Gordon Robinson | How to listen
For more than 10 years, I have strived mightily in these columns to convince you that in this world, nothing is as it appears.
My mission has been to show you, proclamations by political, social, religious, and business leaders require careful analysis to unearth what's really said, and, most importantly, what's not. Advanced educational tools like the game of Bridge prove what's not said (why didn't he bid one spade in response to partner's one club opening?) or what's not played (why didn't she lead a club through dummy's ace-queen?) can be far more revealing than what WAS bid or played.
Born August 17, 1887, Jamaica's first national hero, Marcus Garvey's life was accordingly riddled with as much sorrow, loss, and humiliation as influential success. His "back-to-Africa" philosophy and passion for deconstructing European colonialism was inspired by his experiences and from a conversation with a returning resident about European plunder of Basutoland (now Lethoso).
No credit for Garvey's philosophical development is given to predecessor Alexander Bedward, a visionary 19th-century spiritual leader falsely maligned as a madman by colonial masters and eventually imprisoned in the asylum until he died. Like Garvey, Bedward was driven by experience. For Garvey, it was time spent in Central America, London (working for a Pan-African newspaper), and Jamaica, witnessing horrific injustices in each country. For Bedward, it was while working on the Panama Canal (long before its recorded commencement in 1881), where he suffered inhuman living conditions and savage payment inequalities between white and black labourers.
On October 5, 2016, Paris Review's (www.theparisreview.org) Edward White produced an insightful biography of Bedward, including:
"At first, Bedward's ecclesiastical leadership was relatively conventional. He grew a huge following by ministering to his flock in the Hope River, performing thousands of baptisms and supposed healings. By 1894, the Native Baptist Free Church was so thriving it was able to commission a temple on the banks of the river, a confirmation that the Great Revival had produced genuine competition to traditional centres of community power. In , Bedward delivered what was then the most radical sermon ever preached on Jamaican soil, injecting the tart invective of racial politics into the Baptist message of spiritual rebirth. He denounced the white establishment as 'the Anti-Christ' sent to plague 'the true people' and spoke of Jamaican society in terms of 'a white wall' and 'a black wall' - two solid, monolithic structures, immovable and irreducible.
'Government passes laws which oppress the black people' the Gleaner reported Bedward as saying. 'They take their money out of their pockets: They rob them of their bread and they do nothing for it.'
Hmmmmm. Plus ca change?
White wrote Bedward "also warned 'the white wall' to 'remember the Morant War', an ominous reference to 1865 when government massacred hundreds of black people who had taken to the streets in protest against poverty and racial discrimination."
Just 60 years earlier, on August 21, 1831, African slave-preacher Nat Turner, sickened by witnessing Virginia's brutal racial injustices, led a 48-hour rebellion eerily similar to that led months earlier by Sam Sharpe, then Jamaican slave-preacher, now national hero. Thousands of miles apart, Sharpe and Turner were hanged in the public square for their trouble. Turner's body was flayed and beheaded and his skin sheared for use as axle grease by slave masters determined to prevent any legacy.
To the same end, Bogle and Gordon were hanged, Bedward was institutionalised, Garvey/Mandela persecuted and imprisoned, Martin Luther King maligned, and Malcolm X assassinated. The apparent message was neither mass murder nor sedition must be tolerated. The REAL message was unspoken. By eliminating justice's messengers, injustice will prevail.
None of these barbaric tactics succeeded. Two years after Sharpe's execution, UK Parliament passed the Abolition Bill. Slavery was 'abolished' six years later. In 1865, the oppressors hadn't given up. Their stubborn refusal to change led to the Morant Bay Rebellion and the creation of more Jamaican martyrs. Have they surrendered yet? Are we listening? Do past colonial masters still try to direct our legal, educational, or security systems? Will we permit them?
No idea based on justice can be killed. Prophets usually are, but the idea's time will come regardless. Garvey was eight years old and the Morant Bay Rebellion 30 years past when Bedward planted his seed of racial consciousness by advocating for black power. Bedward gave many recently 'emancipated' slaves the heretical idea of self-worth that terrified Jamaica's colonial leaders. I've no doubt that Garvey, similarly vilified and oppressed for his visionary ideas, was one of the saplings Bedward's seed produced as were Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Hue P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Stokely Carmichael, and Angela Davis.
For me, history's best lesson in the need to carefully parse political rhetoric for what's NOT there is a 1932 campaign speech by one Adolph Hitler, who was swept to power in German democratic elections on a platform of national unity (yes, you read right). In a speech I've edited only to appease Gleaner's word count police, he said:
"Germany has declined, and only a lunatic can hope the forces that brought about this decline could bring about a resurrection. If the established political parties seriously want to save Germany, why haven't they done so already?
"Now, after 13 years, during which they've destroyed everything in Germany, the time has arrived for their own elimination. Whether or not today's parliamentary political parties survive isn't important. What's essential is to ensure the German nation isn't completely destroyed.
"For years, (the established political parties) have tried to persuade the German worker, he alone could save himself. For years, the farmer was told only his organisation would help him. The middle class was to be snatched from the jaws of ruin by middle-class parties and the economy by the parties of business. THE CATHOLIC was to seek his refuge with the Centre party; THE PROTESTANT in the Christian Socialist People's Service (my emphasis) ... . These efforts to split the nation into classes, walks of life, occupational groups, and religious beliefs, leading, bit by bit, to a future of economic happiness have now, however, failed completely.
"On the day our National Socialist movement was founded, we were already governed by the conviction that the destiny of the German individual is inseparably bound up with the destiny of the entire nation ... . The ruin of the Reich, the decline of Germany, means the ruin and decline of all! No religious faction, no German ethnic group will escape sharing the same general fate.
On the day our National Socialist movement was founded, it had already long been clear to us proletariat wouldn't be the victor over bourgeoisie, and bourgeoisie wouldn't be the victor over proletariat, but rather, INTERNATIONAL HIGH FINANCE (my emphasis) would ultimately be the victor over both.
"Recognising this, 13 years ago, a handful of people and I organised a new movement which, in its very name, proclaims the new national community ... . There's no such thing as social well-being that isn't protected by, and finds its prerequisite in, the power of a nation. There's no such thing as a nation (and thus nationalism) unless the army of millions who work with their brains are joined by the army of millions who work with their fists along with the army of millions of farmers.
"As long as nationalism and socialism march as separate ideas, they'll be defeated by united opponents. When both ideas are fused together into one, they'll be invincible!
"With seven men I began this task of German unification 13 years ago. Today, more than 13 million are in our ranks. However, it isn't the number that counts but their inner worth!
"Thirteen million people of all professions and occupational groups; 13 million workers, farmers, and intellectuals; 13 MILLION CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANTS (my emphasis); members of all German regions and ethnic groups have formed an unbreakable alliance. Thirteen million recognised the future of all lies only in shared struggle and shared successes of all."
Easy to see it now, isn't it? What's not there! 'Catholics and Protestants' (both branches of Christianity) are TWICE specified in this excerpt. Jews? Never! Was 'International High Finance' code for Jews? Were Jews, blacks, or homosexuals a part of this march to national unity? Or enemies of national goals whether also workers, farmers, or intellectuals?
So be careful. Don't let political or religious dogma control your minds. Always seek truth. More often than not, truth will be found in what isn't there. NOTHING is as it appears.
OK, that's it. I promised ye olde editor to give him and you a break from these rambunctious rants in January. I've already broken that New Year's resolve twice. Now, I'll leave you to your recovery from rash resolutions.
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law.
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