Last Sunday’s dialogue with the National Vision Commission offered the local media a fine opportunity to interact with gifted individuals in whose collective imagination the prime minister seems to have invested his political future. It remains conjectural, however, why so many media houses were not represented at the Coco Palm get-together.
Was their conspicuous absence a reflection of their faith in Adrian Augier, Dr. Stephen King, Fortuna Husbands-Anthony, Boo Hinkson and the other members of the never highly rated commission? Did the absent media personnel too quickly dismiss their invitation to dialogue with the NVC as just another official ruse; another effort at pretending something useful was underway when in fact nothing was?It is hardly classified information that since the prime minister announced the establishment of the National Vision Commission, I, for one, have blamed it for the worst of his government’s several faux pas, the most recent being the prime minister’s calculated decision to honour the notorious Lebanese Gilbert Chagoury with our country’s highest award—the Saint Lucia Cross.
Not so long ago, when Dr. King was a guest on TALK, a caller asked him to explain what it was that made him—fine physician though he is—more qualified than any other citizen to advise our thrice-elected prime minister and former educator on the particular matter of the people’s aspirations. No surprise that for once Dr. King appeared hesitant, his response garbled.
Famously humble individual that he is, it would be especially difficult for him to admit he possesses unique qualities that only someone as particularly perspicacious as our prime minister might be capable of appreciating.
The caller might just as well have asked the good doctor how he found the time to undertake the commission’s mandate (see related Toni Nicholas feature in this issue). After all, he is an extremely in-demand medical practitioner; he appears regularly on TV; is the CEO of Rise Saint Lucia; an expert witness at nearly every murder, suicide and rape trial; a member of Remand Justice; the island’s only coroner; a fiercely independent senator who on occasion prances around for charity on 8-inch stiletto heels, not to mention his off-island professional assignments. He is also a husband and father.
The simple answer is that inside the indefatigable doctor’s chest pounds a heart of gold, if you’ll pardon the cliché. (Conceivably, his lovely wife Rumelia—she recently retired from the Family Court—and their teenage offspring don’t get much quality time.) Did I mention the doctor is also something of a farmer addicted to all things bucolic?
Not for nothing has this newspaper twice chosen him as its Person of the Year, even though for him the more appropriate accolade might be Social Conscience of the Year—which would render him hors concours.
All of that having been stated, hardly a day goes by without our engaging in at least one heated phone discussion. Did I say discussion? Our phone tappers would probably describe our mainly one-way conversations as verbal warfare, in the course of which I tend to hurl at my long-time friend the doctor every conceivable epithet—all of which he charitably suffers without the smallest wince. (How many times have I acknowledged that it ain’t no cake walk being my friend?)
Of course I cannot fairly claim to be Dr. King’s only torturer. I’ve lost count of his well-intentioned efforts that bit the dust, thanks to our know-not-what-they-do, absolutely polarized society. So why does the doctor keep on going, going, going like the Energizer Bunny? That heart again. Stephen King is irrevocably convinced our comatose civil society will one day rise and rescue sewer-bound Saint Lucia.
His limitless optimism is beyond my comprehension. Which may well be the reason Kenny Anthony handpicked him to sit on his Vision Commission, even though, incorrigible cynic that I am, I remain convinced the prime minister’s motives live closer to self preservation. (It’s only fair I should state that to have chosen Dr. King for his latest assignment is indisputable proof the prime minister is not as visionless as he might appear to the eye of the confirmed cynic . . .)
I have no idea what had prompted the Vision Commission to make Adrian Augier its chairman. But this I do know, especially after hearing him roar on Sunday afternoon: Adrian is one committed Saint Lucian who lives for the day this land that gave us birth frees itself from the mud of complacency and reaches for the stars (the celestial variety!).
But let us for once be honest with our secret selves. Why do we continue to make this particular son pay for the imagined sins of his father even though the majority of our population was unborn when he died? Why do so many of us insist on baying at Adrian’s heels for reasons I suspect were concocted with selfish motives by opposing-for-opposing-sake politicians a long time gone?That Adrian Augier has proved himself unstoppable regardless is obvious. He is a multi-faceted talent largely ignored by men with no appetite for metaphor (to paraphrase Walcott, declared by his fellow countrymen too deep to fathom!) Still I must confess I’ve never considered Adrian a persistent rocker of boats. Neither Dr. King, I might quickly add. It had always seemed to me that while they were never afraid to grab a sacred cow or two by the horn, they had always resisted kicking the horny beasts in the ass.
True, they had delivered countless deceptively nice speeches here and there, often replete with impolite or impolitic adjectives. But always they had kept their feet on terra firma, not in the sacred bull’s butt.
On Sunday afternoon both gentlemen gave me good reason to reconsider my conclusions as I listened to what they said and how they said it, with a video-cam taking it all down. It crossed my mind that both King and Augier had finally swallowed more bull dung than was good for their psychic well being; that it was way past time, as they say, to put a cork in it—even if consequentially constipation got the better of the bull.
Not even at Media Association comminglings had I heard “media practioners” speak as frankly and with such passion as did Adrian and Stephen on Sunday. Theirs was the sound of long contained anger at last breaking loose; the whoosh of accumulated bile finally busting down earlier restricting walls. I was reminded of Peter Finch as the deranged Howard Beale in the legendary 1976 movie Network. In particular the scene where he flings open his windows to shout out: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!”
Pity the God squad chose not to be present on Sunday. Ditto my abused, battered and bemused (deballed?) pal, the “media terrorist,” who apparently has decided no longer to permit “back-and-forth” on Newsspin, regardless of how essential to the nation’s sanity. They and their too-busy press colleagues missed truly inspiring deliveries by King and Augier; missed their surprising call to arms; missed hearing them say the success of their commission’s mission relied on media reaction.
I dare to say that what King and Augier claim to want now is what we’ve a long time needed: a Saint Lucia operated by the thinking people with the cooperation of their chosen servants, not the other way around.
Which reminds me of RSL’s Shelton Daniel, who in effect declared what the politicians think or do over-valued. As I say, Sunday’s meeting reminded me that despite our execrable situation, we cannot allow ourselves to play dead, as if indeed it were too late in the day to stop ourselves from sinking to the bottom of the sewer. We have little choice but to discover the courage to acknowledge we are where we are largely because of our own inertia; which is to say that a united effort can lift us out of the cesspool.
We can put the brakes on the careening bus and save ourselves from further peril. We can redirect the bus away from the bottomless cesspit to the moon, if only we can rediscover the gonads to end our tolerance of mediocrity and self-enslavement.
I arrived late at the venue but I discovered soon after I’d taken my seat that some had feared I might carry my perceived war with the prime minister to his former wife, a member of his Vision Commission. Fortuna quickly set their feeble minds at rest. She made it pretty obvious she had not come to the Coco Palm to engage in vitriolic exchanges. She handled my pointed wisecracks and often acerbic deliveries with charm, wit and erudition. She remained absolutely focused, often referencing me by my first name as she ignored my barbs. Good for you, Fortuna. Your lesson reached me and, I suspect, the rest of the congregation: we are all free to express our feelings—without acrimony. Besides, how dare I dictate how you should show love for our country!
All in all, the prime minister’s Vision Commission impressed me as a serious, well-intentioned, determined bunch absolutely committed to their mandate. By all its chairman said on Sunday, he and his team are also resolute in their determination that the report they finally will hand the prime minister
will not prove another dust catcher.
Hey, you gotta admit that’s a helluva public statement. And I, for one, consider it a fine starting point!