A new and thought-provoking chapter was opened Saturday in Cayman’s quest for its identity and place in the world during a book launch by former Cabinet minister turned author Roy Bodden.
Mr. Bodden’s scholarly tome, ‘The Cayman Islands in Transition: The politics, history and Sociology of a Changing Society,’ got its first public airing at the Sir Vassal Johnson Hall in the University College of the Cayman Islands.
In it he called for the putting aside of what he sees as such socially emotive and arbitrary distinctions as ‘paper’ and ‘indigenous’ Caymanian in favour of inclusivity.
‘My book emphatically calls for inclusiveness by allowing Cayman to develop into a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-national society,’ he remarked. ‘The symbolic relationship between ex-patriots and more established Caymanians is empirically unsupportable. Cayman is a totally imported society where some, by circumstance of having a longer association with the islands, have acquired rights due to such factors as ancestral privilege,’ he later suggested.
‘It is a remarkable coincidence that the book is being published at a time when Cayman is seemingly ready to move on to explore what self-determination might mean’.
Several members of the panel who were asked to give their opinions on the book and the author concurred on the book’s timeliness.
Constitutional expert, politician and academic, Dr. Carlyle Corbin Jr. proofed the manuscript and noted the serendipitous timing of the book.
‘The Cayman Islands is not alone in its quest for political and constitutional modernisation. ‘The Cayman Islands in Transition’ therefore becomes a critical contribution to this evolutionary process, and can be a valuable tool for many of us in other territories, as well, who should benefit immensely from the ideas and analysis explored in these pages,’ he said.
A key note of interest, he remarked, was Mr. Bodden’s interpretation of the financial sector in Cayman’s development.
‘One area of great significance in the book is Roy’s analysis of the emergence and significance of the international financial sector as it relates to continued economic advancement of the territory. This makes for the necessary analysis of the inter-connectiveness of economic and political development,’ he suggested.
Childhood friend, and former Cabinet colleague, Gilbert McLean described the occasion as ‘a historic event that to [his] knowledge was the first launching of a book of its kind in the Cayman Islands authored by an indigenous Caymanian.’
Attracting an audience of more than 300 people, the ambitious, wide-ranging book was said by its editor, Claudette Upton, to present a meticulously researched exploration into the internal and external forces and factors that have shaped the islands’ past, present and future.
According to another panelist, attorney and the author’s former political campaign leader, Theresa Pitcairn-Lewis, the book’s unflinching look at Cayman was a journey that would prove to be cathartic. ‘The intellectual paralysis that we have experienced regarding our history and politics is about to end… let us curse the darkness and light a candle to our intellectual odyssey’, she remarked. ‘We applaud you. We congratulate you. Yours is a story that it ours.’
The book’s publisher, Ian Randle, drew from his 35 years experience in the business by adding that he had never seen such a turn out for an event of that kind.
Four years in the making, Mr. Bodden’s 252-page offering was lauded as both: ‘a profound achievement’ and a ‘triumph over altruism and bigotry,’ by Master of Ceremonies Steve McField.
‘The Cayman Islands in Transition’ was seen as something of a vindication and personal victory for Bodden, one of the most scholarly, complex and intellectually provocative of Cayman’s chroniclers.
Following the mixed reception given to the public airing of his essay decades earlier, he himself now marveled at his determination in getting the book to this point.
‘One would either have to be mad or severely determined after the experience I had in 1978 to write again,’ he mused.
Emotions ran high at a few points in the evening. The most poignant moment being the author’s uncharacteristic loss for words. Rendered speechless, he bowed his head during the first standing ovation prior to his address. ‘It’s not often I’m overwhelmed, moved to tears and humbled… you don’t know how I’m touched,’ he commented.
‘This is your book, I just wrote it. I want you to claim ownership because it talks about us, everyone of us… It talks about creating a national, social dialogue: Who are we, where did we come from and where we’re going and highlights some of the challenges and it suggests what we could do to surmount some of those challenges,’ he added.
‘The Cayman Islands in Transition’ talks about a society which is unique in the way it thinks, unique in the way it developed… We are one of the few societies that have adopted the position of voluntary colonialisation.’
‘I believe what I wrote is balanced, well researched and if I might say so myself convincing,’ he advised.
Rather than expecting universal agreement with the book’s conclusions, interpretation and content, the author hoped that it would encourage broader discussion.
‘It’s not a polemic, political or a diatribe… I encourage readers to discuss it, to take issue with it. Nothing I’ve written is sacred or sacrosanct… Democracy demands that it be open to question.’
‘We have an auspicious history that we should all be proud of,’ he added.
Nothing worth striving for was easily obtained he remarked, adding: ‘I’ve found out that there are some people that want progress but do not want the pain and the challenges that progress brings… Progress without the challenges is like… like rain without the thunder and lightning… the sea without the roar.
‘In the 21st century, we have to face up to certain realities. My book’s not promoting independence and radical change. It’s promoting thinking amongst us as a society… an examination of where we could and should be going.’
Coming from what was termed ‘a humble and respectful Caymanian background’, Mr. Bodden said he was one of that generation who, having studied overseas, returned in the 70’s to help shape Cayman. And despite having been ridiculed for their opinions, later earned prominent positions in Cayman society. Time, too, will tell what verdict his book will gain in the court of public opinion, in this and generations to come.
Collection of short stories imminent
Roy Bodden has also begun work on a collection of short stories on Cayman in the 1940s to the 60s. With a working title: ‘Stories my grandfather never told me’, the collection is slated for publication in May/June of this year. At least one of the stories is set in old Caymanian dialect necessitating the inclusion of a glossary.