Those who will not reason are bigots, wrote the poet Lord Byron. Those who cannot reason are fools, and those who dare not reason are slaves. To argue with such individuals, adds Thomas Paine, “is like a doctor administering medicine to the dead.”
I long ago ceased to engage politicians, the local aberration in particular, although that fact may have gone over the heads of fools and others who have never had much respect for reason.
The target I now aim at is our unfairly defiled population; the younger leaders of tomorrow especially, too many of whom, regrettably, have been rendered poor and deprived and dependent on crumbs that never fall from the tables of their insatiably voracious and over-nourished elected leaders.
During last Thursday’s TALK, I asked one of my two guests, a teenager, how many of his recently graduated classmates from the Vide Bouteille Secondary School were employed.
His diffident response (this was the young Bois Patat resident’s first TV appearance): “None. Well, I can think of just one. The rest . . . I don’t think they are employed.”
I asked whether teachers at his school ever engaged students in discussions about the world of work; about life after school.
He said: “Not really. But sometimes we were told that if we didn’t study hard we could find ourselves looking for work at S&S or with STEP. (I couldn’t help thinking about Da Jade and her recent scathing review of the store’s latest “disgusting” TV commercial!)
As I revealed while introducing him on Thursday evening, my previously unemployed guest is a STAR intern. Returning to his not-so-lucky schoolmates, I asked: “What do you talk about when you get together?”
“We talk about their frustrations,” he replied, “about how they want to leave this country . . . some of them even tell me how they want to kill the prime minister, you know . . .”
I instinctively interrupted him. “Hey, wait a minute,” I stuttered, “I had hoped you wouldn’t go there. I know we talked about it at the time but I wasn’t expecting you to . . . ”
Indeed he had mentioned the particular call some six weeks or so earlier. But neither of us had taken what his unemployed and broke friend had said as anything more than a mindless outburst; an indication at the time of his confused state of mind. We certainly did not for a second consider it a serious threat as have some, for purposes altogether political. Nevertheless, I had insisted my guest have a word with his friend about self-control.
As I say, on last Thursday’s TALK I was taken off guard. Which explains why, for once, I was at a loss what to say next.
My mind suddenly in slo-mo, the best I could come up with was: “I was going to ask you about that, although I wouldn’t have put it quite as you did. It’s a very dangerous situation that I’ve often commented on publicly: that people can lose it under pressure; that we have no way of knowing, let alone controlling, how they feel about things; and absolutely no idea what they are going to do about them.”
Horror images juk fouye-ed in my head, local and foreign: A-students shooting up classrooms; dismissed workers turning automatic weapons on innocent former colleagues; previously well-behaved young men barely out of their teens opening fire on unsuspecting fellow moviegoers, for no apparent reason.
I recalled the Vieux Fort school principal Morella Joseph. Shortly after the 1997 general elections, she was viciously attacked by a cutlass-wielding student. (The conflicting reactions of Kenny Anthony’s Cabinet at the time of the nation-numbing incident and during their party’s 2001 election campaign are on record. There has been no public apology, despite the familial ties that bind Ms Joseph, the prime minister and his former wife!)
And then there was the New Year’s Eve attack that had taken at least three lives, including the lives of a priest and a nun at the Castries Cathedral. Several other worshippers were doused in petrol and set on fire with flaming torches. Their assailants were two young men, obviously out of their gourds. At their trial they revealingly refused their lawyer permission to plead insanity on their behalf.
During the regular phone-in part of last Thursday’s show, there were expressions similar to Lashawn’s from other young people. At least one of them chastised me for interrupting Lashawn when what he was saying was nothing but the truth.
I took a call from a well-known female voice often heard attempting to defend indefensible SLP policies over Timothy Poleon’s Newsspin.
She started out by asking “what good could possibly come of killing the prime minister?” The answer was obvious: none at all. In any event, I added, no one had threatened the prime minister. My young guest had simply sought to underscore the generated nuttiness out there.
I explained that what Lashawn had said was not about the prime minister, anyway. Rather, it was about our frustrated and suddenly suicidal youth, the wall-to-wall anger and disenchantment that had resulted in a number of shocking suicides, including that of a 15-year-old girl, for reasons officially classified.
The latest published report of the Caricom Commission on Youth Development observes that the commission was “struck by an apparent decline in mental health indicators from a 2000 PAHO study that found one in six adolescents and youth to be sad, irritable or angry.”
Of specific concern are: “High levels of anger; hostility; depression; suicide; alienation and hopelessness, in particular among the 15 to 19 age cohort.”
The study also uncovered “an incidence of parental and family neglect, crime and violence, sexual promiscuity, stigmatization, poverty and victimization which seem more common than previously believed.”
It wasn’t long before it became clear my caller was last Thursday in no mood reasonably to discuss the plight of thousands of young Saint Lucians and what might be done to ameliorate their predicament. With practiced ease, she glided into attack mode.
Referring to the SLP’s most recent convention, she addressed me directly: “Was what the prime minister said about the Chastanets all you heard on Sunday? What about the positive things he said?”
“What positive things?” I asked.
And she said: “What about the thousands of Saint Lucians now employed by NICE and STEP and . . .”
At the recalled convention, both the day’s guest speaker from St. Kitts-Nevis, Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, and the leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party had appealed to party supporters to “defend your party, call the talk shows.” Obviously, my programmed caller was performing as directed.
We had a fairly heated exchange about the merits and demerits of tax-funded, admittedly unsustainable government programs and the caller’s stubborn insistence that I had deliberately permitted my young guest to threaten the prime minister.
The following morning I took a call from an HTS reporter. She wanted my reaction to the day’s propaganda from SLP headquarters.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Haven’t you heard it? It’s about last evening’s TALK. I can let you hear it for yourself over the phone.”
I was tempted to say thanks but no thanks. On Friday mornings I normally have little time for matters not directly related to the weekend STAR. But morbid curiosity got the better of me.
“Go ahead,” I said, “I’m listening.”
Pointless reproducing here the poorly written, inventive misrepresentation of what had transpired during the cited episode of TALK and the en-rouge conclusions drawn. Suffice it to say I was accused of not only encouraging the murder of the prime minister but also of supplying “the location where he and his friends might be found.”
The propagandists appealed to the over-worked under-manned and unappreciated police to launch an investigation of my young guest and his friends.
I gave the HTS reporter what she wanted and forgot about the SLP’s feckless attempt to draw public attention from the fact that the Saint Lucia economy had in recent times plummeted to “the worst in the Caribbean,” and our nation included among the most difficult places in the world to do business.
Chances are the pathetic propagandists had intended to grab for themselves the public attention given a horrific rape at Choc Beach the day before they issued their latest press bulletin.
Like the government, the unconscionable propagandists had not a word to say about the unspeakable attack on the young victim and her boyfriend by unidentified armed vermin at a popular beach a seagull’s squawk from a tourist resort.
Then again, it would seem members of the current government believe they have good reason to fear for their lives. The big difference between them and regular citizens—some 500 of whom have been killed or raped or otherwise abused without resolution—is that they are guarded night and day by over-burdened police officers who should also be protecting regular citizens and their property.
I repeat: Lashawn’s televised statement had less to do with concern for the prime minister’s safety than with the plight of desperate young people with no one to turn to.
Whatever the wonderful contributions of STEP, NICE, BEEP and the other tax-funded unsustainable government programs, they do not begin to ameliorate what the majority of Saint Lucians, the young especially, endure on a daily basis—some of it underscored in the latest CCYD report and the earlier cited PAHO study.
Just recently the prime minister himself acknowledged that 72 percent of the nation’s workforce cannot access available jobs for lack of the required skills. He had no comment on the occasion for the consequences on those who must depend on the jobless vast majority of the unskilled and uneducated workforce—surely a crime deserving of a plague on those responsible.
I am at this point reminded of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain You Probably Think This Song Is About You . . .”
Lashawn Lambert’s song was never about the prime minister and no one knows that better than the prime minister and the parasites that feed off his position at the expense of 80 percent of the nation, unemployed as well as employed, the worst sufferers being the victimized ostensible leaders of tomorrow.
The SLP’s vicious but hardly surprising assault on a teenager, simply because he dared to put into words what already most of us know but are too scared to voice, is an abomination that brings to mind the widely revered Hilary Beckles, the keynote speaker at a convention of the SLP shortly before it was booted out of office in 2006:
“Any political party that promotes internal conflict, that generates division among the citizens, is a party that turns its energies against the society and it should be banished from the society.
“We are looking for leaders who are not vindictive, who are not partisan, who will stand above the issues and mobilize every good for social development.”
The SLP, whose leader announced at its most recent convention that it had “the Chastanets in our sights,” has now turned on the teen with a video of the kind it typically reserves for election campaigns.
Small wonder that my teen guest from Bois Patat, knowing only too well the political atmosphere, now lives in fear, as do several other teens featured in the ominous video.
In an episode of his long abandoned “Conversations with the Nation” over RSL, the prime minister claimed that as he walked near her a woman in Castries she had spat out, in Creole: “Mwen hayi nom sa la!” (I hate that man!)
The understandably perturbed prime minister on the occasion had asked rhetorically: “What have I done to deserve this? Why is this country so full of hate?”
Why indeed. Clearly he had not found his answers while in Purgatory!