By Professor Richard A. Byron-Cox
As explained by Lloyd Best and others, our Caribbean were plantations of parasitic metropoles. And Martin Carter reminds, that the vast majority of us are offsprings from Nigger Yard, or Trench Town a la Brother Bob. Ignorant; stigmatized; partly dehumanized having been fashioned by a racist, violent and murderous imperial power; it was inevitable that from the birth of a truly independent Cuba in 1959, we faced the humongous challenge of fashioning a society of peoples where humanizing enlightenment and justice should be foundation pillars. This has been anything but a walk, up lover’s lane.
Still, for nations less than 50 years old on the average, we have done as Hillary Beckles underlines, an incredible job! From music and sports, to literature, economics and political science, and a university rated among the top 4% in the world; the Caribbean is making a phenomenal contribution to humanity. But there are many Everests to climb and red seas to cross if we are ever to reach the Canaan that Daddy Manley, Errol Barrow and other fathers of Caribbean nationhood so thirst for. From poverty and a finding true basic sense of self, to unemployment and senseless violence, we are so embattled that predictions are rife in some quarters, we shall come to naught but a broken train of desperate peoples, foolish enough to harbor ideas of being states and societies.
Raped by imperialism; seasoned in race and class prejudice; injected with poisonous party politics falsely proclaimed as democratic practice; schooled in economics worshiping profit over human wellbeing; and graduating in neo-liberal alienation and atomization; we seem merely a reflection of this troubled world, heavily pregnant with despise for justice; contempt for the Poor; glorification of greed; and exploitation of the environment to utter exhaustion.
Our Caribbean today is all about the “ease of doing business”; allowing the heartless rich to ride the Poor; super preoccupied with security; meeting agendas set from outside; new plantation economics with foreign hotels the plantations; filling the prescriptions of the IMF and other such financial institutions; placing the burden of running the state on the backs of the economically disenfranchised with VAT of 15 and 20%. These with crime and violence cast a shadow over our tomorrow.
And here comes Corona!
Cocid-19 brings sickness, death, and a defining social phenomenon putting brakes on regular life for virtually every human on this planet. The multitude of weaknesses of our Caribbean are exposed. From the tourism industry to our total lack of any immunity from what happens in North America; and from our unpreparedness to face serious widespread medical challenges to the absence of proper social security and insurance systems to deal with issues such as mass unemployment; our fragility and venerability are laid bare.
Yet there are inspirational moments.
In Trinbago, government and opposition have closed ranks in the nation’s interest. Dr. Williams’ dream of “Mother” Trinbago has not totally perished. Present Caribbean Mammy or Mam (Mia Amor Mottley), Barbados’ PM and CARICOM Chair offered all testing for Covid-19 sent from St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) absolutely free. SVG for its part continues shipment of ground provisions helping to maintaining regional food security. Venezuela, even with smoldering internal turmoil; battling economic storms, and facing threats of possible invasion, shows tremendous solidarity, sending Corona testing kits to Dominica, Grenada and others, while powerful countries are seizing supplies destined for the Caribbean, and crucial for battling Corona.
And then there is Fidel’s Cuba!!!
Since its Fidel Castro lead socialist revolution, Cuba has become the symbol of Caribbean solidary when the world is in trouble. Fidel went the way of all flesh, but the goodness of Cuba’s noble mission reverberates around the world ever louder. Cuba’s Interferon Alfa 2B, presently the most effective medication against Covid-19, has been generously shared with many. In Italy’s darkest hour, with Corona taking hundreds daily to the cold chambers of no return; Cuba stepped in, saving lives and keeping hope itself alive!
But knowing that charity begins at home, Cuba has stretched fourth its hands to all in the Caribbean who needs its help, literally spreading through the region. Cuban medical brigades are in Jamaica, Suriname, Barbados and others. Here the “Fidelistas” demonstrate the best in us, lending contemporary practical meaning to the creed of yore, “A friend in need, is a friend indeed.”
When our Caribbean lives its humanity, fraternity and nobility, this beautiful train of gems offers to the world so much good that even our detractors must stand in awe. Covid-19 is a true challenge, but we must understand that united in our humanity; committed and inspired, this presents but another opportunity for us to shine brighter, revealing that stunning beauty I so love, this, our Caribbean brotherhood, that is so much more than “just seawater and sand”!!
Professor Richard A. Byron-Cox holds a PhD in international law. He is a visiting lecturer at CIFE and the University of Cologne among others.