Beyond The Boundary
by Jason Stifflet
St. Lucia Mirror
July 2, 1999

There is a Zulu concept called the Night of Long Knives which insists that the world works according to Old Testament-type justice in the strictest and most literal senses.

Tabu Mbeki and the ANC got cheated out of 900,000 votes and still won nearly two-thirds of Parliament. I looked at Mandela handing over to Mbeki and it’s too much to put into perspective. Mr.M spent far more years in prison than in power. How does he suppress the urge to do what the Albanians are doing back to the Serbs? Especially in a culture where the vague Diasporan desire of Revenge and Reprisal (an aim of Black Power not usually mentioned along with Repatriation and Reparation) takes the simple, clear form of the Zulu’s Night of Long Knives.

For those who have no inkling of what I’m talking about, I read in some South African novel once, of the Zulu concept that the universe has perfect literal justice. In the case we are presently speaking of, it is blood for blood until the balances are perfectly redressed. Now there are not enough White Africans for that, and I sense the gross injustice of it all (hate does not wipe out hate, it adds to it), but there was something appealing to me about this terrible and murderous fantasy. The fantasy has special appeal when I hear White South Africans bitching about how the country will be a one party state, a political monopoly working forever against the poor, helpless White minority whose only crime was supporting the most arrogant and infuriating system of oppression of the 20thcentury.

But of course, that’s why he’s Nelson Mandela, Man of the Century, and I’m writing this column. He doesn’t want to do to the White South Africans what the Albanians are doing to the Serbs. He wouldn’t endorse what I wish on police who kill first and ask questions later. On the people who wage the war on the youth. On the Australian cricket tiefs, I mean team. On Lucian calypsonians. On the American Christmas helicopters that have finally managed to raise the price and reduce the quality of the number two Windward crop.

This weekend I read something about this being the age of disillusioned revolutionaries. That was written in the fifties, so by now, it must be the age of distorted ones, disgruntled ones (nah, revolutionaries should be disgruntled to begin with), or diffused ones. We’ve been in a situation, where, for so many years there has been no joy in backing our own team. The best bet for the Negmarron, in the 20th century has been to try to join someone else’s team. And now, the game has left us behind, in areas where we have proven that we can dominate, to inspire awe, respect and even fear. In art and sport, the only places where we can achieve some satisfaction (we’ve won both the Cricket World Cup and the Nobel Prize for Literature), we’re shooting ourselves in anticipation of not getting what Emancipation, adult suffrage, Independence, bananas and Sir Arthur Lewis’ manufacturing thesis failed to deliver.

While the Aussies were winning the World Cup, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that it coulda, it shoulda been us. Not because we’re the best team in the world, but because we can beat them all on a good day. But you get the feeling that South African bowlers, and some Aussies, know exactly how to work West Indian batsmen. There is almost no reliance on talent. It’s all scientific, well-studied war. That’s where the game is at now. Hence the need to develop some capacity for Revenge and Reprisal. To win the next World Cup, take our sovereignty back from the U.S., wrestle the mineral resources of Africa out of the hands of apartheid supporters and have a really great Carnival.

Whether the game is cricket, banana protectionism, Carnival tourism or human resource development, we’re not balancing our bolstered natural strengths against an intimate knowledge of the enemy’s weaknesses. We’re eating ourselves inside out instead.

I also read somewhere that there is an art to flying. The trick is to throw yourself at the ground and miss, but that’s just too Zen to explain. I’d eat my nose trying. Let’s move on.

Some jerk on the radio infected my thoughts some nights ago talking about how there is a new education policy in place and boys are still wearing earrings. For a moment, I imagined that he was making the extremely important point that no one can stop anyone else from wearing earrings, not parents, not teachers and certainly not a document conceived by people who have long forgotten what it is like to be young.

The crisis facing young men of this country is no excuse to paint portraits of victimhood for them. They play into the bad guy roles prepared for them and so, share complicity. But to me, that does not absolve the other social partners. Youths don’t bring drugs and guns into the country. They’re not the ones promoting Materialismo, Cannibalismo, etc. They’re just the ones learning it. We are turning the anger of a society that conspires to create crime and actively participates in it on the youth. It will not bring us any closer to satisfaction, but I guess it gives us scapegoats to practise small scale Balkan bloodshed on.

The recent festival of death in Trinidad is the highest order example of our turning the Night of Long Knives fantasy into a suicidal tendency. Hopefully, Kenny and the Velonius One are not serious about following Basdeo Panday into the valley of the shadow of death, despite their anti-Christian statements linking stonings, stake-burnings and hangings to sovereignty. But considering the way popular St.Lucian culture worships all things Trinidadian, it will be no surprise when death row is emptied in one weekend.

Already, we’re knee-deep in imitation Trini kaiso every year, even though the internationalisation of kaiso opens all kinds of topics for exploration. This year one expected songs on Viagra, Clinton, human conflict (Kosovo, Nicky Dan, etc), the Church, the Russian mafia and other funny money networks and of course, commissions of inquiry and impeachment proceedings that lead absolutely nowhere. Unfortunately, some Lucian calypsonians seem to be satisfied to let Trini kanaval dictate their agenda. So this year, you have Ghetto songs and water songs, cause that’s what won the crown in Trinidad. At least now we’re copying six month old songs instead of one year old ones, right? Whatever. At least, the season of song picked up, after a lapo start.

I know I’m looking for easy answers for questions that have fuelled and destroyed Black Power maniacs for the entire century. I know that trick is to be more like the Mandela fella, whose electronically broadcast presence alone manages to subdue and transform the hate, anger and fear in me so that I can think and act like a human being instead of like a medieval Pope or warlord. I want to reach for something higher, but even a white woman friend of mine agreed that one of the ways to express what we want right now is to say ‘We need a war.’ It’s a bad situation to be in. Christ done come – at least twice - and made all that anger unnecessary, but I still feel like collecting teeth – Shane Warne’s and Mr.Botha’s as well as the two kennies, Anthony and James.. Only one thing gives me relief from mental oppression.

It could be worse. I could be in Antigua, where it is far more comfortable to endure majithan to challenge it.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples