Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Interesting People: Eric Gairy

It's been nearly a year since I devoted an entry into my annals of "interesting people", a series focused on persons who stood out during their moment of history, but have largely been forgotten. Shame on me. Today's subject, Sir Eric Gairy. Sir Gairy was a firm and enthusiastic backer of the notion that extraterrestrials were conducting repeated visits to Earth, and that he should do everything in his power to spread this news and make the aliens welcome.

What differentiated Sir Gairy from your typical believer was that "everything in his power" was actually quite a lot, considering that Gairy was a head of government at the time. Oh, and there's an interesting bit about a beauty pageant in here, too.

Gairy was a schoolteacher and labor leader in the British colony of Grenada, calling a general strike to successfully pressure the United Kingdom for independence. But as with so many leaders against colonialism, Gairy's worthiness as a revolutionary strongly outpaced his worthiness as a head of government. Gairy became Prime Minister in 1967, and in true tinpot dictator fashion quickly built his own private army (the Mongoose Gang) within three years. Protesters were attacked, arrested, and killed. He received "advice" from Augusto Pinochet on surpressing his population, while the Grenadan opposition linked up with Fidel Castro. Two years later, he fled to the United States. Gairy would return to Grenada after the American invasion, but would lead a largely unremarkable life until his death. But it was the end of his rule that stands out...

I think it is accepted that these things do exist. I think we now want to know the nature, the origin and the intent of these saucers. Some people think they have come to do good. Some think they have come to dominate human beings.
--Prime Minister Eric Gairy's address to the United Nations

Gairy wasn't speaking academically, it seems. He believed that he'd seen UFOs twice in three years. Amid efforts to build suitable landing facilities for these extraterrestrials in his home country, Gairy spearheaded an effort to bring this urgent concern to the governments of the world. His precarious grasp of reality likely wasn't helped by conversing with a receptive audience in American president Jimmy Carter, who reported having seen a UFO himself. A natural consequence of an amiable chat between these two would be United Nations meetings on this topic. That meeting was chaired by Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, a man who was, er, willing to believe in extra-terrestrials himself. Several heads of government gathered in New York City to seriously grapple with the question of alien visits to Earth. In a minor way, Gairy's fascination with UFOs would be his undoing -- it was en route to this UFO summit with Waldheim that Gairy learned that he'd been disposed as leader of Grenada.

Before he left, though, Gairy got a nice perk of leadership: he was a judge during the 1970 Miss World pageant. And lo and behold, Miss Grenada walked away with the title. Some cynical commentators were suspicious of the coincidence, particularly as Miss Sweden had won first-place votes from four of the nine judges. Such math is hard to beat, but if one rates a contestant at the very end of the scale consistently, one suspects it can only help.

The world has a long history of kelptocrats. But UFO-believing dictators who liekly played a role in fixing a beauty pageant? That...that is something special.

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