Was Timothy Callender's death suicide or murder?

A TRIBUTE by GARY COLE

Death is a funny thing: a man arranging his own tragic end.  If all the world’s a stage and we are merely players, then Timothy Callender played Shakespeare to our world.     

The price to pay for an intellectual writer or teacher has been the end of one’s life.  Timothy died on the 12th October 1989 without medical attention from the Emergency Room of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  Callender did not believe in accidents and co-incidences and it would have been very symbolic to him that a doctor in the Emergency Room did not try to revive his heart.   It was part of a much greater betrayal.  Callender’s demise is an outrage, the pain the futility; nothing will replace him; nothing can compare to him; his likes will not be seen again no matter what wounds are licked.  

The story of Callender is a comic romantic tragedy of moral inspiration. What is life?  When this question counts an answer means little.  This is the tragedy of our times and of a society, which is unconcerned with wisdom. In its place are commonplace and worn clichés drilled in from birth.  An instinctive longing to discover and explore is frustrated by a collective indifference of a society to the spirit.

   

Art has come to be understood barely only as entertainment: a satisfaction of desires, to enthral and transport to another life, an addiction, a master of appetite and taste, an escape and for those, who cannot escape the walls of its existence, a useless folly and wasted passion.    

If a society could not understand the tragedy of watching a master artist go bankrupt, and through divorce to suicide, then how could they understand the meaning of their economic subjugation?  They could not understand why a middle class Barbadian would be visiting prostitution hostels in tiny back streets and hovels.   Then to be using crack: it electrified the mind of the press moguls to present a well-calculated fraud of his death.     Barbadians are so notoriously willing to sacrifice themselves that they accept the notion of dying for your debts:  to be bankrupt, to be without any money, is to die.    It was a lie the press kindly acquiesced in doing:  truth was that to be without money is to be cast out of the fold.  That was the bare economic necessity of the truth. 

This is the lot that Barbadians share; without God all are fallen and of course their god is money.  This is the philosophy: a broader, much bigger picture of the drug culture, which was deliberately left out of Callender’s last book Concerns Concerning The Cocaine Culture because intellectuals of this class did not want the public to know the nature of their affairs; the morality of their existence was to be kept hidden.  Thus in Concerns Concerning the Cocaine Culture no high-level drug baron was interviewed or even considered in passing.  Who were they? Whose family? What history? All this was ignored. 

The society was trained in the repression of the individual for 400 years.  Today, the enemy is disguised in a form of social organization, in which classes consolidated to exclude/include a slave.   To become a slave to a drug is an effrontery to their pride. 

    

The cocaine culture slowed down after it appeared that anymore of the drug would lead to social rebellion - it deprived too many too fast; it was too noticeable and destabilising of the social milieu, and a different deal was struck with the Drug Cartel.

    

A revolution was continuing in the Caribbean countries under the umbrella of crime, corruption, and bribery:  political power was co-existing around instances of cabals in a ruling elite: they jostle for a power of position and prestige, as they rule like gods over the common man. 

The idea was that a class was engineering a giant publicity campaign called Dope Inc./IMF austerity programme; growing state repression; structural adjustment and permanent unemployment.  The death of the economic analysis of the situation in the public’s eye in viewing his death is every bit the same as the lack of economic analysis afforded a discussion of narcotics:  Intellectuals and the common man have both been silenced by fear of money, for it is for fear of the power of the Drug Cartel; it is for fear of the force of their economic masters, that they were silenced:  money has become a force to keep a people quiet.  This is a lasting epithet of a drug culture. 

Many/most people, if they consider the matter at all, will agree that knowledge is power, but it is taken for granted that the truth of the saying is far from the day-to day concerns of life.  Knowledge is important, an argument goes, only if it can be used to get a job, make money, enter university or gain a promotion.   It is a means to an end and a temporary tool, which we use while pursuing a greater pleasure of life, otherwise it is nonsense.  Pleasure such as love, marriage, friendship, and work, are the real subjects of our desires, not any knowledge of anything in itself.

How odd it has become for society to observe an individual, who searches for knowledge of something, which will explain everything and put one’s life into perspective, by just a simple knowing.  It is assumed that knowledge must be put to use for something; that knowledge is for power.   It is disconcerting to most people, however, to think just the opposite, that knowledge is not a means towards an end but an end in itself: that knowledge is power only when it is for wisdom. 

This is wisdom that most know is behind the saying but this wisdom, is for the most part, seem as useless and understood in the course of life but quickly discarded when the pressure and fear of a humdrum existence that arises in the early maturation of an individual.  Young artists, dreamers and lovers put their green days behind them in their twenties, and leave unanswered a desire to know all things or certain things of their childhood.   

Callender died October 12th 1989, while recuperating from the effects of crack-cocaine and his wife’s desertion in July of the same year.  He was recovering financially but too much damage had been done to his bad heart. On the evening of October 12th he checked himself out of hospital where he had spent three days under cardiac observation.   That night he collapsed with a heart attack while watching a video.  He was rushed to the hospital and a doctor on duty in the casualty refused to perform C.P.R. and cardiac shock.  

Thousands of people, who read and viewed his work, are enjoying art of a man who was deprived of the right to prosper from his talents. 

Callender mused over works like his teacher, Frank Collymore the compiler of the first Handbook of Bajan Dialect published in 1955.  Callender’s works (short stories, plays, poems etc.,) were broadcasted, enacted and otherwise publicized without his permission and knowledge.  He had tapes of his stories dubbed off and sold in the streets and his name used by con men.   His stories were broadcasted on various Caribbean radio broadcasts and he learnt of such things only by chance.   Someone used a story of his, claimed credit for its authorship in a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) short story competition and won 2nd place.   He has had his work recited, read and dramatized by people, who have allowed audiences to think it was theirs.    

His name was used as a drawing card to attract audiences to shows, which never produced recompense for him and to which he was not even invited.   Publishers falsified figures, cheated and reneged on statements and royalties. International publishers published his work, sometimes with permission, sometimes without, sometimes paying a pittance, sometimes nothing. One editor used his royalties to buy herself a very expensive painting.  His work appeared in anthologies produced by various metropolitan educational publishers, who snapped them up avidly like capitalist glad for cheap labour. He saw editors (who, next to critics, are the most parasitical, vampirical creatures in the intellectual world) given large royalties for doing absolutely nothing except compiling pieces of prose; these anthologies carry the same stories that were produced first for use by local students imported from the metropolitan publishers, (who charge prices high as your eyebrows), and then used locally - as if they needed the foreign stamp of approval before Caribbean students could be exposed to them. This is the worst form of exploitation as it exploits our own concept of self, our own self-judgment and own self-evaluation.

      

One of Callender’s stories, An Assault on Santa Clause, appeared in The Oxford Book of Christmas Stories, (1987) put out by Oxford University Press - perhaps the most prestigious publisher in the English-speaking world.  On the acknowledgement page, Oxford University Press claimed that it had Callender’s permission to use the story.   It had not and it never did.    Callender wrote to them and demanded redress for he did not intend to carry on a tradition of exploiter/exploited relationship with colonial rulers (exploitation by his people was something he did not mind as long as they were polite).   He considered OUP’s reply to a letter especially offensive, deceitful and guileful, his financial demands were ignored, his sense of gentlemanly behaviour violated and his sense of equal status with other writers and human beings bruised.    His suspicions of racist exploitation and head-patting patronage were alerted, and he could not let the issue rest.

     

“Thank you for your letter of February 14th” they wrote, “how nice to hear from you at last.   We wrote twice to your publishers in early 1986 in an attempt to obtain permission to use your story in the book.   They replied to neither of our lettesr. I am therefore sending you a complimentary copy of the book, plus the fee that we paid to all our contributions of 120 pounds for the nonexclusive use of the story. At present we are compiling a junior Oxford Christmas Story book and would welcome a story from you.   Best Wishes Ron Heapy, Managing Editor, Children’s Books, Oxford University Press.”  

The book sold for more than twelve pounds. Callender wrote to three newspapers in the island on this issue - two of them ignored his letters. The Investigator published a doctored version and made the issue sound hysterical.  He appealed to the Ministry of Education and he called on the National Cultural Foundation but they too ignored him.   Why?

   

In 1989 Callendar sent a copy of his ground breaking classic study, Sky Gods and Earth People, to the exponent poet of the Black Power Movement, Edward “Kamau” Brathwaite, seeking his assistance to use the study as a basis of a doctoral thesis.  He received no reply and no assistance.  Ignored and calumnies his work was unheard.  The main beneficiary of the suppression of Callendar’s work is Elton ‘Elombe’ Mottley, who Hilary Beckles, Mottley’s conspirator, has billed as the successor of Frank Collymore in Beckles History of Barbados.                     

The question remains to be asked of Hilary Beckles and such ilk:  how can Elton ‘Elombe’ Mottley, a real estate agent and a talk show host, a holder of a degree in economics, and a political activist be promoted above a painter, sculptor, poet, musician, writer, a holder of a Masters in Fine Art Education, a teacher of English, Art, Craft and Drama, a celebrated international master artist who has been called a complete artist schooled by Karl Broodhagen and Frank Collymore?   The answer is obviously nothing to do with art.  Exert from: 

THE COMPLETE POEMS OF

TIMOTHY CALLENDER

To Brother Elombe

(“None of the nation’s Business - just rumour and gossip”) 

Paranoia can annoy you;

Make you stop from thinking straight.       

End of excerpt

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