Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Response To Stabroek News on the "Ideal Caribbean Person"

Defending CARICOM: A Response to the Stabroek News’ Editorial “Ideal Caribbean Person”!
September 26, 2008

Dear Editor,

I had alluded previously to the dangerous and culturally toxic rhetoric that now pervades the social and political athmosphere in Guyana, and had hopefully addressed some of its recent EPA-driven manifestations in "A Deadly Storm of Rhetoric in Guyana About CARICOM and the EPA" ( )

But now, an astonishingly crude effort at editorship (using as its foundation another article by one BC Pires in the Trinidad Express) raises the ante even further. Not since the debacle of its sinister and racist "Cockroaches" editorial has the Stabroek News exhibited this degree of chicanery!

An elitist segment of the Caribbean population seems to have declared war on CARICOM ... for all the wrong reasons. If we must offer a critique of CARICOM and its institutions, then let's focus on the factual evidence, not sophistry.

Without reading BC Pires’s treatment, I had to read this SN editorial of Friday 26th September 2008 several times over. For good reason. The editorial clearly outdistances any of the recent event-reactive gibberish that usually flows from the pen of some of our Editors, and sets new standards of pettifoggery and witlessness.

It seems to effortlessly achieve its reckless launch … by validating someone called BC Pires without bothering itself with the necessary trouble of reflective thinking. This is plagiarist insensitivity and intellectual incompetence at its worst.

I promise to read BC Pires later and comment appropriately, but am very glad that I skipped immediately to the Caricom-webpage to see what the furore was all about. My initial reaction (to the CARICOM descriptive) was very positive!

One sincere conclusion is that this SN editorial is testimony to the cake-shop mentality that has replaced erudition in our society today, and the generous nonsense that has replaced the capacity to abstract, and to articulate a higher ideal.

I almost gagged when I saw that the SN Editor had replaced CARICOM's lofty effort at disavowing abortion and war (”… imbued with a respect for human life since it is the foundation on which all the other desired values must rest…”) with the careless and infantile insinuation of “… we think that the ideal Caribbean person is someone who loves his or her family and country, life and a good time, not necessarily in that order…”

Now this last is the thinking of an eighteen-year old, pure and simple … and is trite and shallow. It exemplifies the trendy rubbish of the language of the beer-commercial on TV. Repeat it often enough and you will see what I mean.

Who is this “we”, then, referred to in the editorial … does the writer speak for the ownership of Stabroek News? Or is this Editorial licence gone amok?

If that was not shocking enough, the editor then refers to the clear language of the descriptive “… is emotionally secure with a high level of self confidence and self esteem ...” with the arrogant, even asinine, comment: “... what’s the real difference?...”

If this had come from anywhere other than a respected newspaper, I would simply have ignored it.

But this is the Stabroek News, people, the Stabroek News! Here's a point that should not have to be made ... the editorial staff should have taken the time to acknowledge that there IS a subtle yet distinct difference in the meaning of “self-confidence” and “self-esteem” ... a realistic confidence in one’s own judgment, ability, power, etc. as against a realistic respect for or favorable overall impression of oneself. The latter leads to the former.

Now any dimwit of an editor should have checked the dictionary before making that dismissive a statement, but in a seamless moment of arrogance and childishness born out of a rage to discredit CARICOM on this non-issue, the staff writer opted for the easy way out.

Now if the above made us uncomfortable, the next should make us see red.
The rabid snarling in the SN editorial thereafter focuses on transforming CARICOM's next four ideals of the ideal Caribbean person ( “… sees ethnic, religious and other diversity as a source of potential strength and richness; is aware of the importance of living in harmony with the environment; has a strong appreciation of family and kinship values, community cohesion, and moral issues including responsibility for and accountability to self and community; has an informed respect for the cultural heritage;… ") into the awesome and fathomless drabness of its own jaundiced vision "… The ideal Caribbean person is someone who holds fast to whatever faith she or he believes in …. We are talking about a force that comes from within… ”. This is a case study in heady high-school logic in the absence of moral suasion.

Does “… whatever faith she or he believes in … ” include murder, violence, anarchy, atheism, racism, nepotisn? Because these are relevant concerns where an intense and overt moral sanction or restraint is absent in the belief system.
Do we really need to go back to a time when (Hindu Guyanese) Rhyaan Shah interpreted the Guyana National Motto "One People, One Nation, One Destiny" to mean " ... a racist creed of oneness ..." to see what this " ... force that comes from within ..." could mean to those with the same diseased outlook.

Now, we Christians of the Caribbean look to Jesus the Christ, and find no distress therein, no trouble with reconciling democracy with our religion ....

Despite the oil-shocks of the 70s, the debt-trauma of the 80s, the social and political upheavals of the 90s and the economic imperatives of the first decade of the new century, the hopes of CARICOM that a post-1997 “Ideal Caribbean Person” could bring to bear vision and wisdom as he or she “… demonstrates multiple literacies, independent and critical thinking, questions the beliefs and practices of past and present and brings this to bear on the innovative application of science and technology to problems solving …” are lost on SN’s Editor … and we are all the poorer … as a people and a region … after this latest bit of intellectual mischief and skulduggery (... what's the real difference?).

This staff writer should cease and desist!

Yours faithfully
Roger Williams
September 26, 2008

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