Has Hilary Beckles Traded His Soul To Ensure His Legacy?

The politics of globalization are about asserting one’s identity. If you can’t assert the authenticity of your culture…your nation, state and your culture will be rendered obsolete.

Hilary Beckles – Principal of the University of the West Indies (2002)

Does anyone think Hilary Beckles remembers the quote above? What the BU household remember is his valiant effort to gain a seat on the Board of Directors of what was the Mutual Assurance Society, since converted to a stock company and currently trading under the name of Sagicor. The fact that he lost the battle will not resonate in the history books as much as the raising of a black consciousness which a generation of black Barbadians have benefited. It was the classic David and Goliath confrontation, the established company successfully managed by the whites for many years off the backs of black policyholders, confronted by a black intellectual who was the beneficiary of a post colonial free education policy. Let us remember that the late Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow asserted that free education was to be the right of every Barbadian. The impact which the intervention Hilary Beckles has had on the landscape of Barbados will probably not be adjudged for another generation. We can probably agree that his single-handed battle interrupted the course of events and the consequence of it all is that black Barbadians and civil society took a giant leap forward.

A light bulb went off in the brain this morning while the BU household was frolicking on Browne’s Beach. What if we had a few more intellectuals like Beckles who were willing to remove themselves from their comfort zones and battle the many issues which require an intellectual perspective? Wow, can you just imagine it? The kind of change which is required in our dynamic society require leaders who can command the attention of the populace. Barbadians like no other people we know have always respected intellect; it is not the only quality which our leaders should possess but it is high on the list of prerequisites for the job. One failing of our education system has been the avoidance of Barbadians in the world of academia to rigorously interact with all the Estates of the Realm to ensure our society can benefit from the sum of all the knowledge within. Hillary Beckles has already demonstrated what is possible when intellect and a just cause collide.

What makes the Beckles quote above so relevant today is the speed at which the Barbadian culture and identity is being diluted with the onslaught of regional (CSME) integration which is interacting with the OECD creation called globalization. When we look around the world, we observe the South Americans battling the WTO and FTA. By contrast when we observe Barbados and the Caribbean, it appears that we are resigned to being led in a direction which is the bidding of our former colonial masters. What if Beckles was available to challenge some of the events unfolding under the guise of globalization? We read his comment in the local press about the cardinal sin which Barbadians will make shortly when its flagship company BS&T will see its Board Room migrating to Port of Spain. The ease with which Professor Beckles was able to register the concerns and fears of Barbadians in just a brief utterance supports our view that more intellectuals need to become more active in affairs of the state. There is little doubt in our minds that the current office of Principal of the UWI prevents Professor Beckles from being the strident advocate he once was, not to forget his goals at the UWI can only be achieved with the help of his new masters, corporate Barbados.

The job of leading the UWI Cave Hill is a crowning achievement for Professor Beckles. The passion with which he speaks about how he intends to achieve the vision of inserting a tertiary graduate in every Barbadian household by 2020 is laudable. We wonder though how many other able administrators are available to do what Beckles is doing. Barbadians are known to be good administrators so we doubt that finding a replacement for Professor Beckles as Principal of UWI-Cave Hill would present that much of a challenge. On the flip side there is a dearth of applicants who would seek the role which Beckles performed laudably before succumbing to the establishment. Some will say that Beckles is doing an important job of creating a cadre of Barbadians and West Indians to a higher learning which will benefit the region when the graduates are let lose in the region. The paradox which we have identified however seems to suggest that the majority of the graduates will seek contentment in the bosoms of society secure in the knowledge that there is a car in the garage and $30, 000.00 in the bank.

Professor Beckles, we think that you aborted your advocate role somewhat prematurely to pursue a misguided dream. What is the purpose of creating a climate where paper trophies are easily obtained but the entrepreneurial spirit to fan the knowledge gained from your current pursuit makes it an impossible task? Come down from the HILL and answer your calling. There will be time to be an administrator later, there is work still to be done in the trenches.



37 thoughts on “Has Hilary Beckles Traded His Soul To Ensure His Legacy?

  1. The lecturers and intellectuals don’t behave like intellectuals in Barbados. They behave just like anybody else, go to the mall, the cinema, screw the young girls at campus and say nothing on any issues. Their legacy is how many pokies they can notch. If you want intellectuals import them from Trinidad.

  2. BU, why don’t you just put a sign under BARBADOS UNDERGROUND stating, “Whites Not Welcome On Here”? Although I think most of them would have got that message by now.

    Anonymous~ why would you accuse BU of being prejudice? Would welcome hearing some specifics from you as to how you arrive at that position.


  3. yes i remember hillary beckles walking up and down barbados in his african suites and sending his children to one of those primary schools where the whites go .he said he wanted his children to think like the white man

  4. WANT TO KNOW~we miss you point! So he sent his children to a school where both whites and black attend. What has that got to do with the price of slice bread?

  5. Wait BU yuh uh Anon accusing you of running a black Mutual? or a harbor lights, no no maybe a black version of the Yacht club of old. Some how this blog don’t feel like how Strathclyde may have felt back in the good old days. Does anyone really care to spend their time hating or liking people base on their skin tone? Oh wait just pretend that the Jena six incident did not take place, as we did when Goodridge and son did a similar thing to someone in Barbados. You wouldn’t want to disturb this Anon’s sensitivities.

    …. Isn’t it interesting how Hillary’s Book “the Mutual affair a Corporate scandal in Barbados”cannot be found anywhere? Truly amazing. I know Hillary Beckles personally, and I know that he has not change his views of corporate Barbados and that of Barbadian politicians, that he also recognize that full economic enfranchisement where people can acquire their share of the market by merit and hard work, cannot be achieved by one man, and that his efforts only required one person as the catalysis but needs many more to be involved to see it true to the end. Such persons where lacking, they sat back, and some even joined with those who had a vested interest in having things remains as they were.


    Actually, I think he said words to the effect that he wanted his children to know how the “Opposition” think – whatever the hell that meant.

    David, BU

    First let me state that I am NOT white, and I have both black and white friends. I have been reading this blog for some time and it is MY opinion that you come through as anti-white. But I do NOT wish to be drawn into any debate about that, and yes, you may call me a coward if you like. Perhaps the black/white issue is too deep for what intellectuals like you might consider my shallow brain and I will just continue to love my black and white friends without question. I stand by my opinion, based upon reading many of your articles.

    Anonymous~we have taken note that you have not provided specifics and it is your right to move smartly along if that is your wish. Are you our friend from the “Gated Men’s Club” debate 🙂


  7. Adrian H~it seems whenever Beckles’ name is mentioned the debate will shift to race in a heart beat. The funny thing is that it is the brothers and sisters who toss this red herring argument in the mix. The fact that he got up off his ass and fought the Mutual ALONE so that the same brothers and sisters who criticize could be enfranchised is not even taken into consideration. We don’t agree with all that the Professor represent but in our household we are proud to have a man of such stature who can represent the race with fluency. The fact that he is provocative means he is doing a job!

  8. David this is the reason why he stop. He is not the type to fight on behalf of persons who are fighting him tooth and nail. In fact the group of Barbadians who stood to benefit the most had he succeeded in getting the majority policy holders to exercise their legal vote IN THEIR OWN INTEREST and that would have fundamentally change Barbados today, had in it’s membership some of the most vocal Anti-Hillery-ites these people i liken to the African American activist Du Bois’s “talented tenth” These are the ones that have gained a lot of material wealth, laments the dire straights some of their brothers and sisters still finds themselves in the lower rungs of society but will adamantly deny any responsibility for helping them up. They will emphatically tell you such is the role of the government, which as we can see conflicts with it’s intent and need to keep them in this state to justify their own (Gob) existence.

  9. Wasn’t Elombe Mottley not in the mix with Hilary Beckles back then? If I am not mistaken, the two men took the fight to ppl like Henry Forde and company. Not racist, but I am of the opinion that Henry Forde was/is pro-white.

  10. Our recollection is that Henry Forde and Peter Symmonds who were on the board were perceived to be pro-corporate or token whites as you say. The slant of our article was to focus on the participation from among the intellectuals, not that Elombe is not an intellectual, but you know what we mean.

  11. David, I do agree with Anonymous to some degree.

    I think the white supremacist capitalist patriarchal set and their indispensable comprador class and apologists would take one look at this blog and feel quite threatened and repelled.

    On the other hand, those of us who recognise that the legacy of exploitation, race & class based privilege has to be challenged, overthrown and replaced with systems that promote social justice, environmental protection, more equitable distribution of resources, respect for self determination etc. feel quite welcomed here.

    I too lament that Hilary Beckles withdrew from the fight he started. His arrival on the scene really promised to take things in Barbados to a whole new level but … he was derailed, I guess.

    It seems to me though that when bright young leaders (however flawed) with new ideas step forward in Barbados they are crucified instead of supported or not supported enough. A leader without critical mass can not survive, far less effect real change.

    To use the African American model:
    Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton all enjoyed/enjoy enormous support from African Americans in spite of their “issues” which allowed /allows them to have an enormous socio-political impact. Also their work has been/is supported by an army of intellectuals and thinkers, Cornell West, bell hooks, Randall Robinson, Amiri Baraka etc., who write accessible social critiques that constantly raise and refresh the level of discourse around race, class, disenfranchisement and empowerment. I too question the point of the UWI. It seems to reinforce the status quo rather than challenge it.

    David, one of the things that I really like about your blog is that you never (not that I’ve noticed anyway) take the low road and I should imagine it must be tempting to do so on a blog that deals with such “controversial” subject matter and attracts a wide range of commenters and comments.

    I think this quality of yours, (in addition to some others like humility, sincerity, being measured in your choice of words, to name a few) is very important for a blog of this type that many people inside and outside of Barbados must rely on to understand what is happening in Barbados. It makes you come across as a reliable narrator and I really appreciate that.

  12. The View From Here~thanks for your feedback. When we get the criticism we process it in a philosophical way by saying we can never please 100% of the people. We feel passionate about our country and it drove us to take the risk of establishing BU. We have several perspective on issues whether social, economic or political and we hope to share as we go on.

  13. We have to blame our educational system for where we are today. We were/are taught to learn and at the end, to get a job. Nothing more. Most “intelectuals” believe that their education is something to have and not used. In fact, most of them end up in jobs for which they have no training just because they have a degree.
    Such behavior bothers me. I am also guilty of the same. We pursued a course of study and what do we do? Take the job that pays more regardless of the relevance of application of knowledge. And who do we blame? Everyone except ourselves.
    What we need is a revolution in education that would allow us be become thinkers. That will take some doing as thinking is a lot of hard work and many of us are not prepared to think anyway. Somebody has to do it for us and then we would follow because we are good at taking orders and following others.

  14. The View From Here
    All that is needed is for ONE person to set the pace AND follow through with it. Yes, there is a need for the Martin Luther Kings, Malcolm Xs etc. These men never lost sight of their goal. They had a single focus. I thought that back then Hilary Beckles had that single focus, but he took his eyes off the goal and as a result, he allowed himself to be derailed.
    However, I don’t think that all is lost with Dr Beckles. I sense that the fire is still there when he made that statement re BS&T recently.
    Prof Beckles, we need more of the critical thinking coming from you. I believe that there is still hope.
    If having a UWI graduate in every household and they are not analytical in their approach then to use an old Bajan saying, we are only spinning top in mud.

  15. Hilary Beckles has not changed his views what he is doing now is silently training the people, the ones who want to be. With education, letting them know that education is the gateway out of poverty and to a higher thinking. Under his “professorship” people whom would not have made it into UWI for one reason or the other have been admitted, and are doing darn good too. He is indeed fulfilling his promise to education blacks, he is teaching then to fish. Giving them the change/start to a higher thinking.

  16. What we need is a revolution in education that would allow us to become thinkers. That will take some doing as thinking is a lot of hard work and many of us are not prepared to think anyway. Somebody has to do it for us and then we would follow because we are good at taking orders and following others.

    RR we agree with your view. When we look at Minister “too silent’ Wood, are you inspired that here is a policymaker who can bring the passion to our educational sector which is urgently required.

  17. Roger Rabbitt – I agree with you our education system is to blame. We are trained to be workers and not to be founders or great thinkers, so when a few speak out they are seen as odd or trouble makers. That is why our caribbean neighbours call us the “passive bajans”

  18. When President Chavez said recently that he wanted certain solialist subjects taught, and Castro’s speaches read by students, we was trying to change the minds of the students, and the citizens. Too turn them into thinkers.

  19. I believe that phylosophy should be taught in secondary schools, starting in third form. We wait until students (all ages) enter UWI and then introduce them to people like Aristotle, Pluto and the likes. We will begin to understand things like hedonism and why our younger generation is behaving the way they do. Perhaps we may be able to change the way children think and by so doing, these children will be the wave that will usher in the desired change.
    Until then, we will just continue to churn out the next group of gas station attendants, ZR and minibus crew, dope dealers and peddlers, and the new addition to the block. It benefits the so-called intellectuals to keep the rabble in ignorance so as to perpetuate the present mendicant culture.
    We need to teach the children and adults alike to think. That has always been my beef with the educational system that we consider to be so great.
    People ought to be able to reason. Perhaps the Ministry of Education needs to look at bringing back subjects like Latin, Logic, real English Literature (with prose and the like). Sometimes I wonder what the officials in the ministry are doing. They need to be proactive in trying to save our children.

  20. You are so right, Roger Rabbitt, and Richard “Lowdown” Hoad has been saying much the same thing for years, but … it will fall on deaf ears. Oh, by the way, um – that should be PHILOSOPHY, and if you were referring to the Greek Philosopher, as opposed to the solar system planet, that should be PLATO.

  21. Thanks, Anonymous. Recognised my blunders after I hit the submit button. Thanks again. Didn’t know what I was thinking.

  22. All of you who think that Hilary Beckles still got that fire in his belly,and the passion for ‘the cause’ – think again!

    Beckles – like those other persons ‘included’ by Arthur – is only thinking about himself.

    What he wants to do is leave a legacy which says- that he had a univesity graduate in every household – whatever that is supposed to mean.

    I guess like owen’s ‘ a car in every garage/house’ kinda speech.

    Note,he doesnot explain to us in a specific detailed way,where this is going to take Barbados and what will be the end result.

    For example,he mentions research but he doesnot give hard info about how a small island state like ours can have an impact on the world – and in what areas – nor does he seem to be working in conjunction with the business houses.

    His use of recent graduates of master’s programme – who have no work experience or experience in their related field – as lecturers – frightens me.

    The quality of graduates is not what it used to be.

    This is just another grandiose scheme – typical of the BLP regime – that will be once again – misdirected taxpayers’ funds.

    At the time ie the 80’s I believe beckles had raw passion and unbridled zeal – having not yet lost the stench of living in ‘racist England’.

    I also believe that Beckles wanted to make a name for himself – and saw a cause and a people ripe for the picking – his eyes were always firmly on the prize of ‘Principal and perhaps later Chancellor’

    No doubt about it his action was a catalyst for black bajans who were still asleep,and a boost for poor Elombe Mottley’ – who had been labouring in the vineyard – without any recognition or reward.

    But that’s as far as it goes – he is certainly no hero in my eyes – just a man who understood timing and understood the times – 2 necessary ingredients in ‘movers and shakers’

    And yes he did move and he did shake – which helped barbados – but also got him where he wanted to go.

  23. There was a time under the late Barrow and Adams that the education and health ministries were given to senior people in the party because of their obvious importance. The health and the education of a society creates the platform to go places. Taitt, Sandiford, Miller, Tull etc. Nowadays it seems these ministries are given to anyone Walcott, Thompson etc.

  24. Anonymous // Sep 22nd 2007 at 4:57 pm

    BU, why don’t you just put a sign under BARBADOS UNDERGROUND stating, “Whites Not Welcome On Here”? Although I think most of them would have got that message by now.

    I would like to state this.

    As long as they are different races in the earth there will be race issues.

    As long as there is men and women in the earth there would be man & woman issues.

    As long as there are honest people and thieves and liars there will be issues of honesty integrity and the such.

    I believe as an individual in calling things as I see it black or white (no race intended) if by doing people attach labels to me such as racist, homophobic, fanatic, etc then let the chips fall where they may.

  25. Anonymous
    “His use of recent graduates of master’s programme – who have no work experience or experience in their related field – as lecturers – frightens me.

    The quality of graduates is not what it used to be.”
    Couldn’t agree with you more. I would add that the average graduate is piss poor. Not well rounded.
    You talked about the 80’s and I think that the last real graduates were from that era. I have followed the quality of output from the hill and it certainly ain’t what it used to be. Would like to cite some examples, but I may betray my identity.
    Some lecturers and tutors do leave a lot to be desired. I say no more on that.

    When we look at Minister “too silent’ Wood, are you inspired that here is a policymaker who can bring the passion to our educational sector which is urgently required.
    Minister Wood is incapable of promoting the level of education required to move us forward as a nation. I cannot see anyone from among that lot to take us anywhere.

  26. People ought to be able to reason. Perhaps the Ministry of Education needs to look at bringing back subjects like Latin, Logic, real English Literature (with prose and the like). Sometimes I wonder what the officials in the ministry are doing. They need to be proactive in trying to save our children.
    Well i would not expect todays educators to revisit any ideas that may look like classical education. Oh no. We are teaching towards replenishing the workforce. Progress and enhancment in the society are left to the Politico’s and those who think it is their God given right to be the only ones who thinks for and onbehalf of all others in the society. You know there was a common statement i heard so often in the Barbadian workplace. “We don’t pay you think, we pay you to work”. Thinking was never encouraged beyond English comprehesion, and it was normal for that exercise to be intructed using some current but foreign context.

    I once read a book called Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder (a novel about history and philosophy) It gave a simple but yet powerfull idea to teach philosophy to a teenager.

  27. Adrian H~your comment is powerful and although some commenters have indicated that Beckles through his education is trying to empower the people how to fish, we still have concerns with an educational system which is not creating thinkers.

  28. David,
    You are beginning to pi** me of just like ‘Lowdown’. You hear me?
    I find myself having to agree with you more and more and especially to increasingly admire your patient and humble responses to critics – for example like ‘Anonymous’ who accuses you of being anti-white.
    Actually I was wondering if you ain’t white yourself.. ‘cause things so funny round here that, just like Lowdown you may turn out to be well…different.

    “The View from Here” correctly explains why many Bajans, of all shades, may feel that you are anti-white (they feel so about Lowdown too).
    How could you possibly suggest that blacks should expect to be treated with equal respect and have equal opportunity? IN BARBADOS?! In Board Rooms??
    David, I got close family and friends that can’t rationalize that yet…
    This is the role that Hilary played in the 80’s and this is the kind of EDUCATION that this country (well most of us) need more than anything else…
    Anyway- whether you like it or not…you have taken on this role now, in a big way– and a lot more people going to resent that. (Black and White)

  29. Here here, Bush Tea

    Sensible words.

    I think one of the beauties of blogging is that there are no faces involved. A blogger is simply judged on the stength of their argument and not their skin colour or sex.

    I would encourage bloggers to refrain from revealing their race or sex if it is not pivotal to a discussion. It doesn’t matter! It is the human inside which is important.

    It is common to hear people saying “that is black opinion” or conversely “only a white person would say that”, but mostly on this blog I can’t tell to which race a commentator belongs.(Nor should I be able to!). Lets have it stay that way!

    Maybe we should start a ‘mixed persons society’ and then we could ALL join, as every one of us IS a mix of something or another!!!

  30. Perhaps it’s a bit too late to change the educational system in Barbados. It’s based on the English one that was always designed to treat the training and rearing of the upper class child differently from the lower class one. Even the different types of Universities and Colleges in Britain and the U.S reveal this “differentiation” of labour.

    A pet peeve of mine is that the Barbados Scholarship should have a needs base and that the children of the professionals most able to pay for their kids’ attendance at Universities to study “actuarial science” should not be preferred based only on technology aided “A’s.”

    As for Hilary: a selfish man. A user of the system. Any benefit to Barbados or Bajans is an unintended consequence of his actions.

  31. Pingback: A UWI Student Offers A Comment On The Vision Of Professor Hilary Beckles For The University Of The West Indies «

  32. I know that Beckles discriminates the white staff at UWI and does hire preferably blacks, no matter what their qualifications are. Whites with much better qualifications are not hired when there is a black person with lower qualification applying for the same post. That is called discrimination. He works for his own benefit. Now they are building a new administration office, the shape of it pays homage to the rich Ashanti of Ghana, one of the kingdoms responsible over there for capturing blacks and selling them to the slave traders…

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