or prowess or whatever is deemed the most important pillar upon which to build the particular nation at the specific point in its development, there is a branding exercise to promote the deliverables.

There must be collective responsibility for all the wrongs in our society and there is nothing to be gained by pointing fingers or blaming others for what many describe as a failing state.

The fact is that as a people we have not lived up to the high expectation set by those who recognised our potential and we have allowed ourselves to be branded as a “laid back  and carefree people” who lack a common vision.

It is because we are losing generations and appear unable to get ourselves out of the societal grave that we have dug for ourselves that it is incumbent on each of us to find a feasible way to get our country back on track. 

The mandate for us to rebrand ourselves is not a hidden message about the performance of our politicians, past and present — it is a call for each right-thinking citizen to chart a journey that is based on core values that speak to tenets of which we can be proud.

And obviously, either because of a lack of understanding of their meaning or deliberate ignorance of their existence and purpose, our national watchwords have been thrown out of the window because we have very rarely been the leaders in the “disciplined and productive section” on the regional and international stage.

It is for that reason, the call is being made to re-assess our progress as a nation and rebrand ourselves if necessary.

No adult must shirk the responsibility of making our country a better place for future generations.

There is no shame in admitting that in our desire to move forward we have lost our way because getting lost is a risk that is taken when embarking on a journey for which there is no foolproof map for guidance.

What is critical is the ability to retrace our steps or re-set coordinates to ensure safe arrival at the desired destination.

Very early in his tenure, Pope Francis recognised the need to positively change the perception of the Catholic Church by displaying his compassion, humility and love for mankind, especially the poor. Pope Francis has won over the media and as stated by writer Thomas Reese in his article “Pope Francis after a Year” in the National Catholic Reporter:

“Pope Francis has done such a magnificent job in changing the image of the church that business schools could use him as a case study in rebranding.

“From his first day in office, he has spoken of leadership for service, not for status and power. He has preached against clericalism, careerism and the papal court. Not only has he preached it, he has modelled it. Changing the culture of the Vatican calls for a conversion of heart, of values and attitudes.”

An extremely important point made by Reese is that although the Pope plays a fundamental role in the church and is undoubtedly the driver for the rebranding exercise, he is not the Catholic Church —“The conversion of heart that he is calling for must happen to us all. We must become a more compassionate and loving people with special concern for the poor.”

It must not be lost on us that we have a critical role to play in the rebranding process of our country, removing any negative stigma and presenting ourselves in a positive light.

The change must not be cosmetic and the task must be viewed for what it is — the creation of a culture that is premised on “care, concern and compassion”.

These three important watchwords were used by recently appointed Independent Senator Rev Joy Abdul-Mohan in stating her vision which has become her mantra.  And perhaps that is a good place to start.

So, provided we are on the same page, let the rebranding brainstorming begin.

—Gillian Lucky is an 

attorney-at-law and presenter of the television programme Just Gill.