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EVERYTHING BUT: How many more?


Ridley Greene

EVERYTHING BUT: How many more?

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Heroes, heroes everywhere,
Heroes, heroes night and day!
The call might have qualified as some cause célèbre, were it not for its unrhythmic but constant jarring sound every year around National Heroes Day. The alleged controversial issue really no longer attracts much public attention.
But Monsignor Vincent Blackett persists. If nothing more, he is, at best, positive; at worst, persistent – which talents might be better used at healing the sick and casting out demons.
The imploring of the powers that be to up the number of our National Heroes from ten to some impracticable number by the Blackett brigade will be of no avail.
It ought not to be of any avail.
Some Barbadians have a hard time remembering who the ten are right now, and couldn’t give you the tersest of synopses on them or why they were chosen – given what journalist Carl Moore has identified as “intellectual drought” in this still fair land of ours.
To Monsignor Blackett’s credit, the people he would have added to the list of National Heroes will have had, or will have some intellect – he never ceases to recommend John Gaye Alleyne of The Alleyne School fame – and some measure of tolerance of religiosity. After all, the monsignor does come out of the belly of the intelligentsia of the church.
And you really can’t be too careful of the heroes you pick.
I have heard David Comissiong complaining about “deserving” personalities who have been left off the National Heroes list. On the merit of his argument, his submissions have not been uncompelling; but practicality dictates that we cannot continue adding to the list whenever we discover that someone might have been, or ought to have been notably and rightfully so honoured.
Truth be told, we could set our heads down and select 90 more National Heroes (Whites included). But do we need all these National Heroes? If we can’t remember the ten we have now, are we going to retain the names of the 100?
Every year, scores of Barbadians have National Honours bestowed upon them: from knighthood to commendation for bravery. In our eyes these recipients are heroes too, most deserving of their accolades. And, members of the public may have a hand in these selections as elsewhere.
And even with recommendations for National Honours, care is taken that people so put forward for consideration will lend to the nature of exemplar in the calling or work they represent.
It thus seems easier to correct unfortunate omissions at a later date with our National Honours, even posthumously if we can live up to the dignity of not speaking ill of the dead.
There will be those who will submit that receiving a National Honour is not the same as being a National Hero. But of course! There are thousands of National Honours recipients and only ten National Heroes.
There is really no need for any more.
While by extrapolation of Mr Comissiong’s argument there may have been more deserving persons on the list of ten, the ten are more than less a done deal. Let it rest.
If Monsignor Blackett and company keep arguing about upping the numbers of National Heroes, their remonstrations will morph into melodrama with very little progression. And what will be the point?
The monsignor has my full support, though, on having statues of all the Heroes. It will help Barbadians remember the other five who seem to get only passing mention when it should matter.
As the priest says, you can’t have Lord Nelson’s in your face, having left “an indelible mark on the nation’s psyche to the point where it would take more than an Atlas to remove him”, and not be presented with the iron forms of Sara Ann Gill, Clement Payne, Duncan O’Neal, Samuel Jackman Prescod and Sir Hugh Springer.
Their established statues can only, as Monsignor Blackett put it, arrest the imagination of the people. They will be, with the other five, the emblazoned imagery of our nationhood.
But in it all it is worthy to take careful note of American novelist John Barth’s submission that “everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story”.

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