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ALL AH WE IS ONE: Terror in paradise

Tennyson Joseph

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Terror in paradise

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The depth to which Caribbean reality is masked by a “social veil” of myth was brought sharply into focus during the activities organised by the Cuban Embassy of Barbados, to mark the 35th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of Cubana Airways flight 455.  
In a conscious denial of truth, the myth of the Caribbean as a paradise is continually force-fed from kindergarten instruction to the tourist brochure. “The Caribbean is a zone of peace. The region is devoid of the extreme forms of political expression that are evident elsewhere. Despite our differences, we have learned to co-habit peacefully with our neighbours. It cannot happen here.” This is the stuff out of which the Caribbean paradise myth has been moulded.
This gap between myth and reality became particularly evident during one of the commemoration activities, a panel discussion, held at the University of the West Indies last Friday. Given their awareness of the historical amnesia currently afflicting the post-1980 generation of Caribbean citizen, presenter after presenter was at pains to show that genocide, extermination of vulnerable groups, and state sponsored terrorism in the pursuit of political objectives, have always been part of Caribbean reality.  
The Spanish genocide of the indigenous peoples, the 250 years of enslavement of African peoples on Caribbean plantations, the unbroken wave of United States interventions in the region, and the four decades long economic embargo of Cuba, all underscore this truth.  
Indeed, the murderous instruments of chattel slavery, genocide and racism were all perfected on Caribbean soil. With keen perception, and in a stinging rebuff to the ideological claim of the Caribbean as a “race-less paradise”, the late Guyanese historian, Walter Rodney, preferred to describe the Caribbean as the “laboratory of racism”.
Nor should we be surprised. A cursory glance at military history reveals that it is on the nations of the periphery – the so-called Third World, non-white peoples – that new techniques and means of warfare are first tried. The concentration camp, the Gatling gun, shrapnel, nerve gas, all of these were tried first on Third World peoples.
A nuclear weapon was first detonated on the yellow peoples of Japan, despite Germany and the Nazis being the real threats. The bombing of a Cuban airline in Caribbean airspace was merely the continuation of this historic pattern.  
Despite the weight of historical evidence, those who shape our consciousness have invested heavily in numbing our senses to reality. The people of the English-speaking Caribbean live in continual denial.
Whilst economic dependency and the slavish attachment to the tourist dollar may pressure us to bury historical truths under a blanket of myth, we threaten our very survival by adopting postures of complacency where eternal vigilance is required. Let us honour the fallen ancestors, by tearing off the veils that blind us.