When I was a shop steward, and a really active one, in the Barbados Union of Teachers, I learned an unforgettable lesson.
One of my fellow teachers at St Leonard’s Boys’ came up to me in a very aggrieved state, telling me he was being victimised. It turns out that he had only one non-teaching period per week and, despite others having more, he was being asked to substitute every week, thus robbing him of his only non-teaching time.
As any good shop steward would do, I took it to the year head, who gave no satisfaction, then to the principal, who summoned both of us to his office. He turned to the other teacher and said: “Mr****, I understand from Mr Alleyne that you went to him with a grievance. What is it?”
The teacher burst out: “Who, me? I never took any grievance to Mr Alleyne, Sir! I don’t know what he is talking about.”
The principal told him he could leave then turned to me with the smile of the cat who has had all the cream and said: “I hope you have learned a lesson here today, Mr. Alleyne. Sometimes when you think you are chief, when you look behind you there are no Indians.”
It is a lesson which I took to heart and I am remembering it now because of Ronnie De Announcer Clarke. I wrote to him in this space last week, asking him to reconsider his decision to quit the calypso competition. Since then we have talked and, short version, he still dun.
What makes me remember Ronnie now is that on FB he is now asking which calypsonians will join him in quitting the competition. He is making it clear this is not in response to his placing at No.10 but rather a protest against the judging generally and the way calypsonians were treated this year, all of which I referred to last week.
Ronnie my brother, I suspect you may find yourself in the same position as I was in that principal’s office. When you look behind you, you will see no one, trust me. Not that that should stop you from taking whatever principled stand you choose to; go right ahead.
I distinctly doubt whether you will get any support, for the simple reason that I believe many will think that is not the answer to the problem. If yours is a voice saying things that are true but “the system” doesn’t want to hear, you quitting will only bring relief to “the system”, rather than make them look again at what they are doing.
I will tell you straight up that, once Jah keeps me around and fit, I will not give “them” the pleasure of knowing that there is one less voice to make “them” squirm. I am there because I bring messages from the people, wrap them up and give them back to the people; that is the contract I have with the people.
I will not allow frustration and anger to get me sidetracked from what my mission is. I will further guarantee you, my brother, that even if people come forward now and say “I wid you, Ronnie”, come next July they will not be there.
So I’m by no means trying to persuade you to take another tack. You’re a big man, with more children than I have, and you have got to know what you are doing, even though you went to Cawmere.
This is just a word trying to point out to you the pitfalls in leading people into something. Always check your rear view mirror, my brother.