Saturday, 22 February 2014

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE, LOSERS (Or SomeThings Lucians Can Actualy Be Proud Of)

St Lucia as a girl - so young and full of promise. Now she's obese and diabetic, unskilled and dependent.


If St Lucia was a 35-year-old person,  she would be broke, just a few steps from financial ruin, underworked, underpaid, uncreative and scamming her foreign boyfriends out of an ever-decreasing amount of money.

When we got Independence in 1979, the first thing we should have done was form some kind of Federation with other small islands. But having not done that, we needed food security. We didn’t do that and our cash crop carried us through an entire decade before the Berlin Wall fell directly on top of the Windward Island banana industry.

 It was tragic and hilarious at the same time.

In the 20-sum years since then, we have done absolutely nothing about food security, though, to our credit, we have talked about it an awful lot.

Mighty Banana. What a dick. Banana may be the most perfect food...
But everybody knows
That man shall not live by fig alone
Food security leads to food processing, which leads to a diversification of technological skills which leads to becoming Taiwan. St Lucia spent a long time trying to be Singapore, not realizing that Singapore is a strategically placed international port that has nothing in common with St Lucia.

For all the speeches you heard this weekend, replaying on NTN ad naseum for the benefit of those who deserve it, St Lucia is still, essentially, the same animal it was in 1979 before the British flag came down and the Tricolor Triangle went up. The computer has not been reprogrammed to be self-administrating. The creature has not been retrained to survive in the wild. Left on its own it will die.

And this horrible thing will remain true until such time as this island becomes a net contributor to the food and energy security of the world. This country is a drag. Apart from the artists, intellectuals, artists and agriculturists it has given the world, it is just one big liability.

The ancestors are ashamed.

Photo of actual Lucian ancestor being ashamed...

(Phew. I’m so glad I finally got that off my chest. And now, for something completely different:)




As bad as things are and have always been, it's not so bad to be born on a tropical island. And when it comes to tropical islands, St Lucia's pretty much up there with the best of them, not down there with the rest. Think if it this way: When people from Martinique see you with envy, you still have something going for you.

Having said that, you need to actually take account of what you have going for you. Compy, Odlum, George Charles. Lewis, Walcott, St Omer. Sammy, Spencer, whatever. We know that.

You get stuck in a rut if you can’t see the heroes right under your nose because you’re so busy deifying people who don’t need deification. You start thinking that maybe these people were exceptional and the rest of us can never be that great. And that’s the worst thing you should do because the whole point of hero worship is to make little kids look at a statue of a dead guy and say to himself, “Yeah, I want to be like that. I want them to raise statues when I die.”

Or better yet, met up with a live hero on the street and say something like, “Hey Kendel/Luther/Barbara, can you show me how to do this?”

Greatest is a thing you find in the most unlikely places. Especially places like this, small and surrounded by the sea. It’s in your community, it’s in your family, it’s probably in you. You have to know it when you meet it, because a lot of the time, greatness does not have any interest in blowing its own trumpet. You have to know it when you meet it and appreciate it because if you don’t, greatness will still be greatness and you will be the one who missed out.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet greatness, Lucian style. (The authors of this article mean, by no means, for it to be taken as an exhaustive survey.)

Beethoven, Bach, Buschel

IRMA BUSCHEL: I never get tired of talking about Luther Francois’ greatest or Boo Hinkson remarkable ability to negotiate the right situation. I’m still in love with Barbara Cadet. But Irma Buschel, I have to tell you about Irma Buschel, because if you don’t already know that she’s the greatest thing since toasters made sliced bread interesting, then you don’t know anything about Irma Buschel at all. Irma Buschel singlehandedly composed and performed the single greatest piece of St Lucian music since Luther Francois gave us the international revered work, Mon Du Don. Buschel’s contribution was the soundtrack for the play Malfinis, directed by Kendal Hippolyte for CARIFESTA. But soundtrack is a petty word for what Buschel produced for Hippolyte and his company. The correct word to express Buschel’s mindblowing music was ‘score.’ She scored the play, like a professional composer does for an opera. The play was a kind of horror story set somewhere between hell and a plantation in the early 20th century. The music was a post post-modern mix of all the musical ideas that anyone ever thought were no good. At first listen, you don’t get it. It’s not a bunch of songs. It’s a progression of sounds that have unpleasant results of your emotional state. But then, you get it. Buschel wasn’t just playing music. She was telling the truth. While all other music out there is trying to deceive us, make us feel good in bad times or make us feel powerful when in fact we are weak, Buschel simply made a piece of music that told the truth, not just about life on a plantation in the 1920s but about life in the early 21st century. All the parts of life that other songwriters avoid are in there: Guilt, shame, secrecy, defensiveness, cruelty, conspiracy, deliberate deception, all the things that make us human that we want to  avoid, Buschel wrote them down in sound and music. Her music broke all the rules. Time signatures that bind other musicians to their beats were toys to her. Scales and keys and even notes as we know them became flexible, changeable, almost unrecognizable things. Music is the master of many a man, but not Irma Buschel. Music was her bitch, doing what she wanted, when she wanted, breaking and remaking rules as though that was the only thing she could do with the rules. And then…silence. Long sustained silences like the night creeping across the land, enveloping even the mountains in the safety of the darkness. With all she had said in the music, with all she had to say, Buschel also understood what Miles meant when he said that sometimes you say the most by saying nothing at all. And that’s Irma. Hanging around Theo’s in Gros Islet, approachable, conversant, fun loving and social and yet, supremely silent, never even touching her own glory much less trumpeting it and as the world continues around her oblivious to the fact that they are in the company of greatness.

Original Lucian Rock Star

MACOLM MAGARRON: What? You still don’t know who Malcolm Magarron is and why that is critically important? Okay, youth, here is what you do. You find out for youself on the internet. But then, you also go to every adult St Lucian you know and ask them about Malcolm Magarron. Everyone who knows something about Malcolm Magarron and why he is important is part of your solution in life. Everyone who knows nothing about Malcolm Magarron is part of the problem the world is facing now.
Nerd of the Century

EDSEL EDMUNDS: Your teacher told you he was a diplomat and the internet confirmed. But look deeper and you will find an important scientist who made a global contribution to  the banana industry. Edmunds should go down in history as the greatest nerd in the history of the island and that’s counting Lewis and Walcott. While the two Nobel Prize winners were out there working their way up the ladders that led to fame, Edmunds was down in the dirt that they talked about in their books, solving an actual problem. Banana plants were not giving the yields we needed and Edmunds noticed that the plants looked sick. Under a microscope, he found little tiny vampire worms in the dirt had been sucking the life out of the plants. His discovery saved the banana industry in many countries from a sickness they couldn’t even see.
God's Country. Too bad He left Man with Power of Attorney...

SMMA/PMA/WHS: With a mixture of pride and shame, we include the Qualibou Caldera on this list. Pride, because it confirms to the world that we are something unique, in world of Pyramids, Himalayas and Taj Mahals. Shame because we’re selling the World Heritage Site as real estate. It’s like we’re not just selling the goose, we’re shooting it first and selling it by the pound. Shame on the government. Shame on the planning ministry. Shame on the landowners. Shame on us all for turning a blind eye.

MERLE GODDARD: Microbiologist who makes preserved food safe for some of the biggest companies in the world. You know what that means? We have, in the national skill set, the ability to process and preserve complex foods. You know what that means, nigger? It means mangoes and coconuts never need to rot, ever again. We can turn every single edible thing in the country into money. Or at least food for later.

JOHN PHULCHERE: If John Phulchere lived anywhere in the developed world, people would be clamoring to be the one who made him famous, the one who got him the best deal, the one who got him the highest price. Unfortunately, he is from St Lucia, the one place in the world that produces high art but has no appreciation for it at all. He doesn’t care. He’s still the only person anyone knows who produce portraits that look like they were painted with candlelight and sculptures that look like they might sweat or burst into tears.

ZANE PIERRE: Not because he’s Zane Pierre, but because he is currently the premiere symbol of enduring excellence in St Lucian football in spite of institutionalized neglect, chronic misorganization and all manner of unspeakable bullshit. Praise Jah Trinidad as a pro-league that Lucians can defect to. If not for that, St Lucia would be the most suicidal place in the world to be a great footballer. No lie, bro. The Iraqi footballers have better facilities than our ballers.
The audacity of heterodoxy, the triumph of levity...

LUCIAN BOBO SHANTI: For bringing back honor and dignity to the livity of Ras Tafari in this island, even though it is at the cost of orthodoxy.

YOUNG FARMERS: If there is one set of people who will save this country from its leaders, it’s the young farmers. In spite of government’s failure of deliver the lands and the support needed to boost agricultural diversification, in spite of the collective failure to recognize food security as the foundation of nation building (unless you’re a Hun), young people have recognized that the future of money is in food. From young bank tellers to young drug dealers, the youth are going back to the land.

LUCIAN HACKERS: Hacking in St Lucia used to be limited to fellas trying to crack the firewalls of their jabal’s Facebook page and phone. But over the last year in particular, it seems like some hackers got serious and started hacking the right people for the right reasons. The results have been in the news and have been to everyone’s benefit. Well, almost everyone. Okay, I’m talking too much about something that should not even be spoken of. Moving on…

GANJA FARMERS: I don’t want to say too much, but I have to tell the truth: Lucian weed got better. Waaay better. It’s like local ganja farmers read a book or something. Right now, as we speak, fellas in the hills are translating micro-biological terms into kweyol. No lie, dread. An amazing number of ordinary ganja smokers and growers have decided to be scientific about their stuff. And in no time you can see the results. And smell it. And smoke it. But I digress. It used to be that it one guy offered you a local and another guy offered you a Vinci, you’d take the Vinci. But now? You mad! Lucian weed is top grade. If only our government would find some way to help us sell this stuff to Holland. Help us make legal Euros. In return, we’ll pay VAT. Plus, you can tax five bags if you want. We’ll play a license fees too. And pay VAT on the domestic stuff, too. Not to mention that you get to turn a generation of young criminals into enterprising agriculturists, like magic.

DRENIA FREDERICK/DAVINA LEE: As we get used to the idea of jumping straight from theater into audio/visual features, bypassing the whole tie up of television and film production, two young female directors have emerged as top ting in the future of St Lucian performance. Drenia Frederick has emerged as the dramaturge par excellence, the heir of Hippolyte and other great theater directors. Davina Lee, meanwhile, has emerged as the cinematographer par excellence. While the rest of the Lucian camerati are either tech zombies or amateurs with ambition, Lee is a tech saavy artist with an eye, not just for perfection, but for the composition of the shot.

KENDEL HIPPOLYTE: You really thought I was going to be able to resist this, Mr Hippolyte. Ha. That’s funny. Okay, for the benefit of the humble master, let us digress for a moment. Kendel Hippolyte is perhaps the youngest of the generation of writers who came after Walcott. Now, you have to understand that Walcott himself is not an isolated case of genius, he is the apex of a generation of unrelenting genius that included Stanley French and Roddy Walcott. Having established that Walcott was the tallest tree in the forest, it became easy for lazy people to neglect the fact that there were other tall trees that we could climb and see the world from. I got lucky. Kendel Hippolyte was my literature teacher. But that generation also gave us Garth St Omer, MacDonald Dixon, John Robert Lee. Okay, I realize now that Kendel is not one of that generation. He comes later. But that’s how great he is. His influence has surpassed that of the entire generation between him and Walcott. And unlike Walcott, Hippolyte is a great director as well as a great writer. Many Lucians don’t know this, because they see this mystic dread on the bus and could never imagine that they were rubbing shoulders with someone whose legacy is greater than that of any living Lucian political leader. But leave St Lucia with him and see how fast you learn that in some places, this man is a demigod and everywhere he works, he leaves a little legend behind him and transforms someone’s life.


1 comment:

  1. Off the beaten track. Nice. How would we learn about Irma, if she is so quiet about her own work? I hope she can promote and distribute better now using the technology.