THE EDITOR: I thoroughly enjoyed reading Fr Martin Sirju’s commentary on Winston Bailey’s (Shadow’s) lyrical contribution to our culture.
He interprets Shadow’s confession of being plagued by a relentless “bassman” in his head not as an admission of auditory hallucinations but rather as the way Shadow chose to identify his muse.
Sirju suggests that Shadow, like the Prophet Jeremiah, might have exclaimed: “Lord You seduced me, and I allowed myself to be seduced.”
He suggests that we all in some way each have a “bassman” in our heads – even as Jesus himself did.
He equates it at once with the irrepressibly haunting and irresistible call to vocation, which at a deeper level becomes seamlessly conflated with one’s moral conscience and serves to deepen one’s sense of yearning for truth and justice – both of which often cannot share the same bed with wealth and power.
A “vocation” represents a “call” to devote one’s life to creative work. It is the Hound of Heaven who is hounding you with an invitation to share in His creative joy. It is up to the person to consent to this divine seduction by an act of will.
This is the same creator who warned that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to pass through the gates of Heaven.
Are we to believe, then, that God – the personification of love, truth, and justice – prefers that we live lives of destitution? Or are we to believe that pauperism is a sure ticket to an afterlife replete with excess? I should hope not.
Material excess is irrelevant in the afterlife and adds little to the essence of our humanity in the here and now. Poverty represents scarcity. Wealth equates with excess. Scarcity is a fundamental prerequisite of our existing economic system. Our global economy is premised on scarcity – the latter is built into the very definition of “economy.”
The world would have us believe in the rags to riches myth. It is a deceptive contrivance meant to have us turn away from fulfilling our purpose on Earth by enticing us to pay homage to the god of excess – Mammon. It is not our money that turns us into camels but our love of it. We are continuously enticed into worshipping the thing.
Extreme wealth disparity offends against justice and raises questions that Shadow himself addressed when he lyrically reflected on “what is wrong with [him].” In another of his songs – Poverty is Hell – at the very outset he asserts: “Poverty is hell and the angels are in Paradise/ Driving in their limousines where everything is nice and clean/ A poor man living in a teeny-weeny hut/ The children hungry, nothing in the pot…”
Poverty is as much a part of the human condition as a man or woman having two arms and two legs. Deliberate deprivation/impoverishment – pauperisation – is neither human nor necessary. While it is a contemptible offence against the essence of our shared humanity, it is also the sinister tool used by demons as leverage to entice us into giving internal consent (choosing) to that which is not of God.
Today, wealth and politics are commingled into a cult. In today’s world one cannot at all be singularly devoted to a moral life and at the same time expect to be materially wealthy without kissing the feet of Mammon – or politician.
The nagging sense of unfulfilled intellectual satisfaction in all these analyses of Shadow’s lyrical works arises from the fact that no one has dared to suggest that he lyrically offended those who wielded control over the cult of wealth and politics when he reminded the PNM of its legacy: that there are venomous snakes lurking in the balisier.
STEVE SMITH via e-mail