In Retrospect: Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it!
For the purposes of this new series, we revisit the past via the STAR archives, perchance to discover lessons learned. Almost three weeks after the 2000 New Year’s Eve Cathedral massacre that left two worshippers dead and more than a dozen badly injured, an unusually circumspect Rick Wayne wrote the following op-ed (only slightly re-edited by the man himself). Two Rastas, Kim John and Michael Phillips, were held responsible. The public outrage was well documented by the local media amid a mob mentality that demanded the suspects be hanged, preferably without wasting taxpayers’ money on a trial. The following was first published on Wednesday, January 17, 2001. Since then, how much has changed on the Rock of Sages? –Dee Lundy-Charles
Even the most loyal—not to say prejudiced—among us would have to admit ours had never been a region especially blessed. Truth be told, when God ordered the house lighting turned on and separated the land from the water, we were nowhere to be seen. We materialized much later, seemingly as an afterthought—a consequence of volcanic activity— and a natural habitat for serpents.
Lord alone knows how the first inhabitants of the Rock of Sages made it without bananas or breadfruit or mango. By all accounts, however, our earliest ancestors had quickly learned to use whatever was available to make booze. Before you knew it, we were well and truly hooked. From that point on it seemed we were hell-bent on self-destruction and destruction of our environment.
Go on, deny it. Remind me yet again of the delight I take in running down everything local. It wouldn’t be the first time you talked like fools. The Caribs wiped out the Arawaks, did they not? Have we not almost destroyed our incredibly resilient environment? In the last 25 years, how many local beaches have disappeared? How much of our waters—sea and rivers—have not been poisoned or rendered dry.
We act as if we were some huge continent with limitless resources, a world power, even. Not so long ago a government minister suggested we should retaliate against America for its unaccommodating attitude to our bananas. How? By refusing to buy American chicken!
We insist on talking as if we could survive without people not native to Saint Lucia, in particular white people, whether from the United States or Britain. We shout about being independent and free to do as we please, including kissing Castro and (believe it or not) Muammar Gaddafi where the sun don’t shine. Then we moan and cry like babies when UK decisions affect our banana industry or when America hurls not-so-subtle threats at us, or when it seems white people are wary of visiting us as tourists.
All right, so I’m in a pessimistic state of mind. But that doesn’t mean what I’ve written so far isn’t the indisputable truth. Harsh, maybe, but undeniable.
And what is it that has brought on this particular dark mood?
Blame it on the way we pretend things are rosy, never mind that all the signs indicate an unending guava season. Blame it on the persistent hypocrisy that followed the Cathedral catastrophe. We continue to endorse all the evils that brought us to this horrible juncture in the first place: prejudice, hate, internal warfare, greed, abuse of the deprived by the less deprived, by the strong of the not so strong—even as we talk of yet another new beginning!
We seem to think nothing of the fact that for years we looked on and did nothing while our young headed at top speed toward the abyss. We cared not a bit when thousands of kids over the years missed school in favor of working in the banana fields with their hard-pressed parents. We talked about “common entrants” who should be barred from our schools, denied education opportunities to others because they kept their hair uncut and worshipped Jah, not the blessed virgin. We finally succeeded in turning most of our young against “the system.” Against themselves. And now the chickens are rushing home to roost—even as we seek answers in prayer!
What a suicidal lot we are!