Editorial: On fecklessness and fear

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It is that palpable sense of fear – that unmistakable feeling that if the body politic dares to ‘speak truth to power,’ there will be consequences and repercussions – ‘things’ will happen too dastardly to contemplate. Actually, forget about our earlier word  ‘feeling’ and substitute it with the word, ‘fact.’ The fact of the matter is that a cloud of foreboding and dread has descended on our bit of paradise and there is a chilling climate of fear. We can cite numerous and varied examples of intimidation and bullying, but in the interest of time and space, we will mention only one.
Who can forget the unseemly and despicable threats, implied and otherwise, uttered by a recent political candidate cum MP, daring the Antigua Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) to test the will and the steel of the ruling apparatus? It was an unfortunate assault on free speech, freedom of association and the right to self-determination, and it effectively cowed and silenced the ABPSA. Indeed, save for a smattering of weak condemnations, and an equally weak threat to report the matter to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the ABPSA scurried to its corner with its tail between its legs, licking its wounds and whimpering like an abused puppy. Good grief! As the legendary union man and fighter, Sir Keithlyn Smith, wistfully wondered aloud on OBSERVER radio a few weeks ago, “What the hell has happened to us?”
And where are our community leaders? Where are the various civic bodies? Where is the church? Ah, the church! Seems the late, great, Leonard ‘Tim’ Hector was on to something when he once remarked, “The church is silent; is that consent?” In every nook and cranny, from every hill and dale in this fair land, the silence is deafening! The response to the shenanigans of officialdom, for the most part, has been apologetic, weak-kneed and wobbly. Men and women, heretofore viewed with much respect, and once thought of as the conscience of the nation and the voice of the poor, oppressed and voiceless, have suddenly and mysteriously lost their own voices. Apathy? Perhaps. Fecklessness and fear? Most assuredly! Again we echo Sir Keithlyn’s most perplexing of questions, “What the hell has happened to us?”
Interestingly, a contributor to an OBSERVER radio show yesterday offered this stunning assessment of the tenor and temper of the times, and with much thanks and much credit to him or her, we will cite the remarks: “Antiguans live in a culture soaked in fear. People don’t even know what they are afraid of anymore. Dem jus fraid! Dem fraid ebryting! Fear of speaking out! Fear of being identified! Fear of being targeted! Fear of being ostracised! Fear of being called out! Fear of crime! Fear of driving conditions! Fear of the hurting pockets! Fear of hunger! Fear of standing out from the bleak background! . . . The trickle-down effect is a docile, slave-like, carn-knock-up, whey e drop e top kinda culture and mentality!” We submit that this is the kind of milieu that would make even the notorious Machiavelli blush.
We further submit that, as President Franklin Roosevelt once declared, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!” Let us stop fearing the sound of our own voices! And speak out! Remember the sad and haunting words of Martin Niemoller, “First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak up because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak up because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me!” (Sigh) In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., whose assassination we marked yesterday, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter!” (Sigh)

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