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Stabroek News

A Distinguished Fellow
published: Sunday | May 22, 2005

Chester Francis-Jackson, Gleaner Writer


Edward Seaga (left), Distinguished Fellow at the University of the West Indies (UWI), greets Dr. Olive Lewin, while from left, Professor Trevor Munroe, Juan Carlos Espinosa and Sue McManus look on. The occasion was the inaugural lecture delivered by Mr. Seaga at the Mona Visitors' Lodge, UWI, Mona, last Thursday evening. - Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer

AND SO, after many a years at the helm of the beleaguered Opposition Jamaica Labour Party, the Most Honourable Edward Seaga, signalled the completion of his political innings by relinquishing his hold over the political baton and reins of that party, as he stepped into the world of academia.

Seaga, a man known for his trenchant stance on many a issue, made a clean break from the political realm a few Thursdays ago with his inaugural lecture as a Distinguished Fellow, at the Mona Visitors' Lodge and Conference Centre, University of the West Indies, in a presentation that was so profound in its assessment, implications, and understanding of the problems facing Jamaica today.

It was not only an arresting presentation, it was moving, to the point of scary, in that 'for the first time, at last', here was a clear picture connecting the dots between our state near anarchy and our cultural practices, celebrated in some sections of the society, and given succour in others.

Dears, Edward Seaga, the man has always been a political and social visionary. No, not the kind of visionary who could ever appeal to the lumpen and or their baser instincts. His was a vision that far exceeded their instant need for 'full-belly' gratification, encompassing the notion that indeed, to give a hungry man a fish is indeed not empowering him, but in teaching him to fish, you empower him.

A BRILLIANT MIND.

It was this approach to governance, coupled with his incorruptibility that made him the scourge of many, who saw in him a nemesis to the skulduggery they practised to the benefit of the few, at the expense of nation building.

And so, Edward Seaga was never your run-of-the-mill politician. He was always, however, blessed with a brilliant mind. Here was a man who not only saw problems, but in seeing them, sought to identify solutions based on a complete understanding of the root causes of those problems, so as not to employ and or deploy the superficial solution with its need for recurring redress, but strove to address the problem at its roots and thus provide an enduring solution.

Curiously enough, with such an overarching understanding of the Jamaican psyche that his managerial style and early anthropological studies afforded him, he was placed in the most opportune position to manipulate this understanding for political benefits. To his political demise and the country's bitter and continuing loss, however, he did not!

Mercifully, with the transference of those observational and managerial skills, coupled with that sharp intellect, the country and the region will now benefit, and abundantly from his contribution to our academic resources.

Now, for as many a year as this here writer can recall, there has been many a political dissertation, social pronouncement and religious posturing of and or about the state of crime and violence that has been consuming the nation. What those good-intentioned pronouncements have lacked, however, is any analyses of just how we got to where we are!

PROPER PARENTING

To be sure, there have always been the glib assertions blaming the absence of proper parenting as the root cause of our social maladies. None, however, has ever betrayed a lack of the fundamentals involved in that prescription, until Edward Seaga, in his maiden lecture. And it rained the proverbial cats and dogs, but that did not deter nary a soul, as it was a full house and then some!

Dears, in a presentation that was nearly 70 minutes long, he created a graphic portrait of where we are and how we got here, in a masterful presentation, made that much more powerfully so, in that Edward Seaga not only offered up the origins and growth of our present concerns for our individual safety, as criminals seemingly run amok, but in his usual style - in identifying the root cause of the problem, also identified the solution.

Dears, our "criminals" are every much a product of our culture as is the conditions from which they spring. And until we understand that we are all in the same boat, as fellow travellers, albeit one with a pseudo-Eurocentric perspective; the other with a pseudo-Afro-centric approach - then there will be no peace.

As it must be understood that the sooner we begin to address the problems of under-educating our people; nutritional imbalance, in the have-nots; and the need for a public informational campaign against the horrors (personal and communal) of unwanted pregnancy and the supposed machismo of itinerant fatherhood, then the sooner we will get to see the light at the end of this tunnel.

Dears, Edward Seaga's inaugural lecture should be required reading for all would-be political, social, financial, and cultural leaders of our time, and for generations to come, as it is the best outline yet of the social ills which breed the criminal scourge of violence currentlyscaring us into thinking of migrating.

And then there is the question: Did we not see it coming?

Dears, the way forward has been identified. Eddie Seaga has given us the formulae. To ignore same, is to proceed at our own peril.

BRIGHTEST MINDS

The good news is, however, there were some of the region's brightest minds, from all sectors and both from the Afro-centric and Euro-centric divides in attendance, as well as the social and political classes in attendance and dears, the standing ovation Seaga received followed by the queue which saw him autographing copies of his presentation hours after, was a fabulous sign that the message would not be lost.

Dears, a fab cocktail reception followed, crowning with libation's and fabulous finger nibblies, what was truly an eye-opening presentation.

Those out, included: wife of the Distinguished Fellow, Carla Seaga, and her sibling, Dr. Diane Vendryes and his sister, Jean Anderson; Vice-Chancellors Emeritus, Sir Alister McIntyre and Professor Rex Nettleford; Vice Chancellor Professor Nigel Harris; Professor the Hon. Errol Morrison; Chairman of the UWI Endowment Fund the Hon. Dennis Lalor; Professor Barry Chevannes; Chris Bovell; Professor Dr. Trevor Munroe; Dr. Olive Lewin; Dr. Mavis Gilmour-Peterson; Dr. Oswald and Marigold Harding; Leader of the Opposition, Bruce Golding; JLP Senators Anthony Johnson, Hyacinth Lightbourne and Prudence Kidd-Deans; JLP MPs Carl Samuda; Pearnel Charles, Babsy Grange; Ed Bartlett and his brother, Dr. St. Aubyn Bartlett; wife of the Canadian High Commissioner, Mrs. Louise Valle; Juan-Carlos Espinoza; Mrs. Sonia Mills; Swithin Wilmot; Sue McManus; Greg Shirley; Mrs. Minky Jefferson; Dr. Henry Lowe; Norma Amenu-Kpado; Ken and Elaine Chaplain; Mrs. Elaine Melbourne; Joe and Clare McPherson; Dr. Jonathan Greenland and wife Dr. Rebecca Tortello; Dr. Marjorie Vassell; Dr. Christopher Tufton; Jeanette Hutchinson; Carl Bliss and Dawn Fuller-Phillips; Rocky Charles; Kent Gammon; Enid Harrow; Colin Leslie and his companion; Pat Nelson; Edward Jordan-Baker; Trudy Deans; plus several scores more.

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