Glenn Tucker | Do we need another hero?
I left the funeral for Edward Seaga with a feeling of deep satisfaction. Not just because it was so incredibly well organised, but because this great man had finally been accorded the respect he always deserved but never really got.
The last public controversy in which he was involved was when some persons felt that the North-South toll road should be named after Portia Simpson Miller and not Mr Seaga.
There have been calls for Mr Seaga to be named a national hero, and maybe it is time to revisit this issue. What makes one qualify for the status of national hero?
As I see it, Sam Sharpe led the most massive, impactful and participatory slave rebellion in our history. It played no small part in reducing the appetite of the British for colonial rule. So by the time Messrs Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante approached Britain for political Independence, that country had long come to the view that colonisation was no longer viable.
The efforts of these two worthy leaders were laudable, but do not make them heroes.
Marcus Garvey was a black nationalist and politician who had a powerful message. He formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association which had its headquarters in the US where he lived. It became, for a time, a powerful international organisation. But there were limitations of judgement and management that quickly reduced the effectiveness of the organisation.
He returned to Jamaica and failed to gain a seat on the Legislative Council or to gain the respect he felt he deserved. In 1972, speaking to me in her living room, his wife’s statements about his final days in Jamaica put any question of ‘hero’ status to rest in my mind.
She spoke of him being severely depressed about the failure of his message to gain traction among his own countrymen who were more excited by men who were not as committed to the struggle.
For anyone who reads The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, and observes our failure to infuse Garveyism into the school curriculum, there is a sense of confusion about the way we think. But the honest, painful truth is that he failed to effect any significant change in the Jamaican society.
Like Bob Marley, the name Marcus Garvey is known and respected throughout the world. They are deserving of the official status of national icon.
I am still struggling to find something for Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, and Nanny. Messrs Manley and Bustamante should be satisfied with their ONs from a thankful nation. That leaves Sam Sharpe, for me, the lonely hero.
But as times change, the criteria for being regarded a national hero change.
At this time in our history, I think a national hero should be a visionary rationalist who is successful in laying a solid understructure for the advancement of growth, development, happiness, and prosperity among Jamaicans.
In the days following Seaga’s death, I was surprised at the persons in academia and the media who confessed to being unaware of the kind, quality, and quantity of his accomplishments. During that time, I received a number of WhatsApp messages disparaging his accomplishments. Should I be surprised? Not really.
In this country, there is a certain breed. Its members specialise in destroying others whose talents they cannot match. They are exceptionally good at what they do. So there are numerous careers, reputations, and fortunes that have been destroyed by these persons. Edward Seaga is their biggest prize.
It was a controversy like the one mentioned at the beginning of this article that sent me to the JIS a few years ago. I asked for any information available on Edward Seaga. I wanted to be accurate about what I was writing. I was told there was no information on Edward Seaga.
I was aware of these antics for years. But on this occasion, the unfairness of this situation got the better of me. I was ashamed of my behaviour. It was noisy and rude. As I left, someone called me back and offered me a seat. Minutes later, someone handed me a sheet of paper. Half a page was devoted to Seaga. The last sentence spoke volumes: “He is married to a former Miss Jamaica, Mitzi Constantine.” Even though they had been divorced for more than a decade!
In a booklet titled A Legacy of Service, available at his funeral, the first page included this statement: He “... was a prolific, transformational leader who was the longest-serving MP in the history of Jamaica and the Caribbean region.
“Through decades of unwavering service to Jamaica, the former PM played a fundamental role in shaping Jamaica’s post-Independence parliamentary landscape.
“Mr Seaga made a significant impact on Jamaica’s growth and development through the introduction of various programmes and the establishment of institutions across the social, cultural, political and financial sectors. His political life was undeniably one of unrivalled firsts.”
The booklet added: “... He was the nation’s leading pioneer of ideas and institutions to promote culture, nationally and internationally.”
Bishop Dr Herro Blair credited him with repositioning Evangelical and Charismatic Christianity from the periphery to the centre.
By any objective measure, Edward Seaga has accomplished more than all our other leaders combined. Do we need another hero? That is for others to decide.
But if not Edward Phillip George Seaga, who?