LARA AND THE PEOPLE AT THE WOMB OF THE WORLD by Rudabiri Victor
April 29, 2007
“We are afraid of our Majestic Selves!”
“This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
Not with bang, but a whimper.”
T S Eliot The Hollow Men
“Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul. “
“Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay ,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Dylan Thomas Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night
The Prince is not Dead
Why are we so quick to surrender? Why are we so quick to accept the ‘official word’? Why are we so quick to wrap up an Age of history without checking the pulse to confirm if it really is gone at all? Why do we abdicate our responsibility and sovereignty so easily? Why are we so willing to party at our own funeral, and not try to rise from the table, rise and show people that we are alive before the coffin goes under ground?!
The Night of the Long Knives
It is clear that Brian Lara was forced out of West Indies Cricket by external pressures… this was not a decision made out of quiet meditative reflection on a full career that had run its natural course. This is a man that just weeks before had expressed his dedication to taking the squad of young players and guiding them back to the top. This was a man who had ambitions of claiming every single batting record there is left. This is a man who had unfinished business with every single major Test playing nation. This is a man passionate about West Indian Legacy and determined to enshrine it as a living force in the history of the planet. How then in a few short weeks was this man brought to the point of resignation? What forces were applied? The terrifying thing is that this entire region suspects deep down that other forces are at play, but yet still we have been content to sing from the hymn book and recite the lines that we have been handed, “Thanks Brian. All the best!” We do not even hear the indictment in his question, “Did I entertain?” We do not even see that his retirement at this time- despite all the appearances of frivolity and party- is an abortion. We do not see that we have suddenly been pushed to the greatest limit of our crisis and are at the absolute crossroad. The choice we make now will determine our fate forever.
We must rise. Brian Lara must not be allowed to retire. Not like this. Or we must not let this victory of the Hollow Men over Genius stand. We must with a chorus shout down Jericho walls so that those in administration know that this attempted assassination cannot be brooked. Those whose ineptitude has crippled our cricket must not be allowed their scapegoat. Brian’s forced retirement is an indictment of our region- especially our region’s technocratic and administrative elite symbolized by the unimaginative WICB. That elite is basically saying, “We do not know how to handle Genius. We do not know how to handle its brilliance, passions and intellect, neither its individuality, unorthodoxy nor its flaws. We prefer to destroy it instead. We will deal with mediocrity in its place.’ It is a familiar tune. The same fate awaited Sir Gary Sobers, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge and others before. None however has left us when we were in such a place of catastrophic crisis. It is the fate that has been the lot of our best and brightest in all fields in the region. It is the singular factor responsible for the fact that everywhere everything is in collapse. The theme is constant: the refusal to understand genius, harness it, and work with it in a civilization- building exercise.
“Did I entertain?”
It is clear that this retirement is the low end of what appears to be a ‘long conspiracy’ to force Lara and his vision out of cricket. And what of Lara’s vision? When talking about Lara the ‘official press’ likes to talk of his ‘beautiful innings’ and ‘run compilation’ as if Lara’s sole contribution is just a refined form of the racist stereotype of the ‘dancing grinning minstrel’- a sort of sophisticated dancing monkey. Hence his damning question, “Did I entertain?” thrown back at those self-same commentators. But Lara’s vision has been much more than that of individual records.
It was Lara who championed player’s rights and the need to be compensated- even when he personally had nothing to gain. It was Lara who fought for the past greats to be better treated and acknowledged. It was Lara who uncovered talent like Fidel Edwards and others and fought for them to be picked when other selectors were not doing their job. It was Lara who championed to persist to find a place for spin in the West Indies tradition. It was Lara who suggested innovative funding schemes like allowing West Indian people to be stakeholders in cricket. It was Lara who continually tried to impart the idea of the power of the proud Legacy to younger players totally ignorant of the past. He fought for them to understand the privilege and responsibility of putting on the West Indies maroon uniform. It is Lara who understands the African, East Indian and West Indian racial nationalism that West Indies cricket represents. It was Lara who would continually lead from in front and resist the frontline attacks on and off the field of play. It was he- many times single-handedly- who defended the honour of the region at our darkest hours when prospects of whitewashes and utter and complete hell-exiling humiliation loomed. It was also Lara who was the first to battle the WICB board on such epic levels over their suffocating hold over and vision of the people’s cricket! This, just for a start, is Lara’s Legacy. It is one that destroys the myth of selfishness, individualism and self-aggrandisement that many commentators- and the worst of our insular prejudices- try to project on The Prince.
And I have found that even our praise of him (as premature a eulogy as it is) takes away as much as it gives. An article I wrote in the first issue of Generation Lion* deals at length with the complexity of Lara, and what I believe he embodies for us all. I will not try to dumb it down here in this short space. What I will say simply is this: Brian Lara is one of the greatest sportsmen that the world has ever seen- period. He is a world genius in the ranks of the greatest of all time- Pele, Ali, Jordan. He is in that pantheon. Simple. We must start to claim the right to talk like this. None of this “one of the best the region has ever seen” crap. He is an Immortal. Do not apologise for your genius and your light. That is what has gotten us into this mess in the first place. We have to have the clarity and the balls to say simply ‘the West Indies cricket team of the 70s to the early 90s was the greatest sporting team on the face of the earth. Ever. We should not have ever needed some foreigner to come here and say it for us to claim it. If and when we claim that Legacy and understand all its implications, it will solve all our problems.
About Those Problems
Yes… Our problems… Where to begin… I will cut to the heart and say this: our problem is generational. This region has produced Golden Ages of accomplishment. That Genius should have been documented, analysed, and honoured. It should have been displayed in Halls of Fames and Museums- Places of Memory- for everyone to partake in. Our school system- from primary to tertiary- and their curricula should have been centred around it. Our Golden Age Legacy should have fed generations! Instead the 70% of the region that is 35 and under have no clue about this Legacy. That is the Crisis of Inheritance that is everywhere in the region and which our cricket has shown us most graphically. If you do not pass it on- we will collapse! Our Genius should be the seed from which industries spring, where ‘the people’ are employed doing the things they love and are good at. Our genius and our Memory should be ‘the Sun’ at the centre of our galaxy. We should be at the centre of we.
In West Indies Cricket the analogy is simple. There should be a real West Indian Cricket Hall of Fame and Museum constructed in Barbados. It should be the shrine and memory of this phenomenal tradition. It would have thousands of pictures and artifacts- the entire Memory of our Cricketing Legacy. There would be things like 2 storey portraits of the pantheon of Legends along with multi-media displays and artifacts all arranged in well-appointed architectural finery. It should be generating the frontline West Indian Cricketing merchandise for the planet. This Museum- which must be majority owned by the custodians of our cricket, held in Trust for the people of the region and run by a qualified curatorial team- should be the centre of capitalizing the multi-billion dollar Legacy of West Indies Cricket which has been squandered to date by the WICB.
We sent this proposal to the WICB 4 years ago stating that if they started then, the Museum could have been opened in time for the World Cup. The proposal had all the mechanics of how it would work and how the conversion of Legacy into industry would happen. It would have been the primary focal point of this World Cup off the pitch. It would have gotten a worldwide profile as a pilgrimage point. It could have walk-through traffic of safely more than 1 million visitors a year. It would have recouped its building cost at this World Cup alone! It would be the centre of the economic independence of West Indies Cricket. We would never be in the red again.
The WICB never even answered the letter.
And of course we ask, “Where and in what condition is the West Indies Cricket Academy?” Again the fingerprints of the administrative elite are all over the murder weapon. It is clearly they that are continually aborting the Destiny of Caribbean People.
The Missing Institutions
The problem I say is generational because the construction of this and all the other ‘Missing Institutions’ of the region has been the duty of the present generation in power- the Independence generation. This generation is the generation of our current political and capitalist class. They are the ones who have failed to listen and build the places of Memory for the region. In the case of Trinidad our governing elites has fought our visionary class for 45 years. Suddenly they have announced they are building ‘the buildings’ we asked for as artists- but without consulting the stakeholders themselves. They thus are building shells- with no know-how and without a clue about the animating principle of the ‘institution’. The Manning administration mistakes ‘buildings’ -which are about ‘concrete, steel and glass’- with ‘institutions’, which are about ‘people and ideas’. To invest billions in concrete, steel and glass whilst investing nothing in people is to be building an expensive mausoleum.
The attempted assassination of Lara must be seen to be the rallying cry to build the ‘institutions’. To do this we must call to account ‘the fifth estate’- all the secret players who have conspired to destroy Genius. This is not about being dishonest about the real flaws of Lara the captain, batsman and celebrity. But they must be weighed against his assets. We will find that there is no comparison between the bundles. His light far overwhelms his darkness. Our attention must be focused on those that are responsible for our rot, those who are postponing our adventure to meet, match and surpass our Legacy. We will find them to be the same ones who are at the root of demonising and diminishing The Prince- and derailing his future. We must be clear of who they are.
The Grassy Knoll-
Straight line men incapable of seeing curves
All the usual suspects are there, as they have been throughout our history. At the top is the one-dimensional business class incapable of original thought, creative visioning and bereft of the humility to make our extraordinary ‘ordinary’ people their equals. It is a class that has openly rebelled against putting in place structures so that people’s champions can rise to be honoured, wealthy and resourced. We are talking of a well paid administrative class whose sole vision of industry is to bring down stuff wholesale and then retail at a profit. It is a class innocent of ‘the act of creation’ and in a way ignorant at a soul level of the star cry spectacular galaxy that is our Legacy as a Caribbean people. They knows nothing about the industrial risk of civilisational enterprise. They have never had to transform shape into matter. They have never had to mine the ore, move it, refine it, dream up the car, build and assemble it, sell it and distribute worldwide. They know only how to dig. And sell from a store. They are incapable of Dream! These are people who believe that Covey management technique will save West Indies Cricket! We are talking about a class symbolised by the CEO of our cricket who has a massive picture of Michael Jordan on his wall behind his desk- and not one picture of a cricket great within sight!!! Not a Sir Garfield, not a Frank Worrell, not a Viv Richards!!! When this is the case then you know you are in trouble…
It is not the elites but the People who have understood the magic act of Transformation. It is their heroes like Lara who embody it.
What can we say- The Politicians…
Aligned to the business class are the short sighted politicians who are as incapable of original thought as the business men. In most cases they also have shown no sign that they have the spine to stand up to historical oppressive imperial forces when it comes time to negotiate- or create the counter-acting institutions of Resistance in our islands. Their petty insular political ambitions normally scuttle all grandiose plans of making Caribbean People the centre of our own destiny.
The Bitter Elders
Next in line is a special squadron of the Golden Age and Independence generation elders. These were good men who now have become entombed in bitter batter at never having been treated well and honoured by the elites. They have been further stung by how rich the next generation has become with less than one hundredth of the talent. And they are exiled from positions of real power. Unfortunately, rather than turn their guns at the administrative class (and even the colonial and imperial overlords!) they instead have turned their bile towards the next generation of Lions- and the Prince among them. This has happened in nearly every field in the region. All younger generation artists can relate.
The Culpable Media
Following them (and overlapping in some instances) is the tragic media class and the commentators-with-agendas. The majority of our media are simply parrots of the ‘official version’. “The State Department says there are weapons of mass destruction and so they have to invade- so there must be weapons of mass destruction so they have to invade.” This class is guilty of sins of omission. They compromise our sovereignty by being an incompetent first line of scouting. They are incapable of telling us that the opposing army is over the hill. On the last Australian tour when the Australian media went on psychological attack saying Lara was ‘over the hill’, our media was quick to parrot it. This despite the fact that Lara’s last innings before that were majestic. The Australians then proceeded to try and prove their point by tiefing him out 3 or 4 times of the 7 or 8 times he was at the crease. This followed an English Test series where the same had happened. There was no open rebellion from our media. Lara replied with a distinctive middle finger century in the final Test to claim the scoring title from his Australian predecessor and placed another flag on our battlements.
The next set of commentators are the really dangerous ones. These are the clever ones who will give you 90% of the truth and then reserve 10% to fulfill a secret ambition. That ambition in large measure may have to do with advancing personal status but more dangerously it is often destructive. Their agendas normally have to do with the destruction of a person that ‘they just doh like.’ That person most of the time is the vanguard of ‘the people’.
There is this saying ‘they who cannot do, teach- or become critics.’ There is nothing that a person who has had to face the fact that they are not a ‘do-er’ hates more than the vision of someone fulfilling the dream and talent that they themselves had nursed, betrayed and renounced. Lara was fulfilling the fantasies of all the armchair critics. His talent had taken him from the village of Santa Cruz into the ranks of multi-millionaires, taken him into the laps of some of the most beautiful women in the world, had taken him into places of privilege and status, had taken him into the hearts of hundreds of millions and made him an Immortal. The commentators are there behind a typewriter.
Shots called by the Overlords
Collectively and coordinated these estates have joined with international forces who have never had our best interests at heart into pressuring Lara to leave. We must spare some words for our historical nemesis- our colonial overlords and their imperial lodge-brethren intent on fulfilling their tribal agendas. The flagellation of Lara has often been initiated by foreign commentators and opposing captains. They are supported by a diarrhea of the worst umpiring decisions ever perpetrated in cricket history. There has never been a mainline batsman who has been tiefed out as many times as Lara. And this is yet another dimension of his character: he is the most noble cricketer of the modern Age! He will walk even if the technology didn’t pick it up. He will not cause a scene even when he knows he was cheated! This by the way is precisely what Lara has done by his retirement. His wicket was stolen by a biased umpire- and he has walked!!!
The overlord forces have orchestrated for Lara’s premature end for a long time. Now our elites have played right into their hands. These forces- who have civilisational agendas rather than personal petty ones- have often in our history been on the same page of the hymn book with our elites when it comes to trying to destroy West Indian genius. Our job as a people must be, as always, to resist and defeat them all. We hear of rumours of Lara being exiled from decision-making as captain; of him being presented with substandard sides; of him and local coaches not being given authority to conduct or enforce training; of him not being able to be a captain and contributor. Finally we hear that he did not back down on questions of the integrity of his vision. Then terrifyingly we hear that he himself was to be dropped!…
And so it goes…
Our elite class has shown their incompetence and lack of spine for this World Cup for all to see. They have shown they do not have the ‘poetic vision’ to dream a winning future based on past glory and present talent. Now they have been allowed to seemingly win this round and crucify the Prince.
Machel and Minshall have given us the theme for the year: Resurrect! Or in the parlance Rezarek! Lara must be resurrected- just as how for 2 Easters 10 years apart he rose and claimed cricket’s greatest record- twice!!! He must be reassembled, remembered and re-animated like Osiris to lead again.
This is not about one man being bigger than the game, this is about the game in a man being the manifestation of a region. We as a people must make this clear- greatness cannot be cast aside so casually without paying the highest price. In one fell swoop even the economic viability of West Indies cricket and its tours to foreign lands has been jeopardised.
The Calling to Account
Our administrative class- all of us- must be called to account. As a people we must call for a commission of enquiry into the World Cup, and a massive symposium to be held on ‘The Future of West Indies Cricket’. People must be put on the stand to account for their actions. Everything must be laid bare- how much money was spent, what was the anticipated expenditure vs. revenue, how does that compare to reality? Who tried to represent the regions interest to the ICC, who sold us out? Was there any wiggle room? If so who was not competent enough? How can we train negotiators for the future. Why no fitness trainer or bowling coach? Who chose the teams etc etc. The future of West Indies Cricket is the metaphor and the prophecy of what is to happen with the region. The elites have robbed the Prince of 4 more years of cricket, and the region of a monolith and shield with which we could have withstood many an assault. The pressure on him to go is a mortal sin. We cannot allow our Caribbean Genius to be exiled, benched and destroyed as was the case with Latas in last year’s World Cup. Not this time. The stakes are too high.
The End of the Trinity
And in case you weren’t watching this attempted assassination marks the end of the era of our Trinity. This now means that Dwight Yorke, Russel Latapy and now Brian Lara have all fallen by the hands of our local administrators! They now represent our teams no more. They have been banned from defending our hopes and dreams and from championing our cause and displaying our beauty and power. These local administrators have done what none of this trinity’s opposition could have done- they have taken our geniuses off the battlefield!
The Tragic Spectacle
Lara’s supposed last match was one of the most tragic spectacles that this region has ever witnessed, and I am not talking about the loss to England – I am talking about the loss to ourselves. We had sabotaged ourselves so much that we had arrived at a sad rum-shop when we should have built towards an infinite carnival. That we so do not comprehend our majesty that we were willing to accept that small fete to send our greatest off – this will haunt us until we overturn it by redeeming the deed… We were laughing when we should have been weeping that our Prince was felled- not by opposing armies but by his superiors out of envy.
But there were some who understood… bawling their eyes out because they understood the tragedy of what was happening. They understood that this could well be the funeral of themselves… One friend said he was numb with desolation until he saw one lady woven in a look of grief, bawling her eyes out- then he collapsed into tears himself. This is our Prince!!! Compare the farewell for this man who has carried us, defended our honour and conjugated our beauty so artfully to the farewell granted Shane Warne. Now you go and bawl too!
Return to Us, Unleash the Lion
He must return- like the Sun rises in the morning, like the flower returning to the stem in the appointed season… We simply cannot accept this palace coup. We must do as the people of Venezuela did when the business leaders staged the coup against Chavez: we must overturn the capsize. We must right back this boat. History will judge us in this moment. Do not let Brian’s amiable gait mask his personal and our collective grief of dreams aborted. We must ‘reverse back’ the darkness into the seed. Let the maroon cry be heard from in the hills and down in the plains, “Brian Lara must not go. Bring back Brian!!!” The people are ready for our Dream to live. Let the overlords be called to account. Let the rebirth of our cricket begin with this article of faith in the redemptive possibilities of our Genius! Let the Prince return. He must be unleashed to cut a swathe across the planet. He must be left unbridled to claim what is rightfully his and ours. We must demand it. We do demand it! And then we will await it. His Second Coming.
Rubadiri Victor (email@example.com) is a multi-media artist and cultural activist who has been writing on cultural issues through a generational lens for over a decade. He is the publisher of Generation Lion Magazine- the largest glossy in the region. He is presently working on a book of scholarship entitled: ‘The Missing Institutions’ a book investigating the Caribbean and Diasporic paralysis in building institutions of Memory and documenting the activism that exists around it. The book contains a number of essays about cricket.
* His previous article on Lara can be viewed at: www.activismtt.blogspot.com
A My Space page advocating the return of Lara is viewable at: http://www.myspace.com/brianlaramustnotgo
There is also a group called BRIAN LARA MUST NOT GO on www.facebook.com
All are welcome to add their names and contribute to these pages.