Perkins And The ‘Intellectual Ghetto’

Wilmot Perkins’ grief-stricken apostles abused me good and proper last week for daring to suggest that their saviour had feet of clay. The irony is that not even Motty himself would have objected to the portrait I painted. He was sensible enough to acknowledge his weaknesses. Unlike his devotees!

Many of Motty’s fans do not seem to understand that talk radio is a show first and foremost. The best programmes are informative. But they also have to be entertaining. Motty often played roles in order to ensure that his talk show was good theatre.

An incensed fanatic who lives in North America sent me the following email: “Woman look at yourself. Do you think you should mention your name with the great one? You sick ugly woman. Never ever call motty name again and stick to your class which i dont have to remind you. You disgraceful dunce woman. Embarrasing.” Well, my immediate reaction was, “This fellow needs glasses. Me? Ugly? DWL.”

All the same, I sent him a nice response: “You seem to be in great pain at the death of your hero. Please accept my sympathies for your loss.” That didn’t satisfy him at all. He shot back an even more fiery round of ammunition: “I am indeed Carolyn. He was helping the people unlike people like you and for you to be writing that article shows the level at which you are. Such embarrassment and should be ashamed of yourself. ┬áHe could not be bought.

“What are you trying to gain? Shows the level of education you have. If you were at all smart you would realize that he was respected by the masses and soon they will get at you Foolish woman. I implore you to write and apologize as all Jamaica will get at you. Have you read the comments on your article?? Take heed silly.”

In fact, I try not to read the comments on my column. The people who enjoy what I write have no axe to grind. It’s the unhappy readers who feel obliged to post angry comments every single week. They obviously take a perverse pleasure in the column or they would just stop reading it. I suppose I should be pleased that they’re hooked.

Seaga and the mongrels

This grieving man is very well schooled in Motty’s University of Talk Radio. His dismissive reference to my “level of education” echoes Motty’s frequent attacks on the University of the West Indies (UWI), which he mockingly described as “the intellectual ghetto”. I have no idea why Perkins had such contempt for the institution. It couldn’t be a simple case of ‘bad mind an grudgeful’. There must be something more profound at stake.

What I do know is that whenever Perkins was at risk of losing an argument with me, he would draw the ‘intellectual ghetto’ card. Our most famous verbal clash was provoked by Edward Seaga’s ill-considered description of the People’s National Party as a ‘mongrel’ party.

Having made an error of judgement, Seaga backed off. It was Motty who took up the mission of defending the indefensible. He desperately tried to persuade his listeners that mongrel did not mean dog. It only meant degenerate, as if that was any better.

I was so vexed at Motty’s blatant dishonesty I got on the show and we had it out. I began by citing the very first meaning of ‘mongrel’ in the Oxford English Dictionary: ‘dog of no definable breed’. And it was downhill all the way for Motty after that. I’ve transcribed the entire conversation, which is posted on my blog. After an hour of going round and round in circles, this is where we ended up.

Genetically disadvantaged black people

P: You know, ma’am, you know, ma’am, I keep saying, you know, I keep saying, you know, ma’am, the problems of this country, hold on little bit, the problems of this country, with all the violence that you hear going on in so-called ghettos and inner-city areas, right? That is not where the problems of this country lie, you know.

C: The problem is with the university, nuh.

P: It lies in the intellectual ghetto. Yes. It lies among people like you.

C: How me know you were going to bad-talk the university?

P: But how you mean? I must tell you, plain and straight, who should be offering some kind of leadership. You went to university and you get an education and you study English literature and English language and instead of coming back to help people understand, you are using your superior education to befuddle them. Right? And … .

C: Mr P, you know, anybody out there who listen to this conversation, a bet you them tell you seh a you a try mix up people, a no me! A bet you anything. We coulda do a poll … .

P: I wonder what would happen if I were to send copies of this tape around to universities of the world.

C: Yes, what would happen?

P: What would they think of the University of the West Indies? … I wouldn’t do it all the same, you know. I wouldn’t do it. … I once heard a discussion on an American television programme. Serious, serious discussion about black people being genetically disadvantaged. And I wouldn’t want to provide any evidence to support such a theory.

C: Oh, so you’re saying that I’m … . So you a call me a mongrel?

P: Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!

It’s too late for the UWI to confer an honorary doctorate on Wilmot Perkins in recognition of his work in the field of journalism. It’s just as well. I don’t suppose Motty would have welcomed a degree from the intellectual ghetto.

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