Happy Independence?

On July 4, the United States of America celebrates its Independence Day. Many countries around the world, celebrate their Independence Day on other days. Among the 160 countries around the world that have an Independence Day, or similar day, Jamaica celebrates its Independence Day on August 6, and in Guyana it is May 26,. In Canada it is July 1,. In Mexico it is September 16, and in Rwanda it is July 1,

In each instance, the independence is political. It is independence from a domineering political authority. The United Kingdom was at one time in history the greatest power on earth and she ruled the seas with her mighty navy. It is posited that Britain has invaded all but 22 of the almost 200 countries in the world. It stands to reason that most countries celebrating independence, celebrate independence from the United Kingdom.

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What is significant is that the greatest country on earth, the United States of America, was the first country to win its independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1776… and as we all know, it was not without a fight.. a fight to the death of at least 25,000 Americans… most from disease as prisoners of war. To prevent America from gaining our independence, Britain reportedly sacrificed even more soldiers, including German mercenaries who fought on her behalf.

Independence means a lot to every country who fights for it and wins it. It always comes at a high price and as such, should always be cherished by generations that follow.  It is therefore appropriate for me to say…

Happy Independence America!

But political independence can prove to be a pyrrhic victory for the majority of countries, that after gaining their political independence, remain economically dependent on others countries.  America, Canada and a few other mega economies can create the illusion of being economically independent, with America boasting that it has the largest economy in the world, and by extension, is the most powerful country on earth. However, according to a 2012 ranking by Investopedia, the top 5 Economically free countries in the world does not include, America, Canada or England. They are in order of ranking – Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland.

But how does the concept of independence apply to us, not as a people, but as individuals?

Independence is a great feeling and we all love to feel it.   But what does it really mean? I remember as a boy, my father made it very clear to me that although I felt like a man, I was still a boy, and I would not be a man until age 21. That was when I was only age 13.

8 years later… I was 21… and proudly announced to my father that I was now a man, and for me that meant freedom and independence to do whatever I was pleased to do. It was only then that he told me that there was a part 2 to the  plan.

“Son” he said, Congratulations on becoming a man. But guess what… there is only place for one man in this house.

Needless to say… attaining my 21st birthday was a bitter-sweet experience.

Have you ever seen a little child with its parents in the mall, or on the road?  The parent is holding the child’s hands, and quite often, the child is acting out its consuming passion… “let me go… let me go… I want to be independent.”

The parent knows only too well, that with freedom and independence, come responsibilities, that sometimes, we are simply not prepared to handle.

But even when we are prepared to be independent… what does that really mean. The easiest form of independence is financial independence. All you have to do is earn more than you spend for a period of time, save the difference… and with at least a year of saved living income in the bank, you can claim to be financially independent. Add to that, owning your own mortgage-free house, and car, and some great investments here and there that are working for you while you sleep, and you are truly financially independent.

But are you truly independent?

Is there anyone on whom you have to depend? What about the garbage collector who visits your house every week to take away your garbage – yes, the garbage you create, but will not dispose of? Do you depend on him? What about the farmer who braves the weather to sow and reap his crops so that you can go to your air-conditioned supermarket and buy the food you need… are you dependent on that farmer?

So you are an excellent driver. You drive within the speed limit and use all your turn and overtake signals. You make good use of your rare view mirror, and even your side mirrors. Does any of that prevent a madman or drunken driver from ramming into the back of your car, and causing a whiplash, or even more serious injury? Are you dependent on other motorists on the road to be as respectful of the road, as you are?

And if and when attacked by a common thief, sophisticated criminal or terrorist… how dependent are you on the law enforcement officers to help you deal with the threat?

The truth is that independence is an illusion, and at best, temporarily refers only to specific aspects of our life, at a specific time. The reality is that none of us are independent. We are all interdependent. That means that I need you and you need me…

As I prepared Jamaicans for the Free market revolution a few decades ago, I wrote a book titled “Winning the War? – Consumer survival in a free market economy. The theme of that book is “Consumers need providers and providers need consumers. Since we need each other, let us work together.”

The delicate subject of immigration, legal and illegal immigration is in the cross-hairs of our Government’s policy initiatives.  There is at least one school of thought that suggests that what we need is not fewer immigrants, but more immigrants.  Of course, there are others who feel we need far less or even zero immigrants, and especially from certain counties.

On the anniversary of the birth of this country of immigrants, all we need to remember is that every step of the way, each hour of the day, we the people, all the people, white, yellow, brown and black… we need each other and we are, all interdependent.

Happy Interdependence Day!





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