The following is the first column written by the late Barbara Gloudon for the Jamaica Observer in its third edition on Sunday, March 21, 1993. Her commentary focused on the death of Professor Carl Stone.
“Ashes cold, dawg sleep in deh…cotton tree fall dung, goat jump ovah it…” (traditional proverb). “When the mighty has fallen, lesser beings tek liberty,” (new proverb).
Professor Carl Stone is dead.
Professor Carl Stone won great reputation as a cephalogist (head counter if you will). When he polled, no one dared cast a stone. But that was before he died at the untimely age of 53. That was just days after the Leader of the Opposition exhorted the faithful at the JLP [Jamaica Labour Party] Candidates Presentation Assembly at the National Arena to join him in seeing that Professor Stone, who was gravely ill, received the third-highest National Order which a grateful Jamaica could confer upon a citizen. That was hours after leaders of public life and citizens from every walk of life gathered at the University Chapel to say the final farewell to a man who was extolled as a giant in his time.
The funeral service was barely over when a spokesman for the Opposition was on our national (our only) TV station declaring that Stone’s last poll was so flawed there was doubt that he did it… And if he didn’t, then whose was the sinister hand which got therein and muddied the waters (so to speak and speaking loosely). Was there a ghost writer to be unmasked? Scandal!
Oh, how one yearns for a modern miracle. Can you imagine what would happen if Stone were to rise from the dead and face his accusers? Imagine if you will how his eyes could flash fire, his nostrils flare, his voice rise as he denounced those who could cast doubt upon his pollistic integrity? Can you see the reams of inches — sorry column centimetres — burning the paper of The Gleaner’s editorial page as he reminded his detractors of his bona fides, of his impeccable record of interpreting to the people what they did not know, what they needed to know about themselves? Can’t you just hear him asking if the doubt being cast was because the results were unflattering?
But… the dead sleep. Only one man has ever risen to live again to tell the tale. For those of Judea Christian sensibilities, it is interesting that this is all occurring in the season of Lent, a time when believers believe that the Devil works hardest.
The sordidness of some of what passes for discourse in this newest “plastic bag” controversy is really sad. That it should be happening so soon after Stone’s passing and that it should be coming from the very quarters where his name had been held up so highly a very short time before, makes the situation tragic comic. It is material for which any good playwright would give his/her right arm. What a drama it could make...with characters growing to their full potential, with the cliff-hanging suspense which we are led to believe is the stuff of which good drama is made. For the first time (perhaps) our theatre critics would have something.
So where are we now? One thing of which we are sure: Everybody (except us, of course) is rotten to the core and corrupt in every way. So what are we going to do about it? Who is to change? Who is to mould the society into the wholesome, honest Utopia for which we all yearn?
Jamaica proverbs again: “Every time yuh point one finger forward …watch how much a point back…”
But then, that will never really register with some of us who live by the creed, “Eye nuh see…heart nuh leap.”
So here we stand…hours after the nine night, and the dead is not permitted to sleep… “Ashes cold, dawg sleep in deh…” Indeed, when the fire burned hot, we were careful how we approached.The embers are ours now… Nought but the ashes remains, and we are free to roll and toss in it as we will, for we are all bull bucker and “duppy” conqueror. The mighty cotton tree once soared towards the sky… That we couldn’t even ascend the lower branches. But it lies fallen now… We can’t climb it… but we can jump over it… Watch and see!
PS: Welcome to the Jamaica Observer. The birth of a newspaper is always exciting — with the promise of new avenues of expression. As a newspaper freak myself I must say I find the choice of print medium now being offered to be ready stuff. Might I wish for my colleagues a respect for the gods of spelling, syntax and all other gods whom we must propriate. And not to put too fine a point on it, I commend to one and all that old newsroom motto: “Get the facts.”
Barbara Gloudon was a Jamaican journalist, author, and playwright.