Say Hi To The Slave Mas­ter In Your Mir­ror!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT -

Acou­ple weeks ago some nice peo­ple in­vited me to par­tic­i­pate in a dis­cus­sion of Eman­ci­pa­tion and “the Search for a Saint Lu­cian Iden­tity.” My knee-jerk re­ac­tion was to say hell no, for sev­eral rea­sons in­clud­ing that I do not nor­mally en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties guar­an­teed to de­press me. Be­sides, that we were still search­ing af­ter four hun­dred years or more for a Saint Lu­cian iden­tity re­minded me, for some rea­son I can’t put my fin­ger on, of all the sto­ries I’d read about sim­i­lar searches in­volv­ing Big Foot, the Loch Ness Mon­ster and aliens from an­other planet.

But lest you un­der­stand me too quickly, dear reader, let me elu­ci­date: I’ve more or less been per­ma­nently based on this Rock of Sages for over 20 years and in all that won­drous time had never at­tended or wit­nessed a sin­gle Eman­ci­pa­tion Day rit­ual that did not painfully re­mind me of our lack of imag­i­na­tion: al­ways the same vexed speeches; the same out­pour­ing of ha­tred for ghosts; the same feel­ing as I drove away from the venue that we re­mained our own worst en­e­mies, stuck in the past with­out the small­est con­sid­er­a­tion of the fu­ture.

A firm be­liever in Nor­man Mailer’s “rep­e­ti­tion kills the soul” credo, I tend to steer away from things that re­sem­ble even faintly the same ole same ole with no re­deem­ing qual­i­ties. But the nice peo­ple at the Cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion were se­duc­tive. They seemed to know ex­actly the lo­ca­tion of my en­dor­phins.

“Oh, but this one will be a dif­fer­ent dis­cus­sion,” cooed one of the invit­ing ladies, play­ing nicely with my mind. “Your in­clu­sion on the panel was cal­cu­lated to guar­an­tee that!”

She also promised the event 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 peo­ple, a cer­tain news pre­sen­ter, would also be on the panel, along with the ir­re­press­ible Shel­ton Daniel.

The re­mem­bered evening started out well enough, with Shel­ton as ever acer­bic and sar­cas­tic, at times even witty and comedic. His first ques­tion went to a fel­low pan­elist named Win­ston, cur­rently do­ing a PhD, as I seem to re­mem­ber, in an­thro­pol­ogy. His well-de­liv­ered re­sponse of­fered much food for thought. And given a less re­stric­tive plat­form, he might well have dropped more in­tel­lec­tual stink bombs from his ob­vi­ously large ar­se­nal. I was es­pe­cially touched by his re­minder 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’re still stuck up to our necks in a muddy bush of back­ward­ness and com­pla­cency.

He didn’t get very far, what with most of the show’s two hours de­voted to call­ers, at least two of whom were of a va­ri­ety of mos­quito known as gan­janophe­les —ca­pa­ble of numb­ing the brain with just one in­jec­tion of its pe­cu­liarly out­ra­geous stu­pid­ity. One of them ex­pressed the view that I owed Saint Lu­cians an apol­ogy for sug­gest­ing sev­eral years ago that too many of us were il­lit­er­ate. If that were not enough to have ren­dered me un­qual­i­fied to sit with the rest of the panel, he shame­lessly grum­bled, then my skin tone cer­tainly should have. The last ex­pressed sen­ti­ment tended to sug­gest why the ge­nius of Derek Wal­cott has never been fully ap­pre­ci­ated on this Rock of Sages, not even by its of­fi­cially de­clared “best brains,” ad­dicted as are the ma­jor­ity to “lu­bri­cants for id­i­otic in­ter­course.”

Sadly it did not ex­plain why the caller is among plan­ta­tion prod­uct Kenny An­thony’s more ded­i­cated boost­ers, at any rate be­fore the caller has taken a puff or ten on his fa­vorite pipe. Then again, his love for the halfwhite prime min­is­ter may well have ev­ery­thing to do with the caller’s present em­ploy­ment, so go fig­ure. 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 pre­pubescent 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. Then there are the naked at­tempts at si­lenc­ing the me­dia. (I could not re­sist a smile when the eas­ily rec­og­niz­able voice of one doped-up caller re­minded our au­di­ence that I had once made on-air fun of Ti­mothy Poleon. At least I had also de­fended him openly when a prime min­is­ter pub­licly tagged him as “a me­dia ter­ror­ist.” Also when well known sup­port­ers of the Kenny An­thony ad­min­is­tra­tion sought to frighten Tim into si­lence by serv­ing him sev­eral law­suits that made sense only to his tor­tur­ers, one of them the day’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 eman­ci­pated coun­try, where the vast ma­jor­ity of rapes go un­re­ported; where eight-yearolds give birth with­out a re­port to the po­lice; 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 vol­un­tar­ily. It might also have been won­der­ful to hear the au­di­ence and my fel­low pan­elists on the sub­ject of “repa­ra­tion” for the liv­ing descen­dants of slaves. 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. Some­thing in there re­minded me of a no­to­ri­ous African leader. Fi­nally, I’d have liked to hear from fel­low pan­elists and au­di­ence where we go from here. What do we do to re­store to the souls of our young peo­ple the self-con­fi­dence and pride and all those other won­der­ful at­tributes that once were ours—un­til those evil pale faces erased them from our DNA via their un­speak­able slave trade? What are we do­ing to make our peo­ple self-suf­fi­cient, no longer de­pen­dent on the sons and daugh­ters of our an­cient masters? What are we do­ing to re­store black pride? I sug­gest we might stop re­peat­ing on Eman­ci­pa­tion Day the same tired old hor­ror sto­ries and in­stead start teach­ing our chil­dren in school that they are as good as their coun­ter­parts in any part of the world, re­gard­less of skin color. Oh, and let us start re­ward­ing those among us who’ve proved the point, not with money nec­es­sar­ily, but with demon­strated re­spect. Not that I’m hold­ing my breath, you un­der­stand!

PS: As I write, the op­po­si­tion MP for Vieux Fort North, Moses Jn Bap­tiste, is on the ra­dio ex­plain­ing to

Newsspin’s Ti­mothy Poleon why gov­ern­ments are re­luc­tant to in­vested in cel­e­bra­tions to mark Eman­ci­pa­tion: “I do not think any gov­ern­ment, and I’m be­ing sar­cas­tic here, I’m a politi­cian and there­fore I might take blows for this . . . I don’t think any gov­ern­ment will be gang-ho [sic] about things that could even­tu­ally build up and bite them in the butt, be­cause when you go out and sup­port things like Eman­ci­pa­tion what you are re­ally do­ing is build­ing up grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tions and build­ing re­sis­tance, and gen­er­ally gov­ern­ments don’t want the grass­roots to de­velop . . .” Bet­ter to keep them un­e­d­u­cated, men­tally shack­led and ever de­pen­dent on fork­tongued politi­cians!

Plac­ards and marches may have their place but ig­nor­ing the real en­emy in the mir­ror while we re­visit past atroc­i­ties real and imag­ined will never set us free!

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