In recent times, we have been fascinated by the writings of St Lucia’s pre-eminent journalist Rick Wayne, demonstrating his indefatigable spirit as he faces arguably the most challenging chapter of his life. In situations like these, when we are confronted by our mortality by experiencing a life threatening illness, we become introspective. Yet Rick continues to write prodigiously every week with ‘Writings on the Wall’ on Wednesdays, and ‘Wayne’s Whirl’ on Saturdays. In the process many revelations have been made by Rick, among the most notable ones for me is the disclosure of his age which many St Lucians have wondered about for years.
Some may have speculated that looking back at his professional career Rick must be at an advanced age, but certainly not as old as he disclosed, for they were confounded by his youthful looks, his abundant energy, his sharp brain, attributes that most ordinary human beings lose as we age. But the reality is that we all have a limited lifespan.
At the advanced age of 73, one faces the inevitability of a limited number of years left with a philosophical outlook. We ask the important things about life and its meaning. Who put us here? What is the purpose of living here on earth when we must ultimately wilt and die? And the great question we ask, is there a supreme being who created us, and the conundrum for enquiring minds like Rick, ‘Who in turn created the supreme being we call God, who we believe created us?
Many people who face the now common disease of cancer, a disease we once thought was relegated to adults, now affects infants in abundance if one looks at the advertisements for Cancer Treatment Centres of America, with the large number of shaven-headed children receiving chemotherapy, with their plaintive eyes protruding from their skeletal frames. If one is a believer or faithful follower afflicted by this debilitating life-threatening disease one must ask, what have I done that is so egregious to deserve this punishment?
As you, Rick, sometimes lie in bed and await your treatment in solitary at times, where do you get the will to write, and also do you contemplate on the effect that your writing has on some people?
There are two articles that you wrote I wish to take issue with: the ominous sounding, ‘Words from the Crypt,’ which brought images of one issuing words as he lay dying and more recently, ‘Is George Odlum still in the House?’
First of all as you must know prostate cancer is no longer the death sentence it used to be, and the survival rate is quite high. Rick, you have been blessed with the best things in life—good looks, fame and fortune, and achievements of dreams that most of us never fulfill. You have been an acclaimed singer, world famous body-builder, talk-show host extraordinaire, and an accomplished writer with a clutch of acclaimed books that you have written.
Your Magnum Opus (perhaps?), Lapses & Infelicities, has put our Caribbean academics to shame, for they have not shown the resolution and discipline you have displayed, in putting their knowledge to write substantial literary books on the social issues and the evolving history of the Caribbean and where we are heading.
We live in an intellectual desert where qualified professionals in Caribbean societies fail to share with the people their perspectives on issues that affect a region which appears to be in social decline. Where are our qualified sociologists to speak on the crime and the social ruin that is affecting the region? Where are the qualified economists to dissect the budgets that are presented in the respective territories, to give an analysis that is devoid of political partisanship? Instead the analysis is done by a few brave journalists who are criticized for not being qualified to talk about such issues, because they do not have a university degree in the subject matter. But as you might say that is an issue for another day.
In your article entitled Words form the Crypt, you sought to chastise one of two letters of sympathy that were written to you. You wrote: ‘Too often the guy smiling at you from the other side of your lunch table is the one you should guard against, and not always the one whose emotions might sometimes lead him to say something he instantly regrets, if only in the privacy of his heart.’
One should never characterize as hypocritical, friends who would commiserate with you in your moment of sickness. I do not believe that one’s worst enemies would wish his protagonist ill during his moments of sickness, for that man would be a misanthrope who delighted in the illness of another person, when we are all cognizant that with advancing age we will all be subject to some life-threatening disease at some point, with the consequent loss of youth, power, beauty, sensations in certain parts of our body, especially the men (chuckle, chuckle) energy, memory.
You also write in that article that lately you have been thinking a lot about Christ.
One of the lessons to be learned from Christ’s crucifixion is that no matter how much good you do in this world you will always have haters and enemies, for Christ never did any harm to anyone on earth, except to give abundant love to mankind, yet he was crucified on the cross by his haters. You must, like Christ on the cross, not condemn your supposed enemies but accept the dilemma you face with grace, equanimity and forgiveness. For at those critical times the only thing that matters and you can depend on is love and family.
The next article that I take issue with is the most recent one entitled, Is George still in the House? When you Chronicled the political exploits of George Odlum in the tumultuous period leading up to the Labour government of 1979, in Lapses and Infelicities, this was history recorded permanently for posterity.
None of us is perfect and we all have our flaws, and George had many. But the continuous rehashing of George’s foibles is unnecessary in the present context. Blame cannot be laid at the feet of George Odlum for every negative feature that plagues the St Lucian society. You ascribe some of the worst behavior exhibited in St Lucia today to George Odlum, from sowing racist seeds that threaten our tourist industry to the polarization of the people and dramatizing the disgusting episode of the faeces thrown in the William Peter Boulevard. That was 1979 and more than three generations have passed.
When one is young and impressionable one is easily influenced, but every individual moves from immaturity to intelligent analysis and is able to distinguish between what is good from bad. As we mature we make a distinction between things that are counterproductive and the things that are positive.
George’s radical ideology of the 60s was at a time when the cry of freedom from colonialism and the assertion of black pride were the driving force in the region and the world. While in retrospect there were ‘irreducible’ negatives to George, there were major positives.
George illuminated the minds of the young of that generation by emphasizing the value of a higher education in order to replace the largely foreign and light-skinned who held the top jobs in the country. He urged the ‘malaway’ to make the sacrifice to send their children overseas to get an education which is reflected today in the managers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals, sons and daughters of ordinary St Lucians who manage the companies and the top echelons of institutions in St Lucia.
The rejection of George and the St Lucia Labour Party in 1982, was a manifestation of the people’s realization that George’s rhetoric was not in the long term interest of St Lucia. St Lucia since then has seen fourteen unbroken years of conservative rule under Sir John Compton from 1982 to 1996, followed by a conservative Labour Party government under Kenny Anthony which rejected George’s radical political philosophy from 1996 to 2006, and currently more conservatism from the UWP from 2006 to the present, that spans a period of twenty nine years. To suggest therefore that the negatives that exist in St Lucia today are George’s responsibility are inaccurate. For it is always governments in power by their policies who change the social relations and put their imprint on a country. George has been dead for eight years now and his influence had waned long before his death.
It is hoped that the experience you are going through, whatever suffering, if any, that you may endure, will make you find it in your heart to be magnanimous and forgive perceived enemies.
I hope I don’t sound mawkish, my friend, if I ask you to play on your laptop a song entitled, If I Never Sing Another Song, performed by Matt Monro. It encapsulates your life to a T.