I spent the major part of the long weekend boning up on Thomas Jefferson, maybe because I have lately had good reason to fear the freedoms for which many had fought and died so we might no longer be enslaved are today in great danger of being taken away by some who seem genetically programmed to be owners of slaves. Yes, at a time when in our part of the world the cry has never been louder for reparation!
I was taken aback by the legendary U.S. president’s stated belief that criminals and government are made of the same sticky stuff. Consequently, he had advised, we the people should “tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.”
And then there was this: “As long as my country is well informed, I have great confidence in my country’s future.” Of course I have long been familiar with the quote but now I found myself examining it as never before, as if I’d just read it for the very first time.
Talk about Paul Theroux’s illuminating torch of time. Abruptly, I found myself concentrating, not so much on the obvious importance of an “informed” populace but rather on the qualifying “well.” I now took “well-informed” to mean a people armed with useful information. After all, to be well-informed about Paris, Hilton, that is, will do absolutely nothing for the unemployed single mother with three children to feed and clothe and house, all under the age of ten!
A recent remarkable experience: quite atypically, I had elected on a wet late afternoon to give a young female acquaintance a ride to her workplace at Pigeon Point. Minutes after she boarded my vehicle in William Peter Boulevard, we started a conversation about the effects of American politics on local life—a subject with which she soon proved most familiar.
I was especially impressed by her insightful comments about such as Joe Biden, Sarah Palin and Nancy Pelosi, not to mention several other politicians in the UK. But I could not help noting she had avoided any reference to our own.
“What do you think about the president of our senate?” I asked, with only mischief on my mind. Just before I’d asked my question my 20-something passenger had done what most of her age group do upon boarding a transit bus or when killing time on some endless line: she had transported herself via Blackberry to another world.
Barely taking her eyes off the phone, she replied: “Senate president? Who’s that?”
“Are you kidding me?” I said. “Don’t you know the name of your senate president?”
Her gaze still locked on her BB, she said: “Nope.”
And I said: “But that’s awful!”
I might just as well have kept my opinion to myself, for all the interest she showed in it. Still I persisted: “Do you know the name of our House Speaker?”
Again she did not. But before I could address the sorry fact, she turned off her BB, looked up at me, then fired her own question: “Why do you ask?”
“Well,” I said, “you are so well-informed about the politics of the U.K. and the United States, I expected you to be even more familiar with what goes on at home.”
“But that’s precisely the point,” she said, her tone clearly indicative of palpable contempt. “What is it that goes on here that you feel I need to know about? Why should I care about the Speaker of the House or the senate president? They come and they go and nothing ever changes, unless of course you think making things worse, especially for young people, is a change worth talking about.”
She paused, returned her cell phone to a pocket in her handbag. “It makes no difference to me or anyone I know, whether the Speaker is a parrot and the senate president a mule,” she said. “They’re equally useless. As useless as the government that cares only for itself and the so-called opposition that could do nothing about VAT and will do nothing about whatever other taxes the government chooses to impose on the people.”
By this time I’d stopped to let her off. “By the way,” she said, as she disembarked. “This is my last day at work and I have no idea what will happen to me starting tomorrow. No idea how I’ll pay back my student loan. That’s why I don’t know and don’t care who the hell the Speaker is. Or who is the prime minister or my constituency representative. They’re all in it for themselves. And there’s no one in this country today who doesn’t realize it, no matter what they might say.”
She paused, smiled the sweetest of acid-laced smiles. “Oh, I almost forgot. You saved me a couple of bucks. So, for that, thanks a million.”
I could hardly wait to tell my friends Peter Foster and Claudius Francis just how popular and important they were among the leaders of tomorrow. Then again, I’m still not certain my young passenger really was as ignorant of things local as she pretended. I suspect she badly needed to get something off her chest and I had presented her the perfect opportunity to unload. Or should I say, to exhale!
But we were talking about Jefferson. In particular, his line about a well-informed population. So now I ask: Are our people well informed? Despite that we have five or six newspapers, several TV and radio stations and talk shows for every political color—not counting the government’s network—the truthful answer has to be a resounding no.
I might quickly remind those who disagree that while we may be well-acquainted with the details of the last constituency get-togethers staged by the incumbent and opposition parties; while we may be familiar with the government’s latest declaration of war on the resented press and what the UWP recently told the Saint Lucian diaspora in London, it would be most difficult to discern from the disseminated information anything remotely related to jobs, jobs, jobs or to the quickly succumbing private sector.
We continue to be comfortably ignorant of the facts concerning the $500 million Grynberg issue. Did the prime minister actually act contrary to the Mineral (Vesting) Act? Did he actually take onto himself the authority to issue a license that the law says only the governor general can legally issue?
What exactly is going on with the human rights investigation demanded by the U.S. State Department? What about the case of the allegedly misappropriated Taiwanese millions? What’s going on about the over 400 unresolved killings over ten years? When will the government be ready to address the death of Hannah Defoe, the vacationing 20-year-old who was electrocuted as she sought to cool out in the swimming pool of a Vieux Fort hotel?
Perhaps the better question might be: How many of us care to be well informed? Again the answer seems obvious. Not many. Especially pathetic is that even the relatives of the officially forgotten dead have given up on justice in our world. So have suspects waiting to be tried years after they were first charged with the related murders and incarcerated at Bordelais. So have the press that appears tacitly to endorse all that is obviously wrong with this country!
I have just received from a friend an e-mail containing an article by a Dr Brice entitled How Academia Can Destroy Black Scholars and Black Communities. Coincidentally, the piece, which centers on a conversation between the author and Minister Louis Farrakhan, reminded me of my earlier cited friend on her way to work.
By Boyce’s recollection: “Minister Farrakhan and I speculated on just how strong the black community would be if we lined up our best-trained intellectual soldiers and committed, at the least, part of our time toward solving important problems. If all the black law students were persuaded to help end the war on drugs, we’d see a rebuilding of black families everywhere. If black physicians were to take 30 minutes to share health-related information with the general public, hundreds of thousands of lives would be saved. But of course, in a capitalist society, financial gain is often used as an excuse to pursue a wasted life. Too many of us are so trapped by our financial circumstances that we abort our dreams at a very early age. Would you be doing your job if someone weren’t paying you to do it? If the answer is no, you’re at risk of allowing money to control your entire life.”
Which now begs the questions: Would our politicians be politicians if there wasn’t something in it for them? Might that something be a lot more than seven to ten thousand dollars? Would their hacks be ready to commit human rights violations in their name?
Obviously, this particular conversation between you and me, dear reader, will continue. Indeed, how could it possibly end here?