Saturday, July 31, 2004

LT # 6 International current interest item:

On the Significance of July 4th

GEM 04:07:06

On Sunday, July 4, we celebrated the 31st anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramos, which brought CARICOM into being. It was also the 228th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence of the United States.

The first, laid the basis for the Single Market and Economy and Caribbean Court of Justice that are now on the table as the next steps in regional integration. The second marks the first modern example of sustained, successful self-government by a free people. It also lays out the biblically rooted basis for that success. So, let us reflect briefly on the words of Thomas Jefferson, that conscience-lashed, hopelessly indebted slave owner who said he “trembled” as he reflected on the sins of America in light of the thought that “God is just”:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. [2nd Paragraph, US DOI, 1776]

These few words say a lot, and it is worth a pause to look at several points that highlight some of the challenges that face us as the people of the ever more closely integrated Caribbean region:

q Self-evident truths: If you reject them, you end up in foolishness. For instance, Psalm 14 points out that it is fools who say to themselves “there is no God” – for they thus become morally and intellectually bankrupt. Current events in North America and Europe provide abundant proof – e.g. contrast the rhetoric and the reality of counterfeit, so-called “same sex marriage.” [Cf. Rom 1:16 – 32, 1 Cor 6:9 – 11, Eph 4:17 – 24.] Equally sadly, many of our brightest people in the region have also lost sight of the fear of God; which Prov. 1:7 highlights as the first point of wisdom.
q God-endowed rights: A right is a binding moral claim we have on other persons – your right to your life, liberty, reputation and property (etc) means I have a duty to respect your life, liberty, reputation and property (etc). We have such rights because God has made us in his image, so those who turn their backs on God turn their backs on the only sound and sustainable basis for defending our lives, and our liberty! (Especially, if we begin to think that rights are merely entitlements granted by the state: what the state giveth, it taketh away too; when the balance of political power shifts.)
q Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: Without life, all else is lost; and, as Orlando Patterson said, slavery is social death. Third, we are only truly happy when we fulfill our diverse talents and callings in God – that is how we can flourish in a wholesome, healthy, friendly, truly democratic and God-fearing society.
q Government is there to protect our rights: rulers fulfill their duty when they are just, and rule in the fear of God [2 Sam 23:3].
q The Right of Reformation: Whenever a government turns its back on its duty to be just, it is our right as the people to demand that the government mend its ways, or to change the Government. (Thank God, we have the privilege of the ballot box for that!)

So, as CARICOM sets about “the next step” in regional integration, let us insist that the CSME and the CCJ be accountable to the people, under God, for justice. That in turn requires that there be transparency provisions to hold these regional rulers and administrators to account, with effective mechanisms to reform -- and if necessary change or remove -- them. Last, but not least, let us always remember the warning of Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power [– i.e. power without accountability –] corrupts absolutely; great men are bad men.”


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