Round Table with Oscar
March 19, 2013

Hero Talk

When we involve ourselves in “Hero Talk” and picking out a man or woman to be exalted as our national hero, we are doing more than weighing up what that person did in the past. That would be an abstract exercise that hardly affects or changes who we are. Serious hero talk, however, challenges us to raise questions like “who are we really”, “whose history are we making” and “how far are we becoming a definite/defined people”?{{more}}

In other words, we not only identify our heroes, they, in turn, help to define us. Hero Talk is a critical dispute and divisive argumentation. I remember a few lines from an anthem that the members of the United Peoples Movement (UPM) used to sing. They illustrate my point. One couplet says: With Chatoyer and Duvallé we fight against all foreign sway/ from shore to shore, we face the foe, a people who’ll be slaves no more/ “Sovereignty” for our people means/ The United Peoples Movement.

Another snippet goes like this:

Daddy Mac and Sheriff carried the flame/ the broad majority now stakes its claim/ Democracy for our people means The United Peoples Movement.

What these verses show is that the persons and principles which we identify and exalt in the past must be made to persist into the present to become defining markers in our personal and political culture. Heroes don’t stay on the shelf or pedestal. They move among us. They shape the nations spirit and even more, they contradict and negate the destiny that colonial, and neocolonial captivity spread out for us to enter.
I commend the UWI Open Campus and other media for the effort they have made so far to move Hero Talk away from elite masturbation from the boardroom to the Cabinet room. Let us enable the broad majority of Vincentians to stake their claim to the “hero talk” and the “nation shape” in a popular insurrection of citizen consciousness and citizen voice – workers, unemployed, farmers, students, community residents, business people.

It may be useful to note here that “hero” and “people” find themselves bound up with each in a paradoxical or dialectical way. The Hero and The Nation unite with each other and struggle against each other at the same time. For example, would we expect the historic plantocracy to embrace as hero Joseph Chatoyer, whose people’s lands they sought to expropriate — except they redefined themselves…? Does the historic Anglican Church community exalt Chatoyer when they eagerly accepted significant territory in “Carib Country” after Chatoyer execution…unless?
One of the fundamental features of the hero is that he, or she, must belong to or be embedded in and committed to their important socioeconomic and cultural sectors in the national community. This feature of the national hero may make him/her to be a divisive, but also a defining force in the nation. This is constructive contradiction which helps the nation confront and come to terms with the issue of who we are and whose history are we making and are we and our hero able to stand together in the present and journey together towards the future?


The Peoples Movement for Change (PMC) considered one interesting approach to the matter of national honours, nearly five years ago. It recommended (1) that we name a national honour after George A. Mc Intosh, calling it the “MEA” Mc Intosh Empowerment Award; (2) that we present this award to persons and agencies that, like George Mc Intosh did, brought working people to associate together, and in this process enabled development opportunities and outcomes for significant numbers of them. Using this “Empowerment of working people through association” criteria, it was suggested then that the cooperative credit union movement was an agency that merited this honour of the MEA – Mc Intosh Empowerment Award.
The statistics and the overall record of the Credit Union Movement showed evidence that it is effective in making the well managed association of working people and the pooling of their savings become a powerful force for personal, sectoral and national development. It deserved an honour and for the PMC, a person of heroic standing – George Mc Intosh – was honouring those who walked in his footsteps and who carried his cause to new heights. Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer is surely another icon who can generate another series of honours. This approach of linking hero and honours strikes me as an appealing one, though not the only one, for consideration.

We are still in the process of becoming a people and a nation and Hero Talk can support our nation building journey. In addition to the examination of past personalities and their principles and struggles, let hero talk also become full for our present motion in a vehicle for our journey to the future.