Privilege plays an important role in Caribbean societies…in all societies, but how it plays out in the tropics is my focus. It’s like a tradition that we are stuck with. We all know of the in-your-face quasi ‘presidential lifestyles’ within our midst. Privilege is an unfair advantage. Better yet that advantage is unearned and is an endemic feature in the fabric of Caribbean social life. Because of the smallness of the societies it is very easy to identify. And it’s pervasive. Given all that we have endured and dealt with along the long road to independence (or other modern day ‘occupation’ models) – this demographic or group , ie the privileged elites…are to me, the most recalcitrant and regressive. The harsh reality of it is simply this: they are the ‘velvet glove’ that rules the roost. Given their resources, and access to the cadre of inept politicians, they make the decisions. It’s not rocket science. First world countries are dealing with similar ‘oligarchal’ types of power bases except it is not called that. We incorrectly refer to them as democracies.
Here in the Caribbean, the same tendency exists. This overpowering group is the driving force behind the slow and unsteady progress of most Caribbean societies. Inequities remain and are getting worse, why? They’ve inherited and kept up the crass traditions of the business models left by the colonisers. It’s really a deeply entrenched problem.
Privileged elites, across the board, in Caribbean societies shy away from responsibility for anything else other than increasing in disproportionate ways, the monies and power and resources they have – so much so, they are happy to keep the majority of the society captive to this old and tired system of racial dynamics. They are privileged because they benefitted from the type of economic and social constructs that came from the centuries of commercial activities around the Atlantic slave trade. That’s the very early underpinnings of unfair privilege in most Caribbean societies.
I wonder if we will ever have a seismic shift in this old, outmoded social order. Given the increasingly ugly face of politics and politicians across the board, it seems unlikely. Because for something so ingrained to shift or be reconstructed it will take a very confident and visionary society to overcome it. Such characteristics are not present, in my view, in either the electoral segments or the breed of politicians we have grown accustomed to over the decades. It looks like we’re stuck in a social and political order that serves the interest of the privileged elites.
In the meantime, we continue to ‘spin top in mud’ and the local elites with their untapped privilege, forge ahead with all their resources and power – that includes access to the political heads we vote in on some pretense that things will change. For the foreseeable future, the region teeming with young, educated professionals will find that more often than not, they will be hitting glass ceilings due to this stagnant privileged class with their backward thinking. All things considered, it does not look as if things will be changing for the better anytime soon.