THE PEO­PLE’S PROPHET SHOULD BE RE­MEM­BERED FOR WHOM HE WAS!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Nicholas Joseph Editor’s note: The au­thor is a for­mer STAR editor, now res­i­dent in the U.S.

Per­mit me pa­tri­otic ladies and gentlemen, to re­move my self-im­posed shack­les and join this in­ter­est­ing de­bate that has at its heart the ques­tion how should Ge­orge Ol­dum best be re­mem­bered. In­deed, whether he should be re­mem­bered at all. Should we con­cen­trate our speeches, whether or not flattering, on the pre-pol­i­tics Od­lum or on Od­lum the ac­tivist-politi­cial who de­fied all odds in a coun­try too small in its think­ing and too en­slaved by its high il­lit­er­acy to ap­pre­ci­ate a prophet in his own land?

Trust Rick Wayne the provo­cate ur par ex­cel­lence to throw a mon­key wrench into the en­gine of po­lite­ness that makes it so easy to live with the ele­phant in the room, whether or not white, how­ever its ton­nage. Our peo­ple may know lit­tle about po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness but they wrote the book when it comes to pre­tend­ing a duck is a mule. It came as no sur­prise to me when Rick said dur­ing a re­cent episode of his show TALK what most of us who knew Brother Ge­orge well but for our own per­sonal rea­sons had never ad­dressed pub­licly. Rick’s lat­est com­ments were in­spired by a de­ci­sion of friends and rel­a­tives of the de­ceased to in­vite the well known Saint Lu­cian writer and poet McDon­ald Dixon, on the an­niver­sary of his death, to speak about “the Man and his Art.” Why is it that no one ever speaks of Od­lum the politi­cian? You could tell there was much go­ing on in Rick Wayne’s head as he asked his ques­tion, among them the demon­strated hypocrisy.

He ar­gued un­nec­es­sar­ily that Od­lum had been a game changer in the field of Saint Lu­cian pol­i­tics, re­gard­less of what else he had dab­bled with at some time in his life. On the sub­ject of Ge­orge Od­lum, Rick was chal­lenged by two call­ers: Peter Josie and Cal­ixte Ge­orge both close com­rades of the de­ceased. They in­sisted that Rick was down­play­ing the fact that Od­lum was “a man of lit­er­a­ture,” and there was noth­ing wrong with McDon­ald choice of sub­ject—as if Rick had de­nied that or sug­gested Ge­orge was not “mul­ti­tal­ented.” In his lat­est ar­ti­cle STAR colum­nist Josie re­turned to his sen­ti­ments ex­pressed on TALK, strongly sup­ported by Cal­ixte Ge­orge. Josie’s ar­ti­cle was cu­ri­ously en­ti­tled: “Lit­er­a­ture was Ge­orge’s Pol­i­tics!”

I think I know what Josie was at­tempt­ing to say but he did not ex­press it cor­rectly. Like Rick, I too was not drawn to Od­lum’s pol­i­tics be­cause of his in­volve­ment with the Arts or Lit­er­a­ture. I saw Od­lum as a po­lit­i­cal mav­er­ick. I did not see “Lit­er­a­ture as his Pol­i­tics.” I saw his love; loy­alty and com­mit­ment to or­di­nary peo­ple as the sin­gu­lar force that drove his po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tion. He was a mo­bi­lizer of peo­ple. Many young peo­ple were at­tracted to his pol­i­tics of eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment, so­cial re­for­ma­tion and po­lit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion.

In a much-mis­un­der­stood speech on the Cas­tries mar­ket steps Od­lum told us what mo­ti­vated his pol­i­tics. He said: “I could have been over­sees mak­ing money and liv­ing a bour­geois life­style but I would be sell­ing my coun­try short!” When he bel­lowed: “St. Lu­cia needs me more than I need St. Lu­cia,” his de­trac­tors were quick to spin his state­ment as a sug­ges­tion of his ar­ro­gance. He had pref­aced his state­ment with: “The peo­ple have been fooled too many times by the politi­cians . . .” But his de­trac­tors had al­ways painted Brother Ge­orge as “a man of vi­o­lence.” He handed them the sword that they used to be­head his best in­ten­tions. His quest for a St. Lu­cia where no one was left be­hind, where ev­ery man re­ceived his share of the eco­nomic cake did not find fa­vor with those who held them­selves a cut above the rest. Mean­while, politi­cians from both po­lit­i­cal par­ties con­tin­ued to treat the peo­ple with dis­dain, if not out­right con­tempt.

It is no se­cret, that Od­lum never en­dorsed Kenny An­thony’s de­ci­sion to re­fer to their party as “New Labour.” It seemed to him like the Catholic Church, with its cen­turiesold his­tory, declar­ing it­self “new.” Ac­cord­ing to Od­lum the de­ci­sion to re­name the na­tion’s oldest po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion ef­fec­tively alien­ated the peo­ple who had given it birth. When I met Od­lum in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia shortly af­ter one of his fire and brim­stone speeches in par­lia­ment, he told me how wor­ried he was about the di­rec­tion Kenny An­thony had cho­sen for St. Lu­cia. He said: “Nick, these fel­lows are all in it for them­selves.” He lamented the party’s de­vi­a­tion from its core prin­ci­ples.

So, Rick is ab­so­lutely right: there are some per­sons in our so­ci­ety who would pre­fer to re­mem­ber Ge­orge as he al­legedly lived be­fore he en­tered pol­i­tics. Declar­ing him a “dead Vik­ing,” as silly as that is on sev­eral counts, is nev­er­the­less likely to se­ri­ously rock any boats. I am not sur­prised that Josie al­lows him­self to be counted among such hyp­ocrites. By ig­nor­ing ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to speak of the Ge­orge Od­lum whose con­tri­bu­tions to par­lia­men­tary de­bate are to be found in Hansard and in count­less news­pa­per columns, they keep undis­cussed their own ef­fete­ness or their be­tray­als of the causes they had hoped to fight at Od­lum’s side. Peter Josie had ac­tu­ally openly de­clared Brother Ge­orge “Po­lit­i­cal Ass Num­ber One!” His own po­lit­i­cal his­tory is um­bil­i­cally tied to Ge­orge’s. Not for noth­ing is Peter con­sid­ered, to this day, a po­lit­i­cal Ju­das. Why pre­cisely? I’ll bet Josie would pre­fer not to go there. So, let’s talk in­ces­santly about Ge­orge ev­ery year or so. But please, not about Ge­orge the one of a kind politi­cian!

But we must ad­dress the topic. Un­til we do we will not be talk­ing about the Ge­orge I knew and ad­mired. Yes, we named a sta­dium af­ter him in the south. But that sta­dium rep­re­sents cheap pol­i­tics more than it does what Od­lum stood for. Cynic that I am, I’m in­clined to be­lieve the struc­ture was largely ig­nored these last five years for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons. Nuff said.

Od­lum de­serves to have his bust in Con­sti­tu­tion Park, side by side with Sir John’s. No one con­trib­uted more to lo­cal pol­i­tics than these two. Our new breed of politi­cians are truly and ob­vi­ously “in it for them­selves.” Let us cel­e­brate the Od­lum the ma­jor­ity in this coun­try knew, loved—or hated. Let us cel­e­brate the Od­lum we knew, with and with­out his pim­ples. To do other­wise is to per­pet­u­ate what had moved him to say pub­licly that “the peo­ple have been fooled too many times . . . the next batch of politi­cians to fool the peo­ple should be hanged in Colum­bus Square.”

Ge­orge Od­lum's po­lit­i­cal ca­reer un­doubt­edly earns him a seat among po­lit­i­cal greats of the is­land's his­tory.

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