By *Jomo Thomas

(Plain Talk, March 5, 2019)

I am sitting at my desk at the Malmaison Hotel in Oxford, England thinking about my homeland. Oxford is a thinking town, a place for deep and reflective thought. The Malmaison is an interesting place. For more than 300 years, until 1996, it served as a prison. For centuries, its inmates were persons who couldn’t pay their debts. But Since the turn of the century the Malmaison has been turned into a snazzy hotel.

The Organization of American States (OAS) invited me to a conference on Cyber Security and Strengthening the Democratic Process. Among the topics slated for discussion were:

1. Building an Open, Safe and Stable Cyberspace,

2. Threats to Election Technology,

3. OAS and the Commonwealth Experience in Electoral Cooperation

4. Digital Threats to the Democratic Process

5. The Sole of Social Media Manipulation

6. Cyber Security Guidelines for Democratic Processes

7. Issues for Consideration in the Protection of the Democratic Process against Digital Threats.

These are very important topics from which all of the countries in the Americas could learn. Certainly, stakeholders in SVG would do well go onto the OAS website and down load the many presentations.

But I digressed, the Malmaison did not cause me to think of the conference. It caused me to think of fear, jail, punishment, hardship, deprival and even death. Physical death and spiritual death, the loss of meaning as regards everything that is meaningful.

My mind drifted off to the Bible and the powerful refrain in the Book of Mark 8:36:

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” This is a serious question that has real implications in both the religious and secular realm. For truly, what shall it profit anyone of us if we got all that we wanted, but in the end could not really be true to ourselves? Is not it true that in a real sense our good name and character is all that we have got? And don’t we all agree with the ancients when they say, “To thyself be true”?

Why then do we live what WEB Dubois describes in the classic, “The Soul of Black Folks” as double life, or Twoness? I believe the much less recited verse Mark 8:37 offers an answer.

“What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Fear of reprisal and discomfort and disapproval, fear of punishment and social isolation and, most of all, fear of losing the “good life” or aspiration to the good life may offer revealing clues for our action and inaction, silence and acceptance of what we instinctively know to be patently wrong.

Have you ever stopped to think what you would have become or what would become of you if you were very comfortable, had not a trouble in the world, no concern about how your rent or mortgage will be paid or absolutely no responsibility to pay for your schooling or that of your children?

What if, what if, what if? If you were independent of worries would you speak up more for what is right and condemn what is wrong irrespective of whether you stance brought you into conflict with your sibling, parents, boss, representative, political and religious leaders or the state? Comfort, by itself, is not what makes one speak or remain silent. Conscience compels us to take a stance. And in SVG it appears that “dawg eat our conscience”.

We need to wake up from our slumber. These are not the days when information was hidden from us. We don’t have to depend on hearsay to form opinions about our reality. We can be and must become eyewitnesses for truth. Khalid Mahammed commanded us to terrorise our friends and neighbours with the truth. We must become evangelists for truth. Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us that “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Will our job dictate where we stand in times of challenge and controversy? Why place the comfort of ourselves and that of our children ahead of our own decency, or even more importantly the dignity of our nation? Our African ancestors went through more and as Maya Angelo proclaimed “and yet we rise”. They rebelled and died so that we might live. We owe it to those who passed on and to the generations yet unborn to stand up like men and women worthy of the name.

Charlie Houston, an American civil rights titan and founder of Howard University Law School, told the first batch of law students, “A lawyer’s either a social engineer or he’s a parasite on society…  A social engineer was a highly skilled, perceptive, sensitive lawyer who understood the Constitution and knew how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of . . . local communities and in bettering conditions of the underprivileged citizens.”

These words ring true today as they did decades ago when Houston uttered them. They have application not just for lawyers, but for anyone serious about the direction of the society in which we all live. No more should we be either conceited or deceitful.

The musical genius Michael Jackson instructed us to “look at the man in the mirror and make that change”. Is it not time that we listen to him? We fail to listen to and heed wisdom to our individual and collective chagrin. The legendary Bob Marley sums up our existence as good as anyone. “Live for self we live in vain. Live for others we live again.”

It is time we answer the call of conscience?

*Jomo Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

18 replies on “What shall it profit a man?”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    Hopefully, Mr. Thomas’ room had a mirror where he could reflect on his unwillingness to atone for his own own political sins including support for the wicked Maduro regime in Venezuela and the incompetent and self serving one in SVG.

    As for Michael Jackson, whenever he looked in a mirror he saw a predatory paedophile.

  2. One must say Jomo, that you would surely be misusing this passage of the Bible that states “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” if the meaning that you are attaching to it is “…what shall it profit anyone of us if we got all that we wanted, but in the end could not really be true to ourselves?”

    Your interpretation Jomo would amount to a most serious and gross misuse of that Bible verse!

    Or again as you write “Is not it true that in a real sense our good name and character is all that we have got?” For the Bible verse dear fellow refers not to the secular but rather to the nature of a person’s dealing with their creator God.

    Indeed we would all agree with the ancients when they say, “To thyself be true but are you really being completely true to yourself when you seek to lecture the rest of us on probity while you yourself is aligning yourself with gross state oppression for so many years?

    What hypocrisy is that of yours Jomo or is it that you like our oppressor, you too delights in our oppression? If indeed you delight in our oppression, you are for sure being most true to yourself and we for our part will have no case against your seemingly gross conduct in the house, in the observed State abuse!

  3. Jolly Green says:

    I am not sure he should even be there, who invited him or who in SVG elected him to attend, ASK RALPH!

    1. C. ben-David says:

      The sponsoring group paid for his attendance as countless organization do for particular members of have-not countries like our own. It’s a form of development aid.

  4. How does Jomo square this published article of his, recent additional post of his on this site too about Venezuela, with the now discovered very sad death of Ali Dominguez in Venezuelan? Ali Dominguez was a political activist of 31 years of age, who once denounced President Nicolás Maduro, he now dies in hospital after being found very badly beaten in the street.

    Alí Domínguez disappeared last Thursday after attending a “humanitarian aid meeting” at the offices of Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional in Caracas. Sadly for his family, he was declared dead early Wednesday morning the 6th March at Domingo Luciani Hospital in Venezuela.

    Domínguez was the second oldest among eight brothers and sisters, and he was found lying unconscious on the side of a highway last Friday. It is reported that Domínguez suffered a very traumatic brain injury, a nose fracture and was missing several teeth. Sadly for his family he died later in hospital.

    Earlier when he was discovered to be missing, the 27-year-old’s brother and friends tried to search for him at the very hospital on Sunday and Friday but were turned away by security staff stationed there. Worst, according to news station VPI TV, Domínguez, the second oldest among seven other siblings, went for as long as 15 hours without receiving any medical attention whatsoever.

    So much for this lawyer Jomo’s much vaunted political pluralism.

  5. The Unveiled Face

    “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplatethe Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 3:16-18
    We wear masks consciously or unconsciously on a daily basis. From pretty pictures on social media to looking busier at work to hiding alone on our darkest days, we walk around never disclosing who we are fully.

    We look in the mirror in the morning and think, If anyone ever knew that about me, they would reject me. We have a gnawing sense of being found out. Even if there is nothing horrific to hide, our instinct is that what we are is not enough.

    Some masks are slapped on us by the world. Some are self-imposed. Some of us have been hiding behind a pretense of who we think the world wants us to be or who we want to be ourselves, so much so that we are totally out of touch with our true selves. We have layered so many masks on top of our true selves that we are blinded, lost, veiled, and numb. We hide because we long to be employed, loved, accepted, and embraced.

    When Adam and Eve turned away from God, ushering in sin and death, their first instinct was to hide among the trees (Gen. 3). God’s first question to them was, “Where are you?” From the very beginning, we see God searching after anyone who wants to hide from him. He longs to bring restoration, grace, mercy, and reconciliation to every single person on the planet and indeed the whole of creation itself.

    Lent is an invitation to gaze upon the unveiled face of Jesus Christ crucified. With arms outstretched, stripped naked, nailed, and lashed, the Lamb of God took upon himself all of our sin, brokenness, and death that we desperately try to hide. With thorns piercing into his skull, Jesus is crucified for the sake of the world. On the cross, we see the TRUE UNVEILED face who took upon himself everything that makes us want to hide.

    Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we have been set free from any mask that tries to suffocate us. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can now come to the throne of grace with unveiled faces ourselves with all confidence (Heb. 4:16). Followers of Jesus should be people who confess our sins, showing who we really are so that God may be glorified in us. We are sinners with unveiled faces who have been set free through Jesus Christ.

    Prayer: Lord, thank you that we can remove our masks and show our true selves to you—the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the wretched. You died on the cross so that we could be forgiven and set free. Help us to reach out to others and create safe spaces where they too can remove their masks and receive the good news that they are forgiven, accepted, unconditionally loved and set free. Amen.

  6. Lies, deception, and treason. Jomo, after Dr. King, you now bring the Bible into your commess and going around advising folks to listen to Michael Jackson. You really have nothing better to do. Are you using illegal narcotics? You being at that meeting must be one of the perks given to Papa’s minions.

  7. We come and we go, four score and ten. Everyone dies eventually, in the blink of an eye really. There are very few second chances in life. I liked Woody Allen, I may be a coward, but I’m a militant coward. I don’t believe much in heroes. At the end of the day, everyone has to take a shower, because we are animals, an ape. The bible is mythology on steroids, and people get killed because of it. My grandfather’s grandmother was probably burned at the stake for being a witch. Witches didn’t want to convert to Christianity. My grandfather never did, and I inherited his contempt for religion, but what was I studying in university? religion. It seemed uniquely human in a very biological world, but people misunderstand evolution. It is not survival of the fittest, but rather survival of what fits best, and our species, humanity, is not going to survive. We’re not fitting in well with everything else on the planet. I remember reading in evolution, which no one understands very well, about species in the geological record, fossils. Sometimes the geological record was full of a single successful species that multiplied hugely in numbers and were found everywhere. Then they just disappeared, never to be seen again. Humanity is following that exact same pattern. We’re destroying the planet we live on. The world population has basically tripled in my life time. When I was born it was less than 2.5 billion. Now it’s 7.8 billion and it’s still growing. Not far from where I live in Canada, there used to be 1,000 year old Pine trees and they were absolutely huge. They were protected for many years because they made fine masts for the queen’s navy. Photography was invented around 1850, and there are pictures of them being cut down, twenty loggers side by side in front of the huge stump of the tree they had just cut down, by hand mind you. Not one old tree remains in that area, not one. No one remembers them. Only the old photographs prove they ever existed. St Vincent was a paradise, still is to some degree, but you easily forget what you lost in the name of progress, a growing economy. I never read the bible, wasn’t allowed to as a child, really can’t understand the whole concept of Jesus which just seems bizarre. Aristotle on the other hand, I could identify with. His basic question was, “what the hell am I looking at?”. I’ve spent my whole life asking that question. I imagine everyone does. Some people find answers in the Bible. Our God is actually evolution itself. Only evolution decides what you do tomorrow. It is the only God we answer to. Like the laws of physics and chemistry, the laws of evolution are true throughout the known universe. If you find them in the bible you are blessed. When I think of the incredibly beautiful planet we live in, it’s obviously not random. It’s painful to watch it destroyed, even if it’s only just a lukewarm soup of DNA interacting with each other. Always has been, always will be, long after I am gone..

  8. Jomo tells us that much is on his mind, while attending this Oxford gatherings, he is mindful of fear, jail, punishment, hardship, deprivation and even death, both physical and spiritual, loss of meaning as regards to everything that is meaningful. And that the thought of these things have caused him to ponder, yet he does appear to be utterly divorced from the reality of our here and now.

    As Looters take to Venezuela’s streets looting supermarkets in Caracas on Sunday 10th March, and country wide blackout in the country enters its fifth day, killing 15 kidney patients when their kidney machines had stopped working and power outages reaches all parts of the country we may indeed wonder what next.

    With the ongoing blackouts crippling infrastructure, shops and hospitals, Maduro, the country’s strong man, rigidly clings on to power there, seemingly indifferent to the ordinary people’s sufferings, sufferings that Jumo tells us are on his mind. Indeed new Electoral ballots for sure, are very, very far from Maduro’s mind.

    Jomo could well ask in this instance, what will it profit this man, after all, all men do die taking precisely nothing with them when they eventually do depart this life, despite their hold on power while alive, their control of other men’s livelihood with their boisterous blustering’s and domineering attitudes.

    From ancient Rome we note that Gaius Julius Caesar is dead, he carried nothing with him to the grave, Joseph Stalin he too is dead and carried nothing with him but left nothing but misery for those left in the country. Mao Zedong Former Chairman of the Communist Party of China, likewise is dead carrying nothing having ruined the lives of millions too, and more closer to home, Fidel Castro too, he is dead carrying nothing, to quote his daughter, “having turned Cuba into a large prison surrounded by water.”

    A well-known remark by Benjamin Disraeli, that nineteen century British Prime Minister after he became Prime Minister in 1869, he remarked that “I have climbed to the top of the greasy pole.” And what? Perhaps Jomo, being invited to Oxford, wishes to tell us about his own career’s climb up “the greasy pole” in SVG politics, but, as Jolly Green has pertinently asked, who in SVG among us the populace has ever elected Jomo to office here?

  9. Nice thoughts with which I mainly agree except your suggestion that, “… If you find them [answers] in the bible you are blessed.”

    On the contrary, if you find answers in the bible, you will be forever cursed with ignorance which is why we are both a cursed and ignorant people. If you don’t believe, ask your grandfather.

    While you are at it, also ask our people why they gladly accepted the white man’s Christian region, a belief system that allowed us to be physically and mentally enslaved for 250 years.

    Our physical enslavement ended in 1838 but our religious enslavement is stronger than ever. If you don’t believe me, ask Marlene above.

  10. The hostility of C. Ben-David to both God and the Bible knows no bounds whatsoever! Yet the Bible’s explanations of our continuing human problems in this world of ours is the only credible answers we have, to what we experience on a day to day basis, in the world about us day after day.

    Moreover, the God given 10 Commandments of our Bible, otherwise known as (” the Decalogue”) are the best known regulations our human kind knows, in the regulating all of our human behaviour in any human society.

    Hence foolish utterances about the Bible are often the results of lack of poor or proper research and resentments or enmity towards God! However, God needs no defence, as he is quite capable of defending himself but men’s foolishness may well keep them trapped in their own ignorance.

    The charge that the Bible condones Slavery is grossly and seriously quite wring, far from it, the opposite is the truth. The fact that men holding a Bible goes off the rail, cannot be put down to the correct use of bible doctrine, but rather down to the erroneous ways of men.

    The Bible charge that men/Women are to love one another as they love themselves. This fact alone prohibits the slavery. How so?

    The man Jesus upon being asked about the law of God replied in the following at: Matthew 22:36-40 New King James Version (NKJV) and note; “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

    Or as is reported at Mark 12:30-31 New International Version (NIV) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

    Therefore, how could such statements be said to be condoning Slavery, one may well may ask? Moreover, and further, Christianity was never “the white man’s religion but as is reported, that religion is reported to have been brought to Europe by the man Jesus’s disciple, Paul. See: Acts 16:1-15 New King James Version (NKJV).

    Men’s erroneous behaviour are their own just as are their stupid and foolish utterances!

  11. C. Ben-David in his anguish and frustration do breath-out much hot air and foolishness! His total lack of understanding in Biblical matters is greatly astonishing, yet C. Ben-David would have us believe that somehow or other wisdom is with this very sad individual to be imparted to the rest of us.

    Might one ask C. Ben-David, where in the Bible did C. Ben-David found a belief system that allowed for our enslavement?

    Here for C. Ben-David’s guidance are Dr Peter Masters of London take on the subject of Slavery and the Bible: Me thinks that this C. Ben-David needs do much more reading!

    https://www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Gospel-of-John/Sanctify-Them-Through-Thy-Truth

    Himself taking guidance from this Bible verse of John 17.17, Dr Peter Masters of London recently observed the following [Sanctification (purification, consecration and commitment) by the Word is the will of Christ for His own, and here we turn to the first three of the Ten Commandments to challenge our souls. How should these be applied today in our lives and churches?]

    All in all as Dr Peter Masters have pointed out here the Bible in no way permits Slavery as the same is against God’s Law.

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