THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Staying on the right side
A friend told me he missed my column last week and started making noise about how the column is the first thing he looks for in the newspaper every Sunday, and that I must stop disappointing him and others like him when I do not write.
I calmly told him that I did write a column and that it did appear in last Sunday’s SUNDAY SUN, and suggested that he go and check his newspaper again. He called me later and apologized for harassing me, but suggested that it was not all his fault but more that of THE NATION because he had looked for the column on the customary right side of the page without realizing that I had gone over to the left.
That made me laugh because I remembered that back in the day, if he had hinted, suggested or said outright that I had gone to the left, it could have been cause for concern, on the one hand, or cause for embarrassment on the other.
On the one hand, going to the left could have been construed to mean that I had become a socialist/communist and that, more than likely, I would be advocating liberal, radical and even violent measures to effect change in “Babylon”, particularly in the political arena in order to improve the lot of the downtrodden, disenfranchised and other less fortunate members of society.
I would have been classified a leftist and be viewed in the same frame as followers of such Caribbean revolutionists as Maurice Bishop, Fidel Castro and Michael Manley. I would have had to be wary of the persons with whom I associated since the state, more than likely, would be keeping a close eye on all my movements and activities in order to detect any attempts by me to incite the disadvantaged to effect far-reaching change by any means necessary.
Not even National Hero the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow was able to escape such suspicions about his true motives for seeking political power when he swept all before him with his breakaway Democratic Labour Party during the 1961 general elections.
A fire of fear was fanned by reports that the “Dipper” was a hardcore leftist/socialist/communist and intended to immediately set out on a path of widespread nationalization in the private sector. That resulted in many minority captains of white industry and commerce reportedly selling off all they could as quickly as they could, often accepting whatever they could, then packing their bags and their families and fleeing to safety in countries as nearby as Canada and as far flung as New Zealand. Ironically, the “Skipper” did succeed in transforming the country but with social policies that elevated the masses through access to free education and free medical care among a host of other measures.
Back in the day, on the other hand, had my friend said I was now on the left side, he might have been suggesting that I was now “left-handed” and anybody within earshot would automatically have associated me with some well known “male” characters of the time with exotic nicknames like Irma la Douce and Candy the Virgin, who paraded on stage in bikinis at the annual Queen Of The Bees show or in exquisite gowns in the Globe cinema at the real Miss Barbados Queen show.
Take it from me: although I am on the left now, I remain on the right.
• Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm.