Heavy Logix.

Lateral Thoughts on Life.

Marcus Garvey and the Unconquerable Soul.

Jamaica has a lot of Public holidays and on August 1 we celebrated Emancipation Day. This is our most recently added public holiday and while the vast majority, like myself, welcome any chance to stay home from work, some feel the day was granted just as a politically expedient move by our first “really black” Prime Minister to make people remember him, (and his Emancipation Park), in a good light throughout all generations.

Others have more interesting reasons for not being ecstatic about the extra day from work. Author Marlon James for instance doesn’t get the concept of
celebrating Emancipation day.  He recently said, (on his Facebook page), “Had we kicked butt, shed blood and dropped like genocide on a couple hundred planters then yeah, I can celebrate that. But why am I celebrating “You were handed Freedom because of the already declining West India interest day?” ”

His comments were certainly thought provoking and immediately led to some interesting replies such as this one from Damon Mills, “You know, if there’s a pack of wolves chewing on your leg and suddenly and of their own accord they wander off because they suddenly remember they prefer elk meat and they heard there was a joint nearby where the elk hang out, you’re still allowed to be pretty happy about it, even if you don’t have the macho satisfaction of having fought them off using just a can of Lysol and the ignition key to a 1977 Buick Skylark.”

That one really cracked me up but Fragano Ledgister took a stern and
historical approach by saying “Marlon, ( remember all this banter was on
Marlon James’ Facebook page)
that some of my ancestors were *property*
down to 1834, and that at midnight on the first of August they ceased to be,
matters a hell of a lot. The mechanics of the process, including the Baptist War, was complicated and included the decline of the old West India interest (part of the overall decline of the old landed interest that  accompanied the rise of industrial capitalism), but it also involved active resistance by the slaves themselves. Please don’t come with that “house negro” thing either. Household slaves were a small subset of non-field slaves, and much more under the thumb of the owners than the true agents of the maintenance of slavery, the drivers (who were slaves).”

Mr. Ledgister’s comments seemed a bit stiff and verbose to me, perhaps too
politically correct,  and I was actually glad when Marlon James replied in his typically highly irreverent manner, “That’s another thing. It’s the one day everybody tries to be deep by saying “but are we really emancipated?” The answer is yes, you jackass. If you have the time to ponder quasi-existential questions without a whip coming straight for your backside it means you is free. Do we know what to do with freedom? That’s another story.”

It all got me thinking what really is Emancipation ? How should we use our
Freedom ?  Is bantering on Facebook really the best use of our time ? If that
brings us happiness  could anything really be better ?

The Emancipation Park has engraved, in one of the walls near the
controversial statues, the following words, “Emancipate yourselves from
Mental Slavery “. The line is taken from a Bob Marley song and Bob took it
from a Marcus Garvey speech. Marcus Garvey more than anyone else thought about the question of how Freedom should be used. He knew what
Emancipation was all about.

Lesson 1 from Garvey’s writings for his School of African Philosophy says
simply “You must never stop learning.” Garvey believed in the need to uplift
ourselves and to do this we would have to think powerfully. “Anything you are going to challenge you must first know about it so as to be able to defeat it.”, he said. In this same lesson he urged that we read widely and keep knowledge up to date. He also encouraged the appreciation of Good Music and Good Poetry, for the same reason, they can elevate your thoughts. Read a Chapter from the Bible everyday and quote from it  he advised.

Garvey advises us ” Always have a thought. Make it a beautiful thought. The
world is attracted by beauty either in art or in expression. Therefore try to read, think and speak beautiful things.”

Garvey then ends this first lesson with  the following poem

by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Many modern readers are familiar with the last lines of the poem because the classic  “Think and Grow Rich”, a self-help book by Napoleon Hill, uses “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” as a motivational tool to encourage the reader to take charge of his or her life.

Garvey was  aware of many New Thought ideas and showed his forward thinking by choosing a poem that still has influence on modern business. Just recently I listened to Brian Tracy, a leading motivational speaker, talking about Goal Setting, and he used this very poem in his presentation.

The author of “Invictus” knew what he was talking about from personal experience. At the age of 12, Henley became a victim of tuberculosis of the bone. In spite of this, in 1867 he successfully passed the Oxford local examination as a senior student. His diseased foot had to be amputated directly below the knee; physicians had announced that the only way to save his life was to amputate.

Henley persevered and survived with one foot intact. He was discharged in
1875, and was able to lead an active life for nearly 30 years despite his
disability. With an artificial foot, he lived until the age of 53. “Invictus” was
written from a hospital bed despite Henley’s condition.

Maybe Damon Mill’s comments were way more than I first suspected as they came back to mind as I read this on Wikipedia.

For me Emancipation Day provides a chance to reflect on the advice of the powerful prophet Marcus Garvey and for that I’m very grateful.


August 3, 2009 - Posted by | blog, current news, humor, Lateral Thinking, non fiction, philosophy, Psychology, song lyrics, Strategy, success, think and grow rich, writing | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Hello, ‘Heavy,’

    I went looking for you after you commented on my Shibumi article. You have an interesting blog, to which I will return when I have more disposable time (I am not indisposed, merely engaged in a writing project at a solo retreat in the countryside-islands of greater Stockholm).

    My dad often quoted Invictus, in full. He said it, and Beeethoven, got him through the Great Depression of the 1930s and early 1940s. I recited it at his memorial in year 2000. I have no (recent, anyway) slave forebears so I don’t have an opinion on how it feels to be a ‘legal’ slave or descended from one. I know my dad considered himself a ‘wage-slave’ and was an active socialist. As he advanced economically through his later years, by diligent and expert labor as an all-round printing tradesman, he was less likely to recount the hard hard times, at least with the passion of earlier years. From my relatively advantaged perspective the final lines of the poem smack of hubris. I am inclined toward The Tao and a Zen way of thinking or perceiving. I do see, however, the value of the poem and its recitation for Dad, as a sort of drug to get him through an otherwise impossible time, just as certain pharmaceuticals will get people through short term episodes to where their own healing faculties will regain their ascendance. This method was used by the brujo Don Juan Matus in introducing his apprentice Carlos Castaneda to the mysteries of the transcendent in the Yaqui ‘Indian’ way. But I ramble. I have heard of Marcus Garvey, but have never gone further. Can you recommend a book that will help me understand him and his importance to Jamaicans?
    Best wishes,
    Ron Pavellas

    Comment by Ron Pavellas | August 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. I appreciate your comments very much. As for a Garvey book,I’d recommend “Marcus Garvey Life and Lessons” edited by Robert Hill. Good luck with your writing project, sounds like lots of work but also rewarding. I’m sure your dad is smiling on from on high, glad you’re encouraging people as you remember him 🙂 thanks. I also like Taoism but sometimes feel a need for a more personal God and find myself praying in moments of deep crisis. I am a seeker I guess, started reading a Castenada book and found it really fascinating too. Garvey actually used a lot of New Thought Ideas along the lines of “Think and Grow Rich” in some of his speeches.

    Comment by heavylogix | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  3. It is interesting you call yourself a “seeker.” This is a label given to one of the twelve archetypes (based in Jung’s teachings) explained by Carol Pearson in several of her books, summarized here: http://changingminds.org/disciplines/storytelling/characters/pearson_archetypes.htm

    I will certainly order the book you recommend, and thanks.

    Writing words is something I’m wound up to do, but whether they are interesting enough (in the mass, as in a novel or short story) to generate revenue has yet to be proven. I share interesting correspondence with many people and this is satisfying in itself, including especially the weekly blog articles I’ve offered for over two years. I am not driven to be “successful” commercially, but currently I take it as a challenge to complete something that could possibly interest a publisher (or at least the writing group of which I am a member). I’m not in a hurry, either. There is much to enjoy in life beside issuing words through some medium.

    Best wishes,


    Comment by Ron Pavellas | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  4. I’m an INFP (used to think I was INTP) so Jung would perhaps have called me a “Dreamer”. Thanx for that link to archetypes I will check it out. I read Carolyn Myss interpretation of various archetypes and found it quite useful in her book “Sacred Contracts”.

    Comment by heavylogix | August 21, 2009 | Reply

    • Ah, so you familiar with the Myers-Briggs typology. Before I retired from employment I got myself qualified to administer and interpret the MBTI instrument. I wanted it to be an adjunct to the small (one person) management consulting company I set up upon my move to Stockholm from California (I married a Swede). I have since retired that enterprise, as well. I am an INTJ, variously labeled “Mastermind, “Scientist,” and the like. I’m not so fond of summary labels, the human being rather a complex entity. I find the characteristics assigned to the different 16 types useful in my writing, as well as the archetypes. According the the non-scientific instrument in Pearson’s book, I am mostly in the “sage” archetype. We have all 16 archetypes within us in varying amounts or degrees, contrary to the MBTI working theory that there are psychological opposites:
      Introversion vs Extroversion, iNtuitive vs Sensing, Thinking vs feeling, Perceiving vs Judging. So, you can’t be sometimes INTJ and sometimes INFJ, although we all have the functions of Sensing, iNtuiting, Feeling and Thinking in a relatively fixed proportion throughout life, even if we grow them all through experience and other learning. Blah, blah. Sorry, another characteristic of my type is fall into the trap of being didactic.

      I will look into the Carolyn Myss book.

      I saw in the Stockholm newspaper this morning that your fellow countryman Usain Bolt has broken another record. What a joy it was to seem him perform and exult at the Olympics.

      Best wishes,


      Comment by Ron Pavellas | August 21, 2009 | Reply

  5. Rass! What a lot of deep stuff! Where unu find the time to read so much!

    Great post!

    Comment by Mad Bull | May 22, 2010 | Reply

  6. There is a major shift in the universe. what beautiful minds. Dollars and Sense.

    Comment by Erika Steen | August 22, 2010 | Reply

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