Monday, September 14, 2009

TRUE NATIONAL UNITY IS WHAT IS NEEDED

Possibly no body of men comes in closer touch with the people of this country than the elected officials, theircontact reaches out to men of every locality and of every station in life. What can be then of greater importance than that these representatives should thoroughly understand the underlying principles of our national life and appreciate what is needed to promote the nation's best wel- fare? These principles may be elementary and even self-evi- dent, but how often do we forget the importance of simple truths in the maze of sophistry which is spread out to ensnare us by wily vendors of false panaceas for the cure of all na- tional ills. The heat of the recent election is past. The nation has recorded its decision. Therefore, we may now as loyal citizens dispassionately discuss, in terms of perfect frankness, present national tendencies and problems, without running any risk of being misunderstood or misinterpreted. Every man of serious mind and every student of the world's progress must realize that there are disquieting ele- ments in the present situation and that to guide our nation in attaining and retaining its proper position in the world, we need now as never before far-sighted wisdom and clear judg- ment. We should work together as citizens of this countryfor the good of the whole body politicaly, united for mutual aid in the furtherance of the common good; a bondformed to overcome the centrifugal and disintegrating forces of self-interest and to promote unity and co-ordination. The bonds which hold us together at times seem to tighten and again to relax but harmony is the basis of our national system. Classes are unknown in the land. That is our boast, but the fact is that, in the growth of national unity one of the worst obstacles is the existence of classes, or groups, if that word is preferred, and the disputes between them. The very rich and very poor, the educated and uneducated, the employers and employed, these are some of the classes which exist and always will exist. These distinctions are necessary in our complex life, but the aim of this country's democracy is that there shall be nothing in our system which makes it impossible for any individual to move freely from one class to another. We aim to prevent, as far as possible, individual retrogression and to place personal advancement within the reach of every- one on a basis of individual merit and accomplishment. In this sense "classes" rigidly and permanently established do not exist. Every day we hear of men who, by reason of individual worth, have risen in the social scale and we also hear of others who have fallen to a lower estate. The Trinidad and Tobago idea is that this movement of the individual from one class to another shall be absolutely unrestricted. That is what is meant by "free- dom" and "equality. Any statute of this country and any reg- ulation of any "class organization which hampers the in- dividual in the exercise of thrift, industry and persistency or compels him to curtail his hours of labor or lose his personal freedom to work, may be good for the class as a whole, but is Trinbagonian and acts as a brake upon individual freedom. It is equally improper, in the absence of a voluntary contract arrangement, to compel the individual to work against his will. This general subject has been so prominently before us of late that a rehearsal of recent events is not necessary, but if we analyze carefully these conflicts between the various "classes" we find that the fundamental cause of difference is that the interest of the "class" is placed ahead of everything else, and individual freedom and the common welfare are sub- ordinated. If, in these conflicts, the old-fashioned ideas of our forefathers (the ideas of individual freedom, of mutual con- cession and of united effort for the nation's welfare) could be substituted for the modern tendency toward placing the "class" above the nation, great progress would be made out of our difficulties.Organizations we should not discourage, but every class leader should recog- nize that the body that he represents is, and must be, sub- ordinate to the greatest of all organizations, the "nation." We must have union and harmony between these groups. This can only be obtained if paramount to all class interests we keep ever before us the true Trinbagoanian ideal, the achievement of the greatest good for all. Another factor inimical to national unity is the clash of local interests. In a country covering such diversity of people, the interests of its various sections are naturally diverse. Rivalry and competition betwesn these sections are unavoidable, but when local pride and local selfish interest overshadow national pride and national interest then national unity is in peril. Our method of electing representatives from the various sections of the country should also have the provision that those represen- tatives be residents of the place in which they are elected. For a representive, to be re- elected, he/she must satisfy their local constituents. Different sections of the country to understand each other. The view of the farmer from the South and the banker from the East, or the manufacturer from central and of the importer north is in each case naturally based primarily upon his own salfish requirements, especially when the question of taxation or some other matter affecting his local interest comes up for consideration in Parliament,and the unscrupulous politician has naturally done all he can to encourage a sentiment of sectional rivalry and jeal- ousy. The East has only a superficial knowledge of the ideas of the West and South, and these latter localities, except in the most general way, are not informed as to the methods and ideas which prevail in the financial centres of the East. In the consideration of any broad national policy, we see these sec- tions arrayed, each against the other, on strictly geographical lines. If a tax is to be imposed, each tries to throw the bur- den upon the other. If a national improvement is to be made, each demands that his section shall have the lion's share. For this Governments', enthusiasm cannot be aroused unless local ad- vantages can be shown. We have to study the debates and votes on the legislation, on national disaster preparedness, on national infrastructure improvements, on the income tax, onthe health issue, on education, on the immigration question, on foreign relations, on transportation regulation, to see that the above exhibition of self-interest is so universal that it hardly needs to be stated. Is it to be wondered that we often feel that in consequence our national unity is in danger? It is a very simple matter to state conditions which we know exist; it is a very important matter to offer a proper solution. The contest between the various classes and the rivalry be- tween the various sections to which we have referred is exactly similar to the old dispute between the members of the body, as described by Paul in the Bible. The head, the foot, the hand, the eye and the ear entered into the same struggle under motives of self-interest which we see existing between the different political entities in or society, and the situa- tion cannot be more tersely summed up than in the statement in the same biblical quotation that "whether one member suffer, all the mem- bers suffer with it, or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. There can be no segregation even in thought of the various groups without a serious loss to the whole body, and there must be closer mutual acquaintance and knowledge and a finer spirit of concession between these warring factors, if we are to maintain the deli- cate equilibrium of our country. Possibly one great difficulty in bringing about such a basis of unity is that, under our government, the ordinary citizen is not made to feel in the slightest degree that he owes anything to his country. He does not be made to feel that he contributes in any way. In short, he feels himself left out of the nations' favors and protection. In consequence of this, as is apt to be the case, he has no enthusiasm,he feels no sense of obligation and little sense of loyalty. When a crisis arise, it has always been found, up to the present time, that the nation is full of loyalty and full of patriotism. The sentiment is there but cannot express itsslf properly and effectively be- cause it has no instruments with which to work. Often this or that remedy is suggested to correct the evils of which we are speaking, but these remedies most frequently apply only to some specific trouble. We must look to the basic principles if we wish to carry out the real promise of our founding fathers. No nation can be a mere collection of persons born or living within certain geographical limits. A great na- tion must be a social unit, moved consciously or unconsciously by common motives and by an instinctive loyalty to common ideals. Nationality is both a spiritual and a physical fact.We associate the words spirituality and soul with purely religious discussions, but it is no exaggeration, nor is it an impractical suggestion, to state that the only basis of true national unity must be a unified national soul. An example beyond parallel has been offered in not to distant Euro- pean War, where we have found a nation, often misunderstood by Anglo-Saxons, pre-eminent in its intellectuality, mercurial in its temperament, solidified under the present pressure to a nation with a single soul. Nothing else can explain the cour- age, the persistency, the cheerfulness and the patience of the French nation under suffering. It is something of this sort which this nation must cultivate and possess if we are to have real national unity. Materialism runs rife in a young and prosperous nation and our isolation from the present conflict that is taking place in this countryhas increased that tendency. It is well for us, in our serious moments, to keep ever before us the higher philosophy, the higher ideal, for "what shall it profit a man," or a nation, "if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" May God bless all of us and the wonderful Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

No comments: