Jun 12, 2012 Letters
As I watched West Indies cricketer, Denesh Ramdin, celebrate his century at Edgbaston with a scrawled note addressed to Vivian Richards, I experienced multiple emotions–dismay, hurt, shame, anger. I wondered aloud about the conditions of our Caribbean. Even as I willed myself to condemn Ramdin, my intellectual and political instincts steered me in another direction. Whither the Caribbean Civilization? Fifty years after the beginning of our formal independence from centuries of human degradation, have we done justice to our independence?
I spent all of Sunday searching our historical narrative, trying to find the origins of Ramdin’s moment. Is it somewhere in the bowels of those cruel plantations, which have been so overpowering in shaping our collective impulses? Is it located in our more recent post-colonial collisions with the demons of that plantation past? Does it lie in what some think is our collective retreat from our responsibility to our own freedom tradition?
Despite recent attempts at discourses, devoid of historical consciousness, the linkage of cricket to Caribbean self-definition, survival and socio-cultural affirmation seems to be still widely acknowledged. But we have been haunted these last two decades by the inability of the West Indies teams to continue the tradition of overcoming.
In some respects we have allowed the lack of success to dull our better instincts. For some of us it’s the fear that we may after all not be up to the task of freedom. If our triumph on the cricket field in the period of decolonization and early independence signaled to ourselves and the rest of the world that we are capable of moving beyond the imposed limits on our humanity, then what does our prolonged plunge tell us about our sustainability as a society in meeting harsh challenges of past-coloniality.
If the lack of success on the cricket field is often too difficult to bear, the tone and content of the recent discourses have been more troubling. A visitor from another planet would be hard-pressed to believe that he or she is observing the product of a society, which has been central to the production of a global knowledge and culture.
From scholar to politician to journalist, we seem incapable of articulating a narrative of our cricket condition that offers us the space to re-define the freedom quest and resume the freedom march. The empty, simplistic celebration-deification and assassination-demonization of our cricketers and administrators have become the substitute for sober reflection, deep analysis and intellectual and cultural production.
The daily diet of commentaries about whether the captain merits a place in the team or whether Chris Gayle should return to the team or how clueless the WICB is, though useful and necessary, have combined to create the most unimaginative narrative to emanate from our region. It is quite in order to root for your favourite cricketer or question a cricketer’s place in the team or champion the victimhood of one side of conflict. But when those become the ultimate of our collective wisdom, we are past the stage of crisis. We have stopped trying to imagine. We have marginalized our creative instincts to the point of re-enslavement of the collective mind. Despite moments of historical memory and romance with our history of overcoming, we seem to have surrendered.
Vivian Richards and a few other voices such as Professor Hilary Beckles have attempted to critique the descent into un-imagination and to craft an alternative vision. But the rhetoric and reality of nothingness, of form rather than essence, of vulgar individualism, of abject surrender seems to have taken strong root.
When a few weeks ago the intellectual newspaper of the region, Guyana’s Stabroek News, carried an editorial on cricket that attacked Professor Beckles in the most in-intellectual manner, it confirmed for me that we had crossed the line. And now,Denesh Ramdin’s antics. But it’s not about Ramdin or Gayle or Sammy or Hillaire or Hunte or Gibson. It is something bigger and more fundamental. It’s not simply indiscipline or defiance or arrogance or disrespect. Ramdin’s action is to my mind a clear manifestation of how far we have strayed from our quest for freedom.
When the primary motivation to score a century is not to propel your team to win or to intimidate or contain your opponent, but to settle scores with one who paved the way for you, we are in deep, deep trouble. If Ramdin’s performance is the new model, then Darren Sammy should have had scores of notes to display when he reached triple figures at Trent Bridge. That he did not, should clarify for us why despite his limitation of skills, he is a thread of hope for another way.
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