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“The Vision Thing,” of Sum over the Parts

"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out and meet it."Thucydides

Anyone who dares to tell you that Trinidad and Tobago as a nation is better off if the people remain at ‘loggerheads,’ or divided socially and economically is a disingenuous and dangerous fool that should be avoided at all cost. Sometimes it is difficult to appreciate that we are simply blessed until you get a chance to travel and communicate with others so as to get a feel for what they have or had to endure in their quest to achieve some semblance of economic or political success in their respective countries. It’s why some of the most enthused and nationalistic citizens emerged from those that leave the shores of our country. That is, until they come back home for there yearly carnival jump up rituals, or an occasional visits to Manzanilla, Chickland, Lambeau, and Bacolet ,to visit relatives who bombard them with the disheartening news about how terrible the country is. Ever the optimist, I prefer to look at what we as a people possess and have exported internationally on most occasions. I am talking about our warmth, cheerful personality, thirsts for knowledge, rich cultural heritage that could have only emanated from the coalition of our varied history. We also were blessed with huge natural resources, an energetic and mostly literate population, as well as untapped human potential with the capability to achieve almost any goal we are inclined to pursue. I enjoy referring to my country by the sobriquet ‘Little America,’ not in any pejorative sense, as some might erroneously believe. I am not even using it in the context that was favored by our national and global Literature hero V.S. Naipaul, when he cynically described our imitative predilections to “Mimic Men.” I simply want to see the social and economic possibilities that can accrue -like America -when we can recognize that 'our sum is much better than our parts,' as can best be manifested by the life and efforts of the young visionary Senator from Illinois Chicago.

Most of our elite intellectuals, political figures, and other prominent leaders were justifiably high in praise of Senator Obama when he won his party’s nomination to vie for the American Presidency. Tonight, both him and his running mate are about to be formally nominated, and he is even closer to that goal. What share irony, for who would have thought a few years ago that according to him, “a skinny half black kid from Hawaii, raised by a single white mom and grandparents could achieve this dream,” in racially divided America. He had no father as a mentor as the educated punk had to escape back to Kenya to take care of his harem. Since he saw his father only once in his life as a little boy, the young man sought guidance elsewhere, and for that nearly paid a political price. He was never socially accepted because of the racial mixture, and so had to excel in other ways even while succumbing to some of the social problems that afflicted the young then and especially today. Through determination, he was able to acquire an education from the highest institutions in the land, but that was not enough for the young visionary that like Martin Luther King, also had a dream. Like Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela before him, he too recognized that education can be more that a mechanism to bolster image and selfishly fill one’s pocket. That too is important, but it can be use in a positive way “as a means to an end,” as well.

Before running to grab a big post in government, or an elite Wall Street company, he went into the trenches to help people in the poorer communities, and then eventually made his foray into politics. While there, he did not restrict himself to partisan politics as some of the dinosaurs in the party political machine did. Instead, opting to reach across the isle to others that were different, to forge useful alliances, and get positive social things done. His legislations were not created and pushed because they were simply geared to only help poor blacks on the South Side of Chicago. It is why today his message of inclusiveness does not ring hallow and calculative and is resonating well for most Americans. His carefully chosen intelligent wife is on the same page of sacrifice over self aggrandizement and money. His -former stuttering- running mate came out of that tradition of sacrifice and caring for others, so much so that today he is one of the most eloquent and respected Senators –on both sides - in the country, and the globe. This is viewed as a rare feat today in politically fragmented America.

What are our lessons as we look on Little America? We are just as divided along similar lines. Almost ever race and country in the world is represented here. We have high literacy, huge resources, surging crimes, social malaise, political ineptitude, economic misdirection and class disparities. So what’s new? This I believe is what development entails, is it not? How therefore can Little America get out of this seemingly bottomless pit to emerge as a model, so that people can soon admire us and our country for the real reasons, and not with sly lascivious glances only at our vast resources? For those potential leaders with visions we have choices, just like a 47 year old educated elite and his more experienced 64 year old running mate. If it makes only you feel good, then you can walk around in idle boast about excellent GPA record or wonderfully written thesis obtained with the help of bored Professors at Stanford, Harvard, Cambridge, UWI, or London School of Economics. You can successfully run for political office and continue old style legacies in our chambers. You can even attempt to get any of the numerous top governmental post, or race for top CEO executive positions across our vastly wealthy business entities.

If not satisfied to only settle for that, then I expect some vision like connecting with old Alma Matas and former classmates to see in what manner you can garner and bring some of those skills, expertise, or even transfer some Fortune 500 business opportunities to your country to aid in its development as well. How about you good folks at UWI, do not think we are leaving you out of the picture because we value you any less, for that is a fallacy. Those of us in the know recognize that a degree obtained at your institution is well earned, and any of you graduates can rub shoulders with some of the educational giants across the globe. Daddy did not have to open some foundation to cover up for your C’s and U’s so as to help you graduate like they do at Harvard, Princeton and NYU. Mummy did not have to resort to cronyism by using her clout as a former alumni , to ensure that you get into college as they do in Oxford and Yale on many occasions- all the while screaming about the ill effects of crummy affirmative action, while silent on the legacy cronyism. You got there the hard way with your three and five A' levels corrected by unbiased London University final year students.

That’s however beside the point, what now is your end game? We know that you were the President of the Afro education student’s fraternity and it gives you claims to be obsessed over African corrupt, political tyrants, and request for more TT dollars for ostentatious Emancipation Day celebrations so that you can flaunt your unknown African attire that real -euro centric -Africans despises so much in Africa. We feel your pain former UWI Hindu and Muslim inter religious student body presidents and leaders, and fully understand why you believe that your sole role is to join the UNC or write glowing columns in our papers or on the internet blogs denouncing everything African and continue the historical lamentation of phantom racial discriminations claims perpetuated by old schooled guards, and politically blinded leaders. We fully understand why you’ll feel proud of Asia especially nuclear powered India and Pakistan, even if there are huge pockets of poverty, and major social problems in both countries that can make some African states look like models in comparison. However, if Humphrey could start ‘Sou Sou lands’ and in the process helped dispossessed people to develop dignity in them selves, while using that to push viable political alliances and change with Karl, Panday and Robinson in tow, then so can you. Nobody cared if Mr. Humphrey was Caucasian Trinidadian, was an architect with no brilliant Oxford and Hugh Wooding legal training, had mental problems or not. They simply saw an excellent patriotic national that cared. They too wanted in on the action as far as his dreams, and were willing to reward him in return for his effort. Enjoy your respective regular trips to Asia and Africa when you get the chance, humor the nostalgic old folks once in a while about how great the continents are, but ask them how many are willing to trade in the ‘don’t give a darm if Good Friday fall on a Wednesday” Trinidadian way of life, to go back, and watch closely their horrified reactions to such suggestions.

The phrase Vision Thing was coined by America’s 41st President on his way to completing his own political legacy and now political dynasty. Yes, the man that at 19 was shot down by a fighter plane during WW11. He came home ,went to Yale , started a family, got rich in oil speculation business , became the CIA head, Ambassador to China , Ambassador to the UN , as a Liberal Republican became VP under arch political rival Reagan after first dismissing his policies as ‘Voodoo Economics,’ became US President, herald in the end of the Cold -War , became a War President by crushing a Muslim leader, fathered two governors for two of America’s largest states , and became only the second ex President to have a son in the White House. Not bad going for a Yale graduate that still cannot put a clear though together even if his Harvard educated son threatened the nation to make a statement in public without the aid a teleprompter. Today it is Obama’s time, tomorrow could be yours, but do you have the ‘vision thing’ down pat, or what it takes to effect meaningful changes? The ball is in your court, and you have the tools at your disposal for both individual and national success. Yes, you can with vision achieve anything, including dreams, if you are committed and really care.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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