Regionalism in need of radical love

Guest post by Rashad Brathwaite

 2013 has been an intense year in the development of the legal framework of Caricom. The Shanique Myrie case engendered a host of political, legal and social commentary; necessary dialogues; dialogues worth having. Progress is seemingly followed immediately by failings. Following the legal formulations by the Caribbean Court of Justice vindicating and fleshing out the nature of the freedom of movement, a cohort of Jamaicans were rejected from Trinidad and Tobago. Following the signing of a Trade agreement between Jamaica and Trinidad, The Minister of National Security metaphorically sent many more home claiming the Trinidadian State is not a Mall.

In the face of failings by National Leaders and Institutions, from across the Caribbean whether in the direct denial of rights, the inflammatory language, our failings to join the Caribbean Court of Justice, our responses as Caribbean citizens impassioned in the moment, have often been violent and vitriolic. This piece focuses less on the legal development of CARICOM, which is no doubt critical, but instead focuses on our responses to these acts of violations; to our speech-performances of violence in response to violence.

It asks questions of our claim to moral authority when our responses in moments of oppression is to become equally oppressive. It problematizes our discourse when Caribbean citizens transform Facebook text-boxes into stereotypes, a devaluing of cultural differences and a claim to superiority. It rejects these notions of superiority. Cultural capital does not make you superior. Human-Resource capital does not make you superior. Natural-Resource capital does not make you superior. We are not superior.

Our liberation into a Region that holds each fibre of the Caribbean fabric as important, must start with us as members of the Community, of a Caribbean Civilization. The work of CARICOM, the spirit and ethos of Caribean-ness, not merely the Legal Mechanisms and Functionings, is in the everyday interactions of us as a Caribbean people.

When a Barbadian Minister reduces a country to “a rot”, when the Trinidadian Minister of National Security says the country is not a mall, When a Leader claims we should abandon, or refuse to join our Regional Court in favor of the National or in favor of the Colonial Power, our resort must be a radical Love; A Love that rejects these damaging notions, but does not replicate them.

These moments of Institutional failures must be our greatest call to actions as individuals. In a world dominated by realpolitik, rational self-interest, protection of the Sovereignty of the State, the national interest, is there a room for Love and Loving? Is this love and loving the space through which Caricom may flow? Is it not in these precise moments that those who form the established intellegensia and those outside of its boundaries; those whose wisdom does not ordinarily fit within the intellectual formalism or expression that defines the academy; those who possess the everyday wisdom of age, of experience, of youth, must respond in love?

In no way does this radical love preclude justice; it precludes vengeance. It does not preclude legal recourse to mechanisms designed to protect these rights, nor does it preclude denouncing sites of oppression. It precludes bigotry in response to oppression. It precludes claims of superiority. It precludes debasing our humanity in response. Paulo Freire contends in Pedagogy of the Oppressed that “the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed:[is[ to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well.”

When our leaders fail to set a spirit of Regional integration on fire, and instead seemingly set fire to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, do we not have an obligation to water it with love? Undoubtedly, this is an unusual position, what place does a discourse of love have in the face of these seemingly ever growing moments of Regional War. But, Is it not precisely in the face of this war, that this discourse of love must take root? What will our liberation look like? How may we liberate ourselves from our existential realities of oppression? How may we liberate our Caribbeanness; our CARICOM? Tessanne Chin sang Bob Marley and the Wailer’s Redemption song on the Voice this week. The Caribbean sang along. We did not sing divided. We ALL sang along. What will the notes, the harmonies, the melodies, the chords and the lyrics of our Regional song of freedom be?

Rashad Brathwaite is a 22-year-old graduate of the Faculty of Law of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.