If there is any one Jamaican who has earned the title of 'living icon' it could be that person who is the Jesuit Priest Father Richard Ho Lung.
In a Gleaner article titled, 'Spoiling Usain Bolt', (Thursday, July 12) the cleric took Usain Bolt, horribly, to task. That is, of course, in vogue because to many of us used to Bolt cruising home way in front, at the Jamaican trials in both sprint races, 'him bus wi bet'.
After the trials I wrote a piece called, 'What is Superman Bolt's Kryptonite' (Sunday, July 8) which essentially said that the Jamaican superstar needs to hold back on the nice times and the entertainment, as tough as that would be for a young man of 25. I was really appealing to Bolt to see himself as a national asset, resist the temptation to yield to the immediate urges of having too many good times and long nights and go back to the basics of what made him the great athlete that he is.
The conclusion to my article was that the double loss to Blake at the Jamaican Trials was good for Bolt and could be, if Bolt wanted it to be so, better for him at the big show at the London Olympics.
Usain Bolt is arguably Jamaica's most internationally known public figure, outside of the late 'Gong' Bob Marley. When I was in the US in September 2008 with an international group of journalists, some were talking about Usain Bolt in Washington, DC, while days later while we were riding a streetcar in Memphis, Tennessee, at one stage we broke out singing Marley's One Love.
In my article, as tough as I was on Usain, it was certainly nothing indelicately pointed at the Jamaican and international superstar as what the holy man hurled at Bolt. I was plainly stunned.
In his article he states, 'If we want Bolt to be a great man, we would want him to walk humbly before God and man. To be a great athlete and to be a great man are two different matters. An athlete has great talent. A great man has a noble character. An athlete is less than a great man, a great man is forever, he forms a new generation of people who are strong. They endure all things and times, they live with integrity, and by principle. Never forgetting others but always sacrificing himself for others, he is a stranger to this world.'
Now, I can recall Bolt telling the nation at many times that he wants to be a legend. He has probably reached it already, but Usain has been telling us that in his mind, to meet his high athletic standards, he wants to better the 2008 explosive world record times in 2012. That would make him a living legend piled on top of the heroic international athletic status he already has.
But of course, never having promised anyone that one of his objectives was 'nobility of character' in the narrow vein that Father Ho Lung wants to lock the young athlete into, according to the cleric's thesis, Bolt has fallen short of greatness. Plus, I am certain that the cleric would want Bolt to win big at the London Olympics, but how could superman do that and be, according to Ho Lung's archaic standard of greatness, 'a stranger to this world?' Which book is that in?
Where in Usain Bolt's résumé did he promise us that he would be anything in the vein of what Ho Lung seems to be demanding of him, as in, 'A great man has a noble character. An athlete is less than a great man, a great man is forever, he forms a new generation of people who are strong.'
How does, 'They endure all things and times, they live with integrity, and, by principle' apply to the Jamaican superstar who has proven to us that although he can leave the rest of the world, especially the Americans, in his dust, he is still, after all, a human being with all of the human weaknesses that flesh-and-blood protoplasmic life-forms are capable of?
Does Father Ho Lung want Bolt to repeat a few Hail Marys? Would that satisfy him?
The holy man goes overboard and, whether he knows it or not, more than a smidgen of acrimony creeps through in what he said, as follows: 'Muhammad Ali is perhaps the greatest of boxers ever, and today he can hardly articulate a sentence of proper English. Whitney Houston is now dead; she had the most beautiful of voices. Same for Princess Diana, a mother and a woman of great beauty, dead in a crash early in the morning with an extraordinarily rich man, after wining and dining.'
Good God, Father! Are you more than implying that great athleticism, a beautiful voice, a beautiful woman, wining and dining and having money are mortal sins that cannot exist in your myopic, personal, carved-out world?
I have the greatest of respect for the Jesuit priest simply because he has led the Jamaican moral cause in caring for many of the poor, the powerless and the rejects of this society. I must admit that as much as I consider myself a 'people person' I could never replicate the life of Father Ho Lung and the demands that such a life would make of me.
My problem with the holy man is that he seems to want to make Bolt in his own narrow image. He says in his piece, 'Mr Bolt is a great athlete, but he is not yet a great man. When he works hard and practises over many years under sage adults, when he realises and acknowledges that all he has comes from God, and that he should not proclaim himself a legend, then one day he would begin to attain wisdom. Bolt was accustomed to giving thanks to God for his victories. I pray that he continues to do so.
'After all, wisdom is attained at 50 years, not at 25, and the most valuable gift a man can have is that he has sacrificed himself in service of God and his people.'
Oh, heavens, I had no idea that all of those Jamaicans and people of this world like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson and Bob Marley who gave much to the world before they reached age 50 were all people lacking in wisdom. Plus, apparently all who died at 49 were blithering idiots!
And, oh, I forgot, according to the New Testament I could swear that Jesus of Nazareth, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to Ho Lung was crucified in His 30s after He gave much 'wisdom' to the world. Father Ho Lung must make up his mind on these things.
To go by his reasoning, every person in Jamaica, no, the world, should probably be like him, resist the urge, as all great athletes do to proclaim oneself a 'legend', live to at least age 50 and give service to God and man. Until one does that, one, 'nuh ready yet'.
Were Father Ho Lung Bolt's manager in London he would probably tell the young superstar to resist his animated bravado before races and instead give kudos to the bigger holy man in that powerful little corner next door in Rome.
I am 62 years of age and it seems that I am afflicted with the same condition that Father Ho Lung seemingly has -- the envy of youth.
Of course I wish I were 22 or 25 again when I would leap over my gate instead of opening it, but of course I would be saddled with the painful impossibility of having the understanding that I now have.
But to deny Bolt, as Father Ho Lung does, of his own bit of grandstanding and bravado is to tell me that Father Ho Lung has forgotten and probably hopelessly lost that empathy towards the way of the young among us.
He ends his piece with, 'As for Mr Yohan Blake. Why call yourself a beast? Read the Book of Revelation. I wish you both success in the upcoming Olympics.'
Mr Yohan Blake, be the athletic 'beast' that you want to be. Resist the urge to read the scary, depressing Book of Revelation and just do your thing, young man.
Keep on chasing superman Bolt from both ends and ensure that at the end of the 100 metres final, the only separation between yourself and Bolt is the Jamaican flag.
Ok, the CIA tended roses in Jamaica in the 70s
According to veteran journalist, my colleague columnist Ken Chaplin, my statement that the CIA was very active in destabilising the 'democratic socialist' PNP in the late 1970s was simply a lot of hot air.
To quote Chaplin (The CIA and Jamaica - July 10), 'The whole allegation of the CIA's destabilisation of the PNP Government began in 1975 at a meeting of the Inter-American Federation of Journalists in Mexico City, Mexico, where I led a delegation from the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ). The other members of the delegation were journalists Gloria Maragh and Ben Brodie. At the meeting, the Cuban delegation moved a resolution that the JLP in conspiracy with the CIA was creating violence in Jamaica so that the PNP would not win the 1976 general elections. I opposed the resolution on the grounds that there was no evidence to support this statement. After an intense struggle with the Cubans and other "progressive" forces at the meeting, the PAJ's position prevailed.
'At the time I was secretary of the Press Association of Jamaica and editor of the Editorial Division of the Government's Jamaica Information Service (JIS). When the delegation returned home, I was severely punished for the stand I had taken. A hard-line communist was immediately brought in to replace me and I was shifted to the Public Relations Department as chief public relations officer under director of public relations, PNP George Lee, who is now mayor of Portmore.
'Of course, the CIA was operating in Jamaica at the time, it was said, collecting political information and watching if the PNP would march from democratic socialism to orthodox socialism or communism with the backing of Cuba. There were a host of Cuban agents in Jamaica between 1975 and 1980, some unofficially advising the JIS. I knew the CIA's station chief, whose first name I will mention. His name is Jack and he was quite popular in political circles. He bore a striking resemblance to the late Clark Gable, the famous American movie actor.
'For a long period the communists at the JIS and JBC regarded me as a reactionary, and put me under severe pressure which ended only after Prime Minister Michael Manley and minister of national secretary Keeble Munn made it clear that the CIA was never involved in the destabilisation of Jamaica. In a statement last Wednesday, in response to Wignall's piece, Edward Seaga, who was opposition leader, said that the CIA played no role in the JLP victory in the l980 general election.'
Is that it?
Let me ask Chaplin these questions. Was the size of the CIA delegation in Jamaica (as if he would know) just as large if not larger than that which operated in Chile prior to the ouster and murder of Allende in the early 1970s? He should remember that it was President Nixon who in 1970 gave the order to the CIA to 'let the economy scream' in Chile. And scream it did with dire consequences.
Was he aware of numbers of 'white men' unpacking guns from dravo boxes (small sea containers) at a particular place in the company of a well-known Jamaican 'man of interest' (now deceased) and a certain 'army man' (now deceased) who was connected to the JLP?
Is it at all possible that Chaplin reasonably believes that the US could afford Michael Manley's dangerous courtship with Castro by just standing aside and tending to roses?
Chaplin admits that he knew the CIA's station chief, a fellow he calls Jack. Apparently Jack got around a lot, wooed the women, raised his glass more than once but, terrible fellow that he was, he never told them what he was really doing. Go to your room without any supper, Jack!
As if Jack needed to wear on his T-shirt, 'CIA in destabilising mode.'
Does my colleague really believe, as Seaga hinted, that a PNP minister thought that it was probably the Mafia trafficking the guns into Jamaica? For what purpose?
If we even buy into that, does Chaplin share the view that it is usual that when the CIA operates, especially after learning the lessons of the botched Bay of Pigs 'invasion' in Cuba, it uses surrogates to do its dirty work?
How did the supermarket shelves in Jamaica (between 1978 and 1980) become empty, yet the day after the election all shelves were stocked?
Was some entity funding key members of the private sector during those times?
And, again, who or which entity paid for the sudden influx of high-powered weapons that invaded our lives between 1976 and 1980?
Was it the tooth fairy, a rolling calf, or was it dear old Santa Claus?