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t T his year the English- speaking Caribbean marks the 50th anniversary of the ill- fated Federation, an attempt in 1958 to establish a unified system of government that represented for inhabitants an historic ideal of the region as a single survival region. Within the space of three blinks the dream was grounded, in 1961. The high- flying political process landed bump in a dark Caribbean night when political bosses quarrelled and decided on divorce. The dismantling of the governance structures disillusioned many, but for most the concept of Caribbean society had always had more to do with the imaginings that inform the ordinary experiences of popular living than the mistakes of men in ministries. In this regard, history, and by extension the future, will judge the common comprehension of Dr Eric Williams' classic refrain of 1961 wrong and ill- conceived. The great academic historian, as Premier of Trinidad and Tobago, followed Jamaica in presiding over his country's withdrawal from the Federation, but only after declaring to a stunned Port of Spain audience: " What God has put asunder, let no man put together". Williams did not wish his government to defy divine will, but as a secular scholar preferred to root his decision in science rather than religion. When a divided, divisive Jamaica pulled out from the ten member Federation, leaving nine shaken constituents, he took the opportunity to declare the opportunistic political theorem: " One from ten equals zero." The historian had made history of the Federation. The wit and willfulness of Williams still essay 76 lime October - December 2008 haunt the history of the Caribbean journey he described so eloquently. As political leader he contradicted what he wrote in earlier times what he spoke in 1961. Since then stirred citizens, still shaken by what they heard, have sought to defy the Williams theology by seeking to put the Caribbean together again. It remains the dream of awakened folks who travel daily the length and breadth of the enchanting archipelago seeking to create a better, more beautiful, life. For these craftsmen and women Williams had tugged against the tide. Daily we see them; flying over and sailing around obstacles grafted by governments that insist upon the viability of the region splinters into mini- states that bear no historical relations to enduring indigenous realities. Williams had lectured Caribbean folk, while wearing his scholar's robe, about the critical importance of thinking historically about the region's dream and attendant nightmares. The indigenous people ( Kalinagos and Arawaks), who in 1492 welcomed Columbus and his comrades, had long established a living reality within the region that indicated its design as a unified social and economic space. They traversed the Caribbean in their canoes, and governed themselves with much the same basic principles of political and economic integration imagined today. They rowed to work and slept in on shores of choice. With hammocks packed they saw the sea as home and felt common ownership of each bay in which the tides tucked their trading and fishing vessels. This they did until the Europeans got the upper hand, imposing boundaries within a sea now seen as a space unified by fish and divided by humans; the will of the awakened remains to end the nightmare of those asleep. In his first column for LiME, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles draws on history to reflect on Caribbean society, independence and pride. Caribbean in flhgi

October - December 2008 lime 77 sense of self. Sign such an agreement, they say, and we signal the dawn of our demise. God knows, they say, and so should we, that the tide is turning and we could be back at 1492. But fear not, the EPA advocates retort. Let them come! Are they insane? Did they not see Usain fly in the Bird Nest? Let them catch us if they can! Those to whom God has given wings, let them soar. Professor Sir Hilary Beckles is the Pro- Vice Chancellor of the University of West Indies and a noted historian and author of several books. The sun continues to shine brightly upon these shores. We see emerging signs of the realisation that the sea shelters the best of what we have and holds the secret to our dignified survival. Its waves remind us that to tug against its tides is a ride to ruin. The private merchants and public servants, festive revellers and ' musicteers', who daily define the space, the former with the message of one market and the latter with the creed of ' one love'. Columbus and his cohorts broke many things within our home but the fragments insist on coming together again. Williams, of course, did not mean it the way now commonly communicated. His distain was born of frustration with a process that seemed fraught with fraudulent intentions and insincerity in some sectors. His outrage was as much a saving signal to future generations as it was a dagger to the back of his own. So here we are today, fifty years later. The discourse continues. Hot on the heels of the recent inauguration of the Caribbean Single Market, and hovering on the cusp the Single Economy, comes the Economic Partnership Agreement ( EPA) with the European Union. Fervently proposed by its tireless negotiators, it is considered a target to be torpedoed by those who argue that it invites pirates to sail our seas once again, to go unmolested, and to usher the precepts of our economic genocide. Critics of the EPA speak in terms of Europe's recolonisation and betrayal of the region's We see emerging signs of the realisation that the sea shelters the best of what we have and holds the secret to our survival gety images ( 2)