Comfortable and Complacent: Why Montserratians Must Get Uncomfortable

In the past few weeks I’ve been having random conversations both off island and on, which on closer introspection focus on how Montserrat can reconfigure its future. The meetings were all unplanned and even included short chats in airport departure halls, but the consistent theme has been that for Montserrat to get a different outcome we must think and do different things.

As time goes and I process much of what I have heard and blend them with my own ideas, I want to share some thoughts on areas where we can take action to create the outcome we desire to have.

Right now, I want to challenge you to assess where you are on the comfortable and complacent range.

Humans are a rare species. We can become comfortable in awkward places and can be trained to handle extreme levels of torture and pain. For those of us whose ancestors were once slaves, it’s embedded in our DNA to expect pain, discomfort and to make do without much. This is why although many who no longer live on island may call for a march or some other demonstration of protest against what has clearly been an uncomfortable and pressurised economic period, there have been none on any grand scale.

What would the demonstration be about…calling for a change in government or the United Kingdom to do more for us? We don’t all agree on what the best course of action for moving Montserrat forward should be and so we stand still. We throw tomatoes at anything that remotely looks like it will require effort on our part and instead stretch forth both hands begging for someone else to pay our way and decide our future. We won’t take a chance on ourself but expect that others will because of obligation.

During the 2014 election much ado was made and insult felt because the former premier was advocating the increased use of breadfruit. Many saw it as a call for us not to desire nicer and more expensive foods and it probably felt like a push back to bygone days when that was the only option for those who could not afford to buy imported flour. We know now that breadfruit can be used for a myriad of things and is much healthier than the processed flour we buy. However, it did not stop many from being offended and seeing it as a statement of other people’s desires to keep them down.

But what if it were simply a reminder to use what is available and to manage our resources better? If we used breadfruit rather than flour, while some doctors may be upset that their waiting rooms aren’t filled with patients needing their prescriptions, for sure our bodies would be thankful as we wouldn’t be worrying about allergic reactions and constantly reading labels looking for the nefarious ingredient gluton. As the concern about what we put in our bodies increase, it can no longer make sense for us to toss breadfuits on the dump heap but reacquaint ourselves with the possibilities and diverse ways it can be prepared to sustain us. We don’t need anyone to come in and tell us this. The fruit is hanging in our backyard and documentation exists to show how it can be prepared.

I am picking on the lowly breadfruit but it is a metaphor for all of the resources we have access to, some above ground and below which if we saw the value in them we could leverage to transform our future. Our current belief runs the gamut from we can do it ourselves and don’t need outsiders to we are nothing if DFID doesn’t save us. I believe the truth is somewhere in between and I hope we can begin to search for that middle ground where we can take action.

While we are to be happy and content with what we have and the blessings we have received, let’s not get comfortable with lack and be complacent. We must be ready to make decisions which may feel awkward and even painful now for the opportunity to give our children and theirs a future which our forefathers could only imagine.