A pussillanimous Peter shows up in Shattered Dreams

Whatever happened to the radical, firebrand Peter Josie who bellowed from the Castries Market Steps in the seventies? Could it be that his political sojourns have taken so many twists and turns, some principled, others plainly opportunistic, that the persona which showed up in his recently released ‘Shattered Dreams,’ reflects only a shadow of his activist past?
The title is itself a sad commentary on a once promising political career. It is the author’s admission of regret and consternation. As you read the 455 pages of Josie’s deficient book, there is a distinct sense of a life unfulfilled, goals set that were not accomplished and an incomplete political career.         The firepower that once characterized his memorable Market Steps speeches and parliamentary presentations is missing. There is a distinct and deliberate distance between the revolutionary Josie of the past and the mellower author of today. It is as if I can hear the late George Odlum, Josie’ former political twin brother crying from his grave: “This is Pusillanimous Peter!”
As you strategically meander through the chapters, jumping from one to the other in search of the old time Peter, what pops up again and again is a toned down and revamped historical account with simplistic expressions that can be used by any graduate student of St Mary’s College.  Much of the information contained in the book could easily have been sourced from the archives of local newspapers and library.                 Advertised to be a firsthand account, the collection will best be remembered for its inadequacies and the author’s attempt to shortchange his readers.
Please don’t get me wrong. In a land where illiteracy is still prevalent and roro, not reading, is valued by many, Josie must be commended for the fortitude and courage to write.  For despite its failings and limitations, ‘Shattered Dreams,’ as penned by Josie, is still a worthy venture and a historic recollection of our recent political history. That it was written by one of the protagonists that was responsible for influencing many young minds in his time by his radical social theorizing is a good thing. It could have been a number one best seller had he provided some real insights into the making, shaping and break up of the most potent political force the country ever witnessed.
The book fails miserably due to its lack of analytical prose and depth in explaining the political relationships that existed during the dramatic period under review. Josie is now so laid back that you would have had to know the man prior to his writing to know that he was once a no-nonsense straight shooter who did not suffer fools gladly.  Page after page portrays the man as a toothless tiger or a barking dog that will not bite.                 Perhaps, politicians just can’t write frankly, boldly and truthfully about their former lives. One gets the impression that Josie seems ashamed to deal with the most controversial issues of his political career in a forthright manner. Any hopes for a real tell-all by Josie were short-circuited by this glaring admission: “No useful purpose can be served by repeating some of the verbal exchanges between Odlum and myself at the time“.
Those who expected to find an in-depth and intimate discussion about the Odlum-Josie relationship in its heyday must be sorely disappointed.  Don’t look for anything controversial or accounts that may shed any new light on the internal leadership squabble that forced the St Lucia Labour Party out of office before its five -year term ended.
In fact the treatment of the leadership impasse by Josie was so well mannered that it appears that on the singular issue that may have provoked the title of the book, the dirty linen was washed clean.  Josie anticipated this valid observation so he wrote: “Besides, all has been forgiven under the very large banner we all call politics. It is now all water under the bridge, as they say.” What a missed moment to illuminate a younger generation!
The high point of the book is the London Independence talks prior to the island’s attainment of political independence. Josie gave a very good account of the talks and the Labour Party’s representation during the meetings. But, even there he missed an excellent opportunity to deal with the tension and contentious struggles.
It is clear that the author took a conscious decision to engage in a purist version of events instead of showing the real climate of his time.
There is a lack of ingenuity and the clichés are commonly used. It is not thought provoking and the reader is not taken from intrigue and suspense to a climatic explosion of new and relevant insights.
There were instances when the author took refuge in repeating other people’s opinions about George Odlum while he sheepishly shied away from expressing his real feelings.
For a man who was in the boyou (bosom) of such a traumatic and transformative period to casually ignore what happened under the guise of “water under the bridge,” is  remarkably short changing. The editing was superb. The facts were chronologically laid out and its printing done locally. Great! But, in my humble opinion it was a shattered opportunity.
A real picture of the awesome, shocking and powerful events that shaped that political era of the 70’s, and 80’s, in which Josie and Odlum were the major players on stage, did not shine forth in its pregnant  and pervading details. It left me feeling like a man properly dressed up in my $65 suit (price of the book sold locally) with absolutely nowhere to go. Let me pose this question another way: “Where is the meat?”
To say nothing of the whitewashing of a very progressive and revolutionary era in St Lucia’s politics.

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