The Enslaver In Your Mirror!
‘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?