In our emerging nation, it is especially important to dream, to collectively believe in the possibility of new, and better, and more. Given our meagre origins and our vulnerable circumstances, there is no other way to rationally address our future.
Mundanity is not an option. Settling for the ordinary and the unimaginative is at odds with progress and change. Playing it safe advances neither body nor spirit across new frontiers of emotion, experience or understanding.
Such advancement must be powered by an intelligence: of history, identity, culture and art, which together provoke us to rise, plunge, explore and reveal the unsprung potential of both sower and seed. These are the wellsprings of our humanity, the fonts to which we must return in that constant conversation between source and tributary. Otherwise, there is no humanity… only the violence which plagues us now.
In the Saint Lucia Story – staged February 21, 2019 to mark our 40th anniversary – the lead character Lucien, is an archetypal figure in search of self. In that role, he represents a generation craving a deeper understanding of the world into which it has been thrust, too often, unprepared. He journeys on behalf of us all and is very much the redemptive figure. But he is also the flawed product of an unlived history.
The Griots – three wise women rich in ancestral memory – suggest that history is the foundation upon which all else rests. But since that script is most often written by the keepers of official documents, there must also exist another reality, experienced and recounted by the survivor. In other words, our past, if we wish to own it, can also be interpreted – by us – to create a philosophical bedrock from which to draw all the strength we need.
Avoiding nostalgia and sentimentality, the Griots present a moving combination of optimism, skepticism and realism. Their providence suggests that if we are not to go mad, we must learn who we are, whence we have come, and the milestones already surpassed.
In that voice, the denigration of the transatlantic slave trade, translates into a triumph of spirit. One that re-focuses our energies more profoundly and productively on what we did for ourselves. We did not just suffer the tyranny of slavery and sugar. We overcame it. We prevailed. We went on to prosper in a harsh and doubtful world, creating our own substantial societies.
That single affirmation – and there are others – should fuel our dreams, validate our ambitions, and inspire all manner of wondrous expectation.
With that in mind, we cannot ignore the crippling dilemma of Lucien’s generation. We should prickle in the face of so much untapped heroic potential. We should admit that his needs lie unexpressed because we have not given him the vocabulary to voice them. His restless indifference is not some irrevocable curse, but a symptom of something missing, something lost, something incomplete.
If that rings true, then re-discovering our history is akin to rediscovering our humanity, and possibly the only way to save him – and us – from the chaos of unbridled instinct, naked greed, and the brutal imperatives of scarcity and survival.
We already know that self-interest, like political power, must be tempered by conscience, regulation and enforceable law. Now there is another imperative. A national capacity for love. Love of country. Love of self. Love of each other as living beings, and deeper still, as fellow Saint Lucians travelling the road of our ambitions, united in the struggle against deprivation and despair. It is a necessary therapy. A vigilance that guards against regression. An affirmation that we will not slip back.
It is that same humanity which instructs us to peaceably coexist, within agreed parameters of justice, equity, law and order. These values give meaning and relevance to our society, allowing us to move from survival of the fittest to no child, no elder, no citizen left behind or excluded. Hence the need for functional courts, universal health, viable schools, and the teaching of ethics and civics, literature, geography, history and art.
Confident in our identity, we could offer our example to the world: tolerance, multiculturalism, diversity, our sense of family and community, a love of life and learning, of color and music. These national assets are much more than postcard attractions. They are our gifts, the tools and weapons we take with us, into a world that is increasingly unmoored and philosophically adrift.
If our own new world still demands resistance, still promises empowerment, still offers relevance, such testimony should not go ignored. As an act of gratitude for living in such a place, we should encourage each other to dream bigger and brighter and better, and try to recall, beyond mere survival and subsistence, our submerged propensity to prosper.
Rekindling that dream into a new socio-economic outlook would be a massive achievement, driven by the sort of fervor glimpsed all too briefly in the Annou Wèr-y National Independence Parade: a muchneeded reinforcement of Lucian pride, largely free of alcohol, banality and reckless oblivion.
In the Saint Lucia Story, the scene entitled “Forward Ever” reminds us of that other dismal moment on the national timeline: “…Power and politics soon turn around / We mash down the city, we board up the town / but in that darkest moment a new light did shine / We listen to reason: close mouth, open mind…” The memory captures both the angst and achievement of Lucian past and present.
And, perhaps this is just what an independence celebration should do: move us forward, not into some euphoric fog of political pretension, but with eyes wide open, upward and onward to the justice, truth and charity promised in our anthem.
Such powerful potential is already embedded in our Lucian scrap book, and if we had a national museum, we could go visit such things and be deeply enlightened. We would be able to spend real time with our sweet and bitter memories, objects and images over which we would weep, and smile in congratulatory satisfaction and remorseful catharsis. Then, the simple truth would dawn: we will find relevance in the outer world, when we achieve relevance within.
People who have persevered as we have, should abandon neither memory nor dream. We need both in order to overthrow the myopia threatening to whittle us back to the mundane, the petty, the ordinary. Suitably armed, we can choose to move on to the thousand other ways of viewing ourselves and telling our story. Adversity does not have to be our recurring finale. We are still young, and not entirely unwise.
Our unique and original listwa, is still brewing in the boyo of our imaginations, gestating in minds and bodies, young and old. This island can still be an ambitious, expansive place, unafraid to attempt things not done before. We can be our own statement and response: a Walcottian mirror in which we greet ourselves entering our own door.
Arriving there, we will see ourselves moving forward, from adversity to deserved celebration, across generations as we are accustomed, transforming our circumstances from the shards of past and present. This is the only grail of meaningful development, and we would do well, at times of sudden and shortlived largesse, to keep such thoughts at the forefront of the national imagination.
By holding unapologetically to a collective ambition, we might just recover sufficient wisdom to become again that symbol of hope and light which first fills us and burns so bright that it inspires a world where culture, people, development and the art of dreaming remain forever inseparable.
NOTE: Adrian Augier is a development economist, an independent senator and St. Lucia’s 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year. He is an award-winning poet and producer and a Caribbean Laureate of Arts and Letters. He has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of the West Indies for his contribution to regional development and culture, and the Saint Lucia Medal of Merit (Gold) for his contribution to art and literature. For more information on this writer and his work visit adrianaugier.blogspot.com.