The political icon of my baby boomer generation, John F. Kennedy said with his usual progressive pragmatism in the 1960s: “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
That was some two hundred years after French writer, philosopher and freedom of speech champion Voltaire memorably ascertained: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
As I peruse the latest exchange between the self-dubbed “commentariat” at Saint Lucia’s most inflammatory and propagandist online hell-hole, St Lucians Aiming for Progress – SLAP, for the uninitiated, and boy do they need one – I am thinking some people could really learn from these quotable quotes.
With more than 7000 members [May 2014], SLAP is a Lucian online marketer’s wet dream, as Jadia JnPierre-Emmanuel will tell you. Post your gratingly-upbeat, peppily-deluded verbiage about the latest sod-turning/ground-breaking/opening/launching/STEP pool party or other such inane, overly elaborate and therefore expensive government junket and it’s 100% sure the word will get out among the right people.
I can’t be alone in my disappointment with what I at first naively took to be a forum for intelligent and open debate about newsworthy items and the issues Saint Lucia faces as a small island developing state. I signed on in the hope of hearing what the conscious people were thinking about things like crime, corruption, domestic violence and child abuse, the floundering economy and the smorgasbord of other social, financial and infrastructural horrors the island knows as daily reality.
But no, it was not to become my ear-on-the-ground go-to-place. I found little intelligence and less debate, eventually realising that by reading the increasingly partisan, hostile and just plain puerile posts and responses, I was investing time I would never gain back. Then my favourite extra from ‘Mean Girls’ took over the show and I was off like a shot.
Going back to see if anything much had changed, and by way of research, I clicked on the first post and its two dozen or so comments, and read the following [paraphrased]: Can anyone tell us why the abattoirs down south and the ‘Mini Stadium’ in Dennery North are incomplete? And why was the tennis court (like that at Beausejour) not built in Vieux Fort? The Taiwanese had given funding for all three projects during the reign of the previous government, what happened then?
Good question, I thought, being a great supporter of sporting facilities for the benefit of kids’ health, education and development. And surely any new business in the south should be welcome news and top priority for delivery, especially if funded by the generous Taiwanese government, right? Maybe I’ll learn something about these stalled projects, I thought.
But again, sadly, no. Despite what read like an objective and relevant post by a seemingly positive character [who of course could be anyone on the planet for all I know, but is likely to be located on this ‘Rock of Sages’], the dripping red, razor-sharp sarcasm of the en-rouge dogpile was immediately slicing and dicing the man, accusing him of all sorts of heinous partisanship and insulting everything but his mama. Within 24 hours the poster was ripped a new one by the brute force and sheer ignorance of SLAP’s sectarian mob, and the original thought was lost, soured by harsh, judgmental words and propaganda-driven motivation.
The level of untrammeled and dangerous bile spilled wherever Saint Lucia’s political hacks call their online home is scary and sad. Perfectly valid points and debates are reduced to an exhausting red-yellow tug-of-online-war, almost always ending up with a slanging match and bunch of name-calling.
That’s not to say SLAP has been a complete waste of everyone’s time. At one stage there was a strong group of do-ers, fundraising, organising and community-supporting in cases of dire need. From what I gather some of these good folks are now banned for who knows what reason, thereby depriving that verbal garbage cesspool of some moral and spiritual activism I sincerely hope has moved to other platforms.
SLAP is just one forum – I have no interest in widening my scope, although I could be cajoled into another talk shop if the right person recommended an intelligent, educated site where interested Saint Lucians could hang out and exchange views without being savaged by a baying mob of sectarian genuises who have too much time to spend photoshopping inappropriate comments in bubbles over the heads of perfectly innocent schoolchildren.
Scary and sad. And after all the posting’s done, not a single iota of actual benefit to the land that gave them birth, which desperately needs a few good minds in 2014’s era of imagination.
Written in May 2014 and never have I darkened the SLAP door again.