The tragedy of change agents
Often we hear of persons forced to live in exile and, typically when we do, we think of persons fleeing the Soviet bloc or China, or many African regimes. Rarely do we consider jurisdictions in the West filled with human rights legislation as places from which persons would need to seek exile.
One also would be seemingly reasonable in saying that such tyranny is a thing of the past and not a concern for today. Of course, in the past there were glaring cases, the most striking in Bermuda being the exile imposed back in 1656 or thereabouts when two boatloads of individuals were rounded up and forced to leave the island because of their ideas of free worship (Lutheranism).
The episode was not uneventful because as a result of that expulsion, the Bahamas and the Carolinas were colonised by those exiled Bermudians.
In more recent times the open case of Hakim Gordon, the son of E.F. Gordon, was the subject of a ban that was preventing him from returning to Bermuda, which he had come to consider as home.
Still as unfortunate and troubling, when he attempted to establish his roots in one of his parents’ homes in Dominica, he became a victim of an attempted poisoning. He learnt of being poisoned only when his haemoglobin levels became so low that doctors confirmed it was the result of a slow poisoning.
The Hakim Episode happened during the 1970s period of the Cold War and at the edge of colonialism in Bermuda when there was a silent but strong fist around any national threat on the island.
Hakim was magnetic and an oddity, but full of charisma and a feared intellect. Hakim was a pure anarchist and the authorities both here and in Dominica would have been concerned about destabilisation.
To the revolutionaries or those with the tendency to be radical, it may sound wonderful to be a cause agent except when there is a shift in the power structure. Maintenance of power requires conformity; it requires persons, even the revolutionary, to stay in their places where predictably the power can be maintained. Any threat to the narrative that undermines the power construct would be treated as undesirable.
In today’s literate and technological world, journalists, particularly those who are driven to reveal the truth, are the targets killed and suppressed all over. They are the new persona non gratis, the unwelcomed, because they upset the narrative. The irony is obvious when revolutionaries of yesterday are confronted with a power dilemma of their own. Do they kill the beast? Or do they say, well, the beast isn’t going to bite me, it may bite them. So that’s OK?
I remember very clearly several instances where that drama plays out. I was with a group of individuals deeply involved in the changes and overthrow of Grenada.
These men were at the forefront of the anti-neocolonial government. They were the lecturers on street corners, the visionaries who turned the tide of opinion paving the road for change.
When I was chatting with these men in the early 1980s, they were in exile in Trinidad, but this was after the successful revolution when one would believe they would be riding on the glory train along with the leaders they created.
Why were these otherwise heroes exiled? They were a result of a double tragedy. They were obvious targets of the former government they helped to depose, but because of their magnetism the new government feared their continued existence would undermine them also.
Yes, they were seen as potential change agents and not loyal, so the first task of the new government was to get rid of them.
The pre-revolution rhetoric was about freeing the masses and forming the people’s government, but after the successful revolution, it became instead power and control over the masses. It was near-inconceivable that the very government they struggled for would turn their guns in a massacre of its own people on the streets, where the dead and dying were scooped up by tractors and buried — some of them while their groans could still be quite audibly heard.
Then there are the popular cases of the Ayatollah Khomeini exiled in France, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the Gulag Archipelago.
Nelson Mandela was a different kind of Gulag; nevertheless there are several iterations of a Gulag adopted by various governments with their deep state collaboration that achieves the same result.
The simplest, which has the greatest case of deniability is by making life difficult or impossible, and forces the victims to leave on their own.
There is a universal attraction and algorithm that play out with the exiled, particularly those who are persecuted for truth.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
For those who understand spiritual principles, they would know also the verse “seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all things will be added to you”.
These are not just biblical verses, they are actually universal cosmic principles. Those principles are either true or they are false; there is no in between.
It is a travesty when persons who give their life in support of a better world and who fight for the upliftment of the indigent become ostracised for political gain.
To become systemically neutered or disabled from having any input in their own country.
Then again, it is also, as history has shown, an honour.
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Ada Foggo (1928-2020)
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