ARTHUR GAY--We Shall Not Be Overcome
Post date: Jun 4, 2009 12:56:36 AM
Subject: Those with high moral ground must take care not be taken in and expect people to be righteous, when there are a lot that are not
GAY: Victoria would have loved you.
ME: But Victoria said and pretended a lot but did not. She freed the slaves but did nothing for the American Indians.
GAY: She was in love with Albert and at the time it would have been considered an act of - Laisser Majeste – middle French, not modern - but it was on the law books - insulting royalty to say what I am about to say – when she got married she must have discovered sex and she liked it, being a woman whose life was very sheltered and quiet. One of her favorite saying was: “We are not amused,” meaning it took a lot to make her laugh. She took refuge in Albert and her many children. She reminds me of Bodacia. When Albert died she nearly died. She went across to the Isle of White. The acoustics in the Albert Hall are good, a whisper can be heard but outside looks like a fortress.
They went to ridiculous lengths just to accommodate her because they thought she was so modest, the legs of pianos were covered at a certain time. Cromwell did it, it was not Puritan, a bad word for the English, but it was a left over from the Puritans. You are extremely moral - if you had a ministerial position you would probably take 2/3 of your salary and feed the poor.
ME: Is that bad?
GAY: It is good but people are no angels and you expect them to be. Those whom we admire let us down, like Ralph Gonzales, who I admired. We were good friends because we were kindred in our writings; I would like to love him. He said the other day that Barbados is hostile to the other members of CARICOM, a non-point but he did it for political reasons.
ME: I do not speak about rowdy behaviour and wuking-up on the Harbour Master; I speak of parliament . Like Sinckler telling a member that she is No. 1 in the No: 2 business.
GAY: Parliament is the highest court in the land.
ME: We know that.
GAY: In earlier time you could be held in contempt of parliament, you could have been hanged or have your head cut off. The only people, who could say anything was the parliamentarian inside parliament. You see how they behave in England parliamentary democracy. You should hear them.
ME: They used to hurl names across the room at each other. Tory is an island way off the south cost of England where nobody goes, it means backra, and nobody knows you, Solomon Grundy born on a Monday dead on a Tuesday. Whigs meaning effete, you are wearing a wig you are false. My question is with all of this knowledge do you extend appropriate behaviour to parliament?
GAY: What do you expect? We figure that civilization starts with the savages up north. If you couch things in parliamentary terms it will give you a chance to drop a bombshell and the ordinary man in the street would not know for a long time.
ME: But the ones here are not couching they are displaying inappropriate behaviour.
GAY: Our people are immune to that. If I thought I would get enough of a following I would but experience has taught me there is no room for pied pipers in our society. You know the Pied Piper got rid of rats and cleaned up the place and they did not want to pay him. That legend is something Deane Smith would have written and it would not have been understood except in this modern time. This sort of thing Jonathan Swift would have written and Samuel Butler, who wrote EREHWON, nowhere spelt backward and Utopia and it went to every body’s head.
ME: You have to include Moby Dick there.
GAY: I do not know if Melville wrote it as satire.
ME: But most people think so.
GAY: I think he wrote more like a journalist like Orson Wells in The Invasion from Mars.
ME: So why do so many see it as allegory?
GAY: Because they do not understand. I think he was doing a journalist thing he was writing for a story, a good invention like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea sort of science fiction without the science.
ME: I prefer to see story behind it.
GAY: Some like literature safe, you do not have to analyze.
“I think that I shall see
A poem ever as a tree
Whose flowing mouth be pressed
Against the tree with loveliness and fresh
Against the earths sweet flowing breath.”
It has a very beautiful tune, Victorian sort of thing. I loved it. It was the sort of thing we sang at religious concerts every now and then when the church had a solo to show off its baritone. This was entertainment, when there was no television and radio was very poor and not affordable to most. My literature teacher, A. D. Bruce Hamilton, wrote a couple of novels and his brother, a good novelist, wrote Fanny by Gaslight it was made into a film. We saw it at the Olympic theatre. He wrote another called To Be Hanged they were like romance mystery novels. Dr. Hamilton we called him “hambone” - he drew to our attention that there was a sexual analogy there and for that reason he condemned the poem. He analyzed it very critically and adversely too. He said it had sexual content “the mouth be pressed against the tree” it was a typical English disdain for sexual illusion. For a long time I was worried about that song. You could not failed to be moved by the music and you remembered the verse.
Do not forget it is the same society that condemned Lawrence to exile. His book was the subject of a lawsuit. We read it under the lamp at night. When you look at the philosophers like Butler, the professors of Oxford and Cambridge used them as textbooks and we were not encouraged to analyze the theory behind them. George Lamming introduced me to Samuel Butler, Ellon and H.G. Wells and I read his big book The History of William Clissold, Tono Bungay, we were never encouraged to read him at school. But George and I discovered this side of Wells. We were not set that to read because it did not suite the politics of the time. We read them after but not at school. Wells had a tremendous influence on some of us; we read Somerset. Wells was a doctor and never practiced medicine because he wanted to be a writer.
Like this fellow was out of work and desperate. He applied for a job as a lavatory attendant in the public toilets, where the attendant sat and took your penny and gave you a piece of soap. He was turned done probably because he had a middle class accent. When he went home he realized that he had been making a homemade brew and he decided to bottle it and sell it in shops and it turned out marvelous, like Coca Cola. To the end of his life he was asked if he had not invented the brew what would he have been and he said: “I would have been a lavatory attendant.”
ME: But Arthur I am trying to pin you down to find out how far you extend appropriate - to the highest place, where school children watch.
GAY: I am not surprised by any behaviour.
ME: Why aren’t you surprised? Do you extend your principles to parliament? What would your grandmother, Mary Prescod, have said? It is snobbery because you know that your mother and back to the father’s family right back to Samuel Jackman Prescod would not have condoned that.
GAY: Certain things are not in my vocabulary. There are certain people that matter to me the rest do not. I am immune that is why I may appear not to mind. I am in a cocoon and, who would hurt me do not know, where to hurt me, like the turtle shell you do not try to stab him in the back you got to get under his belly.
ME: The sling and arrows of outrageous men seeking out the soft underbelly. I am tired of my underbelly being sought out.
GAY: We all want to do something about the community for that is the only reason we think about reform otherwise we would say God is in his heaven and all is right with the world. We cannot do that because we know that is not the way we are built but do not expect recognition or any reward.
ME: Your words belie your heart. You have just been caught up in the negatives around but at heart you are and idealist that is why you wore the cassock. So let us get back to you, who have been compromised.
GAY: You are misunderstanding the term you say compromise when I would say accommodate, which is different from compromise. It is a pity they can only emulate what they see.
ME: Sounds like Dawn Jordan: “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”
GAY: As cynical as that? That is part of the reason why so many of us cannot cope with what is the natural and instinctive for instance love your neighbour. They have my sympathy. Unless someone tells them that they cannot come through here they cannot come through. A leader goes and meditates for a month, comes back and decides this is the code of behaviour and puts it into law.
Poor humanity does not know what they do. I remember C.L.R. James he used to give a lot of talks for free, poor fellow he must have gone along saying look at those foolish asses. We may come to the stage when we probably have to rediscover the wheel and all that goes with it. Education is glorious intellectual acrobatics. They can jump across ten cars on a bike like Evil Kneivel. The system waters down to pass exams. On television for the CXC teaching punctuation someone put a comma in the middle of a sentence joined by an ‘and.’ ‘And’ is the comma. There are so many people who cannot pronounce ‘th’ or ask they say ‘ax.’
ME: An answer is to hire attorneys to speak in parliament. Attorneys in the sense that plantations hired attorneys to look after the plantations. People, who have the necessary manner, history, culture and etiquette. Come with something because you have been trapped into admitting that you would want principled behaviour in parliament. You are only outwardly jaded? If I had not pushed as hard as this you could still be talking about accommodating.
GAY: Whether you believe in God or not Christ sacrificed his life. He could have got away by saying that is none of my business. John the Baptist did the same thing and Herrod still cut off his head because he wanted a woman.
ME: How did it get from the wisdom of Mittleholzer, Collymore, Chester Allen Brown, Sissy, Alexandrina Gibbs and the thinkers of that time to this - no real discussion on any fundamental issues, social or economic?
GAY: So many things are lost to posterity because of ignorance and greed. Sarah Churchill destroyed some of Churchill's paintings. Her attitude must have been I-enjoyed-them-nobody-else-can and she burnt them. If Hitler’s paintings are valuable now what about Churchill's? One woman, what was her intellectual power that she could not think this through? Whatever came out of Churchill belongs to humanity. Regardless of what we think about him, he was at the head of World War II. We know that the soldiers won the war but the generals devised the strategy and somebody has to take the accolades.
Churchill had his goals, when he started to talk about letting go India; there was no more to be got out of Indian. All India was left with was a civil service. Same thing in Africa, if oil was discovered in Nigeria during World War II Nigeria would have been populated by whites, same as Johannesburg. Image, the Congo ten times the size of Belgian, had one black doctor.
ME: We know all the bad things that Churchill did but yet we are able to like Churchill. We can say all this about him and we have not reached that stage with Barrow or Grantley or any of our public figures.
GAY: We are puritanical. It is an addiction like rum, we know we cannot afford it, it ruined my health. We start with that and it is wrong. The white power found a way to continue the disenfranchisement they disenfranchised our history and the things is the non-whites really do not realize how powerful they could be because they do not want to rock the boat. Whites suppressed our history and the fair skin people thought: “better not rock the boat because I cannot get by.” There was a policy of getting away from the tan although very few coloureds inherited their parents property, and at present, the black historian are into denial. There is so much history to be got in little vinaigrettes. So much is buried and hidden under a lot of protocol and behaviour.
My grandmother had so many friends, who had fallen through the cracks of the economy; two women were Miss Lovell and Mrs. Crouch. Mrs. Crouch was a white woman and she lived alone in a house, which she owned but her resources had dwindled. She lived on some kind of fixed income. She came to our home and my grandmother and her would have long conversations. Mrs. Crouch would come up the gap and in through the front door.
Mrs. Lovell was of the same social class. She had been driven to school by a coachman but she had come down - I was a boy so I do not know the circumstances. Although they knew each other as children from school Mrs. Lovell felt so humiliated by her circumstances that she came through the back door. “Why you come through the back door?” My grandmother would ask and said of her: “too poor to beg, too honest to steal, she is one of the shabby gentility.” I do not know any of their descendents. They may have come along, and went to the university and say “I come along rich and almost white.”
I remember a buttery was where bags of rice, flour, preserves and thing like that were store.
ME: You mean like a pantry?
GAY: It had to have ventilation - there was no air-conditioned. It was part of protocol that it had to be locked. Children got in the buttery with preserve paw paw and made that hoop.
We grew up as babies, four and five years old, hearing things about Samuel Jackman Prescod that are not even in folklore and no body will believe. If you want to know the basis of Samuel Jackman's thinking read the Canadian Constitution. Do you know that he proposed something like a Federation of the West Indies and that he had a model constitution for a government of the colonies of the West Indies - a government that was not only Barbados - a precursor of federation. This was taken up by the Canadians and that was the basis of the Canadian Constitution. I think Alexander Hoyos alludes vaguely to that. He is a very sketchy historian but then I do not know what was available to him.
ME: Because he was an immigrant. After World War II the Hoyoses came seeking asylum. E.K. Walcott was Attorney General and Rocky told me that when they came running from South America his father said that anyone seeking political asylum would be accommodated and the Hoyos were allowed in. The story from Rocky goes that the “Hoyoses caused World War I” – honestly he said that jokingly many times. Count Hoyos – meaning high man - was head of the Civil Service, when the Archduke was assassinated and he is the one that gave the advice that the Kaizer would back them and from there came all the interplays and face offs. I did find a Count Hoyos in Liddell book on World War I. The Hoyoses ran to South America and had a rubber plantation and from there they “stirred up trouble” and ran seeking aslyum. Hoyos grounding is not in the island, not even in the Caribbean.
ME: Out of all that Prescod did one of the few snippets the media focuses on is that he was born illegitimate.”
GAY: Everybody was illegitimate for you were forbidden to marry. When Samuel Jackman Prescod name stopped being a cuss word a lot of whites like the McKenzies claimed that they were relatives but as far as I know no one has checked the documentation. I think it would have been the McKenzie the auctioneer: Under the Silver Hammer and the Golden Hammer. See them in the advertisement in the newspaper of the day.
It is bigotry, so many historians get their history from books and do not look thorough the newspapers and papers; especially since freedom of information it is there to be seen, it just has to be dug into. Doing two-year narrow research to get a PhD is in itself naught if it is not a road to emaciation of the mind.
Subject: Secrets in our society and after a time money became clean
GAY: Like suppose my father went to jail and all of that is done and he come out and turn respectable why would I have to be talking about it?
ME: Why not be normal and talk about it if it comes up why blot out a part of life. It will not harm even if it is a thing most likely to be forgotten.
GAY: Many do not want to listens and those, who speak the truth, are martyred. By the time their statements are taken up they are in the archives and the author is dead.
ME: So sell my soul?
GAY: I am describing the facts of life that is how things are.
ME: It can happen with the new generation but it cannot happen with me because the first years my life was spent in truth with my great-grandmother and grandmother.
GAY: The formula for success - the only way people can live is if they live in a world of their own. They create a world in which they are more comfortable. You will only send those people mental if you stir their conscious. Do you want to be responsible?
I am not concerned with correcting past mistakes or mis-conception because there is no way - he who is convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. I will only get myself in a tizzy - try to get the so many injustices and thing that we call unreal.
What can you do about? It is not worth destroying health. I just cannot bear to think about it especially I have so little time. You come and find the world one way and find it the same way when you leave. One or two people will say something good about you but the purpose of life is not testimonials.
My family and I got a lot of slack for that. My father was a planter, he lived on a plantation, and he did not own a plantation so some people said: “he ain’t a planter,” but the people who owned the plantation were not planters and did not know about planting.
People said that he was a bright youngster and why would he not become a schoolteacher like them. He did books and plotted crops fertilizer and produced cane and vegetables and worked out how to eradicate pest and diseases and all those sort of things. He did not use a fork but because he was black and worked on a plantation people thought that he carried a hoe in his hand.
In my generation it was to be a doctor. If you do not become a doctor you have failed. I did not compromise and it never bothered me. I admired a friend of mine, we went to school together and we could finish one another’s thoughts. He died the other day and another friend said that he had told him that he sorry I never got a Barbados scholarship.
ME: Things do not always happen in one generation. I have grand children and I do with the hope that even if I am not here my grands will benefit. The world I lived in is Carib and that culture is the world in which I grew up.
GAY: You cannot attribute everything to one aspect of your psyche there are enough genes and chromosomes in our DNA that have all sorts of influence.
ME: The mystery, which unfolds before me is how my family and certain parts of the society that had righteous values transformed from its pre-1940s period to the corruption and accommodation of it of today.
GAY: Would you say that they are sophisticated?
ME: Not anymore that is long gone.
GAY: Many now have positions especially those in our hierarchal position but they are not sophisticated. Sophistication comes with how to do things it is not politeness.
ME: They hide something and are fanatical in holding secrets in the wider family of Barbados. The difficulty was to put the puzzled together and after that it was easy to see why they defend it. Nobody will ever forget that the Kennedys were bootleggers but some here get their past cleaned up. The portraits that people accept are not true and people know.
This is going right back into the psychohistory of our culture because the nation feels that many out in the front being praised as most successful are those, who have smeared backgrounds.
GAY: So many have surfaced to the top of society; so many of the enslaved do not want to recognize, from where the money came. The pirates buried their money. It was not called money laundering but that is what it was. The rogues are ruling, it has always been like that in England. Look at men like Hawkins. The wealthy in England were based on brigand, as long as the briganding was not done in England. It was all right. The French called privateers and buccaneers because of how they dried their meat.
ME: There is a deeper significance to this secrecy something that they keep hidden all the time and the majority of people behave that way because it is a small society and pleasure/money/position/friendship/“to protect my family, to protect my wife I will stay quiet but I know,’ they derive out of it.
That is the treasured secret in our history, which must be exposed- this secret of the burning of a manuscript, both are intertwined.
Arthur Gay was born in 1927. His paternal grand mother was Mary Prescod, Samuel Jackman Prescod’s niece. He was born on to Erin Gay nee Deane and ……… Gay. He attended Foundation school for four years and spent six at Harrison College. He did physics chemistry and maths and specialised in mathematics in the six form. There was a restriction on the number of subjects taken. He also did Latin and Greek but never liked Greek and he went back to Greek when at twenty years old he went to study to become a priest at Codrington College. He says that from the time he was about nine, he wanted to be a priest and many, even his maths teacher tried to persuade him that he was bright and should be an engineer. He spent three years in six form at Harrison’s College and many felt he should have stayed for another year and try for the Barbados Scholarship but: “I was never that competitive. I know my stuff up to now I know it. There is no problem I could not solve and cannot solve, that is how you learn.”
He spent long enough at Codrington to do a degree in Philosophy, Latin and Greek. His first job was with the meteorological office. He taught at many schools. His first daughter was born in 1954. He went to England to do law and was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn. He got a job in the meteorological office. He got caught up in the scientific world and was offered a place at one of the London Colleges Northern polytechnic, which is now called City College. He found himself doing two degrees at the same time and he gave up law and continued with physics and mathematics.
He worked in the aerospace industry in London and on his return to Barbados worked with electronic firms and as a columnist for both newspapers.