It is nothing short of phenomenal the way many of us with our empty words and our diabolic deeds, daily if inadvertently validate the seemingly racist assertion that “if you want to hide something from a Black person, put it in a book.”
Of course, presumed progeny of Aesop that we are, not to say inventive beyond ordinary imagination, we can with speed faster than light conjure up a score of excuses for our demonstrated dislike for the written word. I dare to say first among them would be the hyperbole that everything we learned from our school textbooks was written by our initial masters whose primary aim—as everyone knows!—was not to make us literate but rather to teach us via the written word what a truly inferior species we are.
Of course, today Black people write our own books. More than a few of us have actually received the highest awards for our efforts, from respected institutions founded by white and black people: among the recipients of such accolades were our own Sir Arthur Lewis and the very much alive, if at home largely ignored, Derek Walcott.
Our pathetic excuse for having not read even one of their lauded oeuvre? “Man, dem fellers too deep!” Even our leaders (if only in their own twisted minds) casually acknowledge they had made a point of not reading books by particular authors or certain newspapers, as if that were not already too obvious; as if to read a particular book one must first be in love with its author, whether Shakespeare or Kurt Vonnegut or Christopher Hitchens. Alas, the deluded wannabe what they cannot be are self-convinced that merely by reading a book by Walcott they render it greater literature than it might otherwise be. Incredibly, they believe the opposite is also true!
But let us not digress too far. Some of our talk shows demonstrably exist for the sole purpose of underscoring our well-publicized distaste for reading. Our declared best brains appear to contain nothing that can be validated by authors universally respected. We declare a matter true only if it all at once insults our presumed enemies and the intelligence of grazing sheep, while automatically uplifting our amis du jour.
It does not help that some who profess to be voracious readers, also mispronounce almost every uttered word, the meaning of which they comprehend not. They nevertheless seem to derive a perverse pleasure from allowing near illiterates their own misinterpretations of what allegedly they had overheard someone in authority say at a particular watering hole.
Witness: Recently, after I had publicly expressed the view that we already have too many laws and that some matters ought to be left to the citizen’s discretion, a cretinous critic called the radio station to say my contribution to the day’s hot-button issue marked me a fool, if not altogether senile (as if the faculties of men under fifty are automatically beyond suspicion!)
“If Rick is right about leaving it to the discretion of business operators whether to open or close their premises when a storm warning is in effect,” he gloated, “then why is it we don’t use our discretion when it comes to garbage disposal? Isn’t this more proof that people cannot be trusted to use their own discretion, and must by law be forced to do the right thing?” [My emphasis]
I was amused for more than one reason. It had seemed to me the caller was self-convinced Saint Lucians were incapable of discerning for ourselves right from wrong, wise from stupid, self-protective from suicidal; that we were helpless without the advice of politicians whose names we barely knew and without whose advice the country had in earlier times somehow survived storm warnings by the score.
Secondly, that the caller evidently had never heard of our anti-littering laws, whether or not enforced. But what truly rattled my timbers was the show host’s demonstrated unawareness of legislation that prohibits the random disposal of trash all over visitor-reliant “simply beautiful Saint Lucia.” (In my mind I revisited 1979, when some of our better educated sons and daughters had in mere minutes transmorgrified William Peter Boulevard into an open cesspit—but that’s regrettable toilet history for another show, even though it offers a small insight into our relationship with the worst kind of filth!)
Okay, maybe my friend the radio host knew quite well about our long established litter laws but preferred on the revisited occasion to permit his caller his uninformed way. After all, they stood together on the same side of the day’s hot-button issue!
I had a quiet chuckle over the fact that both the show host and his caller had unwittingly proved my point: the threat of incarceration is for too many of us less than a disincentive to do the sensible thing; that ignorance is still on the loose on this Rock of Sages, affecting even our best brains. Some obviously had never confronted a book since their days at UWI—when they had little choice.
Small wonder that little is known about the American oilman now suing our government for breach of contract and demanding damages amounting to US$500 million. Thanks to rampant unemployment at home and TVs that stay on day and night, some of us can proffer something, however mangled, about the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials.
We can pretend to feel for the American victims of child abuse, as if we didn’t have our own several varieties of the disease. We can regurgitate whatever the NRA nuts had said on Fox News about Columbine kids murdered at their school desks by fellow students, and at the drop of a spliff we can rattle off a dozen reasons why “Obama is a weak leader”—as weak as was our deposed King and not nearly as strong as the king that replaced him.
But ask our best brains, nearly all of whom who just happen to be lawyers or lawyers manqué, all with political aspirations . . . yes, ask them to comment on the 400 unresolved homicides touched on in the most recent throne speech; ask them why citizens with rights have been rotting for years at Bordelais without a trial date; ask them why the presumed Saint Lucian rich never pay for their sins committed against the poor, and all you’ll get for a response is an uninterested shrug. Velinda who? Ninja what?
Question them about the pending breach of contract suit against the government of Saint Lucia, and chances are their barefaced response will be: “I gotta admit I don’t know much about that!”
Persist, as I so often do just for the sheer hell of it. Ask them how it feels when learned sons and daughters of Helen plead ignorance in a matter so full of serious implications for our broke nation and the cloned sheep in their made-in-UWI souls will meekly bleat: “Well, I heard the government had been sued but I really haven’t had a chance to read the details.” Yes, here we go again, the reading thing!
One MP told me not long ago she and her party brethren had never considered the Grynberg fiasco sufficiently a bread-and-butter issue to bring it up during the 2011 election campaign. Needless to say, that mindless decision had been arrived at without having read any of the several related articles, locally published and on the Internet by burned victims of the American oilman—including court documents related to sister island Grenada.
Even our governor general, one of the more decorated erudite daughters of Saint Lucia—and whose sworn duty it is to stand by the letter of the law, especially the one related to the Minerals (Vesting) Act—recently admitted she’d had “no personal or first-hand knowledge of any contract, arrangement or agreement made by any one entity in or outside government with Mr. Jack Grynberg or his Corporation.”
A smart bomb, expertly delivered, you must admit. You may also rest assured, however, that nothing in the GG’s quoted words was meant to say she is absolutely clueless about Grynberg. For a start, she was Saint Lucia’s governor general when his oily connection with her government was first mooted during a Budget debate. You could also say that at the time Dame Pearlette issued her quoted denial she was as ignorant of Grynberg as Obama was of the details surrounding the killing of his ambassador and three members of his staff in Libya!
Clearly, Dame Pearlette cannot be counted among the Black people from whom important facts can easily be hidden by putting them in a book. For one thing, she is extremely familiar with the Constitution of Saint Lucia, in particular with the provisions of Section 65:
“The Prime Minister shall keep the Governor-General fully informed concerning the general conduct of . . .” Then again, why should I encourage the national antipathy toward reading even documents of the greatest importance to our nation’s present and future? Go ahead, dear reader, prove yourself different from the unread herd. Check for yourself the rest of what our Constitution says at Section 65 in relation to the Governor General’s office.
Chances are you’ll discover what Dame Pearlette has always known: that the falsity of the perception—“the delusion”—to quote directly the lady on the hill, “that the role of Governor General in our governance is purely ceremonial!”
Ah but then, what is this Rock of Sages if not the land of all delusions?