If a mechanic and a lawyer give their opinions on why a car is not starting, we would likely believe the mechanic. If the subject is an interpretation of a law, we would likely believe the lawyer. In Barbados, we tend to believe persons who give opinions in their field of training.
Every profession has its activists who aim to influence Government’s policies. Some activists become radicals, where they pursue similar aims, but by any and all means imaginable, including nightmarish.
Professions are responsible for policing their radical activists, lest they bring their professions into disrepute. Radicals can do this by consistently making claims, that are easily disproved with credible evidence. For that reason, radical activists rarely provide evidence to support their claims.
It was therefore a modern miracle, when historian Trevor Marshall did the unthinkable. He recently revealed the main evidence that the government relied on to trash Horatio Nelson’s reputation, and remove his over 200-year old statue.
Trevor Marshall revealed (in a letter to the editor, published in the Nation on 2 Dec 2020) that historian, Dr Marianne Czisnik, “documented Nelson’s involvement in the slave trade” in her book titled, ‘Horatio Nelson: A Controversial Hero’.
I read the well-researched book, which is based on Dr Czisnik’s 2004 doctoral dissertation. Dr Czisnik critically reviewed the available evidence, to strip away any myths about Nelson.
The book contained no information that “documented Nelson’s involvement in the slave trade”, as Mr Marshall claimed. Mr Marshall is free to dispute this, by providing the page number on which his evidence can be found. Our journalists, poets and politicians who actively promote his claims as truth, should encourage him to do the same.
I have come to accept that in Barbados, an Engineer is unlikely to be believed in a dispute with a historian, when the subject of the dispute is history. It does not matter that the historian’s claims can be easily disproved, they can only be disputed by other historians. If they are not disputed, they are accepted as true by our politicians, and used to direct government policies.
Radicals can make obvious false timeline claims, like Nelson killing Martin Luther King during the civil rights era in the 1960s, and no amount of evidence that an Engineer can provide can make a difference. Notably, Mr Marshall has made easily disproven timeline claims against Nelson, which our historians would not dispute – so I decided to do it, but I should not have to.
It is time for honest and brave professionals to evidence-referee claims made by their radical activist colleagues. They need to be brave because radical activists normally respond to request for evidence, with insulting accusations intended to intimidate everyone.
Historians with integrity may be denounced as racists if they are white, or traitors to their race if they are black. The aim is to intimidate independently-minded journalists, teachers, poets and politicians not to attempt such folly – and it has worked. In modern Barbados, evidence about radicals’ claims can neither be requested nor discussed – without persecution.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com