Round Table with Oscar
June 11, 2013
The General, the Teacher, the Student

“For years now, the Big Hardware stores have been ripping off Vincentians.

Then came the General with the lowest prices. Nobody beats the general, NO BODY.”{{more}}

This advertisement by General Hardware has a positive emotional appeal. It says that Vincentians have a pricing friendly hardware store at last. I like the lyrics/ sound track, but there is nothing in the movie/video of the ad to make you feel warm and pleasant. I shudder every time I see the criminal intent of the general towards the “enemy” competition. Watch the ad with me tonight on SVGTV’s evening news and tell me if that is not literally “overkill”. We don’t need that level of base drama in commercial promotions. It is not funny at all. Although this commercial has been on show for several weeks/months now, it disturbs me afresh every night. I will not comment on the report that the General’s terrorist ad is targeted at a specific business leader. The video element of the ad needs to be withdrawn and redrawn. It is very sick and may well become contagious.

Lessons in civics are being taught constantly by our social leaders and our media agencies. In particular, students must be learning valuable notions from the employer-teacher relations that they see unfold before their eyes. What lessons can they absorb from the unfair deals that the State administration and executive hand out to teachers?

Dr Gonsalves was once a victimised teacher at UWI Cave Hill, during the years of the late Tom Adams government. He was denied work. Earlier, in 1968, Walter Rodney was a victimised teacher at UWI Mona, when the Hugh Shearer government denied him re-entry to Jamaica to continue his teaching contract. At the time, some of the students at Mona took part in civil protest. Dr Gonsalves was a spokesman for that protest against teacher victimisation.

Interestingly, six years after having been a victimized teacher in Jamaica, Walter Rodney was again denied his teaching job; that time in his own homeland, Guyana, by the Forbes Burnham government. That was in 1974. The government followed that up, six years later in 1980, when an army sergeant packed a bomb in a communication device for Rodney. They assassinated him thus, on June 13, 1980. He was 38 years old. Good teachers teach their students not only in classroom lectures, but also by their lives and it does not take much for students to engage in practical civics when their teachers meet unfair deals from their employers. It has also happened that victimized teachers graduate to cultivate a revolutionary consciousness and a commitment to break those bonds that turn citizens into victims, beggars and political pimps. A course in civics only needs clear eyes, honest intentions and a common sense grasp of class relations, and any citizen in SVG will graduate with good grades and potent militancy.

As I write at my desk, a poster in front me, declares “Walter Rodney Lives”. Of course, Rodney is dead, very dead, but what he lived for and the crystalline love and commitment to a kingdom, a reign of justice, abundant opportunity and class free possibilities – that can’t die. New persons rise to embrace that vision every day, and it will come, that day without victims will arrive when more of us have taken the civics courses that life teaches, and we graduate as active critical and creative citizens.

It is not too farfetched to imagine the storyline in the General Hardware commercial video as a model and metaphor of what goes on in our present political marketplace. When we see the way the loaded forklift hunts down the little man from the Big Hardware stores, turning them into scared mice, we are watching what our political elite in office wants to do with us. But that dream they dream of us, either broken by their threats, or floating in their propaganda will turn to nightmare. What the political elite sees as little men, from their position in the driving cabin of the forklift, are really students in our Vincentian civics laboratory. Overnight they can graduate when the cruel contradictions between their long vision and their persistent reality ripen. Active, critical and creative citizens will stand up, talk with each other and design a new political economy and spirituality. Tomorrow is a different day when we too are different.