Uncomfortable Truths: Where are the great Caribbean leaders? - Just Analise
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Uncomfortable Truths: Where are the great Caribbean leaders?

13 Dec Uncomfortable Truths: Where are the great Caribbean leaders?

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This is a plea from a 1st generation post-Independence era Caribbean citizen.

Where are the great Caribbean leaders? Where are the Caribbean leaders to inspire me? To make me want to develop our region and commit to a life of active citizenry? Where are the leaders who are transparent and hold themselves accountable? Where are the visionaries and the strategic thinkers who are working tirelessly to preserve the harmony of the Caribbean while elevating our civilization to exalted heights?

This is a call for all leaders: political, business, environmental, human rights, cultural and social activists.

I read the newspapers. I watch the news. I scour the internet. And yet, I ache for a great Caribbean leader like I ache for my long lost love.

Sir Grantley Adams, Dr. Shridath Ramphal, Dr. Eric Williams and Dr. Cheddi Jagan are all great visionary leaders of yesterday. I search and I search but I cannot find their replacements.

I have spent my life in the Caribbean as a student and now as a young adult. After more than a decade in professional life, I am yet to find that one great Caribbean leader that inspires me to reach beyond the landscape in front of me and envision a better Caribbean. Visionary leaders are those who can revolutionize industries, focus relentless on problem solving, are adaptable to the changing global economic tides and can re-imagine our way of life through innovation. Visionary leaders focus on improving the lives of people. Vision focused on anything other than people is ego driven exploitation. Vision answers the question, “How will we make the world better for others?” Vision makes work meaningful.

No doubt, Caribbean organisations have goals which will move them along a path, but hardly ever is there a leader at the forefront leading the charge with a vision that clearly articulates where they are headed or what they can look forward to rejoicing when they arrive.

I feel conflicted at times. As though I shouldn’t be asking for accountable, exemplary leadership for me to follow. Perhaps I should be lost in the revelry of partying, going to the beach and fucking, just living the quintessential Caribbean life. I have no home-grown examples to follow so instead I watch videos and read endless literature of Oprah, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, Elson Musk, Muhummed Yunnus, Bill Strickland, Susan Cain, Sheryl Sandberg, the late Dr. Maya Angelou and Janine Benyus.  These are some of the heroes I follow.

slums in jamaicaMy search appears dismal. I look to the four points on my Caribbean map. To the north I seek out a leader who is appalled at the slums of Kingston, Port Au Prince, Georgetown and Port of Spain and wants to be seen as a person who is concerned about the welfare of the least amongst us. Then I look south for a leader with fresh and bold ideas who will use design and systems thinking to create effective programmes and institutions to uplift all Caribbean people. To the East and West I strain my binoculars to find leaders at all levels who need to remind our citizens that our destiny in the Caribbean resides in the creative use of our talents and the disciplined execution of our civic responsibilities.

I cannot find anyone.

I believe that our consciousness as a people needs to be elevated. Our educational system almost everywhere has not budged into the 21stcentury, still favouring intellectually archaic syllabuses. There are many complex factors that explain academic performance but an interesting curriculum and one that is relevant to the students’ realities and societal needs must rank at the very top.

I know what our elders say about my generation. The Millennial generation is entitled and spoilt.

I think that I am entitled to great leadership examples. I want to be in awe. I want someone to show me that there is a way to thrive with integrity and with concern for your neighbour. That it is not just about the me-first mentality that has prevailed and that nepotism is my only way of moving through the ranks. I want someone to make me fall in love with a Caribbean that can be a paradise to all.

Where are the examples of these leaders? Where do I have to go to meet them and have a conversation?

Perhaps the dearth of visionary leadership is now left to the young adults of the Caribbean to fill the gaps. But what a burden to bear with no support system or persons to inspire us along the way. This is my experience and it could be limited. However, for the sake of the future of our region I sincerely hope that it is not.

P.S. – Do you know of or work with a great visionary Caribbean leader? Please let me know in the comments below or email me their contact info at justanalise868@gmail.com  I’m looking for them to interview for my blog. If they are out there, they should be celebrated just like the Oprahs of the world.

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3 Comments
  • bob
    Posted at 11:04h, 20 December Reply

    Portia Simpson Miller, a great leader of our and all times….

  • Caribbean People Should Be The World's Diversity Experts But...
    Posted at 11:36h, 30 November Reply

    […] last time I wrote about “Where Are The Great Caribbean Leaders” (click here)  I was told that I shouldn’t look for great leaders. I should become the leader who I am […]

  • Corey Gilkes
    Posted at 21:13h, 02 April Reply

    I agree with whoever told you that you should stop looking for that leader and *become* the leader. Of course to do so may be somewhat circular since you need to look for a model at some stage — hence your *current* frustration.

    I disagree with you somewhat when you said that we have no independent thinkers; we do, in droves. Not all of them are necessarily in the places you may expect to find them but they are there. At the same time, this society is very brutal towards independent thinkers and there are several reasons — self-loathing, defeatist mindsets because of past betrayals and disappointments, a colonialist schooling system that posits that we’re a people with no history or civilisation. Much of that can be traced, ironically, to some of the “visionary” leaders you cited here. In fact, a lot of the answers to the central question of this blog are found in your article on why Caribbean people should stop celebrating independence: it’s all laid out right there.

    But, the education and political systems being what they are, we have never seriously analysed colonial rule and its long-term effects. And here is where I put a great deal of the blame on that same “Independence” generation, Dr Eric Williams included. They did challenge the colonial system, but for what purpose is the question we need to ask; it may not necessarily be the same things we had/have in mind. Many of them just wanted to take over the system, not get rid of it; they just didn’t want whites running it. You have to remember that they were themselves schooled in the colonial system that was geared to create an elite buffer class of colonial subjects who would run the colonies on behalf of the Crown and absentee businessmen. Add to that the reality of the Cold War and the schizophrenic, simultaneously racist, outlook of the United States towards any post-colonial country becoming *too* democratic and seeking to address social inequalities. I’ve written about this elsewhere in an article named “Faiths to Dominate, Pacify and Agitate”

    So people like Williams may have had visions, but they were products of their own colonial indoctrination and could not break free from it. He himself retained all the laws and institutions that have nothing to do with this society. Further, he was very hostile towards independent thinkers because they would not toe *his* line. The fact that Williams is well known but CLR James is not and even less is known about Lloyd Best, Claudia Jones, George Bailey, George Padmore, Elma Francois, Thelma Williams says a lot about the culture of insecurity that he helped cement.

    And this part here — We are a bunch of copycats bullshitting our way through life, hoping that we aren’t found out — says it all 🙂 That sounds almost like something Lloyd Best would have said — in fact *did* say on occasion. And you are so right; it stems from the fear of original thinking because of the possibility of failure. So the untying of that knot is a herculaean task.

    But not an impossible one 😉

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