A backward glance and a forward look

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King Solo declares in his classic, HISTORIC OCCASION, that “Independence time is on my mind / We go dance freedom song, we go dance to folk song / With joy in our hearts and hope in our breasts . . . .”. He is capturing, quite nicely, the tenor and temper of this time, our fortieth anniversary of Independence. We danced. We celebrated. We paraded. We ate. We are grateful for that which we have achieved thus far, and we are determined to move the ball even further along in that quest for a betterment here in Antigua and Barbuda, fulfilling the dream of our ancestors. Seems, we can say like the scriptures, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us!” We give thanks!

We kicked off our Independence celebrations with a moving Thanksgiving Service at the St John’s Pentecostal House of Restoration, followed by the Heroes Day wreath-laying ceremony at Heroes Park. We stand on the broad shoulders of all our national heroes, those responsible, in large part, for the strides that we have made thus far. We will forever honour them! The National Dress Day was quite exciting, what with so many Antiguans and Barbudans getting into the joy and spirit of the occasion, flaunting our colours with panache and flair. The ceremonial parade, full of much pomp and circumstance, was indeed a moment of great pride, as was the announcement of an impressive list of national honorees. We salute them!

The pop up food fair was another big and gastronomically pleasing moment here in Antigua and Barbuda. Seems, notwithstanding the cancellation of the official event at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antiguan and and Barbudan food vendors were not going to be denied. In every village, and on almost every corner and empty lot, stalls were erected, and all manner of local treats were served up for the hundreds of patrons who made the rounds. We ate, drank, and made merry.   

Of course, notwithstanding the euphoria, the feel-good moments, the flags, the anthem and the bunting, we are keenly aware that our Independence is not complete. There is work to be done yet. Let us disabuse ourselves of the notion that we have arrived. We took a baby step on November 1, 1981, and it is incumbent on us that we forward on to true and full Independence. King Short Shirt’s ILLUSION is instructive, especially the lines that say, “You told the youths that they are free, and slavery has lost its sting / But they are not fools, and they can see, your lying deep within . . .We have no hold on this our native island, our hands are tied, we don’t control our actions . . .”Hmmmm!

In that regard, we can look to our brothers and sisters in Barbados who will be formally severing all ties with the British monarchy in time for Independence later this month (November 30). No more Queen as head of State! That role will now be filled by a Barbadian. According to the Bajan Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, “The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind . . .This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving.” Indeed! Would to the high heavens that we follow quickly in the footsteps of the Bajans. Independence 2022 is as good a time as any for us to renounce the Queen as our head of State.  As Prime Minister Errol Barrow of the self-same Barbados declared on its attainment of Independence in 1966, we ought not to linger on colonial premises. Let us completely cut the umbilical cords!

Of course, severing ties with the Privy Council and embracing the Caribbean Court of Justice as our apex court is also another critical step in our growth and maturity as a nation. A pox on the self doubt and the misguided fears and the distrust and the inferiority complexes. These are vestiges of our dreadful colonial past. Remember, it was drilled into psyches by those who enslaved us that we were inferior – not too bright, and one-third human – and given to malingering. We must shake off that mindset. It cripples us!

Interestingly, right smack on the heels of our Independence celebrations is the COP26 in Glasgow, under the chairmanship of the United Kingdom and Italy. This COP (Conference of the Parties) is believed by many to be the world’s best last chance to solve our existential climate problem. It is a shame that two of the world’s biggest offenders, China and Russia, have chosen to stay away from COP26. May history forever condemn them for their sinful abstention. President Biden called Xi Jinping’s absence, “a big mistake!”  Indeed!

Anyway, even as we talk independence, we need the big polluters of the world, those with the outsized carbon footprints, to come to our aid, in a big way, in fighting against the dastardly effects of climate change. We saw what happened in Barbuda with Hurricane Irma. We saw it again in the Bahamas with Hurricane Dorian. This fight is not our own. We did not start it, and we sure will not be able to prosecute it by our lonesome. There has to be collaboration. The big polluters must help us build resiliency, and make some sort of meaningful restitution for the damages caused by their profligacy, the extreme weather events which wreak havoc on small islands such as ours. Think, climate justice!

As you can imagine, we have been hearing much chatter out of Glasgow. We certainly trust that it is not hot air! The world does not need more pollution! Yesterday was finance day at the COP26 climate summit and many companies and big institutions made pledges and bared their plans as to how they will move to low-carbon emissions. There were also breakthrough plans on saving our forests, cutting methane emissions from oil and gas wells, pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, and transitioning to green technologies. All well and good!

Nonetheless, we trust that this is not another nightmare party, as so mockingly sung by The Mighty Chalice back in the late seventies. If you recall, at Chalice’s party, there was a huge gathering of the important world leaders of the day (President Carter, the Ayatollah, etc), who engaged in “all shop-talk and ignorance,” boasting about unimportant things, instead of tackling the real issues affecting their people and the people of the world. According to the first verse, “One night I was sleepin, I suddenly start dreamin / A nightmare hold me, take me to a party, Lawd / I was shock when I reach inside, all I see is a big, big swine / Baldhead laughin and gigglin, sippin dey wine and feelin fine / And when de wine get up in dey head, dey start talkin all kinda stupidness . . .” Sigh!

Spare us the ignominy of another wasted world effort, Lord!  The clock is ticking on Planet Earth! No tower of Babel in Glasgow!

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