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ARE WE UP TO THE TASK? by Ken Howell

posted 23 May 2014, 06:31 by Gerry Kangalee
Dr. Denis Solomon in an article in the Sunday Express of April 30, 1995, entitled “BUT WHAT IS THE QUESTION?” had this to say about the teaching of the history of thought as a subject, in commenting on a book entitled “Sophie's World.” that, “Apart from intellectual liberation, acquaintance with history of thought quite simply defines you as a human being. The faculty of wonder and the knowledge of our mortality are the only characteristics that set us apart from the animals.” 

Dr. Solomon's comments appeared to be a criticism he was forced to make about the absence of the teaching of philosophy as a subject at the level of the University of the West Indies, while, philosophy is being thought at secondary level in Norwegian schools. 
 
This was in 1995, twenty five years after 1970, and forty four years later, the people who design and set the courses to be taught at U.W.I. still believe that the way to teach students to think is by teaching the subject in a disjointed manner; in history, literature and in science and not as subject in itself. This, I submit, has led to an absence of independent thinkers in our society and by extension in positions of leadership. Clearly this did not occur by accident. It was, and remains, a deliberate act on the part of the powers that be to strangle independent thinking at the University and by extension in the society. 
 
I was searching for some document, when I happened to find this clipping. As a result I decided to read it again. After reading it perhaps a second time in so many years, it caused me to go and read an article in the Business Guardian of May 15, 2014 written by Mary King, an economist and contributor to that Magazine. The article is entitled ”Wealth redistribution and the economy.” 
 
In that article she was critical of the chief editor of the Business Guardian, Anthony Wilson who wrote a piece entitled “Who really benefited from the FCB IPO?” Mrs King's criticism of Anthony Wilson's assertion, was that he was wrong in concluding that the redistribution of wealth to the middle class and the wealthy, through such mechanisms as the IPO, under the pretext that it was influenced by the need for government to accrue capital for investment, meant that it was a win-win situation. 

Her position is that since the business class is not inclined to make capital investment to develop the on -shore economy, the task falls to the government to use the wealth accumulated through entities such as the FCB and other profitable state entities to jump-start the on-shore economy. But it would appear that this question of the development of the on-shore economy poses a serious problem for the leaders of this country to wrap their minds around. Perhaps, such a quantum leap in thinking can cause serious cerebral damage.                                                      

But then I read an article in the T&T Mirror of Friday 23, May 2014, by Dr. James Millette entitled “Norman Girvan, Caribbean Patriot” in which he recounted the life and times of Norman as a student at the UCWI, where he too was a student and witness to the events as they unfolded in conditions of a University that was now taking shape; in a region where former colonies were being granted their independence; discussions and debates in the New World group, about the economic path that should be followed: capitalism or socialism by these newly independent countries and so on. 

What grabbed my attention in his article was that Sir Arthur Lewis in 1959 headed the University College of the West Indies, and it was his formula for economic development which the former colonies chose as the preferred choice. Clearly, the stage was set with Dr. Eric Williams in Trinidad and Tobago and Sir Arthur Lewis in Jamaica in charge of educating our young men and women who themselves were to become educators and leaders of West Indian societies. 

It is now history, that his solution for the problem of economic development of the newly independent former colonies was “industrialization by invitation” which was a dismal failure. However, both he and Dr. Williams succeeded in inculcating in the subconscious mind of those who eventually became leaders how not to become independent thinkers. 

How else can we explain that disease which has inflicted our leaders at almost all levels of our society? Imagine to appoint a Commissioner of Police someone external has to design the format to be followed; to deal with an oil spill - enter Green Peace! There is hardly an issue of national importance which our leaders have demonstrated the ability to treat with without the intervention of external elements. 

What can be inferred from an honest analysis of our history, from 1962 to the present, is that we were granted our independence as a nation, and the question of the independence to act on our own and in our deliberate interest did not form part of the agreement signed by those who represented us at Marlborough House. 

As such, after the masses, led by students of the UWI and workers, decided to act in their best interest in 1970, it was decided subsequently to not teach subjects which would stimulate the minds of students and provoke independence of thought. As a result the University today, is a barren place; lifeless; void of stimulation; a place where students just beat books with the sole objective of passing the subjects in the field in which they hope to qualify. They are all engaged in an exercise of regurgitating information void of analysis and in-depth questioning of the veracity of same. 
 
Burton Sankeralli, in his book “Caribbean Philosophy” posited the idea of the development of a set of ideas that is distinctly ours, by drawing on the cultures of our peoples in other words, a fusion of their essential characteristics. Such a process requires independence of thought. A good example of this, which can be taken into the area of politics and economics is the work done by the Siparia Deltones Steel Orchestra and that famous trumpeter Hugh Masakela, where the music of the African and Indian cultures of this country is fused into rhythms and melodies that are distinctly ours. 
 
As for the leaders in the trade union movement, they too should recognize that their central task is not to push move on political jamettes in and outside government; their role is to defend the gains of 1970 and to fight to ensure that the on-shore economy is developed through the direct intervention of the state, through the capitalization of such development, thereby expanding on, and further strengthening the control and influence of the people in economic activity. 

In other words, we must continue to fight against privatization and demand more and more nationalization. In addition, it is also to demand corruption-free, transparent and efficient management of public utilities and state enterprises. All of this requires independent thinkers, who are able to analyse the internal and external balance of forces, in the context of the current geopolitical head game being played by the controllers of the multi-national corporations and finance capital. 

Therefore, unity and solidarity in the workers movement is imperative now more than ever. Alliances with middle class political parties are out of the question. We have to mind our own business! We must be the watch dog, ensuring that our influence on the politics and the direction economic development takes continue to be in our best interest. The question is; are we up to the task?
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