Five Years Later…
By Ravi Mulchansingh
I never met Lloyd Best personally. I now regret my procrastination. I should have taken the time and opportunity to meet Lloyd Best. And it is not because so many held him in such high regard. I always thought of walking up to his door and thanking him so much for all that has given to me: an education, a philosophy, a vision. But most of all I thank him for Hope.
Without ever meeting this Caribbean man, he engaged and tutored me through his writings. I looked forward to his words on the Express every week, and was even happier when he wrote columns twice a week, and the monthly T&T Review was also published. I thanked him for the “free” education every time I took up an Express and saw a Lloyd Best column. It was also as much edification, if not more than an education. I did not know until sometime in early 2006 that he was in a battle for his own life—while he was providing hope to so many of us. In fact I can recall saying to myself whenever I picked up my Friday or Saturday Express and did not see his column: “what happen? Best too busy to write for ‘small folks!”’ Now I know that he was giving all that he could have given—for his enduring and sustained efforts, for living his words “Is time for Hard Wuk”, I’m even more grateful.
Lloyd Best’s work is an invaluable contribution to our “Great Conversation”. Because of reading Best, I yet have the dream that we can claim “Our Space”. I still wish I had taken the time to meet this accessible man: father, brother, true son of the Caribbean Soil.
I will console myself by saying that Best did not need disciples. In fact I believe one would be chided by Best, if discipleship was all that one was willing to offer in any engagement. I did attend the civic programme “In Memory Of Lloyd Best” on Sunday 25th March, 2007 which celebrated the life and work of Lloyd Best.
We refer to Lloyd Best as economist, historian, thinker, intellectual, social commentator, educator. Martin Daly in a newspaper article once suggested that Best is a yardstick by which we measure the validity of our ideas. The list could go on for quite a while. He was all of these yet no one word or phrase may be able to capture all that he was. For me, immersed in the plantation economy, Lloyd Best is the “Giver of Hope.” Best gave me hope after my suspicions that ‘something was desperately wrong here’ were confirmed by Naipaul. Even though this place can seem dark and small at times, I now accept it as ‘Our Space’ and have the belief that “we can save ourselves by our own exertions”. I would like to think that my hope is not blind, nor awaiting divine intervention. It is rooted in self-belief and a scientific approach—values continually espoused by Lloyd Best.
• Independent thinking and self-belief: In this place where we suffer from over-dependence and self-contempt (Afro-Saxon and Indo-Saxon – if I can take the liberty to risk corrupting his scientific approach). We will do his legacy justice if we embrace the liberation of self-belief. I suggest that only then will independent thinking emerge on the scale required to give us our “critical mass”
• Scientific approach (best stated in Best’s own words): “We’re not trying to follow any other country, “developed” or “developing,” whatever those may mean. We’re striving to call into existence a culture, society and civilisation to respond to our own needs. Nor is any of this autarchy, or myopic, inward looking, or bogus nationalism. The first principle of science is to deal with the reality on the ground, for both theory and action, inextricably inter-twined. Falling back on arid text-book approaches comes up only where the leaders of society, the privileged elites, lack the confidence to disentangle themselves from stuff they picked up in schools – this utterly idiotic talk under the rubric of Vision 2020 is the extreme example.’
The Tapia House symbolizes (I believe) Best’s vision of calling ‘into existence a culture, society and civilisation to respond to our own needs’. Best has left us his legacy, based on decades of ‘Hard wuk’. It is up to us to give ourselves the ‘ time for hard wuk’ – based on our self-developed philosophies. This is our opportunity for ‘our civilization’.
Best added so much too ur language to describe our condition: plantation economy, doctor politics, maximum leadership, one-man rule, Executive grace, ethnic politics, Governor domination, validating elite, responsible elite…
Listed below are some of his observations and comments as he worked, using universal scientific principles in the social laboratory of the Caribbean Space. They go a long way to explain (in my opinion), and help me cope, with our condition.
1. So many scholars here, yet little intelligent happens on the island.
2. Everyone has the same level of responsibility here: no one is responsible for anything.
3. The ethos of the Caribbean is gangsterism. (Looking at Bush and Blair, gangsterism can survive even our evolution into the so-called modern state)
4. Race is a basis of ethnic solidarity but ethnic solidarity is not necessarily racial.
5. The West Indies began with government from above as a matter of official necessity- just to have the place organised and run.
6. What we’re used to is not Legislative representation as a matter of right, but Executive representation as a matter of grace.
7. The whole WI tradition is one of nomination not election.
8. In the current WI system the centre of gravity is still firmly at the top.
9. Reconstruction can begin in earnest only with a proper exploration of the career of the Caribbean, of the way the present has been created out of the past.
10. In Trinidad, where the Caribbean condition is starkest, all groups regard themselves as second class while allowing no first or third.
11. We can only save ourselves by our own exertions.
A song by ABBA a Swedish pop group, an ode to music and song, has a line which says “ thank you for the music—thank you for the songs I’m singing.
To Lloyd Best a complete human of the Universal Civilization, a fellow-citizen of our “half made society”, Giver of Hope, I say, “thank you for the language”.