By Jomo Thomas
Yesterday marked five years since Oscar Allen died. He was a giant of a man. His honesty, simplicity, profundity in thought, generosity and commitment to the struggle for a better life for our people remain beyond measure. Our people are yet to realise the massive gaping wound, the terrible loss our nation suffered on this sad and dreadful day.
To know Oscar Allen is to love him. If I were ever given the task of caring for his memory, I would place on his tombstone ‘Oscar Allen, a national treasure is buried here.’
Five weeks before he passed, he penned a simple treatise that he hoped that more of us would hold dear and keep sacred. The piece entitled, ‘Betrayal is the cancer that destroys national liberation’ is reproduced in its entirety.
“The Portuguese dictator Caetano was a vicious ruler both in Portugal and even more so in the African countries, which were colonies of Portugal. Amilcar Cabral and the African Independence Party stood up in Guinea Bissau and the Cape Verde islands. They took on the struggle to free their people from tyranny in a political and territorial struggle for about 15 years. They won. It is a truly remarkable observation that although he faced such a criminal opponent, Cabral declared stoutly, ‘No matter what the enemy throws against us, the greatest battle we have to face is the battle within our movement itself’.
He made that profoundly disturbing statement at a conference in 1965, and in 1973, he amplified it. ‘Betrayal, (he said), is the cancer that destroys the national liberation movement’. Months later, Cabral was shot dead by one of his own, in Judas style, to satisfy the Portuguese!
Those of us with nation-building agendas need to put this question regularly to ourselves: ‘Is it I, the betrayer’?
The advice from Amilcar Cabral in the photo above is to ‘Never stop learning,’ which warns against both mental laziness and intellectual arrogance. The colonial rulers and today’s bosses placed the people’s minds in a dustbin, a useless obstruction to their power and command. Do you notice how many ways to learn Cabral listed? Book learning is only one. In the march for nation-building, therefore, to stop learning in all possible ways is to start betraying the future of our nation and ourselves.
Several ways to become a traitor.
‘Me, my family and I’. ‘Me, my party and I’. ‘Me, my business and I’. We need to unlearn this nation-crushing teaching that is so deep in our bones. Let us examine ourselves honestly. When each family, each party, each individual and business closes its eyes to see first, second and third for its own opportunity, who will see for the nation? From top to bottom, in that order, this betrayal of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a cancer. Try not to point index fingers; let us look instead at an SVG where we love our neighbours the same way we love ourselves. Cabral used to say to the privileged people: ‘Turn yourselves around and become united with the deepest yearnings of the people’. There is your identity and destiny. Betraying the nation is a part of all of us. Let us learn that and stop the cancer from metastasising.
Our Colonial Subconscious abides within us, and in many tongues, we call for the comfort of a colonial mother from overseas who, as “help of the helpless, to abide with me”. We betray our own God-given and ancestor-delivered ability to grow and govern ourselves. Like abandoned orphans, we and our leaders seek a sick breast-sucking hold on to white, colonial, eurocentric and mammon kissing self-hate. We sell our fragile regional unity in the Caribbean for Europe’s promise of partnership. We dishonour Chatoyer, Toussaint, Garvey, Elma Francois and martyrs like Walter Rodney and Maurice Bishop. We abide in the arms of Elizabeth, Churchill, Cameron and May. We elect nation dividing Dons and Primadonnas in a hand-me-down democratic wardrobe. We refuse to tell our colonial minds to ‘Let My People Go’. We betray the nation within our grasp. A mental cancer is eating us out.
The Nation Building Agenda is calling for souls.
The present situation is becoming more and more a naked ulcer, a stinking sore for those with eyes to discern and noses to smell, and betrayal is no longer an option. The battle is among us, to learn again what we forgot. Mandela said it. ‘The march to freedom is irreversible’.”
Looking down on us, Oscar would be neither surprised nor disappointed as to what we have become. He would be saddened as we stare into a dark and dreaded abyss located just in front of the precipice of national destruction that awaits us. He would command us to change course now. He would not want to see us perish.
Our commemoration of Emancipation Day is as good a time as any for us to embrace his saged wisdom, and rededicate our strength and energy to construct a better St Vincent and the Grenadines.