Grounding with a Brother … Arthurton Nesty
In the Introductory Chapter of Walter Rodney's book, Grounding with my Brothers, Richard Small writes as follows, "Walter Rodney [was] … articulate, gentle, quiet at times but with strongly held views, and [had] an unassuming presence. He … went to the UWI."
If I were unmindful of the book I was reading, I might have thought I was going over the "requiem" of Arthurton Nesty (June 11, 1964 – January 31, 2013). Those who knew him will concede that he was indeed "articulate, gentle, quiet at times but with strongly held views, and [had] an unassuming presence". He was one of those University of the West Indies graduates who made his alma mater proud because he employed the high quality education he received from this great Caribbean institution of higher education to elevate his brothers and sisters. He also used his knowledge to interrogate the status quo instead of assuming a passive posture that would guarantee him a "comfortable" and trouble-free life, full of consultancies and preferential contracts. It is true to say that challenging the status quo can do irreparable violence to one's physical "health" in Dominica but at the end of the day, you do feel a deep sense of mental and spiritual peace knowing that this life is very brief compared to the unabridged, unedited and endless one which awaits us who do not attach too much weight to the material present. Arthurton, therefore, would have been restless if he jumped on the political bandwagon for personal gain! However, he did not dislike those who chose to prostitute themselves and their education. He merely tried to educate them.
I only heard of the shocking news of Arturton's mortal illness from Dr. Irving Pascal on a flight to Dominica on Wednesday, January 30th. I did not get off the aircraft in Dominica but journeyed on to St. Lucia, where, on Thursday, January 31st, I read with resignation and a sense of sadness, a Blackberry display profile message that read, "RIP My Good Friend". It appears that at the time Dr Pascal and I spoke, quite late in the day, Arthurton was utterly close to his earthly demise. I am grateful that my friend whispered this to me because it would have been quite a shock for me had he not. When the inevitable occurred, I simply resolved that Arthurton had departed the earthly and corporeal struggle and moved on to commence the spiritual one. To be sure, in his own words,
I have crossed over to prepare for grace … My soul is working my body is at peace And the spirit that was once one is now three (Arthurton Nesty)
One ought to cherish every moment. I did not see him often, nor did he see me often, for that matter. My longest engagement with him was when he served as the President of the University of the West Indies Alumni Association Dominica Chapter. However, not long ago, we met on King George V Street, as he was driving off in his vehicle, and he said to me, words to the effect, "Doc, keep writing those articles in the newspaper and continue to educate our people. Your message is solid. Good job!" These are words, I dare say, that many public servants today would be terrified to even whisper to me simply because they would not want their superiors, equals or even juniors to hear. Arthurton Nesty, of course, was not a coward and had no such anxiety in him. It was no coincidence therefore when another good Dominican met me at Arthurton's funeral and beseeched me, "Don't ever stop writing!"
I am not sure whether Arthurton knew yet of his illness when he offered me those cherished words of encouragement but I am certainly going to assume that he somehow wanted me to remain grounded with my brothers and sisters; if indeed he already knew of the extent of his illness, I shall be audacious enough to assume that he was defining in his unassuming way what in fact was a spiritual missive and wish, as exemplified in Bob Marley's song, Babylon System:
We refuse to be What you wanted us to be; We are what we are: That's the way (way) it's going to be. You don't know! You can't educate I For no equal opportunity: (Talkin' 'bout my freedom) Talkin' 'bout my freedom, People freedom (freedom) and liberty!
Arthurton indeed had strong views; however, they were beliefs and viewpoints which all decent people should or ought to have, including Rastafarians and those who call themselves Christians. He would not have wanted us to perpetuate the Babylon system, which is in fact a "vampire". He would not have wanted us to "suck" the children day by day, or "suck" the blood of the sufferers; he would not have wanted us to use our churches and universities to "deceive the people continually" nor did Arthurton feel that the role of universities and education in general was to graduate "thieves and murderers" masked as lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, police, financial analysts, economists, etc. And yes, in his final words to me when he greeted me that day, he certainly wanted me to, "Tell the children the truth; Come on and tell the children the truth". Arthurton did not want anyone to be trampled upon.
I imagine, therefore, that someone like Arthurton Nesty would make many people uncomfortable or afraid, even though he was, "gentle, quiet at times …" and had "…an unassuming presence." Our society these days does not tolerate independent-minded thinkers. If you are not agreeing with the powerful, then you do not like them (you are a hater) or you are jealous of them. The truth is that, unless we get over this idiotic, backward, banana republic mentality, we are going absolutely nowhere. Our country will never settle down and we will never be at peace. Why is there so much hate in a country with a population which is much less than 70,000? Simple: A handful or chosen few is benefitting at the expense of many. Stability is maintained simply because the exploiters are able to keep the unambitious crowd happy by flinging alms at them. With low self-esteem, that unambitious crowd does not realize it could do much better for itself.
But not everyone is satisfied with a life of begging and grovelling. Hence, someone like Arturton Nesty wanted to find a solution to this pollution (Peter Tosh) because he knew only the poor man and woman would feel it, even though the said poor man and woman were sometimes totally oblivious to their own pain and suffering because of the mental slavery which Bob Marley sang about.
Amidst all the pain and anguish, I was very encouraged to see the sympathetic outpouring at the funeral of Arthurton Nesty. I left feeling that indeed, we said goodbye to a good man and I must commend Monsignor Eustace Thomas, Parish Priest at the St. Alphonsus Parish, for conducting such a wonderful mass and for articulating the sentiments of many so appropriately.
As I reflect on this man, I am satisfied that he died with dignity and that his forthrightness has not gone in vain. Indeed, Peter Tosh stated it quite well for him, in his song, "Dem ha fe get a beatin":
Tell me how long Must the good suffer for the bad And every time the good open his mouth The bad say you musa mad
Dem ha fe get a beaten, Lord Dem mus get a beaten Dem ha fe get a beaten, Lord And dem can't get away
Truly, Arthurton Nesty "hurt no one" and his "scale is balanced" because he reposes in peace, knowing full well, that "The Lord said in my name you shall find vengeance". He was conscious enough to know that it is better to be a free man in his grave, than living as a puppet or a slave! (Jimmy Cliff)
Godspeed, My Brother Arthurton.
(c) Dr. Francis O. Severin is the Acting Director of the University of the West Indies Open Campus Country Sites.