As Ronald Reagan said to Jimmy Carter: “Here we go again!”
In an article entitled ‘Where is the Real George Bush?’ that appeared in the 26 January 1987 issue of Time magazine, Robert Ajemian reported that a friend of Bush had urged him to spend several days at Camp David thinking through his plans for his prospective presidency, and that an exasperated Bush had replied: “Oh, the vision thing.”
This often-cited quote soon became shorthand for the charge that Bush failed to contemplate or articulate important policy positions in a coherent manner.
Since then the phrase has become a metonym for any politician’s failure to incorporate a greater vision in a campaign. In Saffire’s Political Dictionary, “the vision thing” is defined as “a world-weary acknowledgement that a leader must articulate inspiring goals.” A leader without vision is a leader destined to take his people into the sewers.
What then to make of the following shocking acknowledgement?: “Our country needs a vision. It needs a plan, a strategy, a coherence of minds, a consensus among all parties, public and private on the way forward . . .”
By all the governor general said this week, the leader of this country in need of a vision and a plan has decided to recruit “state actors including Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” in the best interests of a commission “charged with leading the dialogue for crafting a national vision and strategy.”
Sounds contradictory, you say? Maybe, but let’s not forget we are talking about a country without vision, a country also in need of “a coherence of minds, a consensus of all parties.”
You make do with what you have. But what if the identified coherence and consensus should take us even deeper into the sewer? At least we’ll be able to blame the whole country, not just its leader!
But seriously: has there been a recent change in the make-up of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition? Is it still led by an individual who for the last decade, at least, has consistently been written off, even by illiterates, as unread and untutored, not to say work-shy? Will the envisaged actors and crafters of “a national vision and strategy” include that other former prime minister famously described in a book by the current leader of this country in need of a vision as the epitome of “vindictiveness, narrow-mindedness and pedigreed arrogance?”
According to the author of The Rainbow’s Edge: “Some thought he might’ve attempted to clean out the rot, cut the patronage and excise corruption. Instead of rising to his historic opportunity, Vaughan Lewis sank to the lowest common moral and intellectual denominator. Not even John Compton in his worst moments ever sank so low.”
No need to go into the author’s somewhat self-serving recollection of Compton’s “worst moments.” But speaking of John Compton: during the 1997 general elections that introduced the present prime minister to the electorate, this was how a retired Compton explained his own return to the hustings: “I’ve fought too hard against the Barnards to see this country taken over by another Barnard.” The reference had everything to do with the so-called sugar-cane era, the start of which the governor general referenced in her most recent Throne Speech:
“There are times when the story of Saint Lucia, our story of survival and success as a people, should be remembered, particularly when our paths seem uncertain and muddied. This because these chapters, long trapped in book and manuscript, affect the psyche of our people and at times even our outlook, whether of sorrow or of joy.
“In April 1763, exactly two hundred and fifty years ago, on the plains of Vieux Fort, the first blades of cane of a sugar estate within our island sprung to life. For the colonizing power and its settlers the early shoots ushered new economic opportunity, except that it was constructed on oppression, violence and inhumanity. Indeed it was the beginning of a new era in our history. A defining period in our narrative. The outlook of the inhabitants then was solely to Western Europe and its other immediate colonies to the north.
“Beyond the new products of muscovado, molasses and rum which infused the delight and delirium of the wealthy in the north, there ensued the sordid, souring curse on an entire continent as the complexion of our island transformed under the injustice of an enslaved people. Yet, even so, a people lived on, despite all the tribulations and hardships.
“By 1963, exactly fifty years ago, another defining moment in this island was witnessed. Two centuries of sweat and slashing in the cane fields faded to memory as the DENROS sugar factories closed. The chattel chains had been broken 125 years before that, and the enterprise of iniquity collapsed from competition from abroad. Its impact, thus, is now relegated to the ruins of windmill and water wheel and the subsidizing of imported sugar.”
Of course, that is not as John Compton remembered the last days of the sugar-plantation era. In his telling and according to the recollection of others who had joined him in his historic fight against that “enterprise of iniquity” DENROS (a company combining sugar factories in Dennery and Roseau, in which Geest was also involved), represented the evil that had first “sprung to life in 1763.”
The only difference was that in 1963 its main beneficiary was one Dennis Barnard—a close relative of the current prime minister. I cannot help wondering why, in the process of preparing the script to be read by Dame Pearlette Louisy, the writer had neglected to offer the smallest hint as to the identity of the man who finally had broken the back of the recalled “sordid, souring curse.”
But then, what to expect from the leader of a country in need of a vision, a country in need of a plan, a strategy, a coherence of minds? Now he says, through the mouth of the Dame, that “the bounty of that banana boom [having] withered, there is a desire to move our survival beyond the sea and sand to a prosperity determined by the state of our minds and wills.”
Yes, dear reader, you read that right. Our present condition has nothing to do with the poor leadership underscored recently by Dwight Venner, visionless leadership that mindlessly had landed our nation with crippling indebtedness. It has nothing to do with our consequent inability to feed and appropriately educate ourselves. In any event, the panacea to all our problems resided in our adoption of a new mindset.
“Capitalizing on our island’s charm, its beauty and its beaches,” we can turn things around. “Even as we enjoy the benefits of tourism, there is a desire to move our survival beyond the sea and sand to a prosperity determined by the state of our minds and our wills.”
After all, “we decide our fates in the world. We decide what we shall plant, what economy we shall carve, what language we shall speak, what values we shall teach our children, what friends we shall keep.”
Which is of course nothing but the truth. But then since we had been making all of these decisions for ourselves from 1979, who should we blame for our present predicament?
Who to blame if it turns out we are indeed a country in need of a vision, a plan, a strategy—and therefore headed full throttle down the toilet?