The danger of losing Vincy Exceptionalism

By Kendal Coombs

Around the world, people are risking their lives in search of a better life fleeing wars, and persecutions to other countries. With them, they took talents, cultures, languages, religions and so much more to continue the same way of life in their intended countries of destination.

Those recipients’ countries of choice must be prepared for the consequences of accommodating these immigrants. Hosting countries must be careful not to overwhelm their populations especially if their cultures are very different.  We know chain migration is not the solution it just encourages others to follow in their footsteps whether they are refugees or immigrants.  It can cause unjust strain or turmoil on the current population.

Refugee population can affect the politics and social order in a negative way.  Concessions must be made to appease the new immigrants with their religious ceremonies and rituals.  Furthermore, they may resent the host country ideals or way of life.  For example, some countries around the world have declared war on Christians, now more than ever precautions on their faith have spiked.

That happens when some groups feel their method of worship is the best, therefore, intolerance or rejection lead to aggressors. We have heard in some countries Christians must go underground to avoid harm because of their belief. It is critically important that Christian worshiping countries be cognizant of the religious balance that it does not tilt in an adverse direction.

We know there is spike in Christians persecution around the world that is permeated by intolerance.  The place of worship was one of the safest places to escape from harm and danger.

Lucky for us in the Caribbean we do not have those problems and I am raising awareness so that we do not fall into that predicament.  The proliferation of religious bigotry has not affected the Caribbean and should be kept that way.

As a young boy at the age of twelve or thirteen, I got up early in the morning when it was still dark to walk several miles to attend Sunday morning mass.  Though very young, occasionally brushing pass strangers on the narrow pathway was nerve-wracking.

I was not afraid although it was the wee hours of the morning before the dew was melted away by the greeting sun.  On my journey farmers grazed their hungry cattle as they wiped up mouthful of grass. Others swiftly passed me by going about their business.  Never was I in fear for my life. I felt a sense of bravery as my grandmother’s voice in my head egged me on to continue my journey.

I made a promise to my grand mom because of the core values and confidence she instilled in me during my early years.  God fearing and love was one of the hallmarks of her teaching. No one could conflate spiritual mentoring and parenting as she did. For example, she insisted especially whenever it is dark and I am travelling, greeting strangers while I pass by was a noteworthy gesture.

My other guardians’ also ensuring these unbending rules like respect for the elders was the proper way of life and values that reflect tradition on the island. Like islands and groups, we also have our own flavored idioms in the way we speak which make us so colorful when we speak. The farther you go away from the city the accent of the villagers’ change. I respect the resilience of our pocket communities though very small, we seek to uphold its uniqueness and recognize quite rightly, that assimilation into the broader culture would mean the steadily weakening and an eventual extinction of a people and its culture.

Growing up in Saint Vincent at the time we were not a homogenous population but today, I have seen jarring evidence of cultural fissures in the immigration systems in the Greater Antilles that can affect the harmony that they so profoundly cherished.  The demographics are drastically changing in the Caribbean especially the Greater Antilles because they did not rationalize assimilation.  It is very important that we as a small island nation understand that we must preserve and protect our cultural treasure.

Also, peace and security could no longer be a back issue in the Caribbean as each island faces interrelated challenges, in drugs, weapons, as well as environmental calamities. We have witnessed our bigger neighbors being devoured by visitors searching for a better life, and others with deep pockets calling the Caribbean treasures home.  It is culturally damning to sit back and let the pillaging and depletion go unnoticed.

In the cultural upheaval, there might be bad actors that have no interest in assimilation.  Saint Vincent is the epitome of social norms which was a sacrifice made by our ancestors. It is politically criminal and a cultural degradation to sacrifice a way of life for a few dollars. We must never allow politicians to sold down the river too far.

This problem occurs when we compromise in what we believe in due to external influence of new residents with very different agendas and way of life.  That is when the traditional values become infected and decayed and lost forever.  Leaders in the Caribbean must realize they are at a crossroad in history to preserve their culture and dogma before it is lost.  Saint Vincent is experiencing globalization at an alarming pace.

If this trend continues, “Vincy” as a cultural identity and a way of life as we know it will be consumed by foreigners’ influences.  These changes can be in bad habits, crime, as well as cultural norms. To the cheerleaders of assimilation, we must be measured in the allotment of people who are seeking residency on the tiny island nation.

This is not fear mongering but if a tidal wave of immigrants with very different values such as languages get a foothold on the island the “Vincy Exceptionalism” will disappear.  Furthermore, a surge in immigration phenomenon can exacerbate or quicken the disappearance of our way of life, music, belief, food, politics and so much more. History teaches us to be prideful of our island’s commitment to values and core beliefs.

We must also guard those values at all cost. Vincy Exceptionalism was a sacrifice made by our ancestors that turned the island into a tiny village where everyone knows anyone by asking the name of that person.  Children went shopping to buy bread, and milk after dark without fear of rape or murder.  Alas, that innocence is vulnerable and threatened more than ever as more people seeking residency.

Saint Vincent will be internationalized and discovered by people searching for the “next best thing”. According to visitors to the Caribbean, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines pride itself as one of the prettiest set of islands in the Caribbean and around the world. With their rolling hills, great architectures, spectacular volcanic sandy beaches, great climate, warm natives and exceptionally beautiful islands the Grenadines.

These qualities come with a price that can be a detriment to the ordinary Vincentians.  Visitors with deep pockets can peddle political influence in the context coercion and manipulation. Thus far, the leaders are discipline and prideful of the sovereignty and integrity of the island nation.  Those 32 islands and cays are ripe for the taking we must protect the rights and freedom of the natives on the island from encroachment and eminent domain.

I must make something clear I am not xenophobic or a nationalist as a matter of fact, I am a proponent of immigrations. Humans are giving the right to discover new places in the only world we know by learning different cultures and people.  We can learn from other countries their innovations, way of life or practices that might be of a benefit to us then return to their countries of origin and prove it.

There are advantages of immigration.  Miscellany brings a mixture of living practices and norms that are flavored with diversity and tolerance. With different peoples’ experience, we will achieve supreme diversity in one country without having to travel to many countries eat an assortment of food, visit places of different types of festivals and religions or even intermingle with diversity.

We look at countries that are heavily diverse such as the USA, Canada, England just to name a few, these countries benefited from an array of talents in innovation in bioengineering, AI (Artificial Intelligence), a culinary burst of talents that can be exchanged.

Those are some of the positives about diversification. Unfortunately, that cultural sauce comes at a heavy price and an island with such a meager population and we must raise the immigration bar high enough to avoid cultural causality.  It is not draconian to control what is coming in such a small island. We don’t have the luxury to lapse in our policy.

Vincentians have a rich history although not mention in the schools.  The good news is we are rediscovering our lovely island that only Vincentians can attest to and with the collaboration of help from abroad, people will realize there was lot more about Saint Vincent than what was written in the past.

However, through time the explosion of immigration can cultivate a cultural cavity which will harm the core principle of Vincy Exceptionalism. That hole will be the disappearance of norms, beliefs and values. Many places around the world had the same experiences like Australia in 1770, Christmas Island 1615, Island of Reunion 1507 just to name a few.

Fragile cultures with small populations are in peril of disappearing due to the dawn of multiculturalism in which our proclivity towards immigrants is to nonchalant.

Finally, Saint Vincent is at a cross road now more than ever in history.  The many native Indians on the island have all but disappeared. They left behind faded foot prints of their cherished culture and way of life never to be told from the dust bowl of history.  I will hope my emphasis helps to avoid the solipsistic clarification base on exceptionalism and the basis on dogma and class.

No one can regulate the occurrence with which people move, and where they desire to go in the world supermarket of culture. Humans are no longer restricted to emerging identity based upon the location in which they live, but can choose from a wide range of different characteristics.

They now adopt clothes, ways of speaking, values, and lifestyles of any group of their decisions.  To ensure fulfillment of our commitment, first we should attach to any culture be culturally conscious and alerted to passive changes that can harm what we so dearly cherish.

The good news is we will not die out because we are a procreate so there are no worries of we disappearing as a people. But I fear of cultural extinction in the sense to art, music, dance, religion, idiom etc. We look at the Caribs, Arawak they have faded into the dust bowl of history.

Culture is a way people live together were they have more things in common the less. The faith of today’s culture rest in the hands of tomorrow’s children.

The parents of today already done all the heavy lifting to secure a strong cultural identity.  Greedy official should not out source Saint Vincent and the Grenadines fragile way of life to unregulated immigration, and deep pocket pillagers.

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