The international airport of Aberdeen in the northern heights of Scotland had the privilege of hosting Donald Trump’s private jet a fortnight ago, when the American magnate paid a visit to the land where he hopes to build the latest franchise of his multinational operation: an 800 acre, US $500 million professional golf course and complex to bear the inspired name of “Trump International Golf Links, Scotland”. The objective of Mr. Trump’s visit was not so much to receive a guided tour of the portion of Aberdeenshire that soon will become part of Trumpshire but rather to voice his disapproval at plans for a windmill farm to be located on the surrounding coastline. Golf and sustainable energy are highly relevant topics for Anguilla: I have commented about the latter in the past, will do so in the future; but today I want to concentrate primarily on the former.
The extravagant fancy to lose your drive on the blue horizon line has placed Anguilla at the forefront of any golfer’s wish list. The once barren and arid soil of the island already houses an oasis of staggeringly healthy vegetation, and increasingly persistent voices announce the inevitable development of a second course on the island. Whether such plan is necessary, healthy or even desirable is beyond the scope of this article (although my instinctive reaction to a proposal would be negative).The question, however, is how to turn the facilities we already have in our hand into a successful enterprise in more ways than purely economic.
The obvious implications and repercussions of a project like this are the sort of revolutionary consequences expected to affect the county of Aberdeenshire and propel a period of bonanza in the region. Nevertheless, the effects of an venture of this size and nature will be felt in all aspects of daily life -not only on the landscape and in our pockets. Change is -has been for a while- already under way; however, it is important to make certain that this change does not become a negative element in the equation.
The greatest danger posed by the golf course project feeds directly into the most fashionable fear among islanders: that of alienation. Recent discussions in Government have concentrated around the amount of “alienated land” on the island: The legal connotations of “alienation” (in lay terms, transference) are far more obscure and trivial than the sociological echoes to which the word alludes despite the context in which it is used. Social estrangement of any portion of the local population is something that must be avoided at all cost. Yet, this urgency to avoid what is most feared opens the door to the sort of fanatic nationalism which banishes any kind of tolerance from people.
No small part of the renewed fascination for golf as an activity stems from the fact that there are so many layers to it: as a sport it requires strength as well as tact, concentration and courage, sense and stamina; as a social event it is not only elitist but -as most other sports- cliquey and exclusive; as a topic of conversation it will send out a message of social status as effectively as it will extinguish all eloquence from your interlocutor. The existence of a world class golf course in Anguilla will as a matter of fact attract a group of people who would otherwise not even know where the island is. At the same time, it might also provide Anguillians the opportunity to experience what is normally reserved for the very rich and very privileged.
Perhaps the greatest challenge faced by a prosperous, growing (yet still very small) society such as Anguilla’s is to provide suitable alternatives for the younger generations to develop accordingly. One such alternative is to promote and exploit sport as a serious (as a professional) activity. With the apparition of figures such as Omari Banks, the support of local sponsors to finance athletes for international competitions such as the Commonwealth Games, and the viral insanity produced by the most contagious football fever to precede a World Cup since 1990, the interest in sports is certainly not lacking on the island. The infrastructure has also shown increasing promise, most notably with the newly boosted Tennis Academy project and -obviously- the golf course.
But the discipline, commitment and devotion required to succeed as a sportsman at any level must be inculcated from an early age. That is the role of a subject such as physical education at school. There is no reason why physical education could not be performed outside the premises of the school. There is, in fact, no reason why the academic curriculum should not include subjects in, say, tennis -or even golf. If Government negotiated a deal whereby a number of schools -or of children- had access to an area of the golf course on specific days -once a week, for instance- not only would these children have the opportunity to witness a completely unfamiliar environment and to train in one of the most socially helpful activities overall, but also the danger of confining a space for the sole privilege and enjoyment of passers by would be neutralised.
Integration is the operative word in the evolving future of Anguila; integration as in the process that consists as much in the open-armed assumption of the positive aspects brought about (taught, revealed, discovered) by the incoming foreigners as it does in the repudiation of negative attitudes bred from within.