Dutty Tribal Politics

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Damion Crawford

Damion Crawford’s “unfortunate” apology is quite inadequate. He takes no responsibility for his words. He “got carried away”. I suppose he was possessed by evil spirits (both JLP and PNP) and ended up speaking in tongues: “Yuh suppose to can look pon a man an” sey a PNP dat enuh, or yuh look pon a woman an’ sey a PNP dat. Some a unnu haffi have on orange fi wi know, cause unnu lifestyle come een like a dutty Labourite.”

11084282-two-cute-cows-and-three-sheep-on-pasture-with-a-wooden-fence-and-landscape-in-background-1Under the influence of the spirits, Crawford highlights a problem that is particularly troubling for politicians who can never be sure exactly how many sheep they have in their pen. Jamaican voters are a slick crew. They follow you up and down on the campaign trial. They wear your T-shirts. They eat and drink with you and, behind, they don’t just ‘susu pon you’, as Bob Marley warned. It gets worse than that. Many of your apparent followers are not even registered to vote. And even if they are, there’s no guarantee they’re actually going to vote for you. They know they’re free agents.

This is a lesson many politicians, both JLP and PNP, have had to learn the hard way. Don’t trust the size of the crowd! So Damion Crawford’s ‘inspired’ words can be interpreted as a pastoral altar call, pleading with his flock for integrity. If you start to kiss your teeth at the analogy, just substitute ‘Christian’ for ‘PNP’, ‘heathen’ for ‘Labourite’ and ‘church clothes’ for ‘orange’: “Yuh suppose to can look pon a man an’ sey a Christian dat enuh, or yuh look pon a woman and sey a Christian dat. Some a unnu haffi have on church clothes fi wi know, cause unnu lifestyle come een like a dutty heathen.”

OUTWARD APPEARANCE

dressMy reformulation of Damion Crawford’s damning words is not intended to let him off the hook. Instead, I want to underscore just how foolish his presumptions are. Neither ‘orange’ nor ‘church clothes’ is a sign of character. A wo/man’s true colours are not the ones s/he wears. As Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:26, International Standard Version). Politician or pastor, Crawford does not seem to understand that outward appearance is not to be trusted. Dreadlocks don’t signify Rasta. And some baldheads are steadily trodding on the path to Zion.

Another troubling issue is Crawford’s assumption that ‘PNP’ and ‘Labourite’ are permanent identities, fixed by your DNA: you are who you vote for. This conviction sustains tribal politics in Jamaica. Voters are not expected to use their intelligence, selecting the best political representatives in any election cycle. Well, best as far as you can tell. Instead, like a robot, you should simply vote generically for your party, i.e., yourself. Complete lunacy!

Talking-out-of-both-sides-of-your-mouthThese days, it’s so easy to get caught up in tribalism. If it’s not politics, it’s religion. We barricade ourselves in garrisons: we and them; saved and damned; uptown and downtown; queer and straight; green and orange; ‘dutty Labourite’ and ‘plyboard-an-zinc PNP’. (In this instance, Crawford appears to be an equal-opportunity chastiser, talking out of both sides of his mouth). Once you choose your camp, it’s not so easy to change sides. Worse, if you don’t choose a side, you run the risk of being shot at from all angles.

CRAWFORD’S TRUE COLOURS

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Robert Montague

JLP Chairman Robert Montague had every right to demand an apology from Damion Crawford for that ‘dutty’ throw-word. He couldn’t allow Crawford to just dish the dirt and get away with it. Montague had to stand up for principle. But it was also a question of party pride. And Montague coudn’t resist the temptation to be tribalist. He had to draw the class card.

36614610In a press release issued on May 27, Senator Montague stated, “We know that generally when the PNP says they love the poor it’s about politics and not development, [sic] but now Minister Crawford has shown his true colours, too. The very same classist behaviour he accuses others of, [sic] is clearly in his heart if the card he draws to make a point, [sic] is one of the worst classist phrases to ever be brought by the PNP into the politics of Jamaica.”

The JLP equivalent of ‘dutty Labourite’ is ‘classist PNP’. Unfortunately, in the tracing match of tribal politics, ‘classist’ just doesn’t have the sting of ‘dutty’. And the reason is quite obvious. ‘Classist’ is English (from Latin); and ‘dutty’ is hard-core Jamaican, with all the authority of a big, phat bad-word. One could easily mistake ‘classist’ for a compliment. It sounds so stush. Not like ‘dutty’.

According to the Dictionary of Jamaican English, the noun ‘dutty’ (doti) comes from the Twi language of Ghana. Its primary meaning is ‘soil, earth, clay’. The dictionary makes it clear that ‘there is no necessary sense of uncleanness”. But it concedes that the meaning of the word has been influenced by English ‘dirty’. And, in fact, the second meaning of ‘dutty’ is ‘excrement, dung’.

sexism1As adjective, ‘dutty’ has come to mean ‘dirty’. But it’s much more than physical uncleanliness. In the Jamaican vernacular, ‘dutty’ covers a host of sins. Classism is dutty. Sexism is also dutty. I’m surprised nobody has challenged Crawford’s sexist view of women as lazy predators, waiting for Friday to telephone men for money.  That’s a whole other load of dutty.

RIGHT-OF-WAY? A WA DAT?

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below.  The first, which I call  ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling.  The second,  ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist phonetic system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy.  It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

ImageMi no know wa wi a go do bout di whole heap a driver dem weh no know nutten bout di rule dem weh supposen fi control traffic. Dem never hear bout road code. One a di worse problem a right-of-way. Who fi go first. Plenty people no know wa dat mean. An even if dem do know, dem nah bodder wid dat. Dem dis do as dem please.

One time, mi a go down di road an dis man im a come up. An im mek up im mind fi turn right, front a mi. An when mi never stop mek im turn, hear weh di man tell mi wid im bright self, “Chruu yu av di right-of-way mek yu a fi a gwaan so?” Mi dis kiss mi teeth. Mi lucky im did know seh a mi av di right-of-way. An mussi chruu mi a woman, mi fi gi up mi rights. Man fi dis tek i.

One next time, mi deh pon di main road, an one man a come outa di side road. An im a come down pon mi. An when mi never mek im force een, hear weh di wutliss man bawl out, ‘battyman!’ Chruu mi hair short, im mussi did tink seh mi a man. So a diss im a diss di ‘man’ fi no gi up im right-a-way. Wat a sinting! If yu a man, a yu no mek a next man bore een pon yu, yu a battyman? Wa kind a eedyat argument dat?

DRIVE INNA ‘PATWA’

ImageOne nodder time, wen mi tell one next man seh a mi av di right-of-way, hear im wid im fool-fool self, ‘Everybody av di right-of-way!’ Mi nearly dead wid laugh. Im mussi think seh ‘right-of-way’ mean di right fi deh pon di road. An even then. If yu nah no license, yu no av no business fi a drive. Yu no av no right fi a get eena people way.

Then mi come fi find out seh all police no understand right-of-way! Mi know seh roundabout an four-way stop a special problem. Everybody a runjostle. But mi couldn’t believe it wen one policeman tell mi seh nobody no av di right-of-way at di roundabout. Yu just ha fi look out an fit een. Mi tell im seh nutten no go so an im fi go find out. Couple day later, mi see im again an im tell mi seh im check an im right. Nobody no av di right-of-way.

Dat a weh wi reach in a disya country. Everybody av di right-of-way; nobody no av di right-of-way. An who know how right-of-way go dis tek it from yu. Right away! An mi know seh some a oonoo nah go agree wid mi now. But mi know seh wi better put out di road code pon DVD an talk out di rule dem in a fi wi Jamaican language.

illiteracyMi no know if oonoo know seh nuff driver out deh cyaan read an write. Oonoo tan deh! Dem cyaan read di sign dem pon di road. An dem nah aks nobody wat dem mean. Memba seh everybody got di right-of-way. All who cyaan read. All who no av no licence. Wen yu see some a di ting weh dem do – turn left from right-hand lane – yu done know a pure ignorance dat.

So it suit wi fi mek sure seh all a di driver dem understand wa mek wi got code fi control di road. An mi rather dem know di code inna ‘Patwa’ dan dem no know di code at all at all. Better di whole a wi drive inna ‘Patwa’ dan crash inna English.

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

Mi no nuo wa wi a go du bout di uol iip a jraiva dem we no nuo notn bout di ruul dem we sopuozn fi kanchroul chrafik. Dem neva ier bout ruod kuod. Wan a diwos prablem a rait-a-wie. Uu fi go fos. Plenti piipl no nuo wa dat miin. An iivn if dem du nuo, dem naa bada wid di ruul dem. Dem dis du az dem pliiz.

Wan taim, mi a go doun di ruod an dis man im a kom op. An im mek op im main fi ton rait, front a mi. An wen mi neva stap mek im ton, ier we di man tel mi wid im brait self, “Chruu yu av di rait-a-wie mek yu a fi a gwaan so?” Mi dis kis mi tiit. Mi loki im did nuo se a mi av di rait-a-wie. An mosi chruu mi a uman, mi fi gi op mi raits. Man fi dis tek i.

Wan neks taim, mi de pan di mien ruod, an wan man a kom outa di said ruod. An im a kom doun pan mi. An wen mi neva mek im fuors iin, ier we di wotlis man baal out, ‘Batiman!’ Chruu mi ier shaat, im mosi did tingk se mi a man. So a dis im a dis di ‘man’ fi no gi op im rait-a-wie. Wat a sinting! If yu a man, a yu no mek a neks man buor iin pan yu, yu a batiman? Wa kain a iidyat aagyument dat?

JRAIV IINA ‘PATWA’

Wan neda taim, wen mi tel wan neks man se a mi av di rait-a-wie, ier im wid im fuul-fuul self, ‘Evribadi av di rait-a-wie!’ Mi nierli ded wid laaf. Im mosi tingk se ‘rait-a-wie’ miin di rait fi de pan di ruod. An iivn den. If yu naa no laisn, yu no avno bizniz a jraiv. Yu no av no rait fi a get iina piipl wie.

Den mi kom fi fain out se aal poliis no andastan rait-a-wie! Mi nuo se rounabout an fuor-wie stap a speshal prablem. Evribadi a ronjosl. Bot mi kudn biliiv it wen wan poliisman tel mi se nobadi no av di rait-a-wie at di rounabout. Yu jos ha fi luk out an fit iin. Mi tel im se notn no go so an im fi go fain out. Kopl die lieta mi si im agen an im tel mi se im chek an im rait. Nobadi no av di rait-a-wie.

Dat a we wi riich in a disya koncrhi. Evribadi av di rait-a-wie; nobadi no av di rait-a-wie. An uu nuo ou rait-a-wie go dis tek it fram yu. Rait awie! An mi nuo se som a unu naa go agrii wid mi nou. Bot mi nuo se wi beta put out di ruod kuod pan DVD an taak out di ruul dem in a fi wi Jamiekan langwij.

Mi no nuo if unu nuo se nof jraiva out de kyaahn riid an rait. Unu tan de! Dem kyaahn riid di sain dem pan di ruod. An dem naa aks nobadi wat dem miin. Memba se evribadi gat di rait-a-wie. Aal uu kyaahn riid. Aal uu no av no laisn. Wen yu si som a di ting we dem du – ton lef fram rait-an lien – yu don nuo a pyuur ignarans dat.

Road-RageSo it suut wi fi mek shuor se aal a di jraiva dem andastan wa mek wi gat kuod fi kanchroul di ruod. An mi raada dem nuo di kuod ina ‘Patwa’ dan dem no nuo di kuod at aal at aal. Beta di uol a wi jraiv iina ‘Patwa’ dan krash iiina Ingglish.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

I don’t know what we’re going to do about all those drivers who simply don’t know the rules that regulate traffic.  They’ve never heard of the road code.  One of the worse problems is right-of-way. Who should go first. Lots of people don’t know what that means. And even if they do know, they’re not bothering with that. They just do as they please.

ImageOnce, I was going down the road and this man was coming up. And he’d made up his mind to turn right, ahead of me. And when I didn’t stop to allow him to turn, here’s what the outrageous man said to me, “Because you have the right-of-way that’s why you’re getting on so?” I just kissed my teeth. I’m lucky he did know that I had the right-of-way. And it must be that because I’m a woman, I should give up my rights.  The man should just take it.

Another time, I was on the main road and a man was coming out of the side road. And he was bearing down on me. And when I didn’t allow him to force himself in, hear’s what the worthless man shouted out, ‘Battyman!’ Because my hair is cut short, he must have thought I was a man. So he was dissing the ‘man’ for not giving up his right-a-way. What a thing! If you’re a man, and you don’t allow another man to bore in on you, you’re a battyman? What idiotic ‘logic’!

DRIVE IN ‘PATWA’

When I told another man I have the right-of-way, hear’s what the foolish fellow said, ‘Everybody has the right-of-way!’ I had a very good laugh. He seemed to think that ‘right-of-way’ means the right to be on the road. And even so. If you don’t have a license, you have no business driving. You have no right to be in the way.

Then I’ve come to find out that even the police don’t understand right-of-way! I know that roundabouts and four-way stops are special problems.  Drivers are jostling one another. But I couldn’t believe it when a policeman told me that nobody has the right-of-way at a roundabout. You just have to pay attention and fit in. I told him that couldn’t possibly be so and he should go and check it out.  A few days later, I saw him again and he told he’d checked it out and he’s right. Nobody has the right-of-way.

That’s what we’ve come to in this country. Everybody has the right-of-way; nobody has the right-of-way. And those who do know what right-of-way means just take it from you. Right away! And I know some of you won’t agree with me now. But I know we’d better put out the road code on DVD and teach the rules orally in our Jamaican language.

Unknown-3I don’t know if you all know that there are a lot of drivers let loose who can’t read and write.You better believe it! They can’t read the roadsigns. And they’re not asking anybody what they mean. Remember, everybody has the right-of-way. All those who can’t read. All those who have no license. When you see some of the things they do – turning left from the right lane – you know that’s pure ignorance.

So it suits us to make sure all drivers understand why we have acode to control the road. And I would prefer them to know the code in ‘Patwa’ rather than not at all. Better all of us drive in ‘Patwa’ than crash in English.

 

Sexual Falsehood Top To Bottom

ninth-280I got several emails last week from angry people trying to persuade me that Dwayne Jones was responsible for his own murder.  His crime was not cross-dressing.  It was deceit. But since the whole point of cross-dressing is to deceive, this distinction really makes no sense.

Some people passionately argued that the men who were deceived into thinking that Dwayne was female were the real victims.  And they had every right to take defensive action.  One woman compared the deceit to rape.  This is how she put it:  “There is an emerging way of telling stories nowadays that lays no responsibility on the victims whatsoever and I don’t get it.

“Dwayne was Jamaican.  Why did he put himself at risk like that? AND!!!! he also put the lives of other men at risk.  If no alarm had been made, some of those other men would have been labelled gay. Some of the men who were wined upon against their will may even have been traumatised for life.   As my friend was when his schoolmates from a prominent Kingston high school raped him”.

But the men who were ‘wined upon’ were quite willing to participate.  Dwyane did not wine on them against their will.  It was not rape.  It was consensual wining.  As far as the men knew, they were not dancing with a man.  Dwayne had become the self-styled ‘Gully Queen’.  It was pure theatre.

Simone Perrotta, Christian ChivuCross-dressing men are not necessarily gay.  And dancing with a cross-dressing man doesn’t automatically put a man at risk of being labelled gay.  Full body contact between Jamaican men is not always taboo.  It’s perfectly acceptable on the sports field. Footballers passionately embrace when a goal is scored.  It’s a ritual of the game.  I know it’s not exactly the same as wining in the dancehall.  But the body language is similar.  It’s just a different dialect.

BLOODY CLOTHS

Perhaps I’m expecting too much of Jamaican men.  But I think a self-confident man could have acted far differently to the outing of Dwayne.  A real man could have made a joke of it. He could have just said, “Bombo claat! Di bwoy good!  Im ketch mi fi true!” And even though Dwyane didn’t have a bombo, the profanity would have been enough of a judgement.

a-dictionary-jamaican-english-frederic-gomes-cassidy-paperback-cover-artThe so-called ‘bad’ word, ‘bombo’ is a perfectly good word of African origin, meaning ‘vulva’.  But like many other elements of African culture in Jamaica, the word has been devalued.  The word shows up in Eric Partridge’s 1949 Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English where it’s described as “West Indian; orig[inally] a negroes’ word”.

Our own Dictionary of Jamaican English, published in 1967, notes that in the Zulu language there’s a similar word ‘bumbu’, meaning ‘pubic region’.   So a cloth for the bombo, like a cloth for blood, is simply a ‘sanitary pad’.  How a clean cloth could become a very dirty word in Jamaica is a whole other story.

And talking of cleaning cloths, I got an informative email from a Jamaican living abroad: “When I first came to Asia, I noticed that many men carried a small packet of wet wipes.  I asked what it was used for.  I learnt only Muslims did this. I learnt that they used it in the bathrooms to wipe their penises to ensure there was no dribbling after they passed urine. Urine on clothing is considered unclean and it is avoided like the plague.”  So our male cross-dressers at Caribbean Fashion Week do have a point.

LETTING THE COCK OUT

rooster-prev1230259193QKMb3gAll of the angry email-writers stopped short of saying that Dwayne should have been put to death.  They couldn’t quite go there.  But none of them laid any blame on the woman who let the cock out of the bag.  I think she should have taken a less scandalous approach.  She could have called Dwayne aside and said something like this:  “Hey bwoy!  Yu mad! Yu no know dem man wi kill yu if dem find out?  Mind yu self!”  But she didn’t.

Dwayne’s deception is an extreme version of the sexual games people play all the time.  These days, women have mastered the art of deceit.  They completely reengineer themselves:  false hair, false eyelashes, false nails, false breasts, false bottoms, false everything.  You can actually buy panties in local stores with padded bottoms.  And men have been known to stuff their briefs, especially when the contents are very brief.  A most wicked falsehood!

Picking up a ‘man’ or ‘woman’ at a dance is a very risky business. You really don’t know if you’re going to get fish or fowl.  It’s a big chance you take.  And as for online dating, that’s a whole other kettle of fish.  People just lie, out and out.  I’m amazed by the statistics you hear on American television about all the marriages that dating services have arranged.  I keep wondering about the divorce rates.

Before

I got a most intriguing email about a Chinese man, Jian Feng, whose unnamed wife gave birth to a rather ugly baby, in his opinion. The child looked like neither parent.  Feng assumed the child was a ‘jacket’ and accused his wife of adultery.  But that was not her abomination.  The rather plain woman had done extensive plastic surgery to make herself beautiful.  Genes don’t lie so the baby came out looking like the ‘real’ mother.

article-2223718-15B43F0C000005DC-575_306x423Jian Feng filed for divorce on the grounds that his wife had deceived him. He won the case and was awarded US$120,000 – more than  the US$100,000 his wife had spent on plastic surgery.  I suppose if Feng had been a certain kind of Jamaican man he would have batter-bruised his wife physically.

But divorce, in this case, is emotional abuse.  Why couldn’t Feng have lived with the fact that his wife simply wanted to be beautiful?  In much the same way, Dwyane Jones just wanted to be the gully queen.  Death is a very high price to pay for that forbidden desire.

Dressed For Murder

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Dwayne Jones

DWAYNE JONES probably thought he was dressed to kill when he stepped out to that fateful dance. He couldn’t have known he was going to be the prey. But he must have realised he was making a risky fashion statement. After all, the dance was taking place just outside ‘Gyal-tego’ Bay.

That’s the new name for Montego Bay in the twisted vocabulary of super-sensitive Jamaican males. And Mandeville is now ‘Gyal-deville’. It’s not a joke. It’s a very serious matter. Sexually insecure men are so fearful of appearing to be homosexual that they cannot go into a ‘man’ town or city. Only gyal.

images-1It’s the same ‘reason’ bad man don’t eat guinep. Dem don’t suck seed. And, despite all the bravado, they don’t succeed in hiding their weakness. If you have to go to such extremes to reassure yourself that you are a real-real man, something must be fundamentally wrong.

It’s the fear of being tainted by homosexuality that drives irrational males to commit acts of violence against so-called sexual deviants. In Jamaica, even cross-dressing is seen as a provocative sign of other crosses. But most male cross-dressers are not homosexual. And both men and women cross-dress for a variety of reasons. It should be nobody’s business but their own.

ABOMINABLE FASHION

The diabolical mob that murdered Dwayne Jones must have been made up of men and women who believe that cross-dressing is sinful behaviour. The Bible is to blame. Deuteronomy 22:5 declares: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.”

Portrait of a young man wearing a sarong, Hawaii, USAThe problem with applying the abomination rule to fashion is the indisputable fact that there is no universal standard of male and female dress. Gendered dress styles vary across cultures. In some parts of the world, men wear kilts and sarongs. They may look like skirts. But they are not ‘female’ dress. Many Fundamentalist Christian women don’t wear pants because that “pertaineth unto a man”. I suppose these pious women do wear underpants. Not to do so would certainly be an abomination.

The word ‘abomination’ turns up a lot in the Bible. But it’s not only homosexuality and cross-dressing that are abominations. There are lots of other sins that self-righteous fanatics conveniently forget. Adultery is an abomination. But if we were to stone adulterers to death in Jamaica, there would hardly be any of us left.

7-abominable-sinsProverbs 6:16-19 gives a long list of abominations that includes shedding innocent blood: “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren”. That primitive mob outside ‘Gyal-tego’ Bay was clearly very selective about their abominations. Their feet swiftly ran to mischief, shedding Dwyane’s innocent blood.

CARIBBEAN FASHION WEEK

CFW-CARIBBEAN-FASHION-WEEKMost of us are much more sophisticated than those anonymous murderers. Take, for instance, the patrons at Caribbean Fashion Week. For the last several years, two male cross-dressers come to the event and no one would think of attacking them. In fact, I’ve seen other patrons taking pictures with them. They are part of the fashion scene.

The only judgemental response to them I’ve gotten is from a woman who heard one of them in the women’s restroom asking for toilet paper. “Fi wipe wa?”, she wondered. We have a wicked way of getting right down to the nitty-gritty. I did laugh at the observation. But laughter is a far cry from murder.

Layout1_1_P6O22CFWcpfsDAMFashion is often about transgressing boundaries. It’s about role play. In 2009, the Trinidadian designer Claudia Pegus stirred up quite a bit of excitement at Caribbean Fashion Week. All her models wore masks. At the end of the set, one of the female models returned to the stage and unmasked. She was actually a male cross-dresser. In an article in The Gleaner, published on June 16, 2009, the reporter noted the “awe” and “in some cases disgust” that the male model’s performance of female identity had provoked.

Some Jamaicans may be uncomfortable with this kind of masquerade. But Trinidad and Tobago is the land of mas. On Carnival Monday, cross-dressing men use pillows to create big buttocks and breasts. They wear wigs and dresses. It’s all playful. It’s not about an identity crisis. Men play women and women play men. And they even play themselves.

JONKUNNU CROSS-DRESSING

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Jonkonnu Bellywoman

We don’t have to go all the way to Trinidad and Tobago to appreciate the arts of role play. We have our own forms of traditional masquerade and cross-dressing. Just think about jonkunnu. The Bellywoman character is usually a man dressed as a pregnant woman. And she gets a lot of laughs as she jiggles her fake belly while dancing.

There was a time when jonkunnu maquerades were seen as an abomination. They were vulgar and sinful. In 1841, the Mayor of Kingston banned the ‘John Canoe’ parade – as the word was then spelled. The current spelling acknowledges the African elements in the ritual. The banning of the parade caused a riot. Angry revellers clashed with the Militia and the Mayor had to run for cover. He was forced to retreat to a ship in Kingston Harbour.

hygiene-health-safetyIt’s a real tragedy that Dwayne Jones wasn’t so lucky. There was no place of safety for him in ‘Gyal-tego’ Bay. A 17-year-old child was slaughtered because he was only trying to play himself. His murderers must be brought to justice.

A mob is made up of individuals who choose to suspend responsibility for their actions. As a society, we cannot afford to follow suit. In this season, as we celebrate Emancipation and Independence, we must liberate ourselves from those biblical ‘abominations’ that threaten to turn us all into truly abominable brutes.

Obama’s American Nightmare

UnknownTHOSE CRAZY birthers who insist that Barack Obama is from a foreign country are not completely lunatic. The America of Obama’s youth is not the mainland United States (US). And it’s not mainstream. Hawaii, Obama’s state of birth, was not admitted into the union until 1959. That’s almost two centuries after the American declaration of independence from Britain, and only two years before Obama was born.

The most absurd ‘fact’ I’ve heard about Hawaii is that it has the highest racial minority population of any state in the union – 75 per cent, according to US census figures. How can the majority of people in Hawaii be counted as a minority? Only in the racist United States where whites consider themselves to be the definitive Americans! Forget about the indigenous people. White is the default race and all others are minority. That’s mainland racial politics. But in Hawaii, whites are the minority. That’s what the US census figures actually mean.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN TRAUMA

barackIn a 1999 essay for the Punahou Bulletin, published by his high school in Honolulu, Obama acknowledges the impact of the years he spent in his homeland: “The opportunity that Hawaii offered – to experience a variety of cultures in a climate of mutual respect – became an integral part of my world view, and a basis for the values that I hold most dear.”

Obama’s Hawaiian ‘world view’ is fundamentally at odds with racial politics in mainstream America. Born to a black African father and a white American mother, Obama doesn’t easily fit into a box. He isn’t simply African-American. The hyphen does make a difference. Obama comes to mainland America as an outsider whose personal history does not include the African-American trauma of enslavement and all it entails. Despite Michelle, it is a struggle for Obama to claim the hyphen.

ingodwetrustAnd African-Americans are struggling to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, especially since he’s president of all America. Obama is a biracial, multicultural American who embodies many of the ideological contradictions that constitute the US. The unofficial national motto asserts unity: ‘E pluribus unum’ (‘out of many one’). But America is a divided society. Trusting in God seems to make no difference.

‘POST-RACIAL’ AMERICA

The cold-bloodied slaying of Trayvon Martin and the contested ruling that has freed his assailant have become yet another test case of the fundamental fairness of the US justice system. On all sides of the angry debate about what went wrong, there’s the shameful knowledge that race remains a provocative sign of both criminality and innocence in a supposedly ‘post-racial’ America.

bsr005President Obama has been caught in the crossfire. In a much-analysed speech two Fridays ago, he revealed his somewhat ambiguous identification with Trayvon Martin and, more broadly, African-American culture. This is how he began: “I gave a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday, but, watching the debate over the course of the last week, I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.”

That’s the first problem. Obama’s initial pronouncement on the judgment, appealing for “calm”, appears to be his instinctive reaction. The expansion of his thoughts comes a little bit too late. And it’s really just a little bit too little. Obama shouldn’t need to watch the debate in order to realise that, as president, it was his duty to make a much more nuanced and expansive statement on yet another American tragedy.

Trayvon Martin's parents in Washington DCAfter affirming the “grace and dignity” of Trayvon’s parents in response to the contested ruling that freed their son’s killer, Obama tried, yet again, to identify with the victim: “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago.

“And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognise that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.”

RACIAL PROFILING

strange-fruitIt is precisely this set of experiences and history that Obama does not own. This “set” is not in his DNA. And it’s not only African-Americans who are looking at the issue through the lens of a history that doesn’t go away. Euro-Americans have their own set of experiences and history – of lynching, for example – that influences how they view the death of Trayvon Martin. Furthermore, people of goodwill, of all races, are agitated about the killing and the judgment.

Obama gives three examples of racial profiling of African-American males. In each successive instance, he becomes more and more distant. The first example is “being followed when shopping in a department store”. Obama says, “That includes me”.

The next example is “walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars”. Obama says, “That happens to me”. Present tense. He quickly qualifies it, “at least, before I was a senator”. That’s a big leap away from racial profiling. Not to mention president.

Obama’s final example is “getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off”. Obama doesn’t even pretend that he’s had that experience: “That happens often”.

The race of the generic woman is unmarked. If she’s white, it’s fear of the predatory black man. If she’s black, it’s the same thing. But, in the latter case, it’s now black-on-black crime. Why don’t we ever talk about white-on-white crime? Because white is normative and black is pathological?

Picture1_000In his expanded thoughts, Obama does give some prescriptions for the disease of racial profiling. He pays particular attention to the dilemma of African-American males. But he cannot identify with them fully, no matter how hard he tries to be Trayvon. It’s the hyphen again. Obama inherited his mother’s American nightmare. But he also possesses distant dreams from his African father.

Extortion At Papine Market

Market20130704NGIT’S SO much easier these days to get in and out of Papine Market. Traffic congestion has been significantly reduced. Taxi drivers have been forced to line up instead of sprawling all across the road waiting for passengers. I’ve taken it upon myself to reason with those few delinquent drivers who refuse to play by the rules and stay in line. 

I got an unexpected response when I asked one of them why he was “mashing up” the programme. He said he was a victim of extortion and was protesting. Yeah, right.  But, as it turns out, Mr Outa Order does have a point. The new orderly system is designed to encourage passengers to simply take the first taxi in the line. This innovation has made loaders redundant. Refusing to accept the fact that things have changed for the better (or worse), loaders are still demanding money from drivers to fill taxis. They insist on business as usual. After all, loaders make a living out of chaos.

extortionIt is only in societies like ours that ‘loader’ is a proper job. In fragile economies, disadvantaged people have to come up with creative solutions to the depressing problem of regular unemployment. “We know how fi tek wi hand turn fashion”. We learn how to make do and make work. With grand, sweeping gestures and lots of sound effects, skilled loaders entice hesitant passengers into taxis. I suppose loading is a lot like the ancient art of herding sheep.

One loader stubbornly told me, ‘A long time now mi a do dis ya work right ya so a Papine an mi don’t plan fi stop now’. This redundant ‘public sector’ loader belongs to no union. He cannot go to Mama P to ask for severance pay. Having invested years in perfecting his craft, he is not prepared to retool. Robbed of the work he knows best, he may be tempted to take up a deadly tool. Unemployment often does lead to crime, as we know all too well.

UNCONSCIONABLE EMPLOYERS

timeoffWhen I told the loader I was going to write about the issue, he asked me not to. He didn’t want any trouble. I promised him I wouldn’t reveal his identity and I would give him a preview of the article so he could approve what I said about him. Unfortunately, when I went to Papine last Tuesday afternoon to look for him, he wasn’t at work. Loaders need time off too. And since they’re self-employed, they can regulate their hours. They’re not stuck with unconscionable employers.

Incidentally, since writing the column, ‘Email from a hellish resort’, published on July 7, I’ve got more complaints from frustrated hotel workers. One man used this headline for his letter: ‘Local hotel industry turning dreams into nightmares’. He was terminated, with immediate effect, from his job in management, after two and a half years, without even an exit interview or a proper explanation for why he was fired.

all_workers_should_have_the_right_to_unionize_sticker-r7092a29536e14df783035e10c01900f9_v9wf3_8byvr_324For the last 16 months, he and his industrial relations consultant have been trying to set up a meeting with his former employer through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. As he put it, “all we have been getting appears to be a run around from the MOL”. When I suggested to another aggrieved man that hotel workers need to unionise, he asked a serious question: who is going to take the initiative to set up unions?

Workers are fearful about losing their jobs and trade union leaders seem to be fearful about confronting hoteliers. One woman who escaped the industry described it as “modern-day slavery”. If this is so, it is the employees who will have to emancipate themselves. “Backra massa” isn’t going to willingly allow trade unions to come into hotels unless workers fearlessly stand up for their rights.

“MI SHAME LIKE A DOG”

VoiceMailBack to Papine. I asked if anyone knew where the loader was and explained why I wanted to talk to him. A helpful woman telephoned him but got voicemail. A man who introduced himself as Chief Loader took the draft of the article. He was most offended when I asked if he could read: “Not because we a loader mek we can’t read”. I apologised profusely. “Mi shame like a dog”.

Chief Loader began to read the draft out loud to prove his point. But, to be honest, “im buck”. So I finished reading it for him. He said what I wrote was alright. I warned him: “No bodder tell me seh it alright an when it come out inna Gleaner unu blood me”. He reassured me that it was OK.

All the same, I took the number of the loader I had the agreement with and tried to call him. I got voicemail and left a message. I did get a call-back. But it was a woman saying rather suspiciously, “Is a uman answer”. I thought it prudent not to speak. “Next ting, my man ha fi go gi explanation bout why uman a call im. An is den im inna trouble”.

UNIVERSITY TOWN

Andre Hylton, member of parliament for Eastern St. Andrew, has a big vision to turn Papine into a university town. And expansion and rehabilitation of the market are part of the plan. How will the proposed development affect existing businesses? And who will benefit from the transformation of Papine? Presumably, things will get better for everybody who does business in Papine.

But, as the case of the redundant loaders proves, some players lose when development takes place. The challenge is to ensure that all stakeholders have a chance to take part in the ‘development’ process. But politicians rarely consult the people who will be most affected by the grand schemes they come up with.

logoAugust Town is a genuine university town. Many residents are employed by the University of the West Indies.   And the University has invested in the community, as in the recent Greater August Town film festival. Papine is a thoroughfare. If Andre Hylton does it right, Papine can become a first-class destination.

Suppose Jesus Did Funny Fi True

Frederic Cassidy

Frederic Cassidy

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below.  The first, which I call  ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling.  The second,  ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist phonetic system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy.  It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

 

  • Chaka-Chaka Spelling

images-3Mi no mean dead wid laugh. A di odder kind a funny mi a talk bout. Wa dem a call ‘queer’ inna dem ya time. Suppose Jesus was a B-man. Tink bout it. Im never married. An im par wid nuff man. Pon top a dat, ascorden to weh John write inna fi im book inna New Testiment, Jesus did av a special love fi im. A so John seh.

Den some Bible scholar claim seh a no ongle 12 disciple Jesus did av. A nuff more. Bout 70! Jesus come een like dem DJ an dem crew. Or di yuut dem weh go a dance wid dem one anodder an no dance wid no uman whole night. Nuff man inna bungle. Jesus did av uman fren. But some a dem never come offa no high table. Dem a prostitute.

bolt_2309832bAnyhow, mi no want nobody a pray God fi mi. So mek mi spell it out: Mi never seh Jesus funny. A aks mi a aks. An a no me one a aks disya question. Mi go pon Google an put een ‘Was Jesus a homosexual?’ Mi shock fi see 11,300,000 answer come up inna 0.28 second. Faster than Usain Bolt!

So hear wa mek mi a aks disya funny question. Yu see di parson man dem weh a stir up dem congregation gainst B-man? An a keep up demonstration outa road gainst di people dem weh a try fi change di buggery law? Mi no know wa dem deh parson man woulda do if dem find out seh Jesus was a B-man. Dem woulda ha fi go kill demself.

Or dem coulda start tek Matthew 7:12 serious an try treat odder people like how dem woulda want people treat dem. An dem woulda ha fi come offa dem high horse an memba seh dem a sinner. Some a dem said same parson man a commit adultery, an through a uman dem a sex, dem a gwaan like seh fi dem sin better than odder people sin. Sin a sin.

FROM PILLAR TO POST

ambitionAn me want know wa dem parson man a seh an a do bout di yuut dem weh a bata-bata from pillar to post an cyaan find no weh fi rest dem head. Mi sorry fi di yuut dem. Dem bun dem outa uptown an dem cyaan go back downtown. But wat a way dem deh yuut chest high! A Millsborough, an Seymour Lands, an Cherry Gardens an Beverly Hills dem a squat. After all. If yu a squat, yu might as well av ambition.

But some a dem yuut a gwaan like leggo beast. Dem no av no behaviour. How dem fi out a yard stark naked inna di people dem good-good community? Dat a pure slackness. Out a out. But dem gone far out. Outa order. Dem buy on trouble pon demself. Dem no know how fi squat. Dem ha fi small up demself so nobody no notice dem to dat. Dem too bright.

Still for all, wi cyaan dash dem weh an gwaan like seh dem no belongs to wi. Dem a smaddy pikni, smaddy bredda, smaddy uncle, smaddy cousin, smaddy puppa. Wi dis ha fi claim dem. Dem a fambily. Dem a fi wi. An dem a God pikni. Same like Jesus. Dem a smaddy.

  • Prapa-Prapa Spelin

queer_by_choiceMi no miin ded wid laaf. A di ada kain a foni mi a taak bout. Wa dem a kaal ‘queer’ ina dem ya taim. Sopuoz Jesus woz wan B-man. Tingk bout it. Im neva marid. An im paar wid nof man. Pan tap a dat, azkaadn tu we John rait ina fi im buk ina di Nyuu Testiment, Jesus did av a speshal lov fi im. A so John se.

Den som Baibl skala kliem se a no ongl 12 disaipl Jesus did av. A nof muor. Bout 70! Jesus kom iin laik dem DJ an dem kruu. Aar di yuut dem we go a daans wid dem wan anada an no daans wid no uman uol nait. Nof man ina bongl. Jesus did av uman fren. Bot som a dem neva kom aafa no ai tiebl. Dem a prastityuut.

emoticons--question-face_17-317132617Eni-ou, mi no waahn nobadi a prie Gad fi mi. So mek mi spel it out: Mi neva se Jesus foni. A aks mi a aks. An a no mii wan a aks dis ya kweschyan. Mi go pan Google an put iin ‘Was Jesus a homosexual?’ Mi shak fi si 11,300,000 ansa kom op iina 0.28 sekan. Faasa dan Usain Bolt!

So ier wa mek mi a aks dis ya foni kweschyan. Yu si di paasn man dem we a stor op dem kangrigieshan gens B-man? An a kip op demonschrieshan outa ruod gens di piipl dem we a chrai fi chienj di bogri laa? Mi no nuo wa dem de paasn man uda du if dem fain out se Jesus woz a B-man. Dem uda afi go kil demself.

Ar dem kuda staat tek Matthew 7:12 siiriyos an chrai chriit ada piiipl laik ou dem wuda waahn piipl chriit dem. An dem wuda afi kum aafa dem ai aas an memba se dem a sina. Som a dem sed siem paasn man a komit adolchri, an chruu a uman dem a seks, dem a gwaan laik se fi dem sin beta dan ada piipl sin. Sin a sin.

FRAM PILA TU PUOS

13480844-success-diagram-shows-vision-ambition-execution-and-determinationAn mii waahn nuo wa dem paasn man a se an a du bout di yuut dem we a bata-bata fram pila tu puos an kyaahn fain no we fi res dem ed. Mi sari fi di yuut dem. Dem bun dem outa optoun an dem kyaahn go bak dongtoun. Bot wat a wie dem de yuut ches ai! A Millsborough, an Seymour Lands, an Cherry Gardens an Beverly Hills dem a skwat. Aaftar aal. If yu a skwat, yu mait az wel av ambishan.

Bot som a dem yuut a gwaan laik lego biis. Dem no av no biyievya. Ou dem fi out a yaad staak niekid ina di piipl dem gud-gud komyuuniti? Dat a pyuur slaknis. Out a out. Bot dem gaan faar out. Outa aada. Dem bai aan chrobl pan demself. Dem no nuo ou fi skwat. Dem afi smaal op demself so nobadi no nuotis dem tu dat. Dem tuu brait.

Stil far aal, wi kyaahn dash dem we an gwaan laik se dem no bilangz tu wi. Dem a smadi pikni, smadi breda, smadi onkl, smadi kosn, smadi pupa. Wi dis afi kliem dem. Dem a fambili. Dem a fi wi. An dem a Gad pikni. Siem laik Jesus. Dem a smadi.

  • English Translation

images-7I don’t mean laughing out loud.  It’s the other kind of funny I’m talking about. What’s called  ‘queer’ these days. What if Jesus was homosexual! Think about it.  He never married.  And he used to hang out with a lot of men.  And, according to John’s account in the New Testament, Jesus had a special love for him.  That’s what John said.

Some Bible scholars claim that it wasn’t only 12 disciples Jesus had.  It was lots more.  About 70!  Jesus was like these DJs and their crew.  Or those young men who go to parties in a big group and don’t dance with women at all.  Just a whole bunch of them together. Jesus did have female friends. But some of them were quite disreputable.  They were prostitutes.

tumblr_l52qc59d1i1qz8tzlo1_500Anyhow, I don’t want anyone to feel they need to pray for my soul. So let me spell it out:  I’m not saying that Jesus was queer.  It’s a question I’m asking.  And I’m not the only one to raise the issue. I googled  ‘Was Jesus a homosexual?’ and  I was shocked to see that  11,300,000 responses came up in 0.28 seconds. Faster than Usain Bolt!

So let me tell you why I ‘m asking this funny question. You see those parsons who are stirring up their congregation against homosexuals and holding demonstrations in the streets against those activists who are trying to change the buggery law! I don’t know what those parsons would do if they found out that Jesus was homosexual.  They would have to commit suicide.

Or they could  start taking Matthew 7:12 seriously and try to treat others the way they’d like to be treated.  And they would have to come off their high horse and remember that they are sinners.  Some of these parsons commit adultery and because they’re having sex with women they pretend as if their sin is better than other people’s.  Sin is sin.

FROM PILLAR TO POST

46199millsboroughgayraidh2013070

Evicted from Millsborough

And I want to know what these parsons are saying and doing about the youth who are wandering around from pillar to post, unable to find a home.   I’m sorry for them.  They’ve been driven from uptown and they can’t go back downtown.  But these youths have high standards! Its in Millsborough, and Seymour Lands, and Cherry Gardens and Beverly Hills that they’re squatting. After all. If you’re going to squat, you might as well be ambitious.

But some of these youths are behaving like wild animals.  They have no sense of decency. How can they be outdoors stark naked in respectable communities?  That’s pure vulgarity. Coming out of the closet is one thing. But they have gone far out. Out of order. They are making trouble for themselves.  They don’t know how to squat.  You have to be discreet so that you’re hardly noticed.  They are too outrageous.

Belonging_TrimmedAll the same, we can’t distance ourselves and act as if they don’t belong to us.  They are somebody’s  child, somebody’s brother, somebody’s uncle, somebody’s cousin, somebody’s father.  We have to claim them.  They’re family.  They are ours.  And they are God’s children.  Just like Jesus.  They are human.