The government we have today was formed in 1970. Since that time, Virgin Islanders have complained about it.
From poor roads and educational facilities to lack of youth and senior programs, Virgin Islanders have voiced their displeasure at the government. Looking hard at this phenomenon, we find that it's an exercise in self-evaluation.
As we listen to the complaints, one would think that some foreign entity came to the Virgin Islands and took over our government. They ran off with our money and did nothing to help us. We know that isn't true so why are we complaining? The government consists of people from the Virgin Islands. From elected official to commissioners to rank and file workers, it's the people of the Virgin Islands that form our agencies of government. We are really complaining about ourselves.
In a republican form of government, the people are in charge. We elect officials who, in turn, select other persons to run the government for us. Somehow, the mentality of believing that once we vote we can sit back and everything will be taken care of, has become pervasive. In other words, what really should be our responsibility, has been passed off so we don't have to deal with it. We assume that government will take care of all our needs. This mentality is pure folly and it's dangerous. Lack of direct involvement by citizens will surely lead to an ineffective government. We have that but what can we do to change it?
We want to live as a society. We want protection from those in society who would harm us. We need our environment to be clean and healthful. We want our children to be well educated and happy. We want to work and provide for our families and we want a fulfilling life. These are basic human needs. The government cannot provide them but they can help us achieve them. That is why we created a government–to help us help ourselves. Somewhere along the line, we may have lost that sense of society. We expect government-formed entities to do it all for us. This must change. Only citizens can make it change.
Citizens should always take the lead in getting what they need. Each community should set their own particular agendas and work together to make sure their plan comes to fruition. Parents must make sure their children have a good education. Community organizations should be providing activities for all and local programs must be formulated by locals. To the greatest extent, government should be a partner in these endeavors but never the initiator.
Some projects require funding. That's when the government can help. After all, we decided to allow taxation to get the things we need and we entrusted government agencies to hold that money for us. We allowed the government to hold public lands for us and we can ask to use those lands when required. We want to weed out the worst of us. That's why we asked government to provide a police force. We see our roads in disrepair and we ask government to provide an agency to fix them. Government can help but we should be setting the direction for the community not government agencies.
The key is "we". We have to make these determinations. We have to do the work of keeping society happy and healthful. We must initiate programs and we must make sure they are working for us. If we depend solely on some agency, then we take the chance of losing the society we wanted. Government can help but it is the society that must be the catalyst–the first-line decision-makers. The government is us and we have a right to use it as it suits our needs. Agencies of government are simply an extension of us—a way to help us.
Unfortunately, we have allowed "agencies" to become our savior. This "god-like" status is our own creation and yet, we complain about it.
We must take back our communities. We must decide on what kind of society we want. It all starts at the local level–people caring for each other. If we don't have that, we have no society at all.
Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to firstname.lastname@example.org.