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CREATING THE POLITICAL BACKBONE IN THE PLACE OF A PERSONAL WISHBONE

I am impressed with the quality of analyses that appear in The Source.
Once more, the truism that the Virgin Islands people do not lack intellectual skills, technical expertise, and cognitive ability have been reaffirmed.
The op-ed pieces by the Bornns are extremely impressive because they are identical to the suggestions made at the Economic Summit, March 18-19, 1999. That Summit was organized largely by Sen. Lorraine Berry with the assistance of Sens. Roosevelt David and David Jones.
The Bornns' recommendations have been previously mentioned at numerous forums, symposiums, seminars, conferences, debates, and/or collective gatherings during the past five legislative elections. Clearly the private sector knows what is wrong with our economy, and this actually solves half of our fiscal crisis. However, our political system does not lack "solutions." It does lack change agents who have the political will to transform the status quo.
Before I say anything else, I state publicly my political leaning, I am a hard-line Pan-Africanist, left-of-center progressive/radical, and die-hard optimist in humanity. I want the world to change for the better and if any venom appears in this article, it reflects my unconditional hatred for mediocrity, racism, exploitation, corruption, and social problems that many of us have come to accept as "de way it tis."
I know that we will never go back to the old days, the "big yard" community and agro-mercantile economy. We are integrated intimately within the North American sector of the global economy.
Many of the economic problems that afflict us are related to the territory's position as a service economy dependent on leisure spending and consumerism within external markets.
And worse, the only real industrial complex, HOVIC/HOVENSA, is highly vulnerable to volatile market forces in the petrochemical industry. Nonetheless, our present fiscal and economic problems are exacerbated by the human element, political leadership.
The Virgin Islands has lost its "Paradise" status due to gross political errors based on internal defects in our political culture. Despite the impressive gains made by the previous generation(s) of political leaders of the dominant partisan affiliations, Democrats, Republicans, and Independent Citizens Movement, the Virgin Islands political system deteriorated during the 1980s-1990s. If we are honest with ourselves, we would agree that the following processes took place:
1. The party system collapsed. From the Juan Luis-Henry Millin Administration, the partisan differences became blurred, if not indistinct.
The philosophical and programmatic distinctions among the three parties have evaporated.
2. The private sector has been a bit too generous in supporting numerous political leaders who only serve the private sector's short term interests, but these leaders are not politically mature, astute, and savvy enough to lead.
3. A significant percentage of Virgin Islanders have internalized the worst defects in electoral politics such as expediency, dependency syndromes, personalism, and fiesta-type campaigning.
4. The demographic composition of the territory has permanently changed. We are more divided than ever, and there are very few issues that unite us for something. But we have a tinderbox that explodes anytime the fundamental questions on political status and federal relations, constitutional development, culture, identity, and indigenous rights are brought up.
5. The educated strata within the Virgin Islands has forfeited its influence and perhaps leadership through silence, passivity, irresponsibility, and cowardice.
All of these defects weaken our political system. Even if a few good political leaders speak or exist (there are a few), the decision-making process continues to deteriorate. We hear a plethora of wishes, especially during election season, and we see the proliferation of excellent solutions. Yet, the territory suffers, and totters on collapse.
Many Virgin Islanders point to the weaknesses of individuals/individual
leaders/personalities. Here, we all know the "melee on" many of decision-makers, but I insist that our economic problems are too severe to be the result of any one political party, strata, or leader. Our institutional failures, widespread lack of productivity, demoralization, and inefficacy are tied to a systemic problem. Our leadership weakness represents both symptoms of our defective politics and reasons for our system to worsen.
We must first admit our problems before we can begin to solve them. The
defective processes that I just noted have prevented our political leadership to develop the political will to transform our society. The lack of "backbone" among our political leadership is tied to the excessive fear of losing popularity with an electorate that has grown used to short-term solutions and a profound sense of distrust for any project that demands sacrifice for the benefit of future generations.
Our political system rewards populism, demagoguery, and dishonesty, and it is ruthless with principled stances, ideological convictions, and honesty. Once Senator Will-do-anything-to-be-reelected senses his/her political career will end if he/she takes a position that is in the people's best interests, campaign promises, research, legal counsel, and solutions are thrown overboard! Too often this is the "politics" of our territory.
Today, we will have to change politics as we know it. The entire political system needs to be overhauled and reformed. The human element needs renewal and in some cases removal. We really have no choice on the decisions before us since crisis has the inherent dynamic of imposing changes. We should ask ourselves, which side should we take? Wishing for great heroes to lead us, or strengthening our backbones for fundamental changes? Decide.

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