R. Rose
October 24, 2014

Pain and shame

This is Independence weekend, one which ought to be a positive occasion for us all. Unfortunately,the satisfaction of reflecting on our progress over the years is tempered by the many challenges still confronting us and our seeming inability as a people to band together to meet such challenges.{{more}}

This particular weekend, twin feelings of pain and shame are overcoming me.

PAIN and SHAME where West Indies cricket is concerned and the mess that we have placed ourselves into. The shame over our self-humiliation before the world, the unravelling of all the progress we made as we made our way up the ladder from being considered talented, but erratic colonials, to perennial world champions, giving our people the confidence to face the world, is plastered over us all. One can wonder though whether our administrators and top players feel this way.

The pain that this latest fiasco on the part of Windies cricket continues to reinforce negative images of us as an irresponsible and immature people, more than a half century after our initial steps into independence, (Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago 1962) was followed by our first ascension as unofficial cricket champions of the world, 1963-1966.

PAIN too, as our brothers and sisters, the infants and children of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, suffer and die painful deaths, some in squalor, as the rest of the world preoccupies itself with combating terrorism. What greater terror can there be than the scourge of ebola, and is there any greater threat to humanity today? If ebola is allowed to spread its deadly poison over the world, ISIS, bin Laden and the Taliban will seem like joke!

Clearly the dangers of this deadly disease have been ignored over the years and are only now being recognized because persons in ‘the West’ are becoming infected. Do we remember how a similar story was acted out with AIDS? After all, it is black people, Africans, who are dying, and ever since conquest and slavery, black deaths and suffering have been considered “no big thing”. SHAME!

But on our own part, there is still too much ignorance about the ebola threat and its effects as well as the fight against this deadly disease. Sickeningly, there are some in the Caribbean, politicians and even some trade unionists, who are attempting to use the ebola threat to cast aspersions on the Caribbean health system and, by extension, the capacity of the Caribbean to face up to the challenges.

How could we be raising the obvious, our clear lack of capacity to fight this scourge as though it is some case of neglect throughout the region? Which country, which region in the world is fully prepared to face the potential Armageddon of ebola? Aren’t even the rich and powerful, with all their resources, now scrambling to meet the threat? Where would Grenada, Montserrat, Jamaica or SVG find the resources to protect our population in such circumstances? SHAME on those who use scaremongering and unfounded criticism rather than positive advice and support for regional efforts!

Much education is needed about the disease and in order to combat some who even claim that ebola is some sort of “punishment” from God. Education is needed about the need for proper hygienic practices. Education is also needed to combat the political misconceptions and the innate racism in regard to ebola and Africa. Too many of our people, prompted sometimes by unscrupulous persons, are being led to believe that we should stay away from all Africans, that Nigerians in particular should be banned from our shores. One prominent regional sports journalist even raised the ridiculous idea that the West Indies should reconsider the tour of South Africa because of the ebola threat!

Finally, as we celebrate another anniversary of Independence, a date falling but one week after another important historical date for us, that of October 21, the date of the 1935 rebellion, when are we going to recognize the contributions of those brave enough to confront the colonial might? When will the efforts of “Sheriff” Lewis, alias Haile Selassie, and the humble men and women of the time, those who spent time in colonial prisons, be recognized?

They may not have been as educated as the Eric Williams, Adams and Manleys who followed, but pure class bias relegates their contribution to that of “drunken rioters.” The class which benefitted most from the rebellion refuses to pay its dues.

Excesses there certainly were in 1935, as there were in the French, American and Jacobin Revolutions, but the humble folk of 1935 helped to rattle the colonial doors. Their place in our history must be recognized. SHAME on us all!

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.