T&T: From a Nation of Underachievers to Leaders?

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It is time for a new government – a truly new government, one that has allegiance to our country and not their party or their special interest friends. More importantly, it’s time for our nation to demand high levels of morality from our leaders. Sounds like wishful thinking? I know. However, don’t you think that the time has come for Trinbagonians to step up to the plate and create change?
Our history has demonstrated that we cannot only rely on the democratic process, but that we must also begin to participate in “the process”. Let me break it down.
Take football for example, it is easy to sit on the sideline, and tell players how to play, but to trying to actually defend your goalpost and move through the offence and score goals is another story. It is easy to say Messi or Latapy should have scored that goal, but to score the goal ourselves is a whole other story (yes I compared Latas with Messi). Many Trinbagonians are great commentators and spectators. We like to sit on the fence and criticise, complain or groan, rather than participate. Every time we join the bandwagon of political criticism, we’re guilty of this.
It is easy to criticise, but it is not as easy to participate. So how do we move towards becoming active, and moving from sideline comments towards playing on the field?
We should all seek ways to participate in changing the status quo; otherwise, we are a nation of underachieving overachievers. Our leaders are a reflection of us. If our leadership fails, then so do we.
I once read an article in the New Yorker that said, “If you take unity seriously, as Obama does, then outrage does not make sense, any more than it would make sense for a doctor to express outrage that a patient’s kidney is causing pain his back”. The pain and anger that we are feeling about our current leadership is symptomatic of the lack of leadership we have had with recent governance. Yes we can demand leadership, and service to our people, but we also need to answer the call to action and seek ways of changing the things we wish to see changed. That means some of us have to step up to the plate, and become active in politics.
We need to move past the blame game, the empty rhetoric, the party (and petty) politics, the nepotism, the corruption, the scandal, and the conflict. Experienced professionals often complain that they spend more time in meetings than they do working. It would seem that our current Government is spending very little time getting the work done, and spending too much time placing blame on past governments, and not enough time rolling up their sleeves and working as a unit for the good of our nation.
We are a nation with a highly educated population of passionate, committed people – with so much potential. Yet we seem to be underachieving with respect to our political affairs. Admittedly, these observations are not unique to the current Government, but it is a trend that seems to be repeating itself far too often in our nation.
Many of us, myself included, believe that being a politician is equal to being corrupt and dishonest, but change does not mean you have to be come a politician, or start a new party. Granted, it does take some arrogance, ego or belief that you can run a country, or be a politician, in order to want to become a politician (Disclaimer, if you feel the urge to do so please go ahead. My vote is for a Dougla party mixed with a few whites).
The point is that not all leadership is the loud and blow the whistle type of leadership. Some of the best leadership is silent and slowly grows in the woodworks, until it turns into massive change. We have made this change and leadership thing into something that is too big.
We need to embrace the idea that small actions, small acts of leadership, can have large, system-changing effects. We need to answer the call to action, by leveraging our own strengths to help build our own communities. I am not saying that we all need to become community organisers, activists or politicians. Some us just aren’t wired for it. I am saying that there are other ways to be a leader.
I am asking you to look at your environment. If you know how to fix bikes, open a bike shop, and teach some of the youngsters in your neighbourhood how to fix bikes. Be a role model or a mentor for someone. If you are good at math, start teaching it for free to some of the less fortunate in your neighbourhood. Whatever your skill is, leverage it, and give back to our community. Do something. Do anything. Just start being active.
You’d be amazed at the difference you can make. I learned that recently. You see…  when I was 16, I used to volunteer at the YMCA to help children learn to read in an after-school programme. When I was home for Carnival this year, a boy saw me in the streets, while I was wining low, and asked, “Do you remember me?” I did not even recognise him (and you know… when yuh playin’ mas, yuh mind is only on one thing). He reminded me that I used to help him learn to read and do math, and now he is studying to be a doctor. The realisation that my two hours a week made a profound difference on one boy’s life blew me away. I did not even remember him, but this little boy from Sea Lots attributed his success to my two hours a week.
The point is, not all leaders are Barack Obamas of the world. Leaders are those community members who see a need in our community and say, “Yuh know what, I have to fix that, I can help this person develop”.
I’d love to see our nation embrace our long-forgotten motto – “Together we aspire, together we achieve” – and start participating in our own democracy and development as a people. If we do not become part of the process, and part of the change, and continue to sit on the sideline expecting players to do what we know needs to be done, we are going to lose the game… every time. We need to suit up, put on our boots and get in the mud. As long as we continue to be armchair critics, nothing is going to change.

It is time for a new government – a truly new government, one that has allegiance to our country and not their party or their special interest friends. More importantly, it’s time for our nation to demand high levels of morality from our leaders. Sounds like wishful thinking? I know. However, don’t you think that the time has come for Trinbagonians to step up to the plate and create change?

Our history has demonstrated that we cannot only rely on the democratic process, but that we must also begin to participate in “the process”. Let me break it down.

Take football, for example. It is easy to sit on the sideline, and tell players how to play, but to trying to actually defend your goalpost and move through the offence and score goals is another story. It is easy to say Messi or Latapy should have scored that goal, but to score the goal ourselves is a whole other story (yes I compared Latas with Messi). Many Trinbagonians are great commentators and spectators. We like to sit on the fence and criticise, complain or groan, rather than participate. Every time we join the bandwagon of political criticism, we’re guilty of this.

It is easy to criticise, but it is not as easy to participate.

It is easy to criticise, but it is not as easy to participate. So how do we move towards becoming active, and moving from sideline comments towards playing on the field?

We should all seek ways to participate in changing the status quo; otherwise, we are a nation of underachieving overachievers. Our leaders are a reflection of us. If our leadership fails, then so do we.

I once read an article in the New Yorker that said, “If you take unity seriously, as Obama does, then outrage does not make sense, any more than it would make sense for a doctor to express outrage that a patient’s kidney is causing pain his back”. The pain and anger that we are feeling about our current leadership is symptomatic of the lack of leadership we have had with recent governance. Yes we can demand leadership, and service to our people, but we also need to answer the call to action and seek ways of changing the things we wish to see changed. That means some of us have to step up to the plate, and become active in politics.

We need to move past the blame game, the empty rhetoric, the party (and petty) politics, the nepotism, the corruption, the scandal, and the conflict. Experienced professionals often complain that they spend more time in meetings than they do working. It would seem that our current Government is spending too much time placing blame on past governments, and not enough time rolling up their sleeves and working as a unit for the good of our nation.

“We are a nation with a highly educated population…

Yet we seem to be underachieving with respect to our political affairs.”

We are a nation with a highly educated population of passionate, committed people – with so much potential. Yet we seem to be underachieving with respect to our political affairs. Admittedly, these observations are not unique to the current Government, but it is a trend that seems to be repeating itself far too often in our nation.

Many of us, myself included, believe that being a politician is equal to being corrupt and dishonest, but change does not mean you have to become a politician, or start a new party. Granted, it does take some arrogance, ego or belief that you can run a country, or be a politician, in order to want to become a politician (Disclaimer, if you feel the urge to do so please go ahead).

The point is that not all leadership is the loud, in your face, blow the whistle type of leadership. Some of the best leadership is silent and slowly grows in the woodworks, until it turns into massive change. We have made this change and leadership thing into something that is too big.

We need to embrace the idea that small actions, small acts of leadership, can have large, system-changing effects. We need to answer the call to action, by leveraging our own strengths to help build our own communities. I am not saying that we all need to become community organisers, activists or politicians. Some us just aren’t wired for it. I am saying that there are other ways to be a leader.

I am asking you to look at your environment. If you know how to fix bikes, open a bike shop, and teach some of the youngsters in your neighbourhood your trade. Be a role model or a mentor for someone. If you are good at math, start teaching it for free to some of the less fortunate in your neighbourhood. Whatever your skill is, leverage it, and give back to our community. Do something. Do anything. Just start being active.

You’d be amazed at the difference you can make. I learned that recently. You see…  when I was 16, I used to volunteer at the YMCA to help children learn to read in an after-school programme. When I was home for Carnival this year, a boy saw me in the streets, while I was wining low, and asked, “Do you remember me?” I did not even recognise him (and you know… when yuh playin’ mas, yuh mind is only on one ting). He reminded me that I used to help him learn to read and do math, and now he is studying to be a doctor. The realisation that my two hours a week made a profound difference on one boy’s life blew me away. I did not even remember him, but this little boy from Sea Lots attributed his success to my two hours a week.

The point is, not all leaders are Barack Obamas of the world. Leaders are those community members who see a need in our community and say, “Yuh know what, I have to fix that, I can help this person develop”.

I’d love to see our nation embrace our long-forgotten motto – “Together we aspire, together we achieve” – and start participating in our own democracy and development as a people. If we do not become part of the process, and part of the change, and continue to sit on the sideline expecting players to do what we know needs to be done, we are going to lose the game… every time. We need to suit up, put on our boots and get in the mud. As long as we continue to be armchair critics, nothing is going to change.

 

Keita Demming

Keita Demming is an organizational and social change designer, facilitator and thinker. He recently completed a graduate degree focused on international development and organizational change, and his areas of interest include change, resilience, power, systems thinking, and complexity. Keita has extensive experience in Canada and internationally working with youth, both advantaged and disadvantaged, in a variety of uniquely designed, leadership development programmes, with a multi-cultural theme. 

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