The way we think and feel about others
Caribbean society is an integral link in the global network of nations, although some of us, despite the development of technology, still feel less inclusive in our dealing with others. Global society seems to have presented greater challenges to our sense of identity, and dampened our self-confidence. It has not made us psychologically secure, and most Caribbean citizens continue to want to travel or seek status in North America and Europe, giving the impression they are the preferred society, rather than seek to remake their own societies.
This is the challenge, since our societal experiences and the pressures of an international community weigh heavily on how we think and feel about others, including our own citizens.
We still tend to think that people want to invest in our countries because we have what they want. We do not see investment and development as a mutual arrangement. And we always feel inward investment is always powerful, and will dictate its terms to us unfairly and, since our government wants the capital, we are helpless to do anything about it.
This thinking leads to a negative approach and behavior towards those genuinely interested in playing a positive role in our economy. We therefore need to change our thoughts and the way we feel about others, since we might be mistaken in our assessment of them. And when we change the way we think and look at the situation differently, it will change as well.
Even in our interpersonal relations, we build up feelings about others that cause us to think of them in sometimes unhealthy ways. This causes unnecessary tensions, which negatively affect our own mental health. We might see certain persons in different social contexts and surmise what they are up to, when these fellow travelers are quietly going about their affairs.
Sometimes our negative thinking of others is based on their financial and social capital, or the schools they have attended, since we feel that attending particular institutions, or working in particular organizations, confers status. This translates into animosity. But when we process our thoughts differently, it enables us to temper our feelings, and come to conclusions that work for our mutual good.
Caribbean politics creates its own pattern of thinking about others and our institutions that shapes our feelings and reactions. Our politics is not competitive in the sense of a market place of ideas, from which we choose freely at designated periods. It is a dangerous sport, with the consequences that accompany it, although some mellowing has taken place.
Many see politics as their meal ticket, and will go to extremes to keep it so. But when severe challenges arise, it affects our thinking towards the system and others we feel are bent on reducing our share of what’s left of the pie, particularly when those opposing our political party win. These “others” become the “enemy”, resulting sometimes in unnecessary casualties. All this emerges from how we think about our survival, which governs our feelings about how to protect and preserve it.
Our entire psychology revolves around survival because of the fragile nature of our economy, and the traditions and dispositions of our people. Our history and culture determine how we think and feel. Also false prophets of every stripe muddle our thinking about who and what we are, and what we could become. Rhetoric for many is fact, and reasoning is an alien in Caribbean society. We therefore need to reform our education system so that it produces critical thinkers, and people who doubt everything until sound arguments and objective evidence reveal the true nature of things.
Thought purification is the antidote to dysfunctional thinking, producing a transformation in the way we feel towards others and ourselves. It also leads us to discover what’s best for our societies. And in politics, it causes us to see clearly the difference between a campaign device used on the political trail, versus what a campaign promise is, and not confuse them causing false expectations to arise.
More profoundly, we can stay on the high road and fight at the same time to change what needs changing, rather than going high, avoiding the conflicts below. The way we think and feel about others, ourselves and situations, therefore undergo a renewal, and a healthy transformation.
• 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. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.