Categorized | Features

Weak government, poor constitution

by Shirley Osborne

Since we’re on the subject, let’s discuss constitutions, shall we? Let’s talk about two constitutions in particular – the Constitution of Montserrat, and the Montserratian constitution. If I have to explain the difference, we have a bigger problem than I, at the moment, perceive, great though I think our problem already is.

The Constitution of Montserrat is one that we need to peruse and ponder and discuss and talk about and mull over and consider and contemplate and deliberate and even brood over until we are sure that every school child knows its most salient points by heart, and until we are absolutely certain that we, as a people, can live with it and, moreover, thrive under it, even if we can’t actually find it possible to rejoice over it.

The Montserratian constitution, however, that other unspoken “body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed,” the one that has elected officials even consider it acceptable to make assertions to the effect that the Government is doing Montserratians a favour by allowing discussion of the Constitution, is the constitution that worries me most.

The Montserratian constitution that has elected officials even imagine it acceptable that they give themselves permission to be absent from this debate, that allows them to entirely dismiss the notion that there might befall them any consequences of substance ensuing from such obvious displays of indifference, worries me much.

The Montserratian constitution which has taught Montserratians to be timid and fearful, to be resigned and defeatist, to be subjects and followers, to go along to get along, to not cause trouble, to never rock the boat, has worried me my entire life.

The Montserratian constitution which teaches that not-Montserratian is better, is killing me still.

The Montserratian constitution which teaches our children that “I” always matters more than “we,” that indeed, there is no “us” but only “I” and “they”, has resulted in a political history that is the bane of my Montserratian existence.

Allow me to explain.

For decades now, Montserrat has been run by a succession of men, whose primary motivations have, too often, been personal and individual rather than public and national. There have been some very nice gentlemen in the group, some very skilled and gifted individuals, some losers, some well-intentioned, some inept, some scum of the earth, and one or two who have been all these things at different times in different places.

Some of these men have worked very hard to do what they could for Montserrat, and some have even succeeded in moving Montserrat along aways, but without exception, they all failed to build momentum, because the motivation was always too much along the lines of what “I” could do, rather than a consideration of what “together, WE, could accomplish.”

This “I” factor has been the undoing of several really good men, and women, individuals who chose to leave the fight solely to protect their “I”, to keep themselves safe, to minimize the risks to their personals. It has rendered our country stagnant.

For too many of our elected officials, and civil servants, and business people, and private citizens, the motto of their existence is the very typical, Montserratian, “Me rarder dead before me tek any help fan e!” because they see only themselves, because they think only in terms of personal glory, never shared accomplishment. They are short-sighted, to say the very least. They are small thinkers. Their goal is personal aggrandisement, never national development.  And Montserrat has suffered for decades, and continues to suffer still.

A couple of instances come to mind.

In January, I complained about the ferry. People are still complaining about the ferry. That fiasco there was, to me, the epitome of absurd. Sublime, comes to mind. Montserrat needed a boat. There is a Montserratian man who is acknowledged throughout the Caribbean as being quite an expert on things “boat”. Simple, one would think. A no-brainer. But, of course, the politicians would, evidently, rather have Montserratians swim to Montserrat than go talk to a perceived “rival” in the grand old Montserratian power-politics game. The boat-man would probably have grinned in satisfaction and told the entire world that, “They had to come to me,” but what the hell would it have mattered as long as, in the end, Montserratians had got ourselves a good, damn ferry.

I can identify at least twelve, a whole dozen, Montserratians who are experts in some field of aeronautics and aeroplanes. They fly aeroplanes, they design aeroplanes, they build them, fly them, repair them, schedule them, direct them in the air. Yet, not one of these particular Montserratians was or is being consulted, formally or informally, on the matter of “flying to and from Montserrat” and so we go from one debacle to another mess because, like children learning to walk, Montserratian politicians continue to always want to “do it myself.” No opportunities for shared glory are being accommodated or made available in this Montserratian power and posterity game.

The evidence suggests that the same approach is being taken with this Constitution of Montserrat that is coming at us. This is the same and it is different. The evidence suggests that our elected officials are either too short-sighted to see, too ignorant to know, or too uncommitted to learn how to make this really good for national development. And, I don’t quite know, whether this is an indication of laziness or ignorance, or a tendency to despotism on the part of our elected officials, but any of these is worrisome and Montserratians should be very afraid.

Much of the rest of the world got the memo about the potential for prosperity and successful development that lives in the game of inclusion, of shared competencies and tasks, within the division of labour, in picking other people’s brains, and so on. That envelope never got to Montserrat, it seems. It was probably being brought over on the ferry.

So, we continue to hobble along, a group of people intelligent enough to be conscious that weak government can only result in a poor Constitution, but unable, because of our weak constitution, to get outside of ourselves to ensure that we have strong government and get a good Constitution. We dance around the issues, we twiddle, we murmur in our homes and keep silent in public, because we, like the people we elect to lead us, are more concerned with our “I” and are unwilling or unable to grab the power and use the potential of the “we.” Like them, we live only for the “I.” We choose not to allow ourselves to be inconvenienced for the “we.”

The problem is that, when we refuse to build up the “we”, we inevitably fail to develop the “I”.

Look around, my people. Look around.

Leave a Reply

TMR print pages

Newsletter

Archives

https://indd.adobe.com/embed/2b4deb22-cf03-4509-9bbd-938c7e8ecc7d

A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

by Shirley Osborne

Since we’re on the subject, let’s discuss constitutions, shall we? Let’s talk about two constitutions in particular – the Constitution of Montserrat, and the Montserratian constitution. If I have to explain the difference, we have a bigger problem than I, at the moment, perceive, great though I think our problem already is.

The Constitution of Montserrat is one that we need to peruse and ponder and discuss and talk about and mull over and consider and contemplate and deliberate and even brood over until we are sure that every school child knows its most salient points by heart, and until we are absolutely certain that we, as a people, can live with it and, moreover, thrive under it, even if we can’t actually find it possible to rejoice over it.

Insert Ads Here

The Montserratian constitution, however, that other unspoken “body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed,” the one that has elected officials even consider it acceptable to make assertions to the effect that the Government is doing Montserratians a favour by allowing discussion of the Constitution, is the constitution that worries me most.

The Montserratian constitution that has elected officials even imagine it acceptable that they give themselves permission to be absent from this debate, that allows them to entirely dismiss the notion that there might befall them any consequences of substance ensuing from such obvious displays of indifference, worries me much.

The Montserratian constitution which has taught Montserratians to be timid and fearful, to be resigned and defeatist, to be subjects and followers, to go along to get along, to not cause trouble, to never rock the boat, has worried me my entire life.

The Montserratian constitution which teaches that not-Montserratian is better, is killing me still.

The Montserratian constitution which teaches our children that “I” always matters more than “we,” that indeed, there is no “us” but only “I” and “they”, has resulted in a political history that is the bane of my Montserratian existence.

Allow me to explain.

For decades now, Montserrat has been run by a succession of men, whose primary motivations have, too often, been personal and individual rather than public and national. There have been some very nice gentlemen in the group, some very skilled and gifted individuals, some losers, some well-intentioned, some inept, some scum of the earth, and one or two who have been all these things at different times in different places.

Some of these men have worked very hard to do what they could for Montserrat, and some have even succeeded in moving Montserrat along aways, but without exception, they all failed to build momentum, because the motivation was always too much along the lines of what “I” could do, rather than a consideration of what “together, WE, could accomplish.”

This “I” factor has been the undoing of several really good men, and women, individuals who chose to leave the fight solely to protect their “I”, to keep themselves safe, to minimize the risks to their personals. It has rendered our country stagnant.

For too many of our elected officials, and civil servants, and business people, and private citizens, the motto of their existence is the very typical, Montserratian, “Me rarder dead before me tek any help fan e!” because they see only themselves, because they think only in terms of personal glory, never shared accomplishment. They are short-sighted, to say the very least. They are small thinkers. Their goal is personal aggrandisement, never national development.  And Montserrat has suffered for decades, and continues to suffer still.

A couple of instances come to mind.

In January, I complained about the ferry. People are still complaining about the ferry. That fiasco there was, to me, the epitome of absurd. Sublime, comes to mind. Montserrat needed a boat. There is a Montserratian man who is acknowledged throughout the Caribbean as being quite an expert on things “boat”. Simple, one would think. A no-brainer. But, of course, the politicians would, evidently, rather have Montserratians swim to Montserrat than go talk to a perceived “rival” in the grand old Montserratian power-politics game. The boat-man would probably have grinned in satisfaction and told the entire world that, “They had to come to me,” but what the hell would it have mattered as long as, in the end, Montserratians had got ourselves a good, damn ferry.

I can identify at least twelve, a whole dozen, Montserratians who are experts in some field of aeronautics and aeroplanes. They fly aeroplanes, they design aeroplanes, they build them, fly them, repair them, schedule them, direct them in the air. Yet, not one of these particular Montserratians was or is being consulted, formally or informally, on the matter of “flying to and from Montserrat” and so we go from one debacle to another mess because, like children learning to walk, Montserratian politicians continue to always want to “do it myself.” No opportunities for shared glory are being accommodated or made available in this Montserratian power and posterity game.

The evidence suggests that the same approach is being taken with this Constitution of Montserrat that is coming at us. This is the same and it is different. The evidence suggests that our elected officials are either too short-sighted to see, too ignorant to know, or too uncommitted to learn how to make this really good for national development. And, I don’t quite know, whether this is an indication of laziness or ignorance, or a tendency to despotism on the part of our elected officials, but any of these is worrisome and Montserratians should be very afraid.

Much of the rest of the world got the memo about the potential for prosperity and successful development that lives in the game of inclusion, of shared competencies and tasks, within the division of labour, in picking other people’s brains, and so on. That envelope never got to Montserrat, it seems. It was probably being brought over on the ferry.

So, we continue to hobble along, a group of people intelligent enough to be conscious that weak government can only result in a poor Constitution, but unable, because of our weak constitution, to get outside of ourselves to ensure that we have strong government and get a good Constitution. We dance around the issues, we twiddle, we murmur in our homes and keep silent in public, because we, like the people we elect to lead us, are more concerned with our “I” and are unwilling or unable to grab the power and use the potential of the “we.” Like them, we live only for the “I.” We choose not to allow ourselves to be inconvenienced for the “we.”

The problem is that, when we refuse to build up the “we”, we inevitably fail to develop the “I”.

Look around, my people. Look around.