A couple weeks ago some nice people (not to be confused with our publicly funded most gifted thespians) invited me to “participate” in, as I recall, a discussion of Emancipation and “the Search for a Saint Lucian identity.” My knee-jerk reaction was to say no, for several reasons including that I do not normally engage in activities guaranteed to depress me. Besides, if by now we don’t know what the “Saint Lucian Identity” looks like, how are we to recognize it should we serendipitously happen upon it? (Not that I’m saying any such creature exists!)
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 at least 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 several earlier pointless productions.
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—especially when bereft of redeeming qualities.
But the nice people at CDF were seductive. More than that, they seemed to know exactly the location of my endorphins.
“Oh, but this one will be a different discussion,” cooed one of the ladies, playing nicely with my mind. “Your calculated inclusion on the panel will guarantee that!”
then she promised the show 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, the news anchor and “Island Schol” Tresha Lionel, would also be on the panel, with RSL’s Shelton Daniel, a former STAR editor, as moderator.
It started out well enough on Monday evening, with Shelton as ever biting and sarcastic, at times even witty and comedic. His first question went to Winston, currently doing a PhD, as I seem to remember, in anthropology. Whatever was his subject, his response made a lot of sense. And given a less restrictive platform, he might well have dropped more from his arsenal of stink bombs. I was especially touched by his assertion 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 stuck up to our necks in a muddy bush and unlikely any time soon to extricate ourselves.
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 marijuanopheles, 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 that too many of us were illiterate. If that was not enough to have disqualified me from taking a seat on the panel, he said, then my “light skin” certainly should have.
The last 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 the “lubricants of diplomatic intercourse.” Sadly it did not explain why the caller is among the 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 half-white 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 pre-pubescent girls have been abducted and sold to companies whose main business is sex 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: few of us can land a job in the public service without first agreeing to service, by one means or another, our constituency representative.
Then there are the naked attempts at silencing the media. (The irony did not escape me when one dopey caller tried to make much of the regrettable fact that I had once made fun of Timothy Poleon’s walk. At least I had also defended him openly both when Tim was referred to by our prime minister as “a media terrorist” and when there seemed to be a calculated determination by the current administration to frighten him into silence via libel suits that were nothing short of mindless and vindictive. And here I speak of the nation’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 long emancipated country, where the vast majority of rapes go unreported; where eight-year-olds give birth without a report to the police as required by law; 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 fellow panelists on “reparation.” 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. Alas, we remained stuck in emancipation gear! Finally, I’d have liked to hear from fellow panelists and audience what do we do about the acknowledged fact that emancipation is just another word for “conned again by de white man”—to say nothing of the thriving enslavers in our midst!
Maybe next time?