Throughout his career, Roy Bodden says he has been branded a troublemaker, a pariah and even a communist.
Now he hopes to add a more flattering title to that list – public intellectual.
The historian, author, former college president and politician is carving out a new role for himself as the conscience of the community.
Speaking at a symposium held in his honour, Bodden outlined his concerns about the current direction of the island.
He said the “establishment” had sought to crush and to silence the ideas of those, like himself, who challenged the status quo.
Speaking specifically about overdevelopment and the threat to the environment, he said, “If a stop is not put to this madness soon they will concrete every square inch of these islands and tear down every mangrove.”
Bodden said his aim, through his writing and public speaking, is to elevate and promote ideas that are in the best interests of the majority of the people of the Cayman Islands.
“We need people who are going to prick our conscience, stir us up and remind us, show us, teach us, where we are going wrong,” he said.
In his presentation at the conclusion of the event on 25 June, Bodden said all the speakers shared a common concern about the direction of the country.
He said his hope, through the symposium, was to promote the work and opinions of those who valued scholarship, food for thought and education.
But he warned that intellectualism was not currently highly valued in Cayman society, saying “socio-economic status, caste and colour” were placed in greater esteem.
“We live in a society where persons who draw on their intellectual insight, write, speak, elevate and inform the society are regarded as pariahs, troublemakers and persons who should be got rid of,” he claimed.
Bodden also called out the University College of the Cayman Islands, the institution he headed as president up until his retirement in 2018, saying permission had been denied for the event to be held at the college.
UCCI released a statement in response, saying the only request it had received about hosting the symposium was made approximately a year ago and had not been feasible because of COVID-related limitations.
It said no further requests had been made and it would be willing to host the event, or similar ones, in the future.
- This article is part of a short series based on some of the presentations from a symposium titled “JA Roy Bodden Public Intellectual: Interrogating the Cayman Society” held at the Harquail Theatre in Grand Cayman on 24 and 25 June. Many of the lectures were influenced or inspired by author and historian Bodden. To watch the full event go to the government’s YouTube channel.