Those concerned with the policies of the future will, of necessity, be concerned with the implications contained in the word INDEPENDENCE. They will, by virtue of their various positions (assuming that they are held responsibly) be forced to reflect on the social and economic structure of our Nation, and to seek that correlation between past and future that makes the present a practical reality. These people are in a “unique” position, in them the energy for active thought will be created by force of necessity. They are fortunate.
The lot of the labourer falls differently. The changes inherent in new policies will reach him more slowly. Cultivation of the soil will continue and his manual toil will occupy him as before. By virtue of his corre¬spondence with nature, he has his own form of protection. The demand, for him, lies on familiar ground, that of producing from the soil, the best possible in quality and quantity. But what of the middle-man, the large, educated mass of society that makes up the average citizen? His lot is more difficult and his position more diffuse. In a sense, he sits between two fires. He is not bound to ponder the implications of In-dependence. His “thinking”, if he does it, will proceed from CHOICE. CHOICE means evaluation of what is important and pondering is an effort of will, will over his own natural inertia. It is in this middle strata of society that the greatest danger of indifference lies. Indifference in this case produces a core of dry-rot that weakens the entire structure of a nation and turns even the most devoted efforts of the policy-makers to a cool grey ash.
Ideally, we cannot afford any indifferent members in our society. Independence, properly undertaken, demands active thinking on the part of all capable people. It is a word of great content and implication, and includes within itself, both responsibility and effort.
It is the middle stratum of society that acts as the fulcrum point between the other two strata. Every man and woman in this middle stratum has his or her own small area of influence, unlauded and unsung though it may be. It is no use thinking that we can be led to prosperity by the heroic few. It is a weakness to permit the attitude: “It matters not IF I think or WHAT I think because I have no influence and can do nothing.” It is a matter of relative proportion in which each man has his place by virtue of his very existence. Whether I am working as a civil servant or conducting household affairs or raising children, each human encounter in my average day contains the seeds of certain possibilities. It is for me to discover and make the most of them, always remembering that he who gives nothing, receives likewise. We must seek to find our place and our point of application.
An inner cross-examination is the first step in awakening conscience and provoking thought. It is within the reach of everyone. We can ask ourselves a few simple questions:
“WHY DO I LIVE IN THIS COUNTRY?”
“WHAT DO I CONTRIBUTE?”
“WHAT DO I EXPECT TO GET OUT OF IT?”
Perhaps I live here because my parents were here before me and I gravitated naturally from school to work. In that case, Barbados is the land of my origin and I owe my support as long as I claim citizenship. I must earn my daily bread honestly, run my household, pay my debts, abide by the laws of society and educate my children to a like under¬standing. Perhaps outwardly, I fulfill these requirements but if I have no warmth, no love, no real concern for my country and the welfare of my fellowmen, there is an emptiness in all my outward efforts. To do only what one MUST is to give the least possible. It is the extra thinking, the extra effort that gives real satisfaction. It is what I do from myself, unasked and unexpected, that brings my greatest well-being.
Perhaps I live here by choice. I have experienced life elsewhere and weighed, measured and evaluated. I choose Barbados for many reasons, a kind of climate, natural beauty, a certain freedom from the intensive pressures of large metropolitan areas, a naturally warm-hearted people and a reasonable measure of opportunity. My debt is in proportion to the assets, but to merely balance my account is one thing, to put something in the bank of love and effort is another. Again, it is for me to think, to decide and to rouse myself to action. It is I who stand to gain increase (or not) by my understanding of these principles.
Independence must become the work of individuals first, and the collective body second, and we cannot afford to rest on our laurels, either individually or collectively. We cannot choose the moment or place of our birth in history, neither can we choose the colour of our skin or the economic stratum in which we have our arising. The causes and origins of our problems can be argued back and forth indefinitely, and possibly, the searching and probing may shed some light and increase our under¬standing. But no matter how we interpret the past, the point of application is HERE and NOW, and the existing problems are the reality with which we are faced.
The individual conscience of each man is his own final yard stick of success. If he has faced today’s problems to the best of his ability and not succumbed to the disease of ‘manana’, he will have made his possible contribution both to his own independence, and to that of the collective society. He will not have to reproach himself. It is a matter of continual weighing and measuring. Independence is not a “thing” lying in the future. There is no instant, massive resolution of problems, and then a laying to one side. It is fluctuation and change and a continual elasticity. if there is to be any expansion and any real growth.