Letters & Opinion

This One’s For You And You And You

Image of Nahdjla Bailey
By Nahdjla Bailey

Dear Readers,
I think most of you (including mindful Labourites) – now, now, be nice, that’s not oxymoronic, just plain moronic, perhaps? – will agree that this is an ugly, worrying, frightening time in Saint Lucia, even out-trumping (forgive the redundancy) Trump, with little or no cause for collective belly laughs (I euphemise, of course). And, incidentally, talking of bellies, have you noticed? There are a whole lot of them around: prominent ones, upwardly mobile ones, overnight ones, certainly prime ones (obviously living high on the hog!) and, unfortunately, plenty of pauperized ones,… Yes, a sad, sad time it is for many. Puts me in mind of Hobbes’ view of the life of man in a state of war (and I paraphrase here) with a government: solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short, played out in all its loathsomeness. As for me, I deliberately remain on the fringes (despite an unbelievable number of calls to the contrary) to ensure my self-preservation. It is impossible however to be altogether insulated from the hypocrites, gargoyles, interlopers, puppets, tyrants, and pretend-to-be-neutral apologist-commentators. But, I’m royally rescued by my revered remote every single time. What a blessing!

Furthermore, I consider myself rather fortunate to have 100% genuine St Lucian octogenarian and nonagenarian friends, not at all amused by the less than noble (again I euphemise) goings–on in their country – and yours and mine, remember? – who manage to keep me thoroughly amused and sane, with their unamused running commentaries. Their witticisms and general awareness belie the assumed dementia and disinterest which some folks attach to them. I remain eternally grateful to them for their healing input, particularly at this disquieting time, and share this in their honour:

Listen to the 93-year-old when I asked if she’d watched the parade on TV and sang the National Anthem lustily, along with her compatriots at the Mindoo Phillip Park: Child, (yes, that’s me; everything’s relative, you know!) try as I might, I can only ever remember three words of that song. Really? I say. Which ones? ‘’GONE THE DAYS!’’ she exclaims, with gusto. Again, during the Independence activities, she asked, Have you been listening to those shameless politicians crowing continuously? Uh-uh, I responded. You forget I gave that up a long time ago. Just keep abreast of the essentials, you know. You’re so right, my dear, she says, because there’s a whole lot of bull out there, and no comfort! Where’s the comfort? The people want comfort; the people need comfort. At least give the people a little comfort with all that bull they dishing out. Bay yoantimiyètlanmantèvèk tout bull-la!

Then there’s the 98-year-old whom I took for a drive around the city for the Festival of Lights and again for the Waterfront Independence celebrations: Eh-eh, they trying everything, man. It seems they want to blind the people with lights and fireworks? The Taiwanese can’t possibly have any lights and fireworks left in their country. Looks like they’ve shipped all to Helen. Eh-eh, what happen? Those boys trying to blind us, or maybe dazzle us? Which one? Well, it probably doesn’t matter, I say. The end result would probably be the same. Still on Independence, she says, All this talk of Freedom makes me laugh. As I always say, there’s more buying and selling going on these days right here under our noses in poor little Helen, and probably in the UK too as we have come to learn, than there ever was in eighteenth century St Lucia. And how secure are we really? she goes on. We who are without the obligatory bodyguards of the members of Cabinet, we who are forced to live in wrought iron cages. Trapped in our own homes. Unsure if we’ll get that US visa. And yet, said I, the word of the day is Reparation. Well, she retorted, the way things are going, if they ever do get that handout, they’ll surely need it to buy even more wrought iron to build even stronger cages to feel even ‘freer’! What irony! Child, give me my Lord Hailes – and his cork hat – up there in the Victorian mansion on the Fortunate Hill, you hear. How I Iong for those days…

Now, my 86-year-old pal calls up one mid-morning after reading the newspaper, and says, What about those Vision people anyway? Do you know if they’ve had any visions yet, or beheld any apparitions or dreamed any dreams? Perhaps they’ve seen the Ghosts of Lucia Past and Present? Don’t ask me, I answer. Haven’t heard much from them. And I’m not holding my breath either. But it’s really Lucia Future they’re trying to design – or is it, invent? God help us! So, tell me, he says, if Caesar does not like what the people tell those ‘visionaries’, visioning done finish before it start? It evaporating one time, just like that, just like the new constitution-that-was-supposed-to-be did evaporate. He changes the subject: I know, like me, you cringe every time you hear yet another blooper from the House, yet another example of the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue, as well as more (and more) crassness, inanity, whitewashing, cover-up and spin than the law allows. Hey, you can be certain of that, I quickly retort, but I have learnt to help myself keep sane by simply not listening or watching. It’s easy. You must try it sometime, though I have to admit that from time to time, I receive gratuitous, second-hand reports from my totally invested contemporaries. I truly could not tolerate a daily dose of that lot. I understand perfectly, he says, and adds, even if they do make it so darned easy for one to feel superior.

He goes on to enquire about, according to him, my Vote Right or Die duo. What about them? I ask. Well, have they evaporated too or are they entered the trading business? Sorry, I ain’t going there, I say, I haven’t … He quickly chimes in, What happen? Your phone bugged or what? Who knows? I shrug. The buggers do, of course, he answers. Which ones? I ask. Ha, ha, you know exactly whom I mean, he says. So, I ask, you not naming names? What happen? Your phone bugged, or what? But, back to the duo. Sure, they are still around and very involved, from all accounts. Don’t know if they’re still ‘’partners in crime’’, but they seem to be quieter on that front, in this year of the quinquennial horse race. I guess they’ve had ample time to come to the realization that they employed the entirely wrong conjunction in their much publicized slogan! There’s an even more common one which, as it turns out, would have been the perfect fit! Oh, right, right. I get it. I like that, he said. Do you think they’ll correct it this time around?

Then there’s the 78-year-old humourist, still very active, and contributing to society in a meaningful way, who describes her afternoons once she arrives home: My dear, I come home, shut the bastards out, bolt my door, bolt my wrought iron gate and regard my recently acquired purchases – a treadmill and a recliner – and say to them, Okay, go on, fight over me! Well, I’ve gotta tell you, the recliner wins every single time! It is also this same dear friend who, like the rest of us, is totally brassed off with the shenanigans, the embarrassments, the crudity, the oh-so-disgusting racism, the xenophobia, the victimization, the secretiveness, the deviousness, the deception, the underhandedness, the outright lies, the over-the-top nepotism etc., etc., and so forth, but who nevertheless manages to keep me thoroughly entertained with originals such as, last November, when I asked if she was going to the All Souls Mass in the cemetery. She replied as she always does: Of course. You know I never miss it. You know I go every year to envy the Dead!

Somehow, though, this time around, her response rang a noisy, out-of-tune bell, and I couldn’t manage even the tiniest of chuckles. Instead, I was asking myself how many suicides have there been in recent times, especially among the young people of little ole’ Saint Lucia, and I couldn’t help but wonder for how long those youngsters had perhaps envied the dead before taking the final plunge to join them? I thought for a second or two, and quickly decided that I preferred not to know. Not to keep count…


  1. I’d rather accept the probability that my dear St.Lucia’s unique historical Franco-Afrique-Amerindian-Anglo milieu and consequent multilingual interplay seeded my love for the genre of satire-
    nevertheless, my earliest realization of the wow factor for satirical writing awakened with Sinclair Lewis’ “MAIN STREET.
    You my dear appear to have a fondness for the genre-too.
    However, the jury is out on your craft.
    Meanwhile, I humbly suggest that you mentor Mr Peter Josie on the rudimentary skills of satire. He has protested against this genre in the past BUT oh, how sorely -if not desperately he needs it to enliven his dreary dirges that attempt to pass for political writing.

  2. I understand the idea of writing a book or being a lecturer or professor at a higher school of learning. It caters to ones ability to grasp and increase their knowledge in certain areas of discipline as well as their vocabulary base. However, I am totally baffled by educated individuals who choose to be a public spoke person, and in trying to deliver a message to the general public, forgets the purpose of their intent. That is reaching out to the public by speaking to them rather than at them.
    These individuals seem to be more conscious of the fact of trying to impress the public with their mastery of the English language through the use of the vocabulary that their audience is totally unable to understand.
    The message gets totally lost.
    Sometimes it is best to deliver that message in plain and simple terms so as to convey one”s point.
    The message becomes meaningless if most of the audience is unable to understand the message that is intended to be delivered to them.
    There is an old saying “keep it plain and simple”. Your point will be much better understood, especially if one is addressing the general public and not a select group of individuals.
    Simply a point of observation.

  3. I clearly remembered being in such a situation during a Parents Teachers Association Meeting . The school principal was guilty of that behavior, speaking at his audience rather than to them. The expression on their faces was quite evident. They failed to understand what he was saying, even though he was not doing so intentionally.
    After our first break a couple of parents called me aside and informed me that they had little clue of what the ” School Master” was saying.
    I politely pulled him aside and passed on the information. I further advised him to speak to the audience in patois as most of the audience has poor understanding in English, to which he complied.
    You would have been amazed of the transformation between us the teachers and the parents as well as their full participation.
    Some were bold enough to inform the principal that they never understood his message because of his word usage and then thanked him for switching to the native patois, which they perfectly understood.
    The next day he called me to his office to thank me because he saw the results when he made the switch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *