By: RAWLSTON POMPEY
In the season of “…Peace; …goodwill and good cheer,” people were seen to be promoting “…ill-will; …animosity and disharmony in the society.” Not infrequently, bigots have sought vain glory. Lest one provoked the ire in “…Antiguan and Barbudan-born Eli Fuller” he/she better not offer “…Entrepreneurial Advice” to “…Black Antiguans and Barbudans.” Even so, one may have to tread cautiously, since anyone urging “…indigenous people” to seek capital for investment, that they may be self-empowered, while helping to stimulate economic growth. Even as many citizens have welcomed the “…encouragement for capital investments,” an irate entrepreneur seemed to have taken offence, declaring it to be “…racist.” This may have been ill-advisedly expressed, even when the intention of government is to encourage entrepreneurism, empowerment and prosperity. This commentary looks at the claim “…Through their Eyes,” and other social issues through those of social commentators.
It has been the knowledge that for “…lack of opportunities; …ambition or appreciation for prosperity,” many people have found the “…clutches of indigence,” inescapable. Compounding this, are people with the notion that others shall be “…Economically Subjugated.” To a small minority, none shall venture to offer advice to those stricken by poverty. Invariably, that which was never intended, was either taken out of context, or impregnated with insinuations. A clear Case on point might be responses by “…Marine Entrepreneur, Eli Fuller” to Senator Lennox Weston’s urging to “…Black Antiguans and Barbudans” to embark on entrepreneurial ventures. Failing to disabuse the “…Racist Notion” from his mind, he took umbrage on social media and talk radio, thereby incurred the wrath of the people [Observer Media: December 23, 2016]. Adding insult to injury, an indigenous news reporter had written a story, seemingly seeking to glorify the figmentation claim.
LESSONS BY SPARROW
None may deny the lessons taught by world renowned social commentator “…Slinger Francisco, ‘Mighty Sparrow.” Speaking to ingratitude, he sang “…Half the trouble in the world today, comes from people who don’t know what to say; …They like to use word that is big and long, and don’t know when they using it wrong.” He relates, “…Some moppers came by me last Christmas day; …eat me and drink me out in the worst of way.” Then boasting about his hospitality, one said “…Before we go, let me make a toast.” He toasted, “…Cheers to my good friend Sparrow; …His obnoxious company makes me feel glad; …This is a fellow I always despise; …I don’t know why people always criticize; … The fame and fortune he has accomplished; …I wish all will rapidly diminish; …I wish that he and everybody live in enmity; …I wish him ill-health and adversity, disaster and strife eternally.” Incensed over the toast, he said “…Ah grabbed me cutlass and pelt a blow; …I never see drunken men take off so” [Well Spoken Moppers: 1994]. As much as they may have been “…boozed,” they understood that which inappropriate toasting may provoke. In most societies, as much as there are “…Well-spoken Moppers,” so too are “…Ill-spoken Bigots.”
THROUGH THEIR EYES
In many societies, people of indigence have not only sunken to depth of despair, but also live in constant misery. When junior Finance Minister Lennox Weston offered advice to indigenous people to “…Access Capital” for commercial enterprises, he may have been seeking to encourage “…Self-employment and Self-empowerment. However, “…Through the Eyes” of entrepreneur Eli Fuller” he has not only found it vexing, but smack of “…racism.” Assuming the voice of the people “…Through their Eyes,” social commentators will have seen that which have debilitating effect on the quality of life and the socio-economic well-being of the nation. Many will have seen “…abject poverty; …chronic wretchedness; …squalor; …social injustice and financial misery.” Thus, they will have seen “…progression and retrogression; ….economic exploitation and recession.” Additionally, they will have seen “…victimization; …discrimination; …acrimony; …nepotism and cronyism.” In spite of their intolerance to these issues, they have displayed a “… tenacious spirit and resoluteness” in sensitizing and/or bringing awareness to the citizenry.
RASH AND RECKLESS
In societies starved of affluence and devoid of opportunities, people have not only perceived things in different light, but have also shared experiences of one kind or another. There are those who have used expressions that were not only disturbing, but also “…malicious and vexatious to the spirit.” Without a shadow of doubt, some statements were capable of being described as “…Rash and Reckless.” Their misguided utterances often speak to that which suggests evil. Those who have been busy empowering themselves and thriving through “…commercialization of the marine resources,” appeared to have found time to engage in promoting “…racial disharmony.” Those supposedly endowed with “…superior intellect and basking in affluence,” have not only become media frenzy, but also gave the appearance of being bigots. They appeared to have confused good with evil, as to call that which is good for economic empowerment, racist. In the minds of people, these are disturbing.
In preparation for nationhood, conscious of the “…pre-dominantly black population,” framers of the Constitution appeared not to have considered racial problems. Unlike some members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), while there are issues of disparity, there have not been problems associated with racism. In spite of the “…cosmopolitan character” of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, the harmonious relations existing among the people, arguably, makes it enviable. In every structured society, for reasons of “…affluence and indigence,” people are placed in different social classes. Most regional societies are so structured with people being placed in the “…Upper; …Middle and Lower” Classes. Those in the Lower Class are either at great disadvantage or great risk. Frequently, they must devise “…Survival Strategies.” Frequently, many are availed of “…Institutional Residency.”
Framers of the Constitution, however, anticipated “…Discriminatory Practices.” Consequently, they have inserted provisions to guide parliamentary measures. It states “…No law shall make provision that is discriminatory, either of itself or in its effect.” Ensuring that there is commonality of understanding, they provide clarification “…The expression discriminatory means affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly to their respective description by …race; …place of origin; …political opinions or affiliations; …colour; …creed or sex, whereby persons of such description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to where persons of another such description are not subject or are accorded privileges or advantages that are not accorded to persons of another such description” [CO: 1981: Section 14 (I & 3)].
EYES OF ELI FULLER
Those harboring thoughts of racism have uttered sentiments that had angered the citizenry. They have not only outraged many less-empowered citizens, but also many potential entrepreneurs. Though it may not have been his intention, since Eli Fuller, may not have experienced that which he claimed, he may not only have caused Sir Vere Cornwall Bird and others who fought valiantly for “…social and economic justice” to turn in their graves, but also his father, Attorney-at-law John E. Fuller to frown over the claim. Boasting a “…49-passenger luxury boat,” through his well-established thriving business “…Adventure Antigua” , likened to that from which Sir MacLean Emmanuel once made a livelihood, he now offers “…unique snorkeling day trips; …charters and tours” within the nation’s economic zone.
In understanding the significance of the Senator’s advice, it is important to look at provisions contained in the “….Founding Constitutional Principles.” Irrespective of race or social status, the provisions make it sufficiently clear that there shall be “…That the people believe that the operation of their economic system should result in the material resources of their community being so distributed as to serve the common good.” The other states that the people “…Assert their conviction that their happiness and prosperity can best be pursued in a democratic society in which all persons may, to the extent of their capacity, play some part in the national life.”The principles also state, “……There shall be adequate means of livelihood for all and that there shall be respect for the principles of social justice” [A & B Constitution: 1981].
FINGERS OF KADEEM JOSEPH
The posting of a video on social media by “…Marine entrepreneur Eli Fuller, and taking umbrage with Senator Lennox Weston’s advice to potential nationals on “… accessing capital for investment,” is seen as troubling. Suggesting “… class or elitism,” was a peculiar call on Prime Minister Gaston Browne to dissociate his persona from comments. The reason advanced is “…My son attends the same school as your son.” However, in the view of the overwhelming majority of people, his response was not only considered provocative, but also has the appearance of “…bigotry.” Either seeking to give credence to the outrageous claim or to invite public ridicule, scribing “…Prominence and Pigment” to the businessman, the “…Fingers of Kadeem Joseph” writes “…A prominent white Antiguan and Barbudan has strongly condemned comments made by Senator Lennox Weston, calling them racist.” He further informs that there were “…Hundreds of views and over 50 comments and likes.” [Observer Media: December 23,
WHENCE WE CAME
Research has shown that “…millions of black people were forcibly captured on African soil; …traded and across the globe, sold into slavery” [Wikipedia: 1697-1834]. Social commentator Sir MacLean Emmanuel has ascribed lyrical meaning to the name of the nation. Positing that “… ‘A’ is for Antigua; …We come from Africa” none would have considered him racial disharmony. The lyrical content not only stirs the imagination and social consciences of citizens, but also, encourages inclusion. He wanted all to know that each letter signifies that which the Constitution describes as a “…Society of free men and women and free institutions” [Constitution: No. 1106 of 1981]. Thus, it could not be said that he was suggesting that the population was to be considered the “…indigenous people of Africa.” Unlike the European slave traders, colonizers and settlers, most regional peoples were born to descendants of slaves. In spite of his advocacy for “…Social Justice,” he entertained no thoughts of racism.
EYES OF SIR MACLEAN
Clever, witty, prophetic and provocative, are ways many have describe the “…cultural exploits” of legendary social commentator Sir MacLean Emmanuel. The messages contained and conveyed in his commentaries, are as riveting and soul-piercing, as they are captivating and awe-inspiring. His primary focus was “…bringing awareness to the citizenry and injecting sensitivity to the conscience of those who governed.” Gripped by frustration, he was acutely mindful of the recurring hardships and miseries that visited upon indigent people. He attributed these to a combination of factors including “…chronic poverty; …social and economic factors.” These have resulted in constant struggle for survival. Most disturbingly was the discriminatory hiring practices obtained in the “…public, construction and commercial sectors; …financial institutions and tourism industry.”
TALKING OF PROGRESS
Though culturally, to the extent of their capacity and sense of patriotism, social commentators have played their role in the national life. Evidenced by their creativeness, through their talents, they have not only informed, but also inspired and entertained. Passionately and with conviction, Sir MacLean not only persevered, but also insisted on a changing mindset that seemed set in“…Mental Slavery.” He advocated change, particularly, in the “…economic affairs, wealth acquisition and distribution.” His iconic status has resonated well with the populace. That which many were not available to many people, were opportunities for advancement and economic empowerment. Arousing national consciousness, many people saw issues that necessitated urgent remedial action. These include the “…Workings of the principles of democracy; …operations of the economic system; …existed social disparity; …governmental transparency and accountability; …rationalized executive policies on the lease of land; …Judiciary; …Law enforcement, and generally, the attitude of some employers.” In spite of these, he gave assurances of “…Hope and a brighter tomorrow.”
COMMONALITIES OF CIRCUMSTANCES
Though Sir MacLean, relentlessly protested against “…Over-lease of land,” he was not the lone advocate for land preservation. Veterinary Surgeon, Dr. Radcliffe Robbins has also been a strong advocate, insisting on “…preservation our patrimony.” Sir MacLean had assured citizens that “…This land is enough for all to share; …And there is no reason why any man should live in despair” [This Land], many nationals have experienced difficulties with acquisition. Sharing “…Commonalities of Circumstances,” King Obstinate was in no different position. He sang “…Even with all the money me have; …Me pickney and me blight; …the black politicians sell out my black birth right I can’t get piece of land to buy.” Emotionally charged, he asserted “…They join with the rich and rip off the country; …All of self and none of thee; …Then they staged a phony inquiry; …All of self and none of me.”
WISE AND CIVILIZE
Singing to the nation, “…We say we wise and civilize,” yet he had seen divisive relations among the populace. He was of the view that “…Corruption will cease and nepotism decreased.” Believing that there shall be adequate means of livelihood and that there shall be employment opportunities and pay for all, he asked “…Who are all the people who get the fat pay?” He answered “…All them foreigners.” He sings “…You talk of progress; …justice; …love and peace and unity; …People believe am doing well, but …Night and day ah catching hell.” Though he urged the “…Casting away victimization,” as fate would have it, he cried “…They kicked me out of Halcyon.” This was the base of a “…viable commercial tourist-oriented water-sports business.” Living at the edge of “…Starvation,” he sings “…Me pickney must nyam; …Me momma must nyam; …Me poppa must nyam; …Me woman must nyam; …All ah we must nyam.”
EYES OF KING OBSTINATE
This may also have been seen when Sir Paul Richards, more fondly called “…King Obstinate.” He expressed concerns over “…Government’s land-utilization policy.” He may have incurred the wrath of God for informing former Prime Minister Sir Vere Cornwall Bird “…Ah coming down to talk to you.” After efforts in acquiring land for his family appeared to have failed, he sang, “…They will tell you that the country is yours; …But those words don’t mean anything.” Whether for his scathing lyrics or for some other reasons, he was left a “…Wounded Soldier.” Sir MacLean urged him that “…In spite of our hardship and misery, and poor economic condition; …We must struggle on.” In his pledge, he urged all to be “…Good citizens.”
WHERE IS MY GOVERMENT
He had, undoubtedly, seen “…disparities; …absurdities and oddities.” He will have seen the “…systemic implantations of foreign human capital in key institutional positions.” Many may not have been considered“…On the basis of recognition of merit; …ability and integrity” [Constitutional Principle B]. Further, he will have seen the “…predominance of non-indigenous operated businesses.” These had seriously impacted those who had functioned in areas outside of their competencies. He will have also seen the elevation of non-indigenous staff in key positions in the public sector. Suggesting that indigenous people were physically able, he sang “…If you put a black man’s eyes in a white man’s body; …You can’t see further than he.” Taking it further, he said “…If you put a black man’s heart in a white man’s body; …You can’t live longer than he.” Making the point that indigenous people have “…skills, talents and potentials,” he advocated revolutionary changes to the “…socio-economic; …political landscape and cultural life of the nation.” He asked “…Where is the Initiative; …Where is the Unity and where is my Government?”
WRITINGS ON THE WALL
Awakened from a “…Utopian Dream,” having considered his own position, the lack of progress and prosperity, he realized that what he saw was “…Illusion.” Stricken by disillusionment and hopelessness, he sang “…Lament- Oh My Soul.” Focusing on those “…who governed and with impunity, wielded power and authority and showed evidence of greed,” he pleaded with citizens to “…Open up your eyes and rise.” He may have been given good reasons to see “…Writings on the Wall.” Resorting to prophecy, he said “…As sure as the sun would rise, the government must fall.” Subsequently witnessing manifestations of prophetic insights, he saw popularly elected governments fell. He saw the “…Sir Vere and Lester Bird and Baldwin Spencer administrations” fell in dramatic fashion [February 11, 1971: March 23, 2004 & June 12, 2014]. He has been peculiarly quiet on that which might befall the “…Gaston Browne administration.”
The concerns raised by citizens were often seen as contentious and/or controversial. There were confusion over “…policy-decisions and/or approaches; …disunity and inability in finding common ground in resolving troubling national issues. The social commentators had seen many things through their “…prophetic and provocative messages.” Carefully chronicling a “…myriad of issues” and the negative impact they had on the quality of life of citizens, Sir MacLean ensured that one of his social commentator focused on “...Tyranny.” The commentaries were primarily directed at “…Governing administrations; …those who provided Goods and Services and those who exploited the economy and worker’s labor.” Most not only aroused national consciousness, but also raised economic and social issues, as they sought to inspire hope in the citizenry. Even so, he sang “…Nobody Go Run Me.” Having done that which they felt deeply committed, and resolved to do, the citizenry may join together in saying “…The angels could have done no more.” *****