By Oliver Mills
A country needs to stay young and strong. A people need to keep young and strong. And a culture needs to remain vibrant and strong. Staying young and strong is to stay alive. To endure, to replenish, and to grow robustly. It is to keep intact what sustains us, while shedding those aspects which have outlived their usefulness, and replace them with a new DNA which pushes a people and the society further forward to new heights, and new levels of achievement.
Oliver Mills is a former lecturer in education at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. He holds an M.Ed degree. from Dalhousie University in Canada, an MA from the University of London and a post-graduate diploma in HRM and Training, University of Leicester. He is a past Permanent Secretary in Education with the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands
Staying young and strong has nothing to do with age. It has to do with keeping fit, healthy, always thinking anew, and trying different things that work better than existing ones. It is about keeping alert and aware, and renewing our energies and enthusiasm to work continuously on behalf of ourselves and our country, so that it always remains our firm anchor, and provider.
Staying young and strong as a society and people means we have to keep each other in high regard, and not allow ourselves to be shaped and moulded by others. We have to keep our guard up, so that when we are approached by those who might want us to betray our own, and serve their narrow interests, that we do not fall for the thirty pieces of silver. We must never keep suspicious thoughts about each other. This weakens us, and divides us, so that others who are not like us fill the gap, and remake us in their image. We then lose what is special about us, and become like those who do not wish us well, and they then take over our strength and our youthful vigour.
In our political decisions, we must remain young and strong. The leaders of the system must always think of new things to do to make life better and more meaningful for the people they serve. It is the government that does what the people want. The people need to see new economic projects now. They cannot wait. Waiting is no guarantee something will happen. It is not an option. It is a delay tactic. And those most in need might not be around to experience, or enjoy what they were told to wait for.
Our politics needs to show stamina and grit. This is strength. It needs to challenge and contest constitutionally the ideas, positions, and barrier walls that some say have been erected to keep the country and its people on the plantation. There needs to be a more activist stance, using the drive and energy of what is young about us, to move things on, to build the economy in our own way, to fashion our society in our own way, and on our own terms, and to build the new Turks and Caicos that our cultural song says we are out to build. We can’t just sing. We must also make an effort.
Excuses and speeches do not a country make. We are a young society. We need to hoist our strength, and our young talents to reclaim, and remake the kind of country we want, in our own image. Using the strategies of soft power will help in achieving our goals. Soft power is the use of diplomacy, persuasion, positive values, and wise and intelligent negotiation strategies to achieve our goals. Staying young and strong, we preserve and protect what is ours. And to stay and continue to be young and strong, we have to do what the young and strong do, and that is, use soft power as a political strategy to progress the system in the interests of its people.
We cannot continue the way we are. There is helplessness and hopelessness among the vast majority of us. Most of our family islands, according to some people, seem to be taking on the form of cemeteries. Talk show callers and some talk show panellists seem to express the climate that currently exists in our country. And it is not good. They seem to suggest that TCI’s are being possibly targeted for unemployment, while outside others appear to kill the fatted calf, and live off the fat of the land. Some think preference is being given to those not of our culture, and that the impression is, that some of our very own are into these practices hand and glove.
But if our very own serves the needs of those outside of our culture, this saps our strength, and our youthful energy. Instead of building the country and its people up, they seem to be doing a disservice to their sacred soil. Staying young and strong means we use our human and natural resources, and our influence, to promote our own, and those who share in our cause so that we all end up strong. Strong citizens make a strong culture, and a strong culture makes for strong values, which cement the country and its people.
Although we have been hearing of planned economic initiatives, we must not confuse statements, with the reality on the ground, and feel that something is being delivered in the moment, or that it has materialised. These initiatives do not happen in the twinkling of an eye. And the condition of people who are waiting for something to happen gets worse in the meantime. Our system of government needs the energy and strength of the real people of the country. When some of us get into governing positions, we abandon our youthful enthusiasm, and island strength, and become part of a system not designed for our nature, but rather for an ancient, more static culture. This is why we are having constitutional conflicts. The present system makes people old, and it foot-drags, instead of responding quickly and reasonably to social demands.
Until we use soft power to move, and transform the present way things are done, we will continue to experience drift, and zigzags. The system will continue to dry up, and the people will no longer see the value of government. Nothing to them will appear to have any purpose or point. And politics will continue to be seen as who gets what, when, and how. But, if we stay young, enthusiastic, and optimistic. If we hold strong, and use flexible and soft political strategies. We will win the day, and reclaim our country.