Where Have All the Good Men Gone?
By Michael De Gale
Where have all the good men gone? The Caribbean visionaries who advocated for a united Caribbean stretching from the Bahamas in the north to Suriname in the south. From Central America in the west to Barbados in the east. Men who envisioned a Caribbean where trade and economic corporation flows as easily as the tides that wash these blessed shores. Where are the men who knew instinctively that Caribbean unity is fundamental to the region’s survival in the global economy? Men, who before the discovery of oil and natural gas – the mortar that can hold the region together – advocated the need for Caribbean solidarity to stave off marginalization, economic dependency and exploitation. Men who believed, that a common history and culture were ties, strong enough to foster Caribbean unity and economic empowerment? Men who knew, that it is folly to sit back and react to global developments rather than adopt a proactive approach. Where are Shiradat Ramphal, Dr. Eric Williams, Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley, Dr.Cheddi Jagan, Arthur Lewis and Michael Manley from the English speaking Caribbean? Where are Fidel Castro, Roberto Fernandez Retamar and Jose Marti- our Spanish speaking brethrens? Where are Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon and Antenor Firmin of the French Caribbean islands? Men of vision and substance who understood, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I could name dozens more men and women from every area of the Caribbean who saw the infinite wisdom of a united Caribbean region, but for now perhaps someone can tell me, where have all the good men gone?
We stand by and watch helplessly as Haiti, the breadbasket of France and its most profitable possession in the 16th century disintegrate into a cesspool of poverty and all we could say is “Haiti I’m sorry.” Haiti demonstrated convincingly that we are more than chattel by defeating the French and establishing the first black republic in history. Today, Haiti is less than a shadow of its former self. How much longer must Haiti suffer for casting off the chains of slavery and establishing itself as an independent republic and a model for African liberation?
Cuba is another Caribbean country under economic siege for over 45 years for resisting the exploitation of its people and its resources. Despite its extenuating economic circumstances, Cuba continues to lend its technical expertise to Caribbean, Latin American and Africa countries. Economic co-operation with Cuba would create a model to show that another economic arrangement is indeed possible. By contrast, the US exports death, destruction and economic dependency as a developmental strategy while filling its coffers with other peoples’ money.
The Caribbean Basin including Venezuela, Columbia and Central America represents a community in excess of 112 million. Include Mexico and we are up to 200 million. Establish trading links with Africa and India and the number become staggering. In light of all these possibilities, where are the visionaries who could turn this dream into a reality? Instead, we allow the US to dictate with whom we should become friendly. We stand by and allow them to remove one of many democratically elected presidents from office and replace them with imperialist stooges. If all these things do not underscore the need for creating stronger ties with fellow nations, I do not know what would.
Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has proposed Petrocaribe, the Energy Co-operation Agreement. This is a proposal we need to consider seriously and not summararily dismiss because the US opposes it. In fact, US opposition is usually a damn good sign that something is good for a people. This could be the beginning of an emerging Third World, economically powerful and financially viable. Venezuela provides 5% of the world’s oil and Trinidad is said to be awash in oil and natural gas for decades to come. These are excellent building blocks for the establishment of a strong Caribbean economy. Disagreement about the feasibility of the Petrocaribe proposal represents an opportunity to fine-tune the agreement, not a reason for its disintegration. The flawed mathematics of 10-1= 0 must never be repeated. Petty differences must not stand in the way of corporation and development of the Caribbean region. If the US could cozy up to China and Russia despite their communist history and ongoing allegations of human rights abuses, relations with other Caribbean nations including Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti is indeed possible and should be vigorously encouraged.
Trinidad and Venezuela are the Saudi Arabias of the Caribbean. After three decades of intense modernization, Saudi Arabia transformed itself into a modern nation providing the best in medical, educational and social services to its people. Despite its relatively small geographic area and a population of approximately 1.5 million people, it is one of the world’s biggest power brokers. Its development was strategic and goal oriented. After inviting foreign companies to develop its oil facilities and making scholarships and various strategic opportunities available to its citizens, Saudi Arabia now controls the lion’s share of its economy including oil production and distribution. There is a lesson here. Let us learn it well.
The creation of a Caribbean trading block encompassing South and Central America with links to India and Africa is visionary and a monumental proposition. It offers numerous challenges as well as tremendous opportunities for growth and development. It requires men and women of vision and substance. Who will heed this clarion call? Must we forever kowtow to US imperialism and be treated like the illegitimate children of the global economy? Must we always seek handouts in times of trouble and foreign aid designed to separate us from our wealth and human dignity? Though they have beaten us for hundreds of years, I assure you that “we have strength for a thousand.” Let us stand up in our countless numbers, united by history, hope and a dogged determination to “build our castles as strong as we know how.” Failure to do so is a clear indication that all the good men are gone.