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Correspondence: Popular terminologies and clichés
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Correspondence: Popular terminologies and clichés

The Commonwealth is dedicated to social and economic development, but what does this really mean to its various members, questions Joshua Hamlet, a 23-year-old from San Fernando, Trinidad & Tobago?

‘Silence is better than unmeaning words’ – Isadora Duncan

Lately there has been immense amount of reading on my end, from the technically complex to academic schools of thought.

Needless to say it’s more academic than pleasure, however amongst the many conclusions by scholars, I present my own:

Popular terminologies which dominate policy discussions and impregnate technocratic debate have lost their meaning and are clichéd(1).

I will present a case for the ‘Dynamic Duo’ and how it connects to the Commonwealth debate.

First and foremost is ‘development’: any internet search(2) would demonstrate how tautological development has become. As writer Deepak Nayyar(3) illustrates, ‘development alludes to an improvement in the living condition of people’.

Its complexity can be summarized by the 5Ws (what, who, when, where and why) and H (how), development depends on whose defining it, the geopolitical space and chronological meaning, as well as the pathway to becoming “developed”.

From liberal ideas and structuralist school theory to the Millennium Development Goals, the term naturally elicits subjective conclusions.

Apart from meaning, distribution is vital – dependentists assert that the ‘historical process that generates development in the Western metropolises also simultaneously generates underdevelopment in the Third World satellites.’

Patterns of development have historically led to an increase in economic distance between the industrialized world and much of the developing world. Therefore development debates are partial zero-sum games pivoting on meaning, distribution/gains and methodology, comparable with the theorized prisoners’ dilemma.

Secondly, as Ben Jonson quotes, one should: ‘weigh the meaning and not look at the words’. Change is associated with transformation(4) that presents solutions to current troubles. Historically however, ‘change’ has brought solutions which create new problems.

In the Caribbean, we have endured many junctures of ‘change’ from ‘import substitution industrialization’ proposals, SAPs and revolutionary political regimes which seek to bring a new level of prosperity.

Paradoxical in change is the uncertainty from becoming. The transition time is decisive and popular trust hinges on swift change, while in fact the actual process is riddled in bureaucratic mud that inevitably decelerates change.

Thus ‘change’ has lost its credibility because of its lack in certainty, but will be continually used as a term since few other terms are simple, powerful and generally politically applicable. In light of this “duo” the Commonwealth will need to infuse traditional meaning into these terms.

The Commonwealth is dedicated to social and economic development, but what does this really mean to its various members?  Itis still very much up in the air.

Being an association that works towards shared goals in development and democracy, the Commonwealth needs to accommodate the calculus of relative gains and do so equitably. Its ability to affect change on a national scale to improve globalized coordination will be questioned.

Hence if Commonwealth debates and discussions use such cliché terms, the question stands… “Do we really say anything?”

(1) These are terms and phrases which are heard in discussions that mean everything yet end up meaning nothing. Example is the phrase “to name a few” when in practice the “few” are rarely ever named.

(2) Both Yahoo and Bing reveal 543,000,000, while a Google search gets approximately 1,270,000,000.

(3) Deepak Nayyar ‘Globalization and Development’ in Rethinking Development Economics.

(4) These transformations can be political, economical or even bureaucratic.


Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. All articles are published in a spirit of improving dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please click here.



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