West Indian identity
One characteristic feature of all living things is the search for identity. It is an essential concomitant of everything that walks upon the earth. It is as if without it life would be impossible. All beings would be lonely and as if lost in the wilderness if they could not in some way recognize their individuality in the context of relationship with similar beings. Identity gives us a place under the sun.
"Birds of a feather flock together." Animals cherish their own species while they are brutal towards others. A pride of lions in the forest are at peace with each other. However, let them only espy a flock of sheep, a bull or a buffalo and a massacre ensues.
Identity is a sort of definition of one's self. It indicates to us who we are. If we solve that problem we are at peace; we can live harmoniously and constructively. If we cannot, we are in deep trouble.
The former lawn tennis player, Jennifer Capriati, was at one time World Number One among the women. But she was plagued with drug addiction. She testified that her major problem was personal identity. She was on top of the world when she was playing lawn tennis. But when she stopped playing, she fell into a deep crisis. She could not define herself anymore. She did not know who she was. She had lost her identity.
West Indians have proven to be great men and women. The West Indies is not lacking in noble minds. Many years ago, the Trinidadian author, V.S. Naipaul, lamented the fact that West Indians lacked initiative. He said that they could initiate nothing—not even a revolution. He dubbed them "mimic men". This was well confirmed by the Trinidadian calypsonian, Chuckdust, who called West Indians "copy cats".
Recently, this has changed. Sir. Arthur Lewis of St. Lucia has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. Dr. Derrick Walcott of St. Lucia has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. His Eminence Cardinal Kelvin Felix of Dominica has brought the West Indies into prominence, being the first West Indian to obtain that distinction. Usain Bolt of Jamaica has established himself as one of the best athletes in the world.
Our major problem is not a lack of performance. What is lacking is a national perception of who we are as a people. We lack a national identity.
Throughout the world, States in which people lived a separate existence have joined together in spite of historical divisions. This was deemed necessary for survival. Their watchword was "In Unity Is Strength."
Up to the 19th century, Italy was merely a geographical expression. Today, it is a united country. The same is to be said for Germany, Australia, and other countries. This has not always been an easy process. Of the United States of America, it has been said that it was extracted from an unwilling people by a grinding necessity.
People naturally tend to cling to their individuality. Small States pride themselves on preserving their ethnic and historical identity. But in this modern world, survival demands that States unite to create a new nation.
In spite of some talk of West Indian identity, this hardly exists. West Indian identity is hardly more than an intellectual construct. It represents a vision, a dream, rather than a reality. It is something to which we should aspire and for which we should labour. However, it is a very distant prospect.
True, during the past sixty years much has been done by West Indian leaders to promote West Indian or at least East Caribbean unity. Efforts have been made to bring together the separate units of the former Federation of the West Indies which was shipwrecked in 1962. But as long as we stand outside the door of a single nationality, we cannot claim to have a West Indian identity.
The experience of West Indies cricket is a shining light for our political leaders. The West Indies were placed on top of the cricket world by the inspiring leadership of Sir Frank Worrell, arguably the greatest West Indian. Before him, C.R.L. James, maintained that the West Indies could never play as a team. They performed merely as individuals.
Sir Frank Worrell, as captain, changed that. For example, during a cricket tour, in the past, two Trinidadians occupied the same room in the hotel; two Barbadians occupied the same room. Sir. Frank changed that practice. For example, he had Rohan Kanhai of Guyana and Wesley Hall of Barbados to occupy the same room.
The trust exhibited and the respect which the players had for their captain were remarkable. Sir Gary Sobers relates that the West Indian players would be in a room carrying on a racket. "Just a moment, guys," Sir Frank Worrell would say, as he entered the room. Sir Gary Sobers says that the room would become so silent that "you could hear a pin drop."
When, in 1965, on the occasion of the celebration of the Independence of Barbados, two cricket matches were planned between Barbados and the Rest of the World, Sir Frank Worrell protested vehemently. He thought this would affect and damage the regional identity of the West Indian team.
Sir Frank Worrell gave West Indies cricket an identity. Anyone who desires to understand the power of inspiring leadership has only to study the history of the First Test Match at Brisbane, Australia, in 1960, which has been described as the greatest Test Match in cricket history. Sir Frank Worrell was then the West Indian captain.
What Sir Frank Worrell did for West Indies cricket must be duplicated on a political level. Only then shall we have a West Indian nation. Only then shall we obtain a truly regional identity.