Slav­ery is alive and well . . . and of­fi­cially en­dorsed!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COM­MENT -

Tim seemed to be do­ing just fine as he opened Mon­day’s

Newsspin with an in­nocu­ous peachy-preachy ser­mon about how re­gret­table it was that Eman­ci­pa­tion Day— “a time for deep re­flec­tion”—had long ago trans­mo­gri­fied into just an­other boozy pub­lic hol­i­day re­plete with tragic trap­pings; an­other Fun­day; an­other op­por­tu­nity for the largely un­em­ployed and broke work­force to for­get its trou­bles and dance. As if to make mat­ters worse, Tim ob­served, this time around there had been not a word, not a word, not a re­lated word from “the au­thor­i­ties.” All of which struck me, in our so­cio-eco­nomic cir­cum­stances, as, well, just a tad naïve, not to say ironic.

I won­dered what other coun­tries ob­serve Eman­ci­pa­tion Day and vaguely re­called read­ing some­where (that was a long time ago, the source now eludes me!): “Eman­ci­pa­tion Day is cel­e­brated in many for­mer Bri­tish colonies in the Caribbean and ar­eas of the United States on var­i­ous dates in ob­ser­vance of the eman­ci­pa­tion of slaves of African de­scent.” I had formed the im­pres­sion that, “ar­eas of the United States” not­with­stand­ing, Eman­ci­pa­tion Day was mainly a Caribbean ting,

a black-Caribbean thing, that is— un­like our ir­re­sistibly all-in­clu­sive car­ni­val.

I can­not re­call off­hand whether Africa was among the na­tions that os­ten­si­bly ob­serve Eman­ci­pa­tion Day. With all its on­go­ing hor­rific black-on-black tribal vi­o­lence, its traf­fick­ing in black flesh, its geno­ci­dal ten­den­cies, its en­slave­ment of lit­tle black girls and boys for the pruri­ent en­joy­ment of de­viant Euro­peans, per­haps I should let this par­tic­u­lar sleep­ing dog lie. Just be­fore he turned

Newsspin over to his lunchtime au­di­ence on Mon­day, Tim re­mem­bered to read a Bar As­so­ci­a­tion press re­lease that proved to be yet an­other tooth­less threat from a le­gal fra­ter­nity long tol­er­ant of its work­ing con­di­tions, at any rate, such as have al­ways ex­isted at the na­tion’s court build­ings, the up­keep of which is the gov­ern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The first caller blamed the re­gret­table Eman­ci­pa­tion Day sit­u­a­tion on lo­cal par­ents that had ne­glected to teach their off­spring to be ap­pre­cia­tive of their free­dom, for which count­less name­less slaves had paid with their African blood. The sec­ond con­curred but then quickly sank his fangs into Tim for what the caller per­ceived as the host’s em­pa­thy with the com­plain­ing lawyers. From the caller’s per­spec­tive they, more than any other group, were re­spon­si­ble for the mount­ing crime and the grow­ing ten­dency among cit­i­zens to take the law into their own hands. Noth­ing Tim said in his own de­fense or in sup­port of the com­plain­ing uniden­ti­fied lawyers was enough to change his caller’s mind.

A third caller all but damned lawyers as the root of ev­ery­thing evil on this Rock of Sages. He blamed them for the no­to­ri­ously slow pace of jus­tice; for what he con­sid­ered an open con­spir­acy to keep young and poor cit­i­zens locked up for years with­out tri­als; and for not stand­ing up to a le­gal sys­tem that clearly had been de­signed to keep the un­der­priv­i­leged be­hind bars for the small­est in­frac­tions.

As if in sup­port of his con­spir­acy the­ory, the caller re­minded Newsspin’s host that lo­cal MPs and judges were mem­bers of the same fra­ter­nity, there­fore hardly likely to con­front one an­other on the mat­ter of jus­tice for reg­u­lar Saint Lu­cians. “And let’s not pre­tend you don’t know what I’m say­ing is true, Tim,” he added. “You know it is!”

What had started out as a well-in­ten­tioned in­vi­ta­tion to re­visit the past had served only to fan the flames of barely con­tained pub­lic rage. Of course the peo­ple have long had good rea­son to be an­gry. Ge­orge Od­lum, be­fore he suf­fered the in­evitable con­se­quences of re­sid­ing too close to mon­sters, had un­leashed from a pub­lic plat­form in Cas­tries the fol­low­ing smart bomb: “The politi­cians have fooled the peo­ple too many times. The next batch of politi­cians to fool the peo­ple should be hanged in Colum­bus Square.”

If in 1972 the peo­ple had al­ready been “fooled too many times,” imag­ine the dam­age to their men­tal health af­ter be­ing be­trayed by their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives for more than half a cen­tury.

Yes, so Saint Lu­cians are an­gry. And not with­out cause: the only se­cu­rity force be­tween law-abid­ing cit­i­zens and oth­ers who profit from crim­i­nal­ity and may­hem has ef­fec­tively been ren­dered sheep in wolves’ cloth­ing, soft tar­gets for dope­dup teenagers of­ten bet­ter armed than the pro­tec­tors of the peo­ple’s life and prop­erty. Re­cently, po­lice of­fi­cers at Rich­fond had to duck for cover when em­bold­ened drive-by snipers opened fire on their quar­ters.

The na­tion’s only crime lab has in­ex­pli­ca­bly been shut down for months, even as the killers, the rapists and other so­cial spiro­chetes wreak their pe­cu­liar brand of havoc on the un­pro­tected and fright­ened cit­i­zenry. Re­cently the prime min­is­ter an­nounced with­out ev­i­dence—and with­out a de­clared res­o­lu­tion—that some of the worst crime ex­pe­ri­enced in Saint Lu­cia was com­mit­ted by politi­cians, busi­ness peo­ple and po­lice of­fi­cers. He told jour­nal­ists in Lon­don that we have “a prob­lem with cor­rupt cops.” This at the time of the Ol­lie Go­bat mur­der, still un­re­solved.

The job­less ma­jor­ity can­not af­ford trans­porta­tion to the near­est hos­pi­tal, let alone doc­tors’ fees. For too many the an­swer to their prob­lems was at­tached to the end of a rope or in the bar­rel of a gun.

Saint Lu­cian vot­ers are ev­i­dently mad as hell about the prospect of be­ing forced yet again to choose be­tween lesser evils come the next gen­eral elec­tions. If only the na­tion could dis­cover the courage to un­chain it­self from its self-con­structed predica­ment, I sus­pect Eman­ci­pa­tion Day would im­me­di­ately take on use­ful new mean­ing—for all of us!

For far too many St Lu­cians free­dom is just an­other word for noth­ing left to lose! (Photo taken at Car­ni­val 2015.)

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