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Saturday, October 27, 2007

When Will We Learn?


Dr. Lester CN Simon

He remembers the days when liming was an art? To him, it was considered infra dig to appear even languid or, worse and much harder, appear indifferent, without taking an obscure, gallant stand and making a vague, valiant effort at it. He was such a naturally funny guy, he thought paradox was when you stood beside the dock of the bay. He would swear that Rasta was a colloquial expression in Italy for really bad pasta; after all Italy did invade Ethiopia.

He would also swear that he would never burn in hell because like his father, he was destined to be a carpenter. His father had philosophized that if he, the father, was mistakenly sent to hell, Jesus would call him up into heaven since he and Jesus were fellow tradesmen. Some sort of trade and workers union code, he thought. But somebody must have told him, the son, that the world owed him a living; so he exercised an extremely low level of his innate intelligence and became an imperfect idiot.

There were crucial stages in his development when he knew he was very good at doing some things, like quickly putting similar shapes together in kindergarten and understanding at once concepts like A and B are not just for apple and bat, but for Antigua and Barbuda as well. He was bored stiff in school, so much so, he would walk with a stiff bop and he had to cause trouble on purpose (and on other pupils) and make noise to stay awake. He was such a naturally funny guy.

Then one day, he met a man who told him how and showed him how to control people and make lots of money doing it. He was such a naturally funny guy in need of a challenge, he thought he would give it a try. First off, he had to learn the rules, not just to obey them but to know when to break them and replace them with new rules of his own making. For example, the customer is always right; my foot. The customers must be made to feel that they are always right whilst he, the seller, knows best.

Everyone is a customer or a potential customer because everyone has problems and it is his job to spot the problems. For example in the wake of a fatal shooting (some wake it will be indeed…I told you he was funny) near Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, an articulate and discombobulated woman called Observer Radio to suggest that some other name for the location be used to site the murder, so as not to sully the name of the great, living, national hero.

He was temped to call into the radio program but why enlighten the disturbed ones. He would have called to suggest that we say that the awful murder took place sort of south of Barbuda and sort of north of Montserrat. That caller was a potential customer in a state of denial; and many of us are in the same boat. This meant that with thousands of us in the same boat, we stood a very good chance of drowning ( I told you, he was funny).

He remembers someone in England responding to a riot by black people against injustice from the police some time in the seventies. It was said that black people in England were not a major problem since music, women and drugs would always pacify them. The Indian, Pakistani and Middle Eastern people were considered the real enemy since they had economic and scholastic power mixed with fervent religious practices. That was long before 9-11. Beware of still waters, he learnt, everywhere; and beware of stereotyping all waters. But isn’t stereotyping seeing people in at least two (stereo) ways? I told you he was funny.

So, to learn his new business well, he had to study hard and debunk some of the myths along the way. When it is said that the pervasion of drugs is due to people in desperation seeking economic opportunities, do not be fooled by the algebra. Desperation is relative. One customer may be striving for a single, well-balanced, decent meal on the table for his or, more likely, her family. The relative desperation is a brother or cousin (I told you he was funny) trying to buy a new jeep for his sixth girlfriend; ok, make it the third girlfriend.

He learnt that drugs are like electricity. Lots of people are connected; some more than others and some are not even aware of the current, or is it the currency (I told you he was….). Indeed, all countries have a drug problem. You think drugs can be in hell and Satan and his acolytes don’t know about it? In fact, in some countries the rich, powerful, professionals and officials are so connected and invisible, it is left to the black underclass to bear the brunt of the problem. That is one of the problems with some black people, he realized. They stand out. Some other people can steal so well, they even steal away your eyes from seeing them stealing. But some black people are such great novelists, they believe the dictum: Show, don’t tell.

And so, one major problem unnerved him as he set out on his new business venture. If all countries and all cultures have a drug problem, what was so peculiar about black people to make our drug problem so devastating? He refused to blame white people, if only because they need and do use electricity too. Is it our national state of denial that forces us, in understandable desperation, to turn the geography of Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on its head?

Freedom is a strange exercise. When it comes, from whatever or wherever it comes, it requires a new restriction, a new, hard working steadfastness to a responsibility and authority that is reminiscently contradictory since it harkens back to an ugly past. And this ugly past will remain ugly until we face up to it and understand slavery was firstly economic until someone did some clever race marketing.

And so, he reasoned, since we did not learn well the freedom from our first slavery, maybe if we become embroiled and totally immersed in a new drug slavery with all the killings and torturing with house slaves and field slaves all over again, we would escape some time in the future from this second slavery and learn our lesson well this time. He had always noticed in school, in every class bar none, that some people are hard of hearing and just have to be told twice; they just have to undergo an experience twice, before they understood. And so now I can tell you, we are all so naturally funny.

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