Nations are not Communities/ Nasyon pa konmin

“Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals the fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominator and dominated in race and sex. And in such as world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.”

— Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present)

technological development is progress in one dimension (method) which does not necessarily or automatically reflect a wider more holistic progress. The internet falls in this category as well. In areas like the Caribbean, Africa on the internet as elsewhere for instance in International trade and politics and general discourse are reduced to the role of net consumers (that is what we consume from outside often exceeds what we contribute or the latter is valued less). So on the internet while there is the means to do so, there is little that speaks to or of us and we are constantly consuming the production of other, many times about themselves but also what they tell about us. Within out countries as part of the same structure we reproduce a similar relationship where the urban and suburban communities consume food and primary products and services from the rural communities while often dominating the discourse in the nation and playing a disproportionate role in defining what is projected as the “national interest”. One of the aims of this blog is to produce material, in areas of interest to this blogger, on issues related to St. Lucia(Iyanola) in its various aspects, areas etc. The following was presented elsewhere but I will make it my first post here.

The Stories our Communities Tell: The Limits and Limitations of “National Consciousness”

To our “national consciousness”, St. Lucia has a sort of history based on the aggregate of the nation which in many instances can be state-centric and in those and other instances based on a notion of all things of St. Lucia as collective possession, collective patrimony and collective interests. Many stories, perspectives and interpretations(both looking at the past and present) are silenced based on the preeminence of this consciousness in considering both our history, its flow into the present and even our outlook on the future. If we look into the past into the history of peoples who came or were brought here, the vision becomes more complex and nuanced, the perspectives and interpretations, the emphases becomes more varied and necessarily so. If it were possible for the land to speak for itself in a manner in which we would be willing or able to listen, it would present a perspective, story, sentiments and interpretations which would likely be very different from any told by any sector of humanity who has PART of their story told in this land.

I do not know when this notion of nation(speaking of St. Lucia) became so elevated in our consciousness and definition of ourselves over and above all other considerations in terms of how we identify ourselves[Nation being a conception which for the most part has been a construction from top-down or at least the power over its interpretation is formed in this way]. I do not know when and how(meaning the dynamics which brought it to be) the “collective interest” came to mute the diverse experiences and identities which are also a fundamental aspect of our consciousnesses and past and present experience. This collective interest does exist in a very real way because factors which negatively affect the economy or the land can affect everyone within the nation. However within that collective interest how are the negative implications of a threat or the benefits of some positive development spread? How are the vulnerabilities spread among us within this collective interest? What were the power dynamics within the history of our living together in this part of the earth and how did they shape the nature of our “collective identity”, “national consciousness” and the definition of our “collective interest” and “national priorities”? How did they indeed shape and continue to shape these things and how and to what extent were the shape of these things entrenched in our laws(definitions of things such as “crime” etc), education system(formal and informal), religious landscape, institutions of government, language, the nature of discourse on a range of things, the determination and definition of what are “our” problems as a “nation” and a range of other matters? Of particular interest, how did the shape of these things determine the definition of development and therefore the spread of our resources in the service of our various communities toward this supposed “development”. How, for instance, did/does that history, power dynamics and their incarnation in institutions, policy and “national” priority effect the “Curse of Dauphin”# and many other areas and communities living on this land.

History as we understand it has very much to do with human consciousness and experience even including those earlier parts of our consciousness which involve the experiences of species which predate our collective human origins in Africa and even that of the our planet, galaxy and universe. However to return to our human experience here on this part of the earth called Iyanola (by the first humans here -Tainos, Kalinagos) and later called various names including St. Lucia, what were the various human branches which contributed to our human experience here? What were the terms upon which these various human branches came to these lands and what were their relationships before and when they came to these lands? To what extent did these various human branches contribute to the shape of the “national consciousness” and “national identity” based upon which resources are distributed and institutions were and are developed? [What were the implications of this?] To what extent does that “Nation” represent the continuity and free contribution of these various branches to our “collective identity”?

We know that a fundamental part of what shaped our society and filtered[allowed, disallowed or distorted] the contributions of the various branches which came or were brought to live here was the imperial conquest of these lands by various European groups, the enslavement of Africans and the paid(although exploited) labour of Indians. Another fundamental aspect of this system was/is a hierarchy which placed Europe and things European at the helm and Africa and things African at the bottom therefore reserving the place for Indians, Chinese and those who came later (such as Lebanese, Syrians and now new Taiwanese and Chinese) somewhere in between. How is this figuring into the shape of this society and the formulating of our “national consciousness”.

I have said all of this for I think it forms the framework which falls behind the thoughts/questions I am going to share.

I have been wondering about the history of our various communities which make up St. Lucia and whether any work has been done on them in terms of recording their history. When did they begin and under what circumstances. How did the various dynamics, including what I described above, contribute to the way in which our communities came to figure in “national priority”, “national consciousness”, distribution of resources, policy etc.

A Map of St. Lucia

I do not think there is anything arbitrary about the way many of our communities developed. We have communities which are not so far from each other but are still separated by a lot of cultivated and uncultivated lands. We have others which are adjoining but have different names and unless you live in the area you do not know where one starts and the other ends. We have communities with known legendary reputations related to African Liberation such as O Liyòn(Aux Lyons), Fon Jan Lib(Fond Gens Libre) and Dofen (Dauphin) but what about Communities like Gadèt (Gadette), Diga(Dugard) and Déranmo (Des Rameux)  * (Or Black Stars formerly Green Estate where I live). Some of the story of certain places can be told by their names and the natural landscape there such as Wavin Ma Cock, Monn Sèpan and La Wivyè Mitan etc. The social development, some of which is closely tied to these natural resources as well as others related to institutions, economics, values etc will tell another very significant part of the story.

These natural aspects of the land and the social development of our various communities by being brought front and center in the awareness of people in their respective communities may contribute significantly to how people relate to themselves, the place of their communities in the history and future of the Nation. It can help people understand better their part in the common wealth of the nation which their work has contributed and contributes to. It can help enrich and balance the “national consciousness” as well as the discourse, priorities which form part of it. This can play a PART in helping to create a more representative “national consciousness”. I say part because it is important that the constant work in reformulating of this national consciousness includes a significant look at the histories, cultures, worldviews of peoples other than Europeans who were/are not allowed to properly identify with, freely practice and therefore contribute their part in the materialization of this goal of the collective we call Nation. The rhetoric of having a collective identity is far from being a done deal and is not one which is necessarily mutually exclusive with other forms of identification. This collective identity is still far from a realization and as such continues (where it is presented and practiced as such) to be a disguise for the continued dominance of European perspectives and interest of which many Africans and Indians have bought into and support but which continues to marginalize a large percentage of the population counted as making up this “Nation” and uses ones from among these very groups to police this system(whether through the legal, educational or religious systems).+

I would like to end here with my request to ones who can guide me to information or guidance where available, about our various communities in the island.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

# This “Curse of Dauphin” is described by Travis Weeks as such

during a slave revolt on the old plantation of Dauphin, the people of the region, forced a French priest to get off his horse and participate in one of their folk dances, the Débòt, some say. In commanding him to dance they threatened to kill him if he did not comply. The priest gave in and danced singing all the time, “Doux Jesi, simé dansè pasé mouri” ( sweet Jesus, it is better to dance than to die) After dancing the priest was led through an escape route by one Toma (Thomas). When he reached atop a hill overlooking Dauphin, he shook his sultan, casting a curse on the region. As a result of this curse…

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/note.php?note_id=412275607806

Travis recently(14th August 2010) presented a play with a group of young persons in the community of Monchy on this Curse in an attempt to examine the Curse and to place it in a context in which it can be analyzed in a wider sense.

* I know some of the Kwéyòl spellings I attempt here may embellish the actual names of the places which themselves tell part of the story of the place so i have included the normally accepted spelling in brackets.

+ This policing (and other seemingly milder forms of influence) is not restricted to internal institutions but is done through “International” Financial Institutions(such as the IMF and World Bank) and other “international” Institutions (U.N and W.T.O) as well as through donors, NGOs, Educational institutions. Award Committees etc. It is important to understand this in light of the wider international connections for although we often seem small in our communities and countries we remain from each of our perspectives a centre of the universe with many concentric circles around us.

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~ by iandiyanola on December 29, 2011.

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