In the pursuit of knowledge we acquire an education, through practical experience and introspection we attain wisdom. With these insights let me further add, as a relatively well read-farmer, that the ego is not unlike an encroaching weed, not the crop we intentionally chose to plant and hoped to nurture, but endemic to our species and vigorous in its capacity to crowd-out our thoughts from the true goal of our initial endeavor.
Over the years I have arrived at the conclusion that the attainment of higher degrees does not necessarily serve as a boon to the intelligence nor should it be regarded as the sole criteria by which to judge an individual’s contributions toward some agreed upon goal that will hopefully assure the continuation of civilization. And as a consequence of both direct conversation with some and the careful reading of the offerings of others I am left with the suspicion that there exist among the highly educated some significant, but not yet determined majority who increasingly suffer from the affliction which I shall now coin as: Post-doctoral Hierarchy Disorder.
Commensurate with this condition is the self-proclaimed belief that they are imminently qualified to determine what is best for humanity and, therefore, any efforts requiring an authoritative leader; and surely it must be recognized that all such endeavors in that regard are in need of a highly qualified guidance, that they, absent some even more highly acclaimed degree holder, are the only correct selection, there being no comparable alternative.
Is it not then a conundrum, when the historical record is reviewed, and there come to mind, a great many examples such as Albert Einstein and Bill Gates who serve nicely to refute the validity of such, dare I suggest, self-serving analysis?
Which brings me to the subject that I actually wish to address, the July 10, 2017 Daily News enclosure authored by Malik Sekou, PhD, entitled “Our Quest for Self Determination.” This synopsis of efforts to address the long running need for a constitution that can only be legitimized by the consent of the governed, as well as a referendum on a status that reflects the consensus of an informed citizenry is noteworthy, not for the oft repeated statements of intent that it reiterates, but its shear brevity. Dr. Sekou’s presentation, like the photo art on the cover is idyllic in what it presumes to display, but for the most part excludes the all too human element that so graphically illustrates the uniqueness of Virgin Islands life, be it environmental, social, or political. There is but minimal analysis of how human intervention, despite a considerable investment of time and effort, has for five times running resulted in failure. It is a review that lacks a compelling vision of how such documents and decisions might reasonably be expected to not only come into being, but more importantly how they could either aid in preserving desirable elements of a culture that is fast disappearing, or, in the alternative, how certain manifestations could further erode the cultural vestiges that remain.
Culture, as I define it here, is the sum total of how a society meets the challenges that confront it on both a daily basis and in efforts at planning as it anticipates the changes that are identifiable or inevitable over a given period of time. If, as we should reasonably expect, the political instruments under discussion can mitigate some of the calamities that are fraying the fabric of our societal bonds, then help us to better understand the implications so that we might hopefully return to our objective with a renewed vigor. Arguably, our system of education, our dysfunctional electoral system, and the increasing lack of transparency in all branches of government cannot stand much more fraying. ‘Confidence’ is a word that few would use to describe their thoughts on these functions of our government, and the more the populace or the press demand accountability, the more aloof our representatives become. We have arrived at a point where our per capita debt rivals that of Puerto Rico. Yet our profligate Senate continues to pass bills funded from “any available sources.” And as they continue to draw the life blood out of the people, property auctions are for the time being postponed, and a citizen-farmer like me is stymied from even discovering why my tax bill is being withheld under the guise of some undisclosed investigation. The governor never tires of assuring us he is actively trying to grow the economy, yet my project for an eco-vacation destination and campground languishes because a Mr. Brown, of the Public Works Department refuses to either approve or recommend changes to a ‘Driveway Permit.’ We, the citizens of these Virgin Islands, are under the thumb of a government that functions under the self-proclaimed principle “I run things, things don’t run me.” And since there are no identifiable repercussions for the failures this attitude makes possible, It would be fair and certainly more accurate to add the ‘i’ that is so instrumental in this mind-set: “I ruin things, things don’t ruin me!”
So yes, our current model of government is not meeting the needs of the majority of citizens, and yes, we need to reformulate both a constitution and our relationship with the federal government, but no , we don’t need to follow in lockstep the failed efforts of the past. If we are indeed at a new beginning, then one change that might very well help correct some of the more readily apparent failures of the past is to pre-determine what the qualifications of a delegate should be. As an example of an alternative version of democracy that accomplished this admirably, there is a unique example found in some New England villages in Colonial America whereby they pre-qualified citizens for various local government positions, usually annually held offices that were then filled by a straw vote. No popularity contests, no show-boating, no defamation of opponents, no meaningless rhetoric and no inevitable regrets.
If however this is deemed too radical; that the tradition of office seeking as we have come to know it is sacrosanct, and by its very nature, not unlike some sporting event that cannot be abstained from lest yet another element of foreign origin be allowed to wash up on these shores, then let the carnival of politics begin again, and let the outcome, yet again, be examined for its failures. That outcome must eventually bring to mind that increasingly popular adage concerning insanity, which informs us that this state is inevitably diagnosed when one repeatedly engages in the same behavior while expecting different results.
Should we see the value of outside expertise as an essential aid rather than some questionable intrusion, then there might yet be a ray of hope in this our sixth effort at a victory lap, that thereby (perhaps and hopefully) yields the longed for document that effectively addresses our needs. The United States and the United Nations should be asked to participate as fully as they deem themselves capable. This, after all, is a mandate that they have succinctly attested to. While on the subject of outside assistance and in conclusion to my comments, I only wish to add that it is disingenuous of Dr. Sekou to even suggest that our status is somehow a factor in our dismal display of local autonomous government when the real culprit remains our politics of greed that fosters this ugly reality, and as it appears to be my fate, heaven help those who choose to support a losing candidate in an election.
Submitted on Wednesday by: Hugo A. Roller, a farmer and concerned citizen of St. John.