As a junior reporter at The Chronicle newspaper in St. Maarten in the early 90s, I shied away from the political beat. Partly because I thought politics was way over my head and I didn’t think those speaking made much sense. Not sure much has changed about politics but I do know that it is not time for any of us to sit idly by and watch other people make the decisions about our future.
In a private conversation with political analyst recently, he remarked that the politicians of today are not the same as the Bradshaws, Birds, Burnhams and Barrows of the 50s and 60s, who lead their nations to independence from the British. “These men were going after something bigger than themselves,” he told me. “It is why we still cannot talk about a nation’s history without mentioning their legacy.”
He added that the new breed of politicians in the 80s and 90s and more so this century suffer from short-sightedness and certainly a desire only to secure their own future. This is not to say that the men I mentioned earlier did not profit from their time in office, they certainly did but they took their nations along with them.
History records these past leaders as militant trade unionists. They dared to believe that their homeland did not have to stay under the heavy-handed rule of the British.They were able to sell this dream to the masses and propel the movement towards the independent nations we have today. Bird, Bradshaw, Burnham set the stage for the creation of CARICOM but it is yet to become the force it has the potential to be, I believe because of the desire of each nation to be separate rather than join forces.
Now 20 years after shying away from politics, I am looking at the political arena across the Caribbean and wondering if this is the time for the entrepreneurs to take over government?
The political and global landscape has changed. The recent economic challenges in other nations affected the region as well. A shift from bi-lateral agreements between the large donor country and individual islands, is giving way to multi-lateral partnerships that must be inclusive of more than one nation in the region. The individualistic nature of the past 20 to 30 years of politics must give way to a unified vision for the Caribbean.
Visonaries, Dreamers, Salesmen, Initiators, Nation Builders. Words that can describe the men I identified above or today’s Caribbeanpreneurs, as I prefer to call them.
Men and women who are passionate about not just the country of their birth but who see the Caribbean as home. They understand that no nation was ever built and can not be built without the input of people from other lands and that it was always our Caribbean brothers and sisters who took the chance and moved to other islands to make life for themselves and us.
I believe we need some risk taking and innovative minds to negotiate new terms of reference with the nations of the world we still rely on for support. We need minds that have not been bogged down with political red tape and process to see other ways of operating rather than maintain a course that has proven to lead nowhere and wastes resources. Caribbeanpreneurs come with an inner courage to take steps that may never have been tried before because they recognize the old has not worked and it is insanity to continue an ineffective process.
We need some students of history and culture in our executive councils and parliaments who understand the legacy we have been endowed with whether by force or choice and who also see the possibilities of using this legacy to our advantage rather than allowing it to be a millstone around the necks of our children.
The Caribbean is crying out for new leadership. Politicians that are willing to see beyond staying in office and building nations that will make a mark in the world. They must get back in the business of building people not just offices; creating sustainable livelihoods which reduce our dependence on tourists; and connecting with our Caribbean neighbors in new and meaningful ways because we will be stronger together. We need people who don’t just see an opportunity to make quick cash for themselves but develop ventures that can employ and empower others.
Caribbeanpreneurs don’t fit a formula or script but they have one goal in mind and that is making a mark, improving their nations and increasing the opportunities for people to be independent and have secure futures. It would be nice to see a few of these faces taking a step into the political arena rather than sitting on the sidelines.
I wonder if this could be our time to shine?