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One is Enough

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Each year as we celebrate National Heroes Day, the old debate as to who deserves such accolades is reopened. There is the tossing of hats in the ring as we all put forward our favourite candidates for the award. Some of us don’t even stop to think and exercise our judgement, whoever is our hero must become a National Hero as well. Worse, in advancing our case, we are prepared to pull down or put down the merits of any others we consider as possible “rivals”, as if the achievements of one individual mean that another cannot be considered for this revered status. {{more}}

Interestingly, the list of possible candidates is heavily skewed in favour of those with a political background, not just in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, mind you. Our legacy of slavery and colonialism, in the Caribbean, in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific, is such that our deeds of heroism, or at least those most mentioned, are nearly always connected with our liberation struggles. Our tendency to view history from a Euro-centric perspective, with wars, warriors, chiefs and political leaders in the forefront, has also strengthened this tendency.

Even though we develop criteria for evaluating those deserving of such exalted honour as national Hero, we nearly always end up placing a Vere Bird above a Vivian Richards, or an Eric Williams in front of a Brian Lara. If you want further proof, just think of the renaming of our Caribbean airports-Cheddi Jagan, Tom Adams, VC Bird, George Charles, Donald Sangster and Norman Manley, to name some prominent ones. Not to be left out we have our own E.T Joshua airport.

This political bias is also reflected in the way we relate to our politicians. Overnight, an ordinary Vincentian who becomes a Minister of Government assumes a status in complete disproportion to what a “servant of the people” ought to be. Conversely, the moment he/she loses that position, we are quick to discard and forget, irrespective of the person’s contribution. All this must be borne in mind when we embark on the National Hero assessment.

Fortunately we have been able to arrive at a consensus on Paramount Chief Chatoyer. Going beyond that, however, seems to be a bit of a problem. The familiar names – Hugh Mulzac, George Mc Intosh, Elma Francois, and the trio of Joshua, Cato and Mitchell – are always mentioned. In regard to a couple of them, Mulzac and Francois, much more public education as to their contribution to national pride and development is needed. In fact, not just a couple of them, but all, since we are yet to have an officially documented history. We have a long, long way to go. And are not progressing when we make hasty calls, like dubbing a square HERITAGE SQUARE but not making the required efforts to ensure that it is respected and revered. We can’t blame our youth for not respecting it, what is there to respect? What other provision have we made for recreation space for them?

We need to exercise deliberate, sober and mature judgement when it comes to such issues of a lasting nature. That is why I am reluctant to go beyond Chatoyer for the National Hero status. We have to be comfortable as a people with our choices. Many people have contributed magnificently to our progress as a nation, they are heroes in their own right. For them we can make awards and accolades. But I see no pressing reason why Chatoyer needs company on his national pedestal. We will invite dispute and argument. If we need this, then let us engage in the debate and try to arrive at a consensus. If we can’t, then ONE IS ENOUGH!

REMEMBERING GLEN

Another patriot has been buried in our sacred month of March. Glen Jackson has joined the ranks of those who will always be remembered as we celebrate National Heritage and Heroes Month. His works speak for him and for themselves. However, it is not just painful, but downright degrading to hear the ignorance repeated by some about his tragedy. Whatever one’s views on his politics, his achievements dwarf those of any of his detractors. His contribution to radio, to public education, to cultural advancement cannot be easily matched, much more bettered. But I would like to single out his rallying cry, in defence of our banana industry, not because I am involved in defending the industry, but for the significance of it. A local radio announcer and promoter, understanding where our national interests lie taking on the might of a powerful multinational which had its government in its pockets, taking a clear stand on the side of our farmers. That, to my mind, is the most shining example of his patriotism, an enduring memory for me. When our farmers needed a FRIEND, there was GLEN.

There were many other fine feats for which we all, as Vincentians must pay tribute. But it must perpetually haunt us that such calamity should come to one who has given so much. We need to take stock of our society and commit ourselves to erasing the evil within, lest we all be consumed by it.

REST IN PEACE, MY BROTHER.

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