Life of Brian (Part II)
IN THESE former slave societies, the free individual threatens the foundation of our concept of ourselves.
We spend all our time and direct all our efforts towards destroying him or her because we dare not allow to take root the notion he or she represents: that the West Indian – even the black one, especially the black one – can be free to think and act for himself or herself, and not within the rigid parameters we set (or accepted) for ourselves 400 years ago, whether the role played be, “Benevolent Owner”, “Trusted Overseer”, “Devout Believer” or “Bad Negro”.
The modern West Indies was carved out of 17th century Europe, as transplanted to our islands and our cricket administration remains rooted in the great house. All of Brian Lara’s problems, professional and personal, stemmed from his attempts to reconcile the personal freedom he won for himself by his own achievements with the equally personal constraints West Indian societies put on all their “citizens”.
In his freedom, and, worse, in his excellence, or his constant striving for it, Brian Lara revealed us to ourselves; and we could not stand that.
I have no need to make excuses for Brian Lara personally. At the level at which he operated – that of the hugely gifted artist, responsible only to his gift – there is no harsher critic than the individual himself: Brian knew better than any of us – and certainly better than the clerks who hounded him out of cricket – exactly when he let himself, us and cricket down.
But we have never discerned how we let him down.
Our failure to recognize what we had in Brian Lara – a talent of historical importance, a batsman, not of a mere lifetime, but of a millennium – reflected our inability to see ourselves (and our potential).
And our treatment of Brian Lara reveals us as a people so insecure about ourselves, as individuals, and as a nation (the West Indies) that we would destroy the greatest manifestation of our beauty rather than seek to lift ourselves out of the mire and aspire to imitate it.
Anywhere else in the world, Brian Lara would have been a solution; in the West Indies, we made him the cause of all our problems.
Everyone in the cricket world, from New Zealand to Canada, looked on with a mixture of disbelief and appreciation; if Jamaica had forced Bob Marley out of the recording studio, it could not have been as harmful or as hurtful to us, as a people. We were more comfortable with an old, accustomed ugliness than a possible new beauty.
The fault was ours.
But the punishment was his.
On Easter weekend, it might be helpful to think about the hellish treatment we gave to our own cricketing messiah. If Christ was God’s scapegoat, Lara was ours. Even if Brian Lara had risen from the cricketing dead, we never would have known. There was never going to be a West Indian willing to roll away the boulder from Brian Lara’s grave.
Because we were all part of the avalanche of pebbles that buried him.
• B.C. Pires is on his hands and knees – inspecting the wicket. Email your extras to him at [email protected]