GG: ‘St Lucians Used to Hardship!’

Acting police commissioner Vernon Francois accompanies Dame Pearlette Louisy on inspection of guard.

Looking “as sharp as ever,” to quote one of NTN’s two color commentators yesterday morning, the governor general proceeded to read from her prepared script. (With all the available technology, isn’t it high time we made it appear Dame Pearlette delivers her speeches ad libitum? You know, like Obama delivering his State of the Union address?)
“I would have liked to bring you some great news,” she said, “some glad tidings which would set your world to right. Alas, this is not the case; the world is in turmoil. On this occasion, I am reminded of the terrible tragedy that has befallen Greece and mindful, perhaps, of the connections between the Greek civilization and our tiny nation. Eight years ago Greece celebrated the triumph of the 28th Olympiad. Now it has found itself mired in debt and austerity and must walk a fiscal tightrope with an uncertain net below.”
There were many tragic stories that had come to us from the Greeks, she recalled, stories of states once great. There was Plato’s, for instance, about Atlantis. And Homer’s Iliad, which recounts the demise of Helen of Troy.
So much Greek just “to emphasize that we cannot allow Helen of the West, as we proclaim ourselves to be, to become a tragedy like Helen of Troy. We must ensure that our journey through these times and the decades to come maintains a humble but resolute desire for peace and success.”  Ensure our journey maintains a humble desire for peace? How do you do that?
Moreover if Helen of Troy represents tragedy, and not unparrelled beauty, then why was this chunk of paradise named after her? I quickly reminded myself that Dame Pearlette was merely reading what she was required to read, whether or not it made sense to anyone other than its author.
She went on: “Let our story be a story of hope and courage despite all the troubles of our difficult past. Let not the poet write about us in depressed and diminished words. Let not our story be sung in a sad and mournful key.”
For crying out loud, who writes these depressing speeches? Is he or she saying, via the governor general’s mouth, that our difficulties are behind us? Besides, how do you write, with or without poetic
license, “in depressed and diminished words?” Surely the writer meant to have the GG say “with words that depress or diminish.” After all, words per se cannot be “depressed and diminished.” Only people can,
especially when forced to listen to what amounts to an insult to their intelligence.
But then the governor general did say we would ourselves write our own history. And doubtless free, like Humpty Dumpty, to do as we please with words!                    In any case, enough of that. Let’s get to the meat of the feast: “Fellow Saint Lucians, as you already know, these are troubling times for us and the world. The global economy is in turmoil . . . Our friends in Europe are hampered by prolonged stagnation. With the euro zone expected to enter into mild recession, returning only to modest growth in the second half of 2012.
“Even this tentative outlook is clouded by ongoing uncertainty, concerns about high sovereign debt and depressed demand. The outlook will continue for as long as the sluggish global economy weakens demand for European exports, keeping business and consumer confidence at low levels, despite some stabilization observed in the financial sector. In the United States of America, the threat of another recession is retreating slowly but signs of economic recovery in North America are highly dependent upon the European scenario, where major policy adjustments are yet to be affected.”
The story was equally dismal in Asia, “where growth prospects are also hampered by weak global demand and could be
wiped out by any further rises in oil prices or disruptions in the supply. So consequently, for the time being, and sadly, for the foreseeable future,
we are largely on our own. As a nation we must rely on ourselves and on each other, if we are to prosper.”
It was a frighteningly familiar story, but not new. For the last two years, at least, it had been the center of news bulletins worldwide. Indeed, something about this particular Throne Speech sounded almost callously déjà vu. Where had I heard it before? And then it hit me.
But first, consider this: “As we reflect on the state of our country, as we ponder on the challenges which we must confront, and as we search for solutions to our problems, it becomes apparent that notwithstanding the
influence of the external environment, it is our own internal strength and conviction that will have the greatest bearing on our survival.”
Ring a bell? Was the message of the preceding paragraph not the same as that expressed yesterday by the governor general?: “As a nation we must rely on ourselves and on each other, if we are to prosper.”
Then there is this: “A survey of the global landscape at this time reveals a pretty grim state of affairs . . . Some obvious examples come to mind. Disasters, natural and man-made, in different parts of
the world; unrest in several countries, particularly in the Middle East and in North Africa as populations rise up in their quest for democracy; factional violence, almost descending to civil war . . . spiraling prices of oil and petroleum-related products, with knockout effects on every other sector of society; increasing food prices, the near collapse of some economies . . .
“Even as we meet here Japan is recovering from a
massive earthquake and tsunami, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives, there is an ongoingthreat of radioactive  fallout . . .”         And what about this, like the immediately preceding paragraph, taken from the governor general’s Throne Speech of April 14, 2011. In the time of de lyin’ King: “We in Saint Lucia have not been spared the effects of the global economic and financial meltdown or the ravages that seem to have engulfed the world in recent times . . . Therefore, being dependent on imported petroleum products for so much of our energy and other daily needs, we are now bearing the brunt of increased prices for these products on the world market. Increased food prices due to droughts, floods and other natural phenomena in different parts of the world are now the order of the
day . . .”
And on top of all of that there was Tomas. But we needn’t go back into that. The point here being underscored is that Stephenson King did not invent the doomsday stories of his time. Neither has the writer of the latest Throne Speech. But when King suggested we were on our own, stuck in rough seas without a paddle, the then opposition suggested otherwise. Regardless of how bad things were overseas, they persistently observed, King aught to be doing something to stay afloat. And now we know the something the then opposition had in mind was taxes.
A small digression: Referring to the overseas economic situation, where forced reduced government spending and forced reduced government benefits and social services have brought protesters to the streets, many economists, including the chief economist of Commerzbank in Frankfurt said: “Rejecting austerity budgets in favor of more government spending will not automatically ensure economic growth. The last thing these economies need is a debt-financed stimulus program. These governments are having enough trouble financing their existing debt, much less coming up with money for stimulus spending by whatever name.”
Said the governor general yesterday, with her straightest official face: “The Saint Lucian people are no strangers to hardship. We do not run from adversity. We know the value of perseverance and the strength of unity. We understand the concept of community. These times demand that we remember a day when money and opportunity did not divide us but gave us reason to come together, to collaborate, knowing that if even one of us succeeded to the summit, it would be a triumph for the family, the community, the nation. We need to remember and rediscover these qualities within ourselves and in each other, and know that together we can join in the common enterprise which is the salvation and success of fair Helen.”
Yeah, right!
“For too long,” read the GG, “too many of us have been content to feel that the job of shaping the nation’s future is the responsibility of government alone. For too long many of us have felt that we have a right to stand by and wait for the fruit of good fortune to fall from the tree which has been planted by the sweat of others . . . This pretence works only in the mind, so it is there that we must start with the transformation . . . We must not be afraid to let our good example shine. We must let our good intentions, our good deeds, inspire others—especially our children who need nurture beyond material things.”
Fruit of good fortune?
“We observe worldwide that the pursuit of democracy arises when people want to find common ground and balance,” read the GG. “We see the Arab Spring still
on . . . Democracy without equity is unsustainable. Like a raft heading toward the treacheries of a waterfall, the waters of discontent and disenchantment can speed up ever so calmly before it is too late to discern the dangers ahead . . . My government is committed to participatory democracy that embraces all sectors of society.” As I recall, the iron-fisted Mubarak and Gadaffi, Bashar al-Assad, too, had at one time or another also claimed to run their countries by the principles of democracy, whether or not “participatory.”
I couldn’t agree more with the GG when she said:     “This is a time when we must call on our reserves of energy, determination and perseverance. It is a time to pull together, to move Saint Lucia forward, and in so doing reshape, if not the present, then the future which we intend to live in.”
That message is no more timely today than it had been in the time of Stephenson King!

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