There’s something in the air we breathe or the increasingly scarce water we drink that causes an island existence to lead, if not to indolence, then certainly an acceptance of a lack of urgency in everyday life.
After having spent most of this century on island, I have, in recent months, been travelling the globe on business and pleasure picking up old relationships and forging new alliances. And what have struck me most are not the differences between people, places and institutions, but the similarities. People, in my world, are equal in that we share the same physical properties, the same intellectual possibilities and even the same challenges that oft times lead to boundless opportunities. In my world, it’s all in the mind, the mindset.
On one trip, I had cause to visit a centre in Scandinavia where immigrants are received. The reception area was like a vast, luxurious hotel lobby with clean, polished wooden furniture, paintings on the wall, poster boards full of pertinent, up to date information, and a multitude of polite, interested, efficient staff capable of solving every question or seeking advice where needed in air-conditioned efficiency.
Generally speaking, the Scandinavian countries have pursued a liberal immigration policy in recent decades. The population of Sweden, for example, has grown from around 7 million to not far from 10 million in the quarter of a century since I left that country to make my home in Saint Lucia. Sweden, it would seem, has become a truly multi-cultural society that respects and welcomes its new citizens with open arms. I looked at the faces in the reception area, all the people before me, and realized that mine was the only white face waiting to be served. The wait wasn’t long.
Within minutes I had been interviewed, processed and repatriated. I watched, listened, observed. As far as I could see the receptionists treated every applicant with the same respect and consideration despite the numerous language difficulties. Every form existed in a multitude of languages, even going as far as audio versions presumably for applicants who were illiterate.
In the streets of our village, or rather the villages that make up our community, there were lots of shades and hues, some black, some swarthy, some sallow, some brown. The shops and supermarkets were miniature Towers of Babel peppered with broken Swedish. All immigrants are given the opportunity to learn Swedish through the omnipresent adult education system. Almost every Swede for that matter takes part in adult education classes one or two evenings a week. Education is a national pastime, so immigrants learning to speak the language, so as to more easily assimilate into society, is nothing out of the ordinary.
But that is not what this A-Musing is all about. Let me go back to the beginning, the water we drink and the air we breathe, and let me ask myself, “Why do I accept lower standards of efficiency and behaviour in Saint Lucia, when Saint Lucians abroad, away from their ‘home’ environment, are just as hard working, efficient, reliable, honest, pleasant and positive as everyone else?
Why, in Saint Lucia, is it acceptable for people not to turn up on time, not to keep appointments, not to complete tasks within an agree timeframe, and not to honour agreements when those very same Saint Lucians, transported to another environment, another society, will perform just as well, just as decently, as anyone else and even better without a word of complaint?
Why do Saint Lucians in Canada venture out in the snow, Saint Lucians in England battle driving rain, Saint Lucians in Scandinavia wrap up and face freezing ice, sleet and snow, while Saint Lucians at home stay at home because ‘rain fallin’?
Why, when faced with largesse from abroad, gifts and grants worth millions, wall-to-wall computers, technical innovations to drool over, do Saint Lucians and Saint Lucian authorities allow state-of-the-art technology to go to waste, unattended, un-serviced, unloved, and un-or-underutilized, while Saint Lucians abroad continue to amaze and astound with their dexterity and discipline in everything IT?
My fellow Saint Lucians, it is time to wake up. Folks, the idle complaint that “Saint Lucia ain’t ready” don’t work no more. The world don’t owe you nuthin! Get your act together. You are better than you know! If you can do it out there, you can do it here. Get off your collective asses and get to work – and that includes all of us!