THAT MAIDEN SPEECH AT THE UN . . .

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By

IPeter Josie smiled when I heard Rick Wayne on TALK last Thurs­day evening. As usual, he was lam­bast­ing politi­cians (not pol­i­tics), and with such pas­sion that I promised my­self I’d write about it. I called the show that evening to add my own two cents to the dilemma the host had pre­sented. In the process of lam­bast­ing politi­cians Rick re­ferred to a me­mo­rial lec­ture by Mc Don­ald Dixon, to mark the an­niver­sary of the pass­ing of Ge­orge Od­lum. Rick was crit­i­cal of the lec­ture be­cause it dealt only with Od­lum, the man who loved English lit­er­a­ture; not Od­lum, the politi­cian. Od­lum en­tered elec­tive pol­i­tics in his mid-for­ties. The man had a life be­fore pol­i­tics. Rick would not buy it. In­stead, he praised Od­lum the politi­cian, whom he said had changed the course of the is­land’s pol­i­tics. That, in the mid­dle of his at­tack on politi­cians!

No sooner had I ended my con­tri­bu­tion than Cal­ixte Ge­orge called the show to agree with what I had said in re­la­tion to Od­lum. I had not spo­ken to Cal­ixte or to any­one else prior to my call. Cal­ixte and I could not con­vince Rick he was wrong to say that Ge­orge’s life had been about pol­i­tics. True, he had a tremen­dous im­pact on pol­i­tics and he made a dif­fer­ence. But the se­cret which no one has dis­closed be­fore now is that English lit­er­a­ture was the foun­da­tion and ba­sis of all of Ge­orge Od­lum’s pol­i­tics. Phi­los­o­phy and Eco­nomics were the sup­port­ing cast he picked up at Ox­ford.

In a word, lit­er­a­ture was Ge­orge’s pol­i­tics! Lit­er­a­ture in­fused and in­formed ev­ery as­pect of it. From the St. Lu­cia Fo­rum at Colum­bus Square to the St. Lu­cia Labour Party at the Cas­tries mar­ket steps, Od­lum used lit­er­a­ture to em­bel­lish his speeches. He used it for tone, and im­ported ges­tures from plays he had stud­ied to ac­cen­tu­ate his per­for­mance on a po­lit­i­cal plat­form. The man did not de­liver speeches; he per­formed them! When the fa­mous Ed­u­ca­tion Bill was de­bated in par­lia­ment, Od­lum mourned in pub­lic, that ‘the lit­tle chil­dren marched to their doom,’ as they demon­strated against the new Bill. Od­lum ne­glected to quote the pas­sage cor­rectly but any­one who had dab­bled in English lit­er­a­ture knew ex­actly what he meant. Some in­tel­lec­tu­als may han­ker af­ter pre­ci­sion but the more per­cep­tive knew that what mat­tered then was the pol­i­tics of the mo­ment; not lit­er­a­ture. Much later when he shouted from the Cas­tries mar­ket steps that ‘I am as con­stant as the north­ern star of whose true fixed and rest­ing qual­ity . . .’ pre­ci­sion mat­tered lit­tle. He was the only one with a mi­cro­phone that evening that would have turned his mind to lit­er­a­ture to de­fine the mo­ment (and his place), in the St. Lu­cia Labour Party. The man of­ten pre­pared his speeches with suit­able quotes in mind; then acted them be­fore a large and ador­ing crowd. His po­lit­i­cal podium be­came his Shake­spear­ian stage, and they were in­ter­change­able.

When the pol­i­tics turned ugly and there was need for pub­lic demon­stra­tions, it was from the per­for­mances of fa­mous lit­er­ary fig­ures that Od­lum found role mod­els. He could thun­der like a thou­sand wa­ter­falls, and drop a peb­ble in the pool, hold­ing his ador­ing crowd spell­bound as the dropped peb­ble rip­pled through the crowd. It was po­lit­i­cal the­atre at its best. It held its au­di­ence trans­fixed. It was also high class lit­er­a­ture, whether they knew it or not. So yes, Ge­orge Od­lum was known for his pol­i­tics but a few in­clud­ing Mc Don­ald Dixon, Cal­ixte Ge­orge and me, knew him be­fore his po­lit­i­cal life be­gan. In a word lit­er­a­ture was the driv­ing force of his pol­i­tics; but there was some­thing greater than lit­er­a­ture in pol­i­tics.

When a man gets into elec­tive pol­i­tics in his mid­for­ties one must ask what he did be­fore pol­i­tics. In­ter­est­ingly, Rick is one who has been most crit­i­cal of per­sons who come to pol­i­tics with no track record of ser­vice. Not so with Ge­orge Od­lum. His im­me­di­ate pre­po­lit­i­cal life had been nur­tured by the St. Lu­cia Fo­rum. This was a group of young Saint Lu­cians, in­clud­ing Cal­ixte Ge­orge, Hil­ford Deter­ville, El­don Mathurin, Wilkie Larcher, Prim­rose Bled­man, Leo ‘Spar’ St. He­len and me whose mis­sion was po­lit­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and em­pow­er­ment.

The St. Lu­cia Fo­rum may well have changed the think­ing of those St. Lu­cians who heard them speak al­though there are still per­sons who ac­cused the group of un­leash­ing the em­pow­er­ment of the com­mon man with­out clear di­rec­tions for eco­nomic growth. That is a false and un­fair ob­ser­va­tion. The strength of the group can be felt in the pol­i­tics of the is­land to this day. It built con­fi­dence, em­pow­ered peo­ple and gave them wings to fly. There has been noth­ing like the St. Lu­cia Fo­rum since it was forced to fold up un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure.

Ge­orge Od­lum was there­fore much more than pol­i­tics. In this re­gard it was per­fectly in or­der for Mc. Don­ald Dixon to choose to speak to the man’s ear­lier life. By so do­ing Dixon helped shed new light in which the whole man emerged. It bears rep­e­ti­tion that there is more to pol­i­tics than lit­er­a­ture. Herein Od­lum’s short­com­ings as a politi­cian can be more crit­i­cally ex­am­ined.

Yes there was an­other side to Od­lum, as there is to ev­ery man and woman, in­clud­ing Rick. The ques­tion may be asked: Which Rick Wayne would some­one who knew him eons ago choose to speak or write about, if asked. Is it the Rick be­fore he left Saint Lu­cia for Eng­land? Or should it the man who be­gan a singing ca­reer in Eng­land and took his body build­ing ef­forts a notch up? Or should one write in­stead about the Rick Wayne who trans­ferred from Lon­don to Los An­ge­les and found his writ­ing pen in LA, work­ing for Joe Weirder’s body build­ing mag­a­zines? Or should it be about the re­turned prodi­gal who was a pain in Comp­ton’s neck and later joined him? Or is it the newer ver­sion of a jour­nal­ist?

The idea of trans­for­ma­tion takes me to that maiden UN speech de­liv­ered by the Prime Min­is­ter of Saint Lu­cia to the Gen­eral Assem­bly a fort­night ago. I con­tend that there are only two for­mer politi­cians who could have de­liv­ered a sim­i­lar speech. Hint: Nei­ther was a Prime Min­is­ter, and both ad­dressed the UN in the late nine­teen sev­en­ties and early eight­ies as Min­is­ters of For­eign Af­fairs. The record of these UN speeches should be avail­able in the gov­ern­ment and UN ar­chives for those who care to judge for them­selves. To prop­erly ap­pre­ci­ate the Prime Min­is­ter’s speech one should en­quired which lo­cal politi­cian had coached him in the eight­ies, by hold­ing pri­vate tu­to­ri­als with the young novice. Dis­cover the man who coached the is­land’s Prime Min­is­ter thirty or so years ago and be en­light­ened. I was at such classes a decade or so be­fore Chas­tanet the younger.

Mr. Cal­ixte Ge­orge is a for­mer jus­tice min­is­ter in the SLP gov­ern­ment of Kenny An­thony.

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