Saturday, September 10, 2011

In Praise of Eloping: Romance & Caribbean Integration!

Part I: Running Away
In the village where I grew there was marriage; and then there was running away!  Marriage was about celebrating custom in comfort; but running away was bacchanal and story; the drama of challenge and change!  In reflection running away- regretfully so, more than marriage, laid foundations for social progress.  
As I think of it, yesterday’s village phenomenon of running away holds cues for doing Caribbean integration differently. Perhaps our burdened stagger towards deeper regional unity is right within our reach- embedded in our folkloric heritage and grounded in our indigenous life ways.  
Those Who Ran Away
Running away was escape route for unsanctioned/unblessed collusions. It was only option for romances that dared cross strict racial divides- those heart affairs frown upon as highly undesirable, unsuitable, and downright untenable! Such consorting was strictly discouraged by way of family protest, severe beatings and threats of disownment.  
Running away was unfettered love adventure on collision course with clannish fear. . It was refusal of passion, desire and soul to be cowed by powers of prejudice, ethnic strictures and tribally located authorized versions. It was an odyssey into otherness, an embrace of difference; a conjoining of romance, uncertainty and courage.   As I think about it, running away was a complex crossover driven by unavoidable desire.  It was trapeze of the impetuous and serious; dalliance of the dangerous and verdant. Running away was bold daring born of authentic passion; not faint hearted pretensive love.  The price was just too high, it had to be real! 
Just why it was called running away I was never sure; but perhaps is in itself revelation of village wisdom.  Truth is, those cross racial suitors, opposite racial elopers seldom left or disappeared to another village, they simply moved in, shacked up, lived with each other right there in the village for all to see- regardless of family protests, fallouts and curse-outs.  Yet it was termed running away. Their runaway, it would seem, was really a journey that repudiated tribal expectations and prescribed restrictions.  It was in fact more a run from something old to something new, a different social dynamic- A staking out of new possibilities, new tomorrows, and new social structures born of bold adventure.
Celebrating Runaways
Appreciating running away requires understanding how it precipitated alliances and unity across racial lines in ways rules of permitted love never would, or more compliant lovers ever could. Running away forced unwilling accommodations, unglued world views, unleashed imagination, energy and innovation. It often forced cooperation between forces of the known and unknown, heard and unheard, ready and unready, thinkable and unthinkable, desired and undesired, willing and unwilling. Appreciating running away requires understanding how it brought to our village new conversation, new color; new texture!
Inexorably, persistence by runaway lovers saw incremental visits by siblings, then mothers; and finally fathers- all kissing hugging, walking and eventually owning doughla children.   Back then, against the wishes and tide of elders and thought shapers, against handles of manipulation (wealth and heritage), against coded words of control (anathema, bastard and betrayal), these recalcitrant love voyagers through their acts of running away, were actually forerunners of societal evolution/expansion, and harmony.  Yesterdays unsanctioned elopers are today’s praised romanticists. All hail to runaways!
Part II: When Island States Runaway!
Throughout the Caribbean today, many individuals have boldly runaway across island boundaries and forged lives and families of their own in other islands. They have pushed against tides of financial, political and other prohibitive primordial currents; and have made it- albeit with test and trail; but they’ve made it. Our people have already shown they have the instinct to make it happen. What is now needed is for islands states to corporately runaway and shack up, live together, try something- right here in our midst for all to see. When will we learn that a prescribed formula worked out in custom and comfort may never emerge? My hunch is that it will take an impetuous runaway island romance, where two or three islands shack up out of sheer frustration with the status quo and merge across economic, political and other critical fronts before something authentic integration takes shape.  In other words, one or two Islands have to force the wider Caricom community to look on and confront the uncertain; until we incrementally embrace the bliss of a doughla unity.  Until we are finally all bold enough to bless a new tomorrow! 
Those of us who could be described as the Caribbean independence generation must now be totally frustrated with what remains our laudable but impotent attempt at regional integration. First there was Federation, whose epitaph is encrypted with Williams’ erudite dictum 1 from 10 leaves 0. Then came Caricom, OECS, CSME and finally the mockery called CCJ- headquartered in an island whose final appellate court (even in civil matters) yet remains the Privy Council. If it isn’t time for individual island states to runaway and form their own organic bonds, please tell me when is? 
My argument is that as island states shack up and live together the larger Caribbean family will be forced to live with the bastard fallout until we embrace the new organic unions and become a part of something truly organically whole, though unplanned. Just as Edison did not discover electricity by tinkering with a flambeau, we’ll never arrive at true integration by pussy footing with institutions of pretensive grandeur but little heat. I sense that something new bold and daring is needed!
That’s why I support the recent runaway by four brave island states: namely, Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.  Notice the rush by thought guardians and keepers of the status quo to put things in perspective. Recall the reach for the diplomatic lexicon and references as to which and every protocol and charter the move violated. Well great news, that’s exactly what running away did back in my village days.  It violated prescribed formulas and authorized versions of inadequate strictures in preference to pursuing something bold, though uncertain.  
Those who think Caricom is enough won’t desire better. But for those of us who repeatedly observe various nation blocks forging stronger bonds of political unity and economic strength while our islands languish in solitary weakness must hang our heads in shame. Since the Seventies Might Stalin (Calypso Caribbean Man) asked our political principals: “how come you can’t unite 7 million?”  
My one caveat regarding the recent elope attempt is its degree of genuineness in contrast to the psychology of politics it contains. Notably, T&T’s PM is beset with matters of UDecott and Rowley. St. Vincent’s PM with rape accusations. St. Lucia with Internal ramblings; and the new Grenada PM could be said to be looking to score with something bold and different to open his innings. 
To be sure though, as was true of village runaway times, only the genuine survived and came through. The price of pretense is way too high. Running away is nothing to fool around with. Those matters of the heart are way too serious to play love and integration.

Dr. Raymond S. Edwards President/CEO, MOHDC Raymond Edwards, Ph.D. Organizational Psychologist & Minister of Religion: is an international development consultant and executive Leadership behavior specialist.