Wednesday, 27 February 2013 02:30
By Colin Sampson
Coming from the Book of Ecclesiastes, the words of chapter three, verses 1 to 8 provide the world with a sound foundation for constructing a sane view of one individual life, of the human experience in general, and of the Universe itself.
The cadenced poetry of those immortal lines from the Old Testament has become entrenched in popular culture, so much so that they provided the group “The Byrds” with the lyrics for their immortal Pop hit song: “Turn, Turn, Turn”.
The very beauty of those lines, calling powerfully to us across the millennia, demand that they be given due honour:
3 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
These are the times of our lives, and happy is the man or woman who can measure the value of time by the transcendent values expressed via this beloved passage of scripture.
This resort to Biblical Authority is prompted by an action taken recently by a patently sincere and forthright Lester Bird. The Leader Emeritus of the Antigua Labour Party took to the airwaves to clearly and unequivocally assert his support for the ALP in its current incarnation, and as led by duly elected replacement Political Leader Gaston Browne.
Lester Bird’s pragmatic action is laden with huge political symbolism, still caught up as we are in the backlash from the historic ALP convention of November 25, 2012 – a date that shall, in the eyes of many Birdite faithful, live in infamy. On that day, an unprepared Lester Bird watched as an organisation mounted by Young Turk Gaston Browne and (we have this on good authority) Asot Michael handily stripped him of his long held position at the helm of the party his illustrious father created.
That harsh reality has proven a bitter pill for many believers in the magic of the Bird name to swallow. The new political environment has proven even more difficult for a clique of young bearers of the Bird name to accept. Rumours are currently circulating around the body politic that a group flying the flag of “True Labour” is hoping to present the electorate with 17 candidates in opposition to the slate now being assembled by the “official” ALP, now flying the flag of “New” Labour.
“True” Labour is well known to be a “code name” adopted by two grandchildren of the Father of the Nation. Egged on by a noisy claque of starry-eyed sycophants, the “Birdlings” (as they have been dubbed) have embarked upon a quixotic campaign to defend a nebulous concept of an ALP based upon the indispensability of the name “Bird”. That this naïve display of political immaturity threatens to divert the party their illustrious grandfather built from capitalizing on a dazzling political opportunity is lost on the Birdlings, who seem more concerned with family pride than political strategy.
Viewed against this backdrop, the emphatic affirmation of loyalty to and support for the Gaston Browne-led ALP delivered by the Leader Emeritus assumes vast significance. Lester Bird’s unequivocal remarks give the lie to the Birdlings’ self-serving claims. Their efforts on behalf of the holy Bird name are now made to appear as nothing more than the mischievous antics of a couple of spoiled children and their following of shallow, irresponsible flatterers.
The significance of Lester Bird’s pronouncement lies in the immense political maturity that the man who once led the ALP has chosen to display at this seminal moment in the history of Antigua & Barbuda. However the nation arrived at this critical juncture, it is undeniable that our tortured body politic needs the ALP to act in a mature manner, in contrast to the mad, dictatorial career of the ruling United Progressive Party.
In the aftermath of the November 25 ALP convention, a political onlooker was heard to marvel at the smooth, almost balletic grace with which erstwhile Lester Bird loyalist Senator Lenox Weston appeared to swing his support behind the duly elected new leader. Upon brief reflection however, that same onlooker immediately understood that in the pragmatic world of political interests, Weston’s “switch” was actually a sterling example of the way things are supposed to work: in a healthy organisation all views are allowed to contend … but once the die is cast all hands are required on deck.
There is ample room for speculation about the real motives of “True” Labour. In the period following the Leader Emeritus’ affirmation of loyalty to the ALP, the behavior of the Birdlings will come under severe scrutiny. It remains to be seen to what extent a small clique of political neophytes is prepared to pursue a self-destructive, egotistical course. This may well be a good moment for yet another Biblical reference, this time referring to the pride that goes before a fall.
In the meantime, the senior leadership of the ALP has apparently decided that the golden opportunity that fate and Baldwin Spencer have conspired together to dangle before their party is far too good to trifle with. For the ALP, self-serving egotism is “out” … political maturity is most definitely “in”.