Monday, February 2, 2009


Reprinted from Caribbean Net News

Commentary: Caricom: from confusion to confidence
Published on Monday, February 2, 2009

By Dr Isaac Newton

The future of Caricom is as strong as the present condition of the Caribbean mindscape.

Considering the historical, economic, political, social, and structural traps that have kept integration at bay for so many years; and our astounding addiction to puny square mileage, there is a lack of regional confidence.

Dr Isaac Newton is an international leadership and change management consultant and political adviser who specialises in government and business relations, and sustainable development projects. Dr Newton works extensively in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, leadership, political, social, and faith-based issues.
I can only imagine that we danced bare foot on our wedding night. Now that we have lived together for several decades, behaving like a tree that provides plenty of shade but grows no edible fruits unravels the thread that binds. What accounts for our failure to pay heed?

We know that we can not place our common destiny between infidelity and indifference. We are aware that we must avoid every temptation to invent excuses that gamble with each other's chips, and we recognize that we must not accept hush money towards self destruction. Yet our moral center appears too weak to keep our consensus politics in tact.

Causes of confusion

The fundamental irony is together, we have committed soul murder -- the act of looking outside ourselves for permanent solutions. Essentially, we give lightweight priority to an imperishable vision, that within us, there is a galaxy of culturally compatible goodwill.

If we connect our collective goodwill to our vast regional intelligence, and that wilderness of innovative oxygen that is so uniquely Caribbean, the masses, not merely our leaders, will transform Caricom. It will become a process of superlative success. But, we are so afraid to trust each other. We are in constant search for hidden agendas and under the table schemes. In contrast, we grant others, usually foreign and Europeans, face value integrity. We are fearful even the more that our spiritual, emotional, and psychological energies both respond to anti-regional progress and themselves help to shape and oppose our collective success.

With all the gains of postmodern thinking, we still find it highly suitable to look to Westernized models of unsustainable prosperity to (mis)guide us. And, we continue to interpret Caribbean possibility through external frameworks and tales. The minute we wake up from smothering ethnic relations, predatory differences, and remote control fiascos by transnational corporations, and tap into our collective insight, we will get rid of our childish retreat from, and crowning suspicion of each other, and with unthreatening love, turn Caricom into a positive reality. But we must begin by cradling each other!

Perhaps when we think of Caricom we are mainly concern about its politics, economics, and dangling structures. Yet, we might be speeding away from the invisible intangible of regional self esteem- the primary source of our self inflicted confusion.

Despite sub-regional and regional ties, there is massive talk with little teamwork. We have a union with no communion. We've experienced conferences without concrete results. We use smiles that lack strategy. We entertain values devoid of vision, and we carve out deals in the absence of direction. Our alarming distrust creates so much confusion.

Sources of confidence

In every conceivable way, whether seen from beneath the surface or from above the ground, making Caricom work to our maximum advantage beats heading international committees or leading organizations with worldwide status. That does not mean that we ought not to aspire to be counted in circles that matter. Or attempt to exercise our influence through appropriate collaboration and communication with allies and potential friends. Strategic priority promises to yield plenty. Let's first master local and solve regional headaches. And this must be seen as quite a step forward to expending limited resources on international visibility without viability. Clarity begins at home before charity is extended to neighbors.

Although the Caribbean can't escape the pressures and consequences of global challenges, we can learn to mitigate them. Figuring out, what of necessity will force our development or stimulate and support our progress further is crucial. No reason why sanity not vanity, education not ego, should guide us. Self confidence can inspire results that bring resources. These resources tied to technical competence can work miracles with trust-based regional relationships.

Within Caricom are many of the skills and competencies that are necessary for sustainable progress. National interest as well as common threats and resources are imperative to evaluate for a successful regional model. As part of the Western Hemisphere, possessing self confidence will help Caricom utilize methods of their more powerful allies, without trading away their productivity or profitability. Trade is imperative. Given our unique culture, we must seek to get the most for our resources-human or natural. In bilateral agreements (EPA) we should ask: how does profound penetration by transnational corporations benefit the poor, create environmentally friendly wealth for our indigenous population, and contribute to adaptable organizational structures that support democracy in the Caribbean? Intelligent negotiations must primarily guarantee our vital interests without undermining those of our allies.

Through unconscious neglect, our trust capital has withered, and in times of rapid change and uncertainty, doubts, paranoia and suspicion increase. The key is to aim for mutual respect and collaboration by seeing each other as partners not obstacles. We must desist from practices that outmaneuver and manipulate each other. This weakens our singular ambitions. But nothing surpasses the need for purposefully resolving current problems and investing in meaningful relationships. These action steps will minimize hostilities, and sway us to concentrate on win/win successes.

In our journey towards regional confidence, trusting each other as a prerequisite to intelligent cooperation is unavoidable. Regional confidence will help us balance tradition with innovation, negotiate disagreements, and stake out strategic turf. Unwavering relational authenticity will be earned when we confront our history, and through it, tackle a monumentally formidable task -- Caricom itself -- with the highest honor and greatest accomplishment.

Perchance we fail, let it be recorded, "we reached for the heights."

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