On Friday, January 18, 2013 I returned from being one of many who paid oral and spiritual tributes to a cherished man, a large pervasive spirit, an acknowledged professional father, a generous community donor – mostly of himself, and then of his skills.
The collection of mourners, or rather celebrants of his life, was marked (or marred) by the significant absences of others whom he had supervised and managed, and with whom he worked in collaboration in the growing of the sugar industry over forty years and more, and as recently as December 22, 2001.
The acclamation of his contribution to the industry focused primarily at Blairmont, then LBI/Ogle Estates, were, if anything, high in their sincerity. So too was the lucid descriptive admiration of his role as a Rotarian.
A rounded man who stood tall in the eyes of every one who bore witness, and who listened to the testimonies of colleagues from the earlier peaks of his career.
What it all meant however was that the absentees with whom he last worked did not care. Those whom he nurtured so diligently at one end of his career spectrum, at Blairmont Estate; those at the other end of the spectrum when as Human Resource Director he shared responsibilities for making decisions in the face of increasing challenges in the industry – they were all absent.
It therefore seemed a profound contradiction (if not a transgression) that an employee who had demitted office much earlier should be assigned (in a sort of fantasy) to portray a tribute as if it were representative of the extant GuySuCo management. Instead, on this momentously sad occasion, what the exercise, and those present, reflected was the palpable estrangement between this employer institution and its employees, even of today; of the organisation’s profound display of its inhumanity to its most important resource – human beings.
As a consequence not a single contemporary employee (manager or managed) felt motivated to show, however vicariously, his/her affinity to another, much more to one who was perhaps its most positive representation. (The fleeting visit to the funeral parlour only serves to exacerbate the indifference.)
All the men and women who on January 18, 2013 celebrated the life and work of John Oswald Bart at the Calvary Lutheran Church, were former colleagues, who now would hardly celebrate their association with the sugar industry which once meant so much.
For to them ‘people’ are still more important than ‘sugar estates’.
E B John