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To construct from morning

Monday, October 23, 2017

May Martin Joseph rest in peace. Patrick Manning’s seven-year national security minister haunted me watching the budget debated. Able within an election cycle to do little that eased citizens’ daily insecurity and losses to violence, his core job ought to have been to tell stories. Nurture imagination. Rally hope.

He failed. Miserably. His party lost the election. That object lesson, about how to peddle hardship, seems lost—like so many others—now they have reclaimed office, and the sea Martin. Especially lost on a diminutive occupant of a white leather armchair. For whom Paolo Kernahan was allowed in these very pages to coin the fittest adjective, musing “What is the opposite of cocky?”

Indulge that misogynistic retelling. It’s a storytelling device. And the story is about feminism and leadership.

In my circle, nationalism is another bad word. It’s not just the ugliness that recently greeted a politician’s call to open our hearts and homes to storm-ravaged Dominican neighbours. Or how that links to the protectionism of Brexiting. The Trumpian need to fearwall oneself off from Mexican rapists.

These reveal nationalism’s broader trouble: its tribalist core. What linked torch-bearers’ chants around Charlottesville, Virginia’s August statues to 19th-century German nationalist ideals of Blut und Boden.

Nationalism has repeatedly proven deadly not only for native peoples whom proud people with statues from proud states sailed in to “discover” and traffic, and civilise. Nationalism’s violence and dehumanisation turn inward too, toward both newcomers and older minorities, who are pushed out of the idea of the state, often in the name of morality. Jacqui Alexander powerfully reminds us a sharpening of criminalisation of intimacy between men and between women in the Caribbean was a proud post-colonial legislative project. Keith Rowley repeatedly reminds us too, how a generation of brilliant nationalist Caribbean leaders—even ones deeply committed to regionalism—still see half their populations as golf courses and jamettes.

But I have argued for a decade now that nationalism is in fact a force for good. For feminism. Indeed, that it is precisely the solution we need. That post-colonial, New-World nationalisms can be feminist and generative, and much-needed ways for imagining and storying the project of ensuring humanity and justice and security that I believe we all share—and that is feminism’s goal. Politics nor economics nor arming the state nor UN declarations seem to have got us any distance there.

I’ve repeatedly held up the bloody death of the Grenada Revolution as a marker of the loss of political imagination in the Commonwealth Caribbean. Loss of the stories my generation were taught to sing in class of a state of inclusion and self-affirmation. As I listened, inattentively, to the budget, I heard so, so many nancy-stories, so much imaginative debate. About texts and warrants and pastures. Old fables about Kamla and school violence. But so few nation-stories. So many stories left out someone, ethnically or age-wise, by geography or gender, class or calling.

I contemplated the cyclical failure of electoral politics and budgets to deliver the majority of us a sense of physical or economic security. That to benefit unevenly from patronage is the best aspiration we have.

I have said these things over and over, but their simplicity strikes me more and more. That the solution to our woes requires a project on the scale of what Grenada attempted. And that it will not come from the polls. That the powerful ideology of nationalism, a feminist one of shared sacrifices for the common good, of constructing from morning as Grenada’s budget process was labelled, has to ground any such work.

That a Finance Minister must, most of all, story a shared future.


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