I say that, but at the same moment I am asking myself, how and what? How broken is our system and can we fix it? What can we do to provide people a safe and open space to listen, speak and effect change? These are genuine questions - so if you have an idea, please share!
I started writing this as Saint Lucia and a few other countries across the world were going to the vote. I wasn’t at home, so didn’t vote – and for a while, I was saying that I’m glad I’m not home because for the first time, I really would not know who to choose – I am disappointed and do not trust either of our main parties to really govern – it’s that plain and simple – they both did some good things during their stints in power, and they both did a lot of crap – a lot of questionable things – things that seemed downright not in the interests of the people, but rather, in the interests of those who could get away with it or could pay for it.
And now we have an interesting number of alternatives to the historical two parties– but none with enough candidates to form a new government…we have a Facebook Page “People’s National Movement for Change” – a page set up to encourage non-partisan discussion of the REAL issues…I like that page, though in the weeks leading up to the actual elections the posts have degenerated too often into empty party slogans and colour-bound blind party loyalties…never mind, the fact that people have found it possible to discuss openly is imho, a great start. (EDIT from 2016 - we have a bunch of pages ostensibly for non-partisan nation-building purposes now - some are party initiatives, some not - sometimes they contain useful discussion, sometimes not, but at least it is one more possibility for people to take part in ongoing debate)
And though, in the end, yes, I would have liked to have put my ‘tikwa’ next to a choice out of the 4 that are running in my neighbourhood…I know that it is just not the most important thing to do…whoever wins, not much will change …unless…WE THE PEOPLE CHANGE.
And since I started writing this, the importance of each and every vote has come into fine, fine focus as the elections happened and days of recounts followed; as one incumbent candidate’s 68 vote initial lead turned into a 2 vote defeat, and another’s slim defeat of about 19 votes turned into an even slimmer one of 7…but my belief voting is the least important thing you do, remains pretty much undisturbed…
What I believe is far, far, far more important than the vote – for Saint Lucia and perhaps many other places – is what the people do with their government in-between. In Saint Lucia for sure, we need to complain constructively – with suggestions for solutions (and be prepared to set aside personal for the greater good), we need to stop being part of the ‘bobol’ (corruption) system, we need to become colour blind – this ‘en rouge’ nonsense (and ‘en jaune’ if there is that one too), and become symbolically challenged – not know a flambeau except for at a beach party, not know a star except for the night sky. We need to clean out our ears and re-learn to hear, relearn a language that does not rely on empty slogans and catcalls, learn to speak our minds and LISTEN to what others are saying and make INFORMED decisions and plans that are based on content not colour, that contain substance not kick-backs…I don’t know, but I’d figure by now people would have started to realize the biggest kickback we all end up with is one in our head to knock us down.
So yes, voting is important, but getting away from the old blind party loyalty system is much more important because unless we do, even the new alternatives will find it more difficult not to repeat history in all its less than glorious moments. And to do this, we also need to make it difficult, if not impossible for the reins of power to be attached to a golden carriage over which we have no control whatsoever, and which sooner or later flies mud in our faces and breaks our toes as we stand by and let it ride on up at our expense.
And yes, I did mean it when I said I think each previous government has done some good things as well – so we need to be able to acknowledge those things – without it being a party thing – acknowledge good things with good critique and by ensuring that the good things are available for all to benefit, not just those of one fixation or another.
Does not all this colour branded party fixation not strike you as so ‘Victorian’, ‘Colonial’ ‘divide and rule?’ I know I am not the first to say it. It’s powerful propaganda – playing up people’s insecurities and fears to divert attention away from the things that really matter. It’s a tried and tested (and I think, should be outlawed), method. It does not benefit any of us, the people, truly, in the long run – it benefits just a few – and at a cost we should not be prepared to pay.
So, you have voted…or perhaps you have not…for me, it does not matter anyway near as much as what you do now, what you say now and for the next five, ten, fifteen and forever years– some people have been making these steps, taking up substantive discussions on issues beyond, under, across party lines -so why not more of us? Let’s choose our words and actions as best we can – even each small effort, each small step towards a government of and by the people is a movement for positive change.
What do YOU think?