The Virgin Islands economy — composed primarily of the financial services industry, tourism and the domestic market economy — is the core tool for the empowerment of Virgin Islanders and citizens.
The economy works in partnership with local and foreign investors for the mutual benefit of Virgin Islanders, citizens and other residents. The economy cannot become a means by which specific interests disenfranchise and disempower citizens. There are signs that this may be happening.
Post Irma, VI citizens appear to have come under an onslaught of aspersions and innuendo from specific quarters whose claims are not only inaccurate but appear designed to disembowel the local culture and way of life. At a vulnerable time for citizens, negative rhetoric by specific interests has become the order of the day.
Now this Old Boy is basically an empiricist. He worships at the altar of God and Jesus Christ, of course. But he also vibrates with excitement at rational thought, reason and logic.
The preceding have been virtues completely lacking since Irma and Maria devastated the territory’s economy in September 2017.
Suggestions have been made by some prominent citizens that Virgin Islands youth are “entitled and lazy.” Not only are these assertions completely inaccurate, they are an insult to the local culture and traditional way of life.
To bring context to this story, it has to be stated that the VI has always been essentially economically, socially and racially segregated. Rich go to rich schools. Whites go to white schools. The rest go to public schools. Various communities within the greater community tend to socialise and exist separately. And so on and so forth.
Any concept of entitlement is not a unique feature of any one social group. Entitlement exists, yes: It exists in all the various ethnic sets. To say it is specific to any one social group is a completely flawed assertion.
Social segregation is a feature of the community that has been swept under the carpet. It is one reason specific crimes are difficult to solve. Segregation is a hangover from the days of slavery, plantations and colonialism. Heaven knows why it is a silent matter. It is a “no go area” for social commentary.
But it is a feature of the VI community that is glaringly obvious to any observer. Like segregation everywhere, it is subtle. It is not, however, innocuous. Segregation is a universal evil. However, in a micro community it becomes especially overt and malevolent. And it is very damaging to all: ruler and ruled; white and black; wealthy and poor. Social segregation will never produce a safe, cohesive and harmonious culture and society for the VI.
Social integration is the one option for harmony. However, integration means accepting the native culture as the dominant modus vivendi by all residents and guests.
There are economic factors in the social segregation of VI society. The society is top down, and practises an austere type of economics, even though government is the largest employer. That divergence in the economy has to do with geography, history and social demographics.
However, the preceding sociology is acceptable to this writer, and he has never made it an issue. If it is acceptable for the territory to exist in a type of splendid separation of the various ethnic, racial and social groups and subtypes and sets, who is he to comment on absurdity, idiosyncrasy and anachronism?
Where he swiftly pulls the sword out of the scabbard is when one social set believes it has the authority and right to label the other as “lazy and entitled” — then goes on to infer that certain foreign imported elements have a better work ethic and more efficient way than the local workforce.
Not to be unreasonable and patronising like people who generalise about “entitled” Virgin Islanders, this writer will swiftly add that the vast majority of employers do not believe that certain foreigners are better workers.
This writer’s great friend and school buddy is a fellow Briton and hotelier who manages a very well-known bayfront hotel. The man delights in employing Virgin Islanders, and he goes out of his way to ensure their welfare and wellbeing with generous financial support. Post Irma, he has been enormously generous to his workers who lost their jobs.
But it now appears that the subtle segregation, a sad reality of this territory, is increasingly becoming a feature of the imported labour matrix, with specific nationals considered better employees than others.
This is simple patronage, and is used as an excuse to change the employment matrix at the grassroots for the benefit of specific elements in the society. One could even label the idiosyncrasy racist.
It is totally inaccurate that these foreigners are better in the workplace than Virgin Islanders and other belongers. This consumer has had some pretty terrible customer service from these imported “bright lights” in the services and retail sector. So there!
In any event this assertion that these imports are better at customer service is the same assertion that has been used to keep blacks in the deep south United States in economic and social shackles for decades since Civil Rights attempted to free them from social and economic oppression.
The tragedy is this: Economics is a tool of freedom for VI youth. The economy is a tool of empowerment for Virgin Islanders and other residents alike. However, the economy — which belongs to the territory and no one specific business or person — must not be hijacked by certain interests to change the composition of the local workforce.
Virgin Islanders are not as stupid as these people who call them down in the workforce seem to believe. These damaging assertions about laziness and entitlement are simply an excuse to continue to import labour into the territory while Virgin Islanders go unemployed.
‘Stifling’ a narrative
This idea that specific foreigners are better workers is a growing narrative that must be stifled immediately before it grows and infects labour policy to the detriment of citizens of the territory.
The question is this: Post Irma — with rising unemployment among the territory’s youth especially and warnings of job cuts in the public service — can this deleterious culture of exchanging Virgin Islanders for foreign workers be allowed to continue? Of course not!
It will never lead to social harmony. And it must not be allowed to work. Charity begins at home, I remind the businesses who make these unfortunate assertions.
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