Readers of this column would know that I have set myself the task of reviewing Bodden’s latest book, From Guard House to the Glass House, One Man’s Journey Through the Maze of Caymanian Politics.
Bodden’s book carries both a Foreword and a Preface. The word “Foreword” is said to have been borrowed from the German and French languages. The purpose of a Foreword is to get the reader interested, if not excited, about what is to come - a kind of appetizer before the main course. It tells what the book is about and why the work is important and the reasons it must be taken seriously. It sets the tone and says good things about the author from the vantage point of someone who knows the author. When well crafted, a Foreword serves as a fine complement to a work.
The Foreword in Bodden’s book is written by Annikka Brown, a childhood admirer of the author and fellow Bodden Towner. She sets the discussion in the context of ‘truth’ and the importance for the thinker to understand truth through the exploration of ideas. Herself a truth seeker, she explains how as a child, the author stirred her natural and youthful inquisitiveness and that, in time, she learnt to be “fearless” in her questions and understood her “right to choose any direction.”
She describes the author as a “titan in the pursuit of knowledge” who helped to set her out in her own journey of exploration by exposing her to such substantial and weighty issues as the nature of colonial experience, race and colour, black history and Caribbean civilization. Through him, she even had an early introduction to Walter Rodney’s, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Readers will know that Rodney, the brilliant Guyanese historian, had brought considerable weight to Caribbean and African history and to the understanding of the colonial enterprise.
Annikka Miller’s Foreword to the work appropriately gives much praise to the author, describing him as a great teacher from whom she learnt many lessons. She says, “I learned many lessons for myself through his life.” For her, this mentee is a warrior engaged in “the battle for the wellbeing of the youth and people of colour in our nation” and that he is the “lone voice of his generation.”
She explains that the work needs no endorsement, implying that, like truth, it speaks for itself. She says the text presents “The truth told by a human that has lived it”, and she invites the reader to become like students at the feet of the elder and listen. In near Biblical language, she exhorts, “Let the truths bubble up within you and choose what you will take as knowledge and live.” In another sentence she writes, “Look in this work for answers to guide you.”
In as much the Foreword mounts praise on the author, one can discern in the writer the attributes of the good student. The good student, while adoring who that person thinks is a great teacher, usually only agrees with the teacher to a certain extent, not totally. Aristotle did say of his teacher, Plato, “Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth.” The writer of the Foreword says that the work is lacking in the giving of answers - that it comes up short on prescriptions. She says “There are things that are painfully and conspicuously absent for me in this book. I see no end to the fight Mr. Roy has so valiantly taken up for lives like mine. I see no answers to his questions out to our leadership (for whom are we developing?).”
In reading the Foreword, one learns of the important intellectual influence of the author, a kind of Socrates of Bodden Town, having only questions to ask, not answers to give. It must be noted, though, that the intellectual is not always keen to outline solutions, as he is interested in the role of an intellectual mid-wife, helping to hone and develop ideas and assisting the birth process. Sometimes the practitioner, wanting quick solutions, underestimates this role.
Even though at points maybe a bit too elaborate in praise to the author, the Foreword to this book, in my estimation, sets the right tone for a reader to begin the enjoyable task of exploring the preface and the eighteen chapters of this work. We will summarize a few in the next column.