Say Hi To The Slave Master In Your Mirror!
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!