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If only? A question of intellect

Sir Frank Worrell, at Arundel in West Sussex, England, in April 1963. He became the first full-time Black captain of West Indies in 1960-61 and immediately proved up to the job, which had been the domain of White men from 1928 (Photograph by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

There is a school of thought based mainly on a Darwinist premise of random selection. Hence, there is its concomitant cofactor — “what if?”

What if this had occurred as opposed to that, etc? Even though “if” is a nonreality, we still fascinate ourselves with that question.

One such what-if that comes to mind is, what if Sir Frank Worrell had survived and not died at such a young age of 42. Sir Frank, the first Black captain of the West Indies Test cricket team for a full series, broke that distinction of White privilege that up to 1960-61 saw only White captains, even if it was a predominantly Black team.

Sir Frank went beyond that of a captain: he brought the team together as being truly thinking regionally under his captaincy. It was no longer good enough for a cricketer to excel personally or for his particular island. Under Sir Frank Worrell, who was likely influenced by the great writer C.L.R. James, they discovered togetherness and played the game hard as a team for the whole region.

Sir Frank went beyond cricket. Former prime minister Sir Alexander Bustamente appointed this Barbadian-born man as senator in Jamaica. It is also known that Sir Frank attended university and studied economics. With C.L.R. James, the Trinidadian former Nation editor who became a cricket writer for the Manchester Guardian in England, and was instrumental in Sir Frank becoming West Indies’ first full-time Black captain, one could only postulate that James would have also, as a newspaper columnist, had the same effect on his political carrier had it developed.

Naturally, I could fantasise that, like Nelson Mandela, Sir Frank Worrell, a highly celebrated cricketer and captain, might have been just the kind of leader that could have brought the Caribbean islands closer as a regional body with his attitude and thoughts of regionalism.

We all understood what happened to the failed federation, to the dismay of the students and intellectuals, when Jamaica seceded, followed by the famous statement of Sir Eric Williams, who said “one from ten leaves nought” because had the federation continued, Trinidad, in the absence of Jamaica, would have held the lion’s share of the budget expense in sustaining the federation.

Certainly, up against the backdrop of that failed federation, it might have been extremely difficult to inspire the thought of a greater regional unity. However, again coming off the successful emergence as a regional cricket power, it would not be hard to imagine a political ideology riding on the back of that success with the subsequent leadership of Sir Garfield Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards.

Over the years since and with the absence of any mega-government leadership figure emerging, Sir Eric Williams of Trinidad remains the last of the intellectual great ones. Not to suggest there were no great intellectuals, but that none became government leaders.

There remains a need for a great archetypical leader who can bring the Caribbean political region up to a globally respected level. There is no end to scholarship in the region and none can criticise the saga of slavery and colonialism with more irradiative arguments than they. But, to date, when one compares the level of participatory democracy exhibited in the region, aside from Costa Rica, it is deplorable, Third World and no example of modern democracy. In addition, there is no continuing intellectual legacy from The University of the West Indies; rather a silence as it caters to the politics of the region instead of challenging them. This is certainly important when we consider the fate in Guyana of Walter Rodney, an astute intellectual and political activist who challenged minds and was assassinated at the tender age of 38.

When we compare what rights are enjoyed today by citizens of the colonisers, which includes multicultural and diverse populations, these citizens enjoy far more political participation, rights, privileges and protections than those from jurisdictions that were once colonised and now claim to be free. It should be the reverse, particularly after being deprived, with the newly emancipated people leading the world to a higher understanding of governance and free society. One would think that indignation after several hundred years of subjugation would lead society to build a body politic of greater inclusion, more dignity and greater rights. But, seemingly, all of that glory of emancipation was exchanged shamelessly for the right to rule and express power by any means necessary.

We have yet to examine the lingering effect of colonialism, particularly in the area of education and the resultant classism. Elite schools led to elitism and class orientations resembling medieval Europe, where the elite rule and exploit the masses rather than liberate them as equals.

We cannot help but live out that many of our intellectuals as transitional agents and leaders of the Fifties and Sixties followed the Marxist ideal of labour ultimately taking over the market and the means of production. Rather than an enlightened approach where education becomes the instrument for self-mastery and an expanded free marketplace, we end in purgatory where the disease, owing to the lack of an inclusive market or education on how basic human freedoms look, has resulted in traditional political complacency with leaders preoccupied with securing eternal power under political hierarchies that are near-impenetrable.

Bermuda as an island jurisdiction is remote enough with its extreme northern position to set its own example and effectively become a role model for many small-island jurisdictions of the Caribbean and farther afield — but only if it wants to. Because left alone we will follow the example of going nowhere.

Fortunately for jurisdictions such as Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana, they have oil and natural gas, which in spite of themselves will ultimately stimulate the economy, and hence increase opportunities for higher education for the entire population that will lead to a more enlightened citizenry.

Politics inevitably follows. If only this could be true for everyone.

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Published January 04, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated January 03, 2023 at 1:52 pm)

If only? A question of intellect

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