Questions on Dominica's 43rd independence anniversary
By Dr. Emanuel Finn
I have nostalgic and patriotic memories of the early morning hours of November 2nd and 3rd, 1978 when I marched in two parades to celebrate Dominica's political independence. The first was with the Dominica Cadet Corps in the military parade. This was a very proud and emotional occasion witnessing the lowering of the Union Jack for the last time and the raising of the Dominican flag. The second was as a DGS student in the multicolored uniform school parade.
This 48-hour span was filled with optimism, hope, dreams, and aspirations of a bright future for our Nature isle. But less than a year later, Dominica was hit by Hurricane David and a political crisis that culminated with the May 1979 uprising. Both these natural and man-made disasters nearly destroyed our newly minted island. But together as a people we soldiered on and weathered both storms.
But today on Dominica's 43rd independent anniversary, a veil of darkness and despair hovers over our land. Some hard questions need to be asked. Why is there so much bitterness, acrimony stress, and poverty in the land and how are public policy decisions made? Can one explain the difference between the arrogance and strength of certain politicians and why?
What about the Citizenship by Investment Programme? Who is and what legally constitutes a Dominican citizen today? Is it ok if a Dominican citizen who cannot even pronounce the name of a village or one of Dominica's 365 rivers is still a citizen? Can he/she vote in our general and local elections? Does the National Anthem mean much today – land of thy birth I pledge to thee?
What about the many recommendations by the international organizations on election reform and what about the tireless work of the Electoral Commission? Moving forward and looking towards the near future, how will an avant-garde and progressive leader move our country forward with peace and harmony? And will market forces and social media (not Robin Hood politicians) bring about the changes that Dominica desperately needs to get a new sense of order, purpose, and direction?
This independence anniversary leaves me with a tight knot in my stomach and a feeling of dread in my chest. You can call it independence day blues. That expression seems hollow but that hollow feeling causes me to reflect on what the independence of our nation might mean for our children, and their children, henceforth. It is going to bring more industrial and technological growth and development?
I have always believed that independence means two simple things: Whatever happens will happen, and what will happen or is happening to us and our country is our fault. But also, it is within our power to take responsibility and change things, and blaming others for our situations is something we should avoid doing. I believe that if we don't "blame" ourselves for most of the bad predicaments that we find ourselves in, then we will never really be able to change our situation, our lives, and our country for the better.
Of course, there are many things in life that are beyond our control, such as pandemics, hurricanes, deaths in the family, and some financial failures and personal mishaps. But certainly, there are things and situations that we can change. For me, the first rule of being independent is to take charge of what we have, what we can do, and what and how we can plan wisely.
We as a people are always ready to blame politicians, history, the job market, employers, and a hundred more "others and things". But in the final analysis, it is up to all of us- as citizens especially the young men and women, educated at the highest level to call the shots while seeking guidance from the older and more experienced folks and those we may disagree with. Stop vilifying and admiring MPs on social media and on the radio. Respect them (if respect is due) and recognize them for their good works.
What do you want, may I ask? Would you like to have a Covid-19 stimulus relief package and/or unemployment insurance? Then ask for it and demand it? Other countries have these considerations and much need concessions so why not us? Make it happen. How? Figure it out! Find out what democracy is and where your rights and opportunities lie. Organize, mobilize (within the boundaries of the law), and peacefully gather your 15,000 strength in numbers and list your demands. No political party or politician who wants to rule can govern, or ignore 15,000 citizens, voters, and votes. Bottom of form. Independence means things are our own responsibility, not other people's. Independence means that we are responsible for every action that is taken on our behalf. We need to be more critical about accepting the narratives of leaders and 'others'.
My advice to younger people is to stop Instagramming, spending time on Tiktok and on FB, or on playing computer games and listen to more TED talks. Please read more and attend more forums and spend more time in fruitful discussion, debates and planning the future of our nation because soon it is going to be yours to govern. Teach yourself about the constitution, the untold history of the nation, and the real lessons of our past leaders.
Young people, the nation's independence is your own personal and individual independence and independent responsibility. Never allow others to shape your nation because her future is entwined with yours.
Today most Dominicans eagerly wait for that bright and optimistic dawn in Dominica again like the one we experienced on November 3rd, 1978.