‘It does really hurt me as man…’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu
R. Rose - Eye of the Needle
October 13, 2023

‘It does really hurt me as man…’

That opening line from one of our most outstanding calypso bards, the late, great Lord Hawke, in his classic composition “Right in De Slum”, is one which I can never forget. It refers to the “bum rap” put on the community of Paul’s

Lot in Kingstown, officially Paul’s Avenue, associating most things negative with that community and its residents. That stigma lives on even today. But I will come to that.

Let me first thank those who responded positively to my article in the Midweek issue of SEARCHLIGHT (October 10) and I welcome the areas of disagreement expressed. The article, for those who have not read it, is entitled “Genocide” and deals with the reaction to the 75-year oppression of the Palestinian people as manifested in the Hamas-led attacks on Jewish towns, armed forces and civilians. The reservations were mainly around what were described, vividly, as “atrocities” by Hamas militants against the civilian population, including children.

It would take people of the ilk of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu and his Defence Minister to sanction atrocities of one type or another and I am certainly not of that mould, but to pick out the excesses allegedly committed in the confrontation and not deal with the context, or the actions which have led to this armed conflict and genocide, seems to me to be grossly unfair. Pick your side if you must and we can disagree on this, but indisputably, every action brings a reaction.

Throughout history every ruling class has used its domination of the means of mass communication to paint its own picture of events that occurred. There is no doubt that in every uprising or rebellion, there would be occurrences during which unsavoury events may occur, including violations of human rights. The crucial rebellions and revolutions in the Anglo-Saxon world were certainly far from tea parties or Sunday school picnics. Kings, nobles and commoners lost their heads, quite literally, innocent women were robbed of their virginity and children suffered most during the “great” Revolutions in England, France and the USA for example.

However, these are excused under the banner of the “fight for democracy”. But when it comes to oppressed non-European people, it is a horse of a different colour. On yesterday’s date, 531 years ago (October 12), there occurred a momentous event which, if you are fond of the term atrocities, ushered in that era in the western hemisphere. I refer to the arrival of Cristobal Colon, alias Christopher Columbus, in this part of the world. If ever the indigenous people of this part of the world had ever engaged in committing “atrocities”, these were child’s play in comparison with what was to follow the European imperial incursions and invasions.

Without going into the details, this ushered in the centuries of indigenous genocide, the inhumanities of slavery of African people and the exploitation of Indian and even supposedly “inferior” European indentured labour. On the other side of the Atlantic, life was no kinder to African and Asian people, deprived of their homelands and made inferior on their own soil. Even worse was the dishonest manipulation of facts to justify these actions, passed on to us as history. HIS story would be much more appropriate.

Thus, it was right to throw off the yolk of oppressive rulers in Europe and for Americanized Europeans to rebel against colonial rule. But when we attempted it, the labels were warlike and even “cannibalistic” Zulus, savage Mau Mau in Kenya, ferocious and uncivilized “Caribs” in Yurumei. His-story was not at all kind to these fighters for the freedom of their own people. The same applied to the many slave uprisings in the Caribbean and the logical extension in the rebellions against colonialism. The logical extension was the branding of these struggles for freedom, as mere “riots”, defined by the various dictionaries as disorderly conduct of groups of people, bent on trouble or looting.

We have come a long way in the Caribbean in revisiting our own accounts of what happened in the thirties, throughout the region. Thankfully, in some countries those uprisings are today cherished as landmarks in our fight for self-rule, human rights, dignity and independence. But there is still stubborn resistance in some places, our own country being an example. We continue to spout HIS story’s version of the events of October 21, 1935, as “riots”.

From what I gathered from the various English dictionaries, riot refers to such events as deemed “profligate behaviour”, “debauchery”, running wild, being disorderly, barbarity and so on. I can only conclude that those of us who disagree, who see the events of October 1935 as intrinsically a part of our struggle for liberation, must be equally guilty of encouraging such anti-social behaviour. Evidence was even brought in the court cases which followed, of one of the leaders of the rebellion, physically assaulting the wife of a white landowner. He got one of the heaviest prison sentences imposed. She and her class were supposedly sacrosanct, different to our grandmothers, sisters and daughters, assaulted at will by members of the ruling class.

Was it because there was no middle-class leader of the rebellion? Were poor people not supposed to fight for their rights? It does really hurt me as man!

I shall continue next week.


  • Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.