THE EYES OF MARCH
Dr. Lester CN Simon
One of a rare breed of black professionals, an astrophysicist, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, has written a very intriguing essay called The Perimeter of Ignorance. He writes about how easily we call on God when we reach the boundaries of our understanding and forsake Him when we feel certain about our explanations. I am not one to argue with the brilliant and ebullient Dr. Tyson. However, I stand within the boundaries of my understanding, far from my perimeter of ignorance and I do feel absolutely certain and rational about one thing right now. There is a divine explanation for the hosting of the Cricket World Cup in the West Indies whilst we are regarding 200 years since the passing of the act, on 25 March 1807, to abolish the British Empire Atlantic Slave Trade (B.E.A.S.T).
C.L.R James observed that cricket is first and foremost a dramatic spectacle. If drama reflects life and history, the next time you witness an exquisite cricket stroke and someone says, “Not a man move”, spare a thought for our ancestors crossing the Atlantic. According to Hilary Beckles, this game we love and play so well….. “Was introduced into English West Indian society and promoted as part of the ideological armour of an aggressive English cultural imperialism”. Like all epic battles, weapons can be forfeited and used to destroy the original holder. Been there. Done that.
All sporting activities have a central, common value. If you are true to the game and to yourself, in addition to finding out how great a sport you are involved in, the game actually discovers you. It draws you out and shows you what life is all about. C.L.R. James also told us that cricket belongs with the theatre, ballet, opera and the dance. In short, cricket is pure music, a universal language.
It is in this context of what cricket is and that it embodies the concepts of fair play and gamesmanship, that the quest for reparations for the B.E.A.S.T and its consequence and legacy must be pitched. In addition, we must understand that the empire does not strike back unless we strike it. Hence, we must know that capitalism begot slavery in that the reasons for slavery were not moral but economical circumstances. Hence Eric Williams’ book is called Capitalism and Slavery, not Slavery and Capitalism. Eric Williams also recorded that “Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery”. The battle started on the economic front and it will end there as well, with a moiety of morality thrown in for good measure to help those who ‘fraid shame and whose conscience needs a cushion to rest on.
Reparations demands that we be true to our ancestors, ourselves and our children. This was part of the golden text of the sermon at the ecumenical service on Sunday evening past. The reverent banished all those who see reparations as payment of monies to individuals. Such idle and red-herring-type chatter must disappear when we contemplate and devise community-building reparation programs. In this context, the misbehavior of school children pictures on mobile phone of them having sexual intercourse and being involved in other lewd actions must sicken the memories of our ancestors.
Alfred L. Brophy defines reparation to include, “Truth commissions that document the history of racial crimes and the current liabilities for those crimes, apologies that acknowledge liability, any payment to settle those accounts.” Cleary, the act of reparation is a self discovering act. It is a process that Europe and America must undertake. They must say yes to the fact that the transatlantic slave trade created the bedrock of the modern capitalist system. We West Indians can proclaim in many parts of Europe and America: We built this city. On dock, block and sold.
When you have committed wrong or you have gained from the commission of wrongdoing, the act of recognizing the truth, offering valid apologies and payment is a constitutive part of the English game of cricket. In cricket, or any other sport, repairing damages can help you discover who you really are. Sir Vivian Richards did that after the debacle in the Antigua Recreations Grounds when we was a young, effervescent and arrogant cricketer. What do Europe and America fear? Themselves? Self-discovery is an integral part of life and nation building. We West Indians know this because Christopher Columbus did not discover the West Indies, the West Indies discovered Christopher Columbus.