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“I am going to bring back Penner.”

Features“I am going to bring back Penner.”

Or the mis-education of a generation

Some thoughts ran through my head this morning when I heard the foreign investor representative of the Harvest Caye project given a long rostrum on Love FM News, telling the nation that, regardless of all the opposition from the BTIA and Placencia residents, he had the comfort and the assurance from no less than the Prime Minister, in the House of Representatives, that “It is going to happen.” So, they better get used to it.

It is amazing the things that happen in Belize.

They say a people who don’t know their history, are bound to repeat their mistakes.

It’s almost funny, if it wasn’t so serious, and frightening, the ignorance, as in mis-information, mis-education, or simple lack of information provided to our Belizean people.

A lot of shortcomings can be addressed and corrected with the energy, enthusiasm and creativity of our nation’s future, our young generation; but only IF they are provided with, and exposed to, important historical information.

Some of us grew up as children of UBAD. I marched in a UBAD demonstration for the 18-year-old vote at the age of seventeen. We were concerned about our country, about our future. That demonstration also called for a free radio, when Radio Belize, the only station, was totally controlled by the government.

A generation later, after my wife and I have struggled to send our children to school through our education system, they are adults, and they have learned nothing about UBAD, while they listen to a whole bunch of radio and television stations, and are entitled to vote at 18.

I did not learn about the 1919 Ex-servicemen Riots until the 1980’s (from Amandala?), when I was already 30 years old.

We are also, as a people, very disconnected from our Caribbean brothers and sisters throughout the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, despite occasional contact through sports.

Now, we are all in tune to reggae and dancehall and soca from the Caribbean, and hip-hop and jazz and soul and pop from the U.S. Yeah, but go back to the ‘50’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s, and see what all we’ve missed from Caribbean music, because of the then bias of our only radio station. That explains the total ignorance of a vast portion of our population about the musical renditions during this period by the acclaimed King of Calypso, the Mighty Sparrow. Why? Because his music was for a long time banned from Radio Belize. The Caribbean was going through their independence agitation, and some of his music was disrespectful, though often satirical, of the Queen. Belize was still a British colony; so, ban Sparrow from Radio Belize!

This could be a long discussion, but let’s leave it with this. Sparrow’s masterpiece (there are many) of political satire, “Get to hell outa here,” was never played on Radio Belize when it came out in the ‘60’s, so it could not form part of the collective memory of our people, even while the same behavior described by Sparrow is being demonstrated by our present Prime Minister.

We could just as easily substitute the word “Penner” for “Solomon” in the Sparrow tune, which was talking about the arrogant behavior of then Trinidad Prime Minister, Eric Williams. Granted, P.M. Barrow has not declared he will return Penner to his good graces; but, he just could do so, and get away with it. That’s how much power, as explained in Amandala’s recent editorial, a Prime Minister wields in our parliamentary democracy.

Perhaps KREM could play the song for our Belizean listeners. I bet many would recognize the type of attitude displayed, and realize that the British Caribbean and Belize all share the negative effects of a handed-down British system of parliamentary democracy that makes our Prime Ministers too damn powerful. What democracy?

Web search –

“Get to Hell outa Here” – The Mighty Sparrow
I am going to bring back Solomon
Who don’t like it, complain to the Commission
None of them going to tell me how to run my country
I defy any one of you to dictate for me
I am no dictator, but when I pass an order
Mr. Speaker, this matter must go no further
I have nothing more to say
And it must be done my way
Come on, come on, come on, meeting done for the day
This land is mine, I am the boss
What I say goes and who vex loss
I say that Solomon will be Minister of External Affairs
If you ain’t like it, get to hell outa here!

I am going to do what I feel to do
And I couldn’t care less who vex or who get blue
And if you want to test how ah strong in an election
Leh we bet some money, ah giving odds ten to one
I control all the money that pass through this country
And they envy me for my African Safari
I am politically strong, I am the weight of town
Don’t argue with me, you can’t beat me in John John
Who’s not with me is my enemy
And dust will be their destiny
I say that Solomon will be Minister of External Affairs
If you ain’t like it, get to hell outa here!

Who the hell is you to jump and quarrel?
Look, PNM is mine, lock, stock and barrel
Who give you the privilege to object?
Pay you’ taxes, shut up and have respect
I’m a tower of strength, yes
I’m powerful but modest…unless
I’m forced to be blunt and ruthless
So shut up and don’t squawk
This ain’t no skylark
When I talk, no damn dog bark
My word is law, so watch you’ case
If you slip you slide, this is my place
And I say that Solomon will be Minister of External Affairs
And if you ain’t like it, get to hell outa here!

“The Mighty Sparrow” (Slinger Francisco, 1935 – ) is a calypso singer born in Grenada but living in Trinidad for most of his life. (You can listen to this song at this link: http://bit.ly/KtfUwT). His influence over the Caribbean calypso tradition cannot be overstated, and his moniker, “The King of Calypso,” is more than earned. Calypso, with its strong focus on social commentaries, is an important part of the literary tradition (like Edward Braithwaite or Derek Walcott).

This song, written in 1965, is a satire on the late Prime Minister of Trinidad, Dr. Eric Williams (of the People’s National Movement, whom The Mighty Sparrow had previously given his considerable support). Dr. Patrick Solomon, a close associate of Williams—his “intellectual kin”—and the Minister for Home Affairs, resigned in disgrace after what was seen as an abuse of power when he removed his stepson from police custody: “He just pick up he boy and take he home.” Not too soon after, Williams brought back Solomon as Minister of External Affairs, saying to angry members of his cabinet: “Who noh like it get to hell outa here!”

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