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Searching for a Hero

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A person does not become a hero simply because the government chooses him, or her, and places hero status, entitlement and anointing on him or her. Not the state, but rather the people, make a hero. The lyrics of one plaintive song say: “Everybody’s searching for a hero. People need someone to look up to”. It is people who look for those who will fill their eyes and spirits and our National Hero process has this weakness. We give a person the status of hero because of what s/he did and who s/he was, without considering who we are today and what we are looking for.{{more}} If our history is empty of meaningful connections between “then” and “now”, great people of a past generation will not “fulfill our need” in the present generation. We will live a kind of post-modern loneliness and call it autonomy and “depending on me”. I want you to try and join me as I search for our hero. The question that we ask is this: “Where is our national hero HEPC Joseph Chatoyer? Is he around for us to look up to him as we face any of the personal, social, or policy issues in our nation?

I seem to hear Mr Curtis King make an elementary and fundamental point time and time again. The Vincentian/ Caribbean story has passed through several periods or chapters and we must distinguish the relations and forces that produce each period and how one period or chapter connects with another. Let me suggest that a theory of history (and prehistory) is what will make our story make sense and stop us from feeling lonely, as if where we are in this generation is cut off from where and who our parents and foreparents were. The theory will bring their heroics to have meaning merit and metaphor that resonate with us, giving us something to look up to.

So where is National Hero Joseph Chatoyer Today?

Is he still back there? It seems so to me. I can’t find Joseph Chatoyer no matter how hard I look, in our national foreign policy. When our Paramount Chief interacted with the Europeans – French and British – he represented a people who were the equals of the Europeans and because his people were on their native territory, they had the strategic advantage. Chief Chatoyer was no mendicant, asking for aid and investment. Our national hero is nowhere to be found in today’s foreign policy in SVG. We have left him back there, to be a hero 240 to 220 years ago. Perhaps we still find our national hero as a guide in today’s SVG if we look in the field of citizen conduct and national unity. After all, in his time, Chief Chatoyer also had divisions among his people. There were Callinago and then there were Garifuna groups among others. Which group did he favour? Which group did the he victimize? What example did he set for us on the question of national unity? Chatoyer led a united people. Just as he was fierce and relentless in defense of our homeland, so was he vigilant and persuasive in pursuing unity, discipline and fairness among his people. Not so today; citizen disunity is a prevailing policy. Chatoyer is a hero in theory only, in rhetoric, not in policy practice. We leave the hero out, lonely up Dorsetshire Hill!

Should we continue to search? I have given up, but if you are more naive than me, perhaps you could look for the Chatoyer footprint in the way we protect our natural/national resources – our beachfront, our Grenadine sites, our forested interior, our diet….our regional integrity. If a hero is to inspire his/her people to embody his/her principles, to help them rise to greater resolve and more steadfast principles, then Joseph Chatoyer is not our hero. Either he has failed us by living too distant in the past, by setting too high a standard of love for Yourumein and too much courage when facing danger, hostility and invasions. Or we have failed him and our foreparents by making this hero search into a pappy-show affair, misled by dealers in empty posturing and polemics.

If our national hero is not in office as an influence in public policy, or as an inspiration in the lives of our youth, or as a catalyst for unity and justice in our society, should we return to square one? Should we just live under the prancing shadows, bellicose tongues and corporate/commodity symbols in our mental networks, abandon the heroic impulse? Should we allow the state to put on another pappyshow bacchanal? “Round Table” calls us to deepen the discourse identify our tasks, stretch the conversations into the marginal – as against elite – talk shops, bring our story out of the classroom, expose state propaganda for the hogwash that it is and build ourselves a community of s/heroes. Chatoyer will then come alive with fire.

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