IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

U.S.V.I. visit

I was in St. Thomas U.S. virgin islands over the weekend (to play in a golf tournament…but that part does not merit much discussion…ouch).  My wife, who is from Martinique, and therefore “Caribbean” had an interesting exchange with a taxi driver.  She said something about how nice the island was and how he must be proud…small talk..etc…  Well apparently that set the guy off about how he wasn’t proud, about how he could only be proud if the islands (there are three) became independent, how the Americans dominated and ruined everything etc…  One hears some of  the same thing in most overseas territories of major countries.  The feeling exists in Guadeloupe and Martinique, in Puerto Rico and in French New Caledonia.

As a card carrying political scientist I find this interesting, because while one can understand the feeling, it is very hard to see how small island countries can really exist on their own in the way that “independence” and “national sovereignty” seem to imply.  I would go further to say this is a very 19th century feeling, that is really not practical in the 21st century.  Why?  Well to take any Caribbean case, independence would bring with it the almost immediate need to join the regional organization, CARICOM, and to start to “pool sovereignty” by opening borders, sharing currency, etc…A small island cannot stand alone in our globalizing era.  However, if you feel oppressed–ie if you feel you have suffered and are suffering injustice–it seems natural that you would seek “independence”, given all that that condition is supposed to include.

So, these remaining overseas dependencies are sort of caught in a dilemma which seems to be fraught with tension and conflict potential.  Either they remain in what they perceive as a dominated and oppressed condition, but enjoy the benefits of being linked to a much bigger country that has to, to some extent at least, take care of them.  Or, if given the chance, they become independent and are immediately subjected to the rough currents of global economic change, which would almost inevitably have devastating social consequences and give rise to a variety of conflicts.

There may be need here for some creative political imagination to find a modus vivendi for these vestiges of a colonial past.  Certainly, something has to be done to reconcile economic survival with the need for a sense of coherent political identity.

IGBarb says:  “We’re all in this together!”

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October 12, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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