It somehow amazes me that so many are now surprised to see that our tiny nation state has arrived at a position where even those that were in denial for decades can now see clearly as day that we are not wealthy and that we only foolishly expend what belongs to the next generations in order to sustain our vanity; that we are not the most fortunate in the universe or in the Caribbean and that the term first, second and third world does not really apply to us. Our situation as a national entity is indeed unique and for this reason there have been few socio-economic models that could have assisted us in recognising our unique national characteristics.
One thing for sure is that our adoption of a capitalistic model of development in the 1950s was not designed to fit our unique character as it was in Japan or Singapore where conscious and calculated efforts and arrangements were made to change the communal nature of their societies and implement capitalistic institutions and customs that would make them competitive in an international market governed by the principle of free exchange of commodities.
From the 1950s, land was the only real commodity Caymanians had to exchange internationally and it was perceived by some even that far back that if we were not regulated in the manner we exchanged this most valuable of commodities, our people would become like native American Indians. In my 1980 play Time Longer Dan Rope I attempted to dramatise the strain that commercial values and wealth as well as racial and class divisions had by the 80s already placed on at least a segment of Caymanian society, namely seamen that were socialised to a small extent into accepting commercial relationships on foreign ships, but who nevertheless were afraid or unable to stop being iron individuals and submit themselves to the rigour and routine of land life in an emerging commercial society that demanded education, experience and personal sacrifice rather than individual heroism.
Our Heroes Square is filled with the names of those that lived, worked and sacrificed in order to support and protect their families. And every time I think of the “hard men” in the McField clan, I cannot but understand how much our family has lost in the transition from a sea fearing subsistence communal community where caring and sharing was the motto, to the present impersonal, regimented and discriminatory class structured society we now live in. If my grandfather Richard Lemuel McField who was born 1879 could ever know what became of his lands, his family pride, his children and their children in these Islands he would rise up in his grave with his many guns and march to hell if that would turn things back to where we could recapture our power and dignity.
Time does not go backwards but time is longer than rope and I hope that we now see what I saw when writing my first play, Time Longer Dan Rope. Why my main character was called Beatman and why when another character Koolidge decided to leave Beatman working for the rich developer Mr Wilder as Beatman’s wife Ella demanded, said to Mr. Wilder at the airport; “I will see you again, if not this time the next time or the next time. But I hope that when we meet again we are on the same side”. What I was saying then as I am saying how is that the sale of our lands back then began a socio-economic and cultural division in our Island state that how haunts us like my grandfather’s ghost haunts me.
The real Beatman is dead and gone, God bless his soul, but the character this iron individual inspired is alive in Time Longer Dan Rope and I encourage those interested in the social thesis that I developed in this Caymanian drama to get a copy of this play and read it because we must understand where we are coming from before we can work out where we want to go. Because our new societal model must be inspired by our past and not just the fake posture of our political leaders who are forever creating national heroes in order to appeal to our vanity. Somehow we must begin to sculpt our future with our past in mind and this demands we face the Duppies of yesterday.
Land was the most valuable commodity Caymanians had when my father Charles Verdun McField was born on the 8th day of August 1916. Verdun is a place in France were a senseless and bloody battle for land had taken place during the first Great War and although one would have thought we were too far at the back of beyond to know of this senseless slaughter of human beings, my grandfather knew of the battle of Verdun and named his 10th offspring Verdun. My father named is first son Verdun and I named my first and only son Joshua Verdun McField because we as a nation should have built our lands to stay so that in departing we could have left behind soil that had not washed away. So that when our sons assumed the mortgage on this land that’s had our toil; they would not have to ask the question, here is the land but where is the soil.
God created the heavens and the earth so if we must tax then let us tax the land and not a man’s labour, for each man has an equal 24 hours in a day. If we must tax let us tax what has been taken away. If we must tax let us tax that which is not mobile and cannot be carried away in a suitcase or electronically. If we must tax let us not tax the poorest or the weakest but those that have more than is needed to supply their daily bread and sugar water. If we must tax, for God’s sake, bring the tax only if we have brought fiscal discipline to our government and our homes; otherwise let there be no taxation.