Jamaica Gleaner / Book: Face
Author: Albert R. Cumberbatch, PhD
Critic: Dr Glenvile Ashby
Albert R. Cumberbatch is inundated with ideas. His mind is restless, disquieted by a rowdy, cantankerous, and paradoxical existence. It happens to thinkers the creative ones, those who feel abandoned and haunted if the world is deaf to reason. They must provoke, agitate, and stir the social pot.
Social media is a boon for voices that must be heard. Cumberbatch has handsomely seized the opportunity, using his virtual podium to tease, teach, and pontificate.
Face is chronologically presented by month and year a six-year journey, and therein are recurring themes.
Cumberbatch can be wry, peevish, witty, and profoundly philosophical. He serves as a voice of conscience, a patriot, a social critic, and a provocateur.
His range is expansive: sports, affairs of the heart, feminism, religious philosophy.
He is markedly wise but at times searchingly lost. And he can be rhetorical and didactic. And when he calls Nelson Mandela a black prophet, we scratch our head. Yes, at times he dabbles in hyperbole.
Cumberbatch is a complex figure. His sense and sensibilities hang on his sleeves. He remains distant, so we are left with his pronouncement, apophthegms, and counsel. We must make the best of what we are served.
His ruminations, memes, and hard-nosed opinions are never lost on us. Some are vapid, but he more than makes up for dull moments with brow-raising terse commentaries.
And he opines on the disturbing paradox of Third World-US relations. ” By the next presidential elections in 2016 ,” he writes, ” all of the western states, besides Texas, would have legalised marijuana. Pie-in-the-collective faces on the leaders of all ‘Third World’ countries who jailed so many of their citizens for having or selling that stuff because of US foreign policy.”
As an educator and activist, he is compelling. Ethnicity, culture and pride are recurring themes. He lays down the gavel on Emancipation Day, writing, ” I have to say, much to the chagrin of those who are conditioned to believe otherwise, my ancestors survived not because physical chains were removed from them, but because of their indomitable will. Chains can never enslave the mind, and it’s the mind I want those who came after me to use to its limits to achieve. And that we should celebrate! It’s math, science and English, and history before fanciful clothes and religious ceremonies of dubious origins, my people. “
For his people, he yearns for a new tomorrow. “I live for a day when African descendants in the New World can achieve, and it is accepted as the norm, without folks making so much ado as if we are incapable of achieving and it is a fluke.”
And he is incisive, unapologetic in the following: “I don’t have many problems with people of different ethnics whose deities are like them trying to influence me to like their gods. I can respectfully refuse. It’s when people of my ethnicity trying to get me to believe in deities who are not of our ethnicity that really gets up my snoot.”
There is something about religion that piques Cumberbatch’s interest. “I could never understand, ” he states, ” how many people seem to believe that one can celebrate a religion of which they are not part and may be even hostile to. “
REMAINS ANCHORED Humans, he argues, ” needs religions and this must be respected “. He continues, ” It is an exercise in futility to argue or fight over religion, yet that persists because religion comes with the price of exclusivity you’re with us or against us.” He calls religions ” effective tools for world population decline ,” adding ominously, ” but it hasn’t. Yet .”
Cumberbatch invites us to reflect on cultural and identity issues. Black people are not alone in bleaching their skin. Hardly. The practice has infected other peoples desperate to erase or alter their phenotypic imprint. But why?
Cumberbatch probes. There are profound psychological forces at play. A single, definitive answer, though, is not forthcoming. Skin whitening in China, he says, is a $2 billion industry. Later, he adds, ” Indians will use 258 tons of bleaching cream this year. Bleaching products in the global market will amount to US $19.8 billion this year.” Here, he introduces a related subject. He pens, ” China has more “nose jobs ,” more than any other country, with Japan in second. There is a ‘race’ to be more Caucasian being carried out in many parts of the world and the reasons are many.”
And he can be short, but still piercing: ” He who has no perversions, cast the first stone .”
And he later states that “natural disasters kill more humans and their domesticated animals than any other forms. Wonder why? “
Cumberbatch clothes his work in a light-spirited mantle. But this could prove a misrepresentation. Face is a reflection of an agitated soul, a man thrown about by a world that is uncompromising, a world that is running ahead of itself. Somehow, amid the raging storms, he remains anchored. He is grounded by his every word and is healed from injustice by his written word.
There was a time when a scholar painstakingly shared his message through books and oratory. Many read and listened, but others were not that fortunate. Reasons abound. But today, with a single push of a key, millions are engaged. Surely, Cumberbatch has taken note.
‘Face’ by Albert R. Cumberbatch, PhD
Publisher: Xlibris, USA
Available at Amazon