BLESSED ARE THE POOR
Dr. Lester CN Simon
The poor must be the luckiest mass of people on earth if only because almost everyone else, particularly politicians, talk about them so much and set themselves up as champions and voices of the poor. Have you ever noticed that strange, universally unique, almost becalming (some would say stoical) countenance on the faces, especially in the eyes, of those who have really suffered and whose spirits have been broken and laid bare? It is as if they not only underwent something we did not, but that they will forever know something that we will not. It is as if they are on the verge of inheriting a new kingdom, for their lives will never be the same again.
Whenever words like race, slavery, black people, plantation, racism and poor people come up, we must slow down the initial horrid rush of blood to the head and think for a minute. It is always worth recalling that historically, it was economics first and slavery second, and not the other way around. It is worth repeating that it was economics first and slavery second, and not the other way around. It is also worth noting that slavery did not start with Africans transported to the New World, with about 95% of the millions of African slaves coming to the Caribbean and only about 5%going to North America.
In a recent article in this newspaper, Dorbrene O’Marde candidly outlined the meaning of racism. To call a black person racist is not the same as when a black person refers to another as, “de black, black gal”. Calling a black person racist is to make an indefinable collusion of words and history, exposing one’s ignorance of the meaning of racism. It is worse than a rapist calling his victim cruel because, in self defense, she sprays mace into his eyes whilst trying to escape to freedom. There is a very bad word to be used for black people disliking white people before black people have emancipated themselves collectively to a moral high ground, but that word is not racism. And by the bye, reverse racism is an oxymoron chanted only by self-constructed morons.
Clear thinking about our past is an essential, practical guidebook for our future. It means that after saying mama and dada, the next word the children of descendants of African slaves should say is “economics”. It seem logical that if African slavery and its attendant evils, such as racism, arose out of economics, then economics might just be the way out of slavery since that was what got us there is the first place, followed by some clever and despicable marketing called racism.
The Ghanaian economist, George Ayittey, makes the tipping point that there are six institutions that Africa (and Antigua and Barbuda) need, to move from dysfunctional, poor states to functional, rich ones. The only problem with his prescription is that Ayittey is saying, “Give Africa these six institutions and Africans will do the rest of the job”. These institutions cannot be given. They must be molded by us. Sometimes, like now, the process will necessitate the use of outsiders as a calculated, deliberate, interim measure to start the journey or to pick up the fallen baton (an emotive word); but the race (a pun for my dear friend Dorbrene) must be completed by us.
One of these institutions listed by George Ayittey is an independent and free media. I feel saddened when I hear Winston Derrick and others clamour for the Privy Council. The fact that Observer Radio came out of the Privy Council does not mean we must go back there. In fact, going back to the Privy Council might be seen as a signal failure of Observer Radio, if it is indeed the true Voice of The People in registering and nurturing. Our institutions must be fought for by us with tooth and nail as well as with marching feet and bellowing voices, until the impregnable walls of justice come down pregnant with justice, done and seen. The other five institutions on Ayittey’s list are, an independent Central Bank, an independent Electoral Commission, an independent Judiciary, an efficient Civil Service and, as we all are presently and painfully aware, a neutral and professional Security Force.
One of the remarkable things about poor people is that given the opportunity to get rich they will do so readily, avidly and successfully. These opportunities can be given in a slavish way or they can be given fairly, with the sole proviso of measurable performance for the ultimate good of the nation. Based on our history, we, black people, in particular because it started with us, and all other West Indians, should know more about economics than any other people on earth. It is our only earthly salvation. So when our leaders and our own West Indian people of any ethnic group, (hold strain on the white people for a paragraph or two), arrange our economics so that we become new slaves, it takes us back to that familiar look of the truly poor in spirit.
It is the familiar look of being enslaved again. But the poor must honestly recognize their condition to really possess that particular look, that particular encapsulation of history in their portal eyes; eyes that make the onlookers search within themselves. It is when they have lost all, not just material things, but the death of a loved one, a husband, a wife, a way of life, their dignity and self respect, their homeland; it is when they are so knowingly emotionally naked or poor in spirit that the blessed poor can do nothing else but harness all their hopes and inherit some of the rich kingdom of heaven, on earth.