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The Caribs and Pirates of the Caribbean

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The war brewing in Dominica between the Caribs and those behind the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean should have serious lessons for us. We need first to support strongly the stand taken by Carib Chief Charles Williams. The dispute is over a section of the film that will depict the Caribs as cannibals. According to the Carib Chief one scene would involve roasting one of the Caribs the way they do a barbecue. Disney claims that they cannot now change the script. {{more}} What should be of concern to us is the position of the Dominican government that seems more focused on the financial benefits of having the film done in Dominica than on the perpetuation of myths and the insult to the dignity of its native peoples. What is also of interest and shameful too is that the Dominican Carib community is split over the issue as the financial benefits dangle before their eyes. I am not sure if a similar thing would be done in St.Vincent where part of the film is being shot. I will be very surprised if Minister Baptiste who speaks of our national heritage and of the pride and dignity of our peoples would fall for that.

There are a number of issues at stake; the subjection of the dignity of Caribbean people or at least an element of that community to market forces at a time when some gains are being made in destroying some of the myths that were created to sabotage the strong defense the Caribs put up against the efforts to take away their land and colonise them. Disney’s profits and the financial benefits to the government and people of Dominica seem to matter over everything else. Is this not about selling our birthright? Is this what we have come to in the Caribbean?

I am writing this article after having earlier, today Wednesday delivered an address that was part of the Bethel’s High School celebration of Black History month. In that lecture I argued that “The old story continues. We are sacrificing our dignity, our depiction of our own reality and of our identity in the interest of market forces…The so-called market forces are controlled forces designed by those bent on financial control. There is indeed no free market.” Why am I getting worked up about this issue when it has to do with Dominica and not St.Vincent and the Grenadines? We are one Caribbean people forging our way towards the deepening of the Caribbean community. The prolonged struggle in St.Vincent achieved a measure of success with the declaration of Carib Chief Chatoyer as first national hero and March 14 the day on which he died as National Heroes Day. Disney’s request is an affront not only to the Caribs and the Dominican people but to the Caribs of St.Vincent and the wider Caribbean community.

If Disney succeeds in its quest it means the gains made over the years in destroying some of the myths would be erased. This will not be limited to Dominica. It would be back to square one, all in the interest of some dollars by persons who have little interest and concern about our humanity, but see us as puppets. Are we prepared to go a step further if any one wants to enslave us but to compensate us handsomely in the process? At what point do we stop and proclaim our dignity? Our quest for the deepening of the Caribbean community is about the bonding of Caribbean peoples and of course includes the native peoples.

Really the more things change the more they remain the same. Our history is one in which our books in school denigrated us and taught us to aspire to ‘Britishness’. We have gotten rid of some of the offending books and removed other aspects of our education system that strengthened that trend. Now the process is continuing in a different forum. As we strive for the tourist dollar we are prepared to go for the exotic and bizarre even if it means reinforcing the negative image others have of us. This issue should not have even reached the Caribs, the government should have given a strong No! No! to their request.

We celebrate Black History month during February. Next month is Heritage month the month in which we pay tribute to our national hero. Is all of this not meaningless if we sell ourselves to the highest bidder while spouting meaningless rhetoric about heritage and recovering our history? I wonder if all is not lost. The consciousness forged in the 1960s and 1970s have all but disappeared as we fight for the material things that they tell us we need to have. I must agree with a caller to one of our radio programmes that some of us are so comfortable in our artificial slots that we do not want to rock the boat and are prepared to accept anything especially if we are not touched.

It appears that the more educated we are the more we participate in the colonisation of our minds. I had said at the Bethel High School that we have come out of a situation where to be learned was to divorce one’s self from the Caribbean and African reality and to become Black British people. But I bespoke. Little seems to have changed. We are really confused by the masquerade. There is little education. We simply go through a process that prepares us to be a cog in a wheel that makes us spineless, in fact to become robots servicing others.

I await the outcome of the battle brewing in Dominica, if battle indeed it is. If Disney gets its way it would have serious implications for our indigenous population and for our Caribbean people. And all because of a pot of gold!

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