Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Letter of the Day | CARICOM out of alignment with Trumpism

Published:Saturday | November 12, 2016 | 11:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Below are excerpts of a presentation by vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, at a forum at the UWI Regional Headquarters on November 9, 2016 titled 'The Caribbean Say on USA Today'.

The seismic, but surely predictable shift in the political narrative of the USA presidential elections has thrown Caribbean-USA relationships out of alignment. More so than many parts of the world, the Caribbean states in the CARICOM subregion have sought to align their economic and political strategies with those of the USA in search of an effective alignment. This development agenda has led critics to suggest that it has been more than alignment but a subservient culture of compliance.

The search for political alignment since independence was turbulent but never morally disrespectful. The two-party democracy system that we both share has spawned a celebration of the political centre while recognising that a socialist Left and a conservative Right have powerful constituencies to represent.

The US electoral call for an extreme shift to the right originates with those groups who prefer a society based on Christian fundamentalism, white corporate elitism, military nationalism, ethnic solidarity, and the iron rule of communities by militarised police. They have rejected the concepts of multiracialism, social liberalism, community inclusiveness, racial equality, gender justice and equality, and the social role of government to provide health care and public education for the poor.

In the clash of philosophies, the Trumpists have won, leaving the Caribbean nations that have generally been aligned to what Americans now call 'Obamaism' - social inclusion, together we can, equality and equal justice for all-out on left field without the ball and a referee blowing a whistle.

Clinton's 'Stronger Together' has evolved from 'Yes, We Can', both connected to our 'Out of Many, One People' and 'rainbow nation'. These rejected philosophies of how best to organise a society imply disdain for the Caribbean world view that has pushed democracy far behind where white America feels comfortable. CARICOM is, therefore, out of political and ideological alignment with Trumpism.

But more disturbing for CARICOM is the fear of losing economic alignment. The fragile economic recovery of the region is threatened by the economic narrative of Trump that calls for an abandonment of NAFTA, rejection of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, a trade war with China, greater domestic protectionism, and a celebration of Russia over the European Union. These unleashed financial forces, real or imagined, will adversely affect world trade, leaving the Caribbean on the downside of the swing.

The reset of global diplomacy driven by the rise of ethnic nationalism in the USA and in Western Europe will affect not only the cultural sensibility of Latin America, but Asia, and Africa. With schoolchildren in US states calling for 'white power' and women rejected as unworthy sexual others, domestic diplomacy throughout the world will, joined with formal politics, create a restricted global commercial culture that will adversely affect global trade and commercial relations.

 

PUBLIC DISRESPECT

 

The moral redundancy of the Republican campaign has sent shivers down the Caribbean soul, a place that has been demanding social sophistication from leaders. Public disrespect for women has been rejected and racial bigotry banished from our political life.

The Caribbean has done well to put the raw aspects of its history behind it in a search for common ground on which to build our young democracies. In this regard, also, Trumpism is not auguring well for the Caribbean. As we seek to keep our economies aligned with the fiscal and financial strategies of the USA, we are now out of alignment morally, spiritually, socially, and culturally.

CARICOM is currently vibrating within this non-alignment. Our political leaders have rightly expressed salutations in the direction of the president-elect, but will he ever reflect upon our best wishes, visit with us, and by way of generosity "hail CARICOM and big up Jamaica?"

HILARY BECKLES

Vice Chancellor, UWI