The Enslaver In Your Mir­ror!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Rick Wayne Ed­i­tor’s Note: The pre­ced­ing was first pub­lished in Au­gust 2014.

‘He didn’t get very far, what with most of the show’s two hours de­voted to call­ers, at least two of whom had ob­vi­ously been bit­ten by a strain of mos­quito known as weedanophe­les; one bite can within sec­onds ren­der the vic­tim’s brain numb for hours. One of them said I owed Saint Lu­cians an apol­ogy for sug­gest­ing too many were il­lit­er­ate. Also the color of my skin dis­qual­i­fied me from ad­dress­ing them on the topic of Eman­ci­pa­tion. Ev­i­dently I was not black enough!’

Acou­ple weeks ago some nice peo­ple (not to be con­fused with our pub­licly funded most gifted thes­pi­ans) in­vited me to “par­tic­i­pate” in, as I re­call, a dis­cus­sion of Eman­ci­pa­tion and “the Search for a Saint Lu­cian iden­tity.” My knee-jerk re­ac­tion was to say no, for sev­eral rea­sons in­clud­ing that I do not nor­mally en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties guar­an­teed to de­press. Be­sides, if by now we don't know all there is to know about our­selves—aka the “Saint Lu­cian Iden­tity”—can there be any­thing about which we ac­tu­ally know some­thing?

But lest you un­der­stand me too quickly, dear reader: I've more or less been per­ma­nently based on this Rock of Sages for some 30 years and in all of that won­drous time have never at­tended or wit­nessed on TV a sin­gle Eman­ci­pa­tion Day ri­tual that did not prove a speedy in­ducer of sleep. A firm be­liever in Nor­man Mailer's “rep­e­ti­tion kills the soul” credo, I tend to steer away from things that even faintly re­sem­ble the 'same ole same ole'—es­pe­cially when bereft of re­deem­ing qual­i­ties.

But the nice peo­ple at CDF were se­duc­tive. More than that, they seemed to know ex­actly the lo­ca­tion of my en­dor­phins.

“Oh, but this one will be a dif­fer­ent dis­cus­sion,” cooed one of the ladies, play­ing nicely with my mind. “Your cal­cu­lated in­clu­sion on the panel will guar­an­tee that!” Then she promised the show would be cov­ered live by NTN and RSL, with am­ple op­por­tu­nity “for call­ers to con­trib­ute.” As if fur­ther to honey the bun (I'd never be­fore been in­vited on NTN), she added that one of my fa­vorite TV pre­sen­ters would be on the panel, along with RSL's Shelton Daniel as mod­er­a­tor. It started out well enough on Mon­day even­ing, with Daniel typ­i­cally bit­ing and sar­cas­tic, at times even witty and comedic. His first ques­tion went to a fel­low pan­elist cur­rently do­ing a PhD, I seem to re­mem­ber some­one say­ing, in an­thro­pol­ogy. His re­sponse made a lot of sense. And given a less re­stric­tive plat­form, I sus­pect he might well have dropped more from his ar­se­nal of stink bombs. I was es­pe­cially touched by his as­ser­tion that truth (I'm para­phras­ing) has al­ways been in the eye and ear of the be­holder.

Suf­fice it to say the pan­elists col­lec­tively agreed the pro­mot­ers had hit on a fine idea. Pity its im­ple­men­ta­tion left much to be de­sired. Or so we thought. The au­di­ence also had its mo­ments. While more than a few wished to dis­cuss why, where and how the Eman­ci­pa­tion Pa­pers were signed, at least one mem­ber wanted to tackle why we re­main up to our necks in the fall-out from slav­ery and un­likely any time soon to free our­selves. He didn't get very far, what with most of the show's two hours de­voted to call­ers, at least two of whom had ob­vi­ously been bit­ten by a strain of mos­quito known as weedanophe­les; one bite can within sec­onds ren­der the vic­tim's brain numb for hours. One of them said I owed Saint Lu­cians an apol­ogy for sug­gest­ing sev­eral years ago that too many of us were il­lit­er­ate. Also that the color of my skin dis­qual­i­fied me from speak­ing on the topic of Eman­ci­pa­tion. Ev­i­dently I was not black enough to talk to Saint Lu­cians on the sub­ject of slav­ery. As I lis­tened to the caller the self-named “red nig­ger” Derek Wal­cott came to mind—as did his warn­ing in an ar­ti­cle writ­ten spe­cially for this news­pa­per, that cer­tain no­tions em­anate “only from minds in­ca­pable of metaphor.”

The caller's voice was quite fa­mil­iar to the au­di­ence and to me, since he is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to talk­show dis­cus­sions. He is also among the more ded­i­cated sup­port­ers of Kenny An­thony, Saint Lu­cia's prime min­is­ter, whose plan­ta­tion-owner fa­ther was born in Sus­sex, Eng­land. It oc­curred to me as he ram­bled that his call on the even­ing in ques­tion had less to do with the even­ing's pro­gram than with tak­ing a dig at one of the prime min­is­ter's bet­ter known crit­ics.

Sadly panel and stu­dio au­di­ence never got around to dis­cussing, as I'd hoped we might, the on-go­ing en­slave­ment of blacks by blacks in Africa, where scores of teenage pre-pubescent girls have been ab­ducted and sold to com­pa­nies whose main busi­ness is hu­man-traf­fick­ing. We didn't get very far with my propo­si­tion that right here in Saint Lu­cia slav­ery is alive and well and in di­verse ways per­pet­u­ated by our elected lead­ers: few of us can land a job in the pub­lic ser­vice with­out first agree­ing to ser­vice, by one means or an­other, an elected con­stituency rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Then there are the naked at­tempts at si­lenc­ing the me­dia. (I couldn't help think­ing, when one dopey caller tried to make new hay out of a re­gret­table joke of mine that sought to make fun of Ti­mothy Poleon's walk. At least I had also openly de­fended him when our prime min­is­ter sug­gested Tim was “a me­dia ter­ror­ist.” Also when it seemed the govern­ment was de­ter­mined to frighten him into si­lence via law­suits that were noth­ing short of mind­less and vin­dic­tive. And here I speak of the na­tion's Min­is­ter of Jus­tice!)

I'd have liked to dis­cover how many in our au­di­ence, women in par­tic­u­lar, felt free and safe in our os­ten­si­bly long eman­ci­pated coun­try, where the vast ma­jor­ity of rapes go un­re­ported; where eightyear-olds give birth with­out a re­port to the po­lice as re­quired by law; where the DPP alone de­ter­mines what cases will be pros­e­cuted by the po­lice; where bil­lions are bor­rowed in our name whether or not we know it, to be re­paid by us, whether or not we know it.

It might also have been won­der­ful to hear the au­di­ence and fel­low pan­elists on “repa­ra­tion.” I won­dered how many knew that ev­ery year since 1989 a bill on repa­ra­tion has been placed be­fore Congress, with lit­tle dis­cernible ef­fect. Mean­while one wise Rasta­far­ian has been mak­ing the point that, like char­ity, ef­forts at repa­ra­tion should be­gin at home—on the touted premise that the liv­ing sons and daugh­ters of slave own­ers now de­ceased should be re­lieved of their ill-got­ten gains. Alas, we re­mained stuck in eman­ci­pa­tion gear!

Fi­nally, I'd have liked to hear from fel­low pan­elists and au­di­ence what do we do about the ac­knowl­edged fact that eman­ci­pa­tion is just an­other word for “conned again by de white man”—to say noth­ing of the thriv­ing en­slavers in our midst! Maybe we'll talk about such un­touched mat­ters next Eman­ci­pa­tion Day?

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