Human rights are in vogue, but no one seems to care for them as much as Prime Minister Keith Mitchell’s government. Favourable treatment by Grenada depends on respect for human rights. In this order of ideas, a country’s social or economic conditions are of little importance. Wide differences in income, social injustice, the crime index or the percentage of functional illiterates are unimportant.
Even the type of government is secondary. The only important condition is individual freedom, whether deserved or not expressed as a certain degree of respect for human rights. And it is peculiar that the emphasis is always placed on individual freedoms taken for granted, limitations and aggression suffered by the rest of society.
We complain, but at the same time accept as normal the increase in crime, notorious abuses against women and children, freedom of expression and licentiousness. Using individual freedom as justification, many people act against the poor and confuse society.
The toll paid for accessing to a democratic regime seems to be a social decomposition and actions by some individuals or groups; actions that the rest of society find difficult to understand. In Eastern Europe, now free of dictatorial regimes, examples are common, not to mention Spain or Ireland. Latin America has also had its quota of individual violence, with ideologies generally as the excuse.
At this point it’s fair to ask ourselves: Is it possible for the West to harmonize individual human rights with the existence of a homogeneous and organized society? In our countries, regimes that respect total freedom find it difficult to balance development with maintenance of citizens’ personal safety.
We have never learned what are the limits of total freedom or the nature of the duties it imposes. Some of the Far East countries’ cultures teach loyalty to the great national objectives, and recognize society’s importance.
The Caribbean has never had this formation. Other Western countries have at least, had the terrible experience of war. They learned of the need for national cohesion in times of emergency. Their peoples have collectively felt the consequences of victory or defeat. The Caribbean has not lived through such times, which contribute to create a conscience for the national fate.
Wars are horrible experiences, but help form nations. We really don’t know the meaning of sacrifices made for the country, nor the citizens’ obligations toward society. Perhaps for this reason we understand what freedom means but fail to see its relation to obligations to war, the rest of society and to sacrifices for the national well-being.
The lack of cohesion has made us accept so many dictatorships and strong-men. And it is also the reason for the otherwise impossible to understand irresponsibility of parties and parliamentarians in our continent.
The Caribbean will go into the globalized world with a very heavy burden. Her people have not yet constituted coherent societies and nations. The rest of the global world shows a behaviour different from ours. We have an additional handicap, the minority of people in our countries lack a stable family structure that could bequeath the necessary moral values to the young, and explain to them the importance of society and steady work.
Without these values we can hardly succeed in an open economy global world, regardless of the acceptable record we may have as far as human rights and living in a democratic society are concerned.