Over the past few months, many historical events in our beloved Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis have given me reasons to pause and to ponder as I try to make sense of what is unfolding before our eyes. Both of our lands of beauty have been traumatized by the scourge of our tribalistic politics, and this state of affairs has threatened to divide everything, starting from our Federation itself, to our political parties, both in power and in the opposition, our government, our civic societies, our communities, and most important of all, our families. Why is this happening, how did we get here, and where do we need to go?
Four remarkable timely visionaries have been most influential in helping me to come up with some answers to make sense of it all. The first individual is Jeremy Rifkin whose ground breaking book, The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, opened my eyes to the insight that deep down inside we are caring people who are born good and loving with an empathic sensibility, but somehow, along the way, all of our institutions, inclusive of our politics, economics, education, healthcare, and even our religions, have unintentionally suppressed the “invisible hand of empathy” that is supposed to unite us together at the local, regional and international level. The second person is David Korten who opened my eyes, in his book, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, to the now indisputable empirical fact that it is the transnational corporations and their financiers that “rule the world” and not the governments, as I use to believe.
The third author is a psychologist Dr. Bruce Alexander, whose book, The Globalization of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit, contends that our free market economic system is the root cause of most of our discontents, and that an unintended consequence of this “profit driven system” via its class divisions, marginalization, and even migrations is psychosocial dislocation, which ultimately results in the disruption and fragmentation of the fundamental units of our society, be it the nation, the community and ultimately the family. He explains that it is because of this disconnection, we feel something is missing, and in our search to fill that void, we try to fill the emptiness with addictions in all of its many manifestation, but to no avail. As a result, addiction persists and does not abate, not only to drugs and other substances of abuse, but also to food, sex, gambling, shopping and even some forms of religiosity. Even crime and greed for power can be linked to traumatic disconnection and marginalization in the formative years of its victims. It is only when we truly identify what he calls this “poverty of the spirit,” and take steps to foster psychological wholesomeness, reintegration and reconnections within our families and our communities, these dysfunctional relationships, behaviours and addictions become cured, and we begin to flourish again.
And finally, there is a kindred spirit, Charles Eisenstein, who, in his book The Ascent of Humanity: Civilization and the Human Sense of Self, has traced the roots of all these malcontents, to our narratives, shaped by our languages in the humanities, and even our theories in the sciences, that were invented and we have inherited over the ages. It is the stories we tell about ourselves, without due consideration to their origins, that have blinded us to our true divine nature and our true destiny as a community of people at one with each other and with nature. He calls this “the Story of Separation”, and what is enlightening, having diagnosed the root “cause of the causes” of our maladies, he goes further to enunciate, a better “Story of the People” based on unity and reunion, which have been with us for many millenia, even before the rise of modern civilisations. We at once rediscover the true meaning of all of our wisdom and spiritual traditions, and instead of breeding fear and anxiety through the concepts of scarcity, separation and competition in a detached sterile world, we begin to realize that truth be told, we actually live in a providential world. A world bathed in love, where the strength of the bonds within our community acts as our insurance and provides for our security, and if our strivings in this world is for the fulfilment of our needs and not the satiation of our greeds, we do in fact live in abundance. It is the awareness of our interconnectedness to all things, that should be the defining narrative of our time, and our ability to cooperate and collaborate, and not compete and hoard, that should define us as an enlightened species. Thus, as he eloquently says, “Wealth should not be defined by how much we can accumulate, but by how much we are able to share”. Since we are all one body of humanity, we should also make a living reality the Golden Rule which, when seen through the lens of oneness and interconnectedness means, “That which we do unto others, we do unto ourselves.”
So how does this help us to understand what is unfolding before our eyes today? If we look at the history of our Federation, we realize that it was born out of the crucible of conquest and dislocation of entire tribes (the Caribs and Arawaks), fierce competition for ownership of land by their colonisers (the French and the English), and finally the uprooting of the ancesters of our African people, away from their communities and families in their homeland to be enslaved in foreign lands. During this time, our African ancestors were seen and used as commodities for the harvesting of other commodities like sugar and cotton, mainly for the enrichment of their masters in distant lands. After slavery was abolished, the “freed” descendants of our African ancestors were denied their rights to be counted as equals and have the same opportunities like the descendants of their masters to build wholesome and stable families to provide for a better future for their children. It was only when, as a people, the workers united in trade unions, that under the providential guidance of our first National Hero and first premier, Sir Robert Llewelyn Bradshaw, that we made tremendous progress in our social and political development and finally gained control of our own lands.
Although we have come a long way since those early days and gained our Independence, this was only in name only, as our Constitution has left many backdoors and loopholes, that have allowed local and international financial institutions to keep us in perpetual servitude, by alluring us to incur debt upon debt to finance projects deemed “necessary” for our physical growth and development. This time, the sought after commodities are not people or sugarcane, but our own patrimony, which are our passports (and the attendant citizenships – a financial derivative or instrument of sorts), and our own lands which are now being sold off to pay off our debt. Even though we blame our present government for the fiscal state we are in, I am sometimes left wondering, given the state of similar financial crises around the world, whether we would have nevertheless come to the same indebtedness, sooner or later, irrespective of which political party was in power.
Although on the surface the monetization of our passports and our lands appear to be strategic to our physical growth and development, it is with the lack of accountability and transparency in its operation that many find fault. What is even worse, some are even speculating that our local government leaders have become the metaphorical “overseer” for the new “absentee owners” who are once again the financial elites in distant lands. And as has been done in the past, our local “overseers” now have been given a “mandate” to protect their new “master’s” vested interests, over and above that of the people for whom they were elected to serve. This observation alone may throw some light on the conflicts of interests involved and the political quagmire within which we find ourselves at this juncture.
I hope you can now see the present political crisis as an unintended consequence or complication of the backdoors and loopholes in our Constitution. I will hasten to add, that although the political tribalism is bad for the country on a whole, there are a select few who are benefiting, not in spite of, but because of our political divisiveness. The fact that the monies are not going into the Consolidated Fund ensures that there is no paper trail, so that those who are involved, at home or abroad, cannot be brought to account. Although in days of old, the political parties operationalised the struggle between the local owners of capital and the workers in trade unions, in the days of new, the political parties appear to be morphing now into ones that can best be described as “Internationalists” on one hand, and the “Localists/Nationalists” on the other, as the line is now being drawn literally in our sands.
However, it need not be that way. If we are going to survive in this day and age, we need to stop being addicted to and dependent solely on foreign direct investment, and move away from a mindset of separation and competition and scarcity, to one of cooperation, collaboration, abundance and one of unity. As we reconcile and heal our traumatic afflictions from the past, and we close the backdoors and loopholes and enact the necessary firewalls in our Constitution, by enacting anticorruption legislation, we do our present and future leaders a service by protecting them from nefarious outside influences, by limiting their tendencies to be “dazzled with glitter” and “held ransomed by misguided commitments”. Only in so doing can we focus on building community, recovering our empathic sensibilities, working together once and for all for one and all, to alleviate as best as we can the burden of poverty, disease, crime, and every form and shape of addiction for the betterment of all our people.
We have many smart, loving, and caring people, at home and in the diaspora, who are willing to work togther using the gifts they have been given and developed for the growth and development of our communities, but once again it is the political divisiveness that is our greatest stumbling block. If we can as a nation unite, and spend more time in developing our mental, social and spiritual capital, I have no doubt we can be a source of pride for our children and their children, and not only that, but also be a beacon of hope for the rest of the world. Also, this dream and aspiration is not only a local one, and many individuals and families overseas are looking for fertile minds, heart, souls and spirits in which to invest and also to become integrated into a community full of love, commitment, peace and flourishing. We need to seize the moment, come together as one people, with one heart, one mind and one love. As individuals and divided tribes we are doomed to fail, but as a nationally united people, we will become an unstoppable force, where the compassion and goodness in each one of us will shine forth, and we will help create a more beautiful St. Kitts and Nevis, with the help of God’s blessings, that our hearts tell us is possible.
Please find below links to the books and talks that have shaped my worldview and the thoughts expressed in this article:
The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis
RSA Animate – The Empathic Civilisation
Jeremy Rifkin – The Empathic Civilisation Full RSA Lecture
The Empathic Civilization — An Address Before the British Royal Society for the Arts — By Jeremy Rifkin – March 15, 2010
When Corporations Rule the World
The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community
Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth
Globalizing Civil Society: Reclaiming Our Right to Power
Dr. Bruce Alexander:
The Globalization of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit
Addiction: What to Do When Everything Else has Failed
Addiction as Seen from the Perspective of Karl Polanyi
The Ascent of Humanity: Civilization and the Human Sense of Self
Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition
Sacred Economics with Charles Eisenstein – A Short Film
A New Story of the People: Charles Eisenstein at TEDxWhitechapel