In Praise of Morris Cargill

      What a nice ‘bakra’ man Mr. Cargill was, eh! He was always so sorry for poor, ignorant black people.  He didn’t want lots of backward people to be going up and down Jamaica foolishly thinking that they were equal to him, deceiving themselves that what they speak is a language just like his.

      No, sir!  Mr. Cargill wanted us to know our place.  He tried his best to make us understand that we’re just like cats and dogs:  we can bark and bite and make lots of noise and show that we’re angry or happy.  But language?  Culture? We don’t know those fancy words.  That kind of language is spoken only by  ‘bakra’.

Have you ever heard of cats and dogs talking about how cats and dogs converse so nicely?  Cats and dogs do communicate in their own way.  But they don’t talk about talking.  They don’t philosophize.  It is true that some North American cats and dogs suffer from depression and other emotional illnesses that we in Jamaica assume are purely human afflictions.  Our pets don’t usually get confused about their identity.  They know they are not human.

Of course, we do have exceptional pets in Jamaica, owned by exceptional people.  Morris Cargill certainly had an unusual pet.  It was a poodle.  I don’t know if it had any emotional problems.  I do know that the dog was very intelligent. It seems as if the poodle was much brighter than many black people in Jamaica.  It was completely literate in English.  In fact, the dog sometimes wrote Cargill’s newspaper column for him.

On February 25, 1999, the Gleaner published a column written by Morris Cargill’s poodle. This is what the bright dog wrote:  “. . . one of the aims of my society is to develop a proper understanding of dog language.  If people can propose that what my man calls yahoolish should become a second language in Jamaica I see no reason why poodlese should not become a third one.  It is, after all, at least as understandable.”

The language of savage nations

‘Yu see how Misa Cargill considerate!’  He was using his poodle to help black people see that ‘dog language’ and black people’s ‘yahoolish’ are in the same category.  If we could be bright enough to be claiming that our Jamaican corruption of English is actually a language, then ‘wat is to stop dog from tink seh dem a chat language too?’

 And Cargill called our Jamaican language ‘yahoolish’ for a very good reason. He seems to have gotten the idea from the fictional travel journal, Gulliver’s Travels Into Several Remote Nations Of the World, written by Jonathan Swift and published in 1726-27.  Swift was a British satirist who critiqued his own society, revealing its follies.  On Gulliver’s fourth and final voyage, he discovers a land of intelligent horses called the Houyhnhnms.  These horses are as bright as Morris Cargill’s poodle, I suppose.  They share the land with the Yahoos, a despised race of creatures that look like apes.

Houyhnhnms and Yahoos

Here is Gulliver’s account of his encounter with the Yahoos:  “My horror and astonishment are not to be described, when I observed in this abominable animal, a perfect human figure: the face of it indeed was flat and broad, the nose depressed, the lips large, and the mouth wide; but these differences are common to all savage nations, where the lineaments of the countenance are distorted, by the natives suffering their infants to lie grovelling on the earth, or by carrying them on their backs, nuzzling with their face against the mothers’ shoulders”.

By calling the Jamaican language yahoolish, Morris Cargill was helping us native speakers to recognise the similarity between ourselves and the Yahoos.  Cargill wanted us to accept the fact that we are a savage nation, speaking a savage language.  But we could be tamed if we tried our best to learn English, the language of civilisation.

Mongoose looking after chickens

So even though it might have sounded as if Morris Cargill thought that many black people in Jamaica are subhuman because what we speak is not a language at all, I was really quite happy that he felt so sorry for us. It seemed as if he wanted to bring the best out of us.   He wrote so many newspaper columns in which he tried so hard to show us how ‘dark’ we were.  He certainly took poor black people’s interest to heart.

      But, you know, I’m always very suspicious when I hear that a mongoose is looking after chickens, so to speak. Can a mongoose really be expected to look out for the best interest of a chicken? It seems to go against the very nature of a mongoose to look at a chicken and not see a meal.  But, I suppose, there are kind-hearted mongoose that could look after a chicken without any selfish motives whatsoever.

Morris Cargill regularly threw words at us for our own good.  ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me’ is a deceptive English proverb.  Jamaicans aren’t foolish enough to buy that.  We know that ‘throw-word lik hot’.  And one person’s joke can be deadly serious to a ‘nex smaddy’.

Morris Cargill used to make some wicked ‘jokes’ about language, colour and class in Jamaica.  It seems as if he just loved to provoke black people.  For whatever reason.  Oddly enough, many of the same people Cargill so consistently used to mock put him up on a very high pedestal because of his command of the English language.  It didn’t matter that he was commanding the language to attack them.  Some of us Yahoos who knew better just had to bite back.

‘Corruption of Language is No Cultural Heritage’

Morris Cargill

That headline was classic Morris Cargill.  In his Sunday Gleaner column published on October 29, 1989, Cargill mockingly made his case for banning ‘Patois’:  “The slackness and anarchy of Patois reflects itself [sic] in the slackness and anarchy of our society in general.  We are as we speak and we speak as we are”.

That ‘sic’ is not a bad dog I’m setting on Cargill’s duppy.  It’s a sign of a grammatical slip that could be mistaken for a typing error.  ‘Sic’ is Latin, meaning ‘thus, so’.    In this context, it means, ‘a so Cargill write it’.  The subject of the sentence is plural – ‘slackness and anarchy’ – so the form of the verb should also be plural – ‘reflect’.  And, of course, ‘itself’ should then be ‘themselves’.  The passive voice would have been even better: “The slackness and anarchy of Patois are reflected in  . . .”

I don’t usually draw attention to grammatical errors in public, except in the classroom.  I don’t set out to embarrass speakers who are not competent in English; not even duppies. I don’t idolize English. It’s just a useful tool of communication like every other language across the globe.   But since Morris Cargill used to make such a big point about English ‘correctness,’ I think it’s quite appropriate in this instance to show him up.

Bilingual Education

In that contemptuous column, Cargill attempted to ridicule the lucid arguments made by Dr. Mertel Thompson in support of bilingual education for Jamaican students.  For more than two decades, Dr. Thompson taught English at the University of the West Indies, Mona.  She certainly understood the complexities of language teaching and learning in Jamaica.

Last week, Dr. Thompson was laid to rest.  At her funeral service, her son, Douglas, reminded the congregation of Cargill’s tongue-in-cheek assessment of the value of his mother’s academic work.  And he humorously predicted that Mertel would be giving Morris language lessons in heaven.

On Earth, Cargill paid no attention to the rigorous scholarship of all the linguists who have given clear evidence that Jamaican is, indeed, a language. For example, the Trinidadian linguist Mervyn Alleyne explains in his book Roots of Jamaican Culture how the new language developed:

    “[B]ecause Africans speaking different languages and coming from different parts of West Africa needed to communicate both among themselves and (less so) with Europeans (in this case English people, themselves speaking different dialects and coming from different parts of the United Kingdom), their language changed.  First the vocabulary is discarded, then the morphology, then the syntax, and finally the phonology; within phonology the old intonation pattern apparently lasts longest.”

Pure Jamaican

Louise Bennett

In less technical language, Louise Bennett’s Aunty Roachy gives a much more subversive account of the process.  She doesn’t use those big Latin/Greek words:  ‘vocabulary’ (words); ‘morphology’ (structure); ‘syntax’ (word order) or ‘phonology’ (sound).  It’s pure Jamaican:  “Aunty Roachy seh dat if Jamaican dialect is corruption of de English Language, den it is also a corruption of de African Twi Language to, a oh!

“For Jamaica dialect did start when we English forefahders did start mus-an-boun we African ancestors fi stop talk fi-dem African language altogedder an learn fi talk so-so English, because we English forefahders couldn understan what we African ancestors-dem wasa seh to dem one anodder!

“But we African ancestors-dem pop we English forefahders-dem!  Yes!  Pop dem an disguise up de English Language fi projec fi-dem African language in such a way dat we English forefahders-dem still couldn understan what we African ancestors-dem wasa talk bout when dem wasa talk to dem one anodder!”

Unlike Aunty Roachy and Dr. Thompson, Morris Cargill had no respect for the Jamaican language.  He dismissed those of us who, as he put it,  “would like to see Patois retained as part of our cultural heritage, and believe that it can occupy that honourable place alongside the teaching of standard English”.

‘A lousy heritage’

   Cargill made his own position absolutely clear:  “I, on the other hand, take the view that if it is what is called ‘our cultural heritage,’ it is a lousy heritage redolent of slavery and that if we keep on saying it is a great thing, it merely encourages its continued use until it will finally swamp what remains of standard English in Jamaica.  Of necessity, most people have inherited patois but I see no reason to make a virtue of necessity”.

Frederic Cassidy

Making a virtue of necessity, I knew that it was imperative to respond to Cargill; and in Jamaican.  Too often we defend the Jamaican language in English.  I also decided to use the writing system designed for the language by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy.  My response to Morris Cargill’s column was published in the Sunday Gleaner on November 5, 1989.  This is how I launched my counter-attack:

Wat a nais bakra man Misa Cargill iz, iing!  Luk ou im so sari fi puor ignarant blak piipl!  No waant no huol hiip a bakwod piipl dis a waak-waak bout Jamieka a iikwal op demself, a gwaan laik se dem a taak langgwij jos laik im, a fuul op demself.  Nuo man!  Misa Cargill waant di huol a wi fi nuo wi plies.  Im waant wi fi nuo se wi kom iin laik pus an daag:  wi kyan baak an bait an mek naiz an shuo se wi beks, an kin wi tiit.  Bot langgwij?  Kolcha?  Wa niem so?  Wi no nuo dem de hai wod, maasa.  Dem briid a wod ongl paas out a bakra mout.

These days, the Gleaner would never publish on the editorial page a column written entirely in Jamaican.  Believe me, I have tried. We have flag independence. Yet we continue to suffer from mental slavery.  Claiming the power of the language we have created on this Jamrock would be a big step on the long journey to full freedom.

A Letter To Adidja ‘Vybz Kartel’ Palmer

Mr Palmer,

I just can’t take the chance of greeting you in this letter with the usual salutation, ‘dear’. Crazy readers of our correspondence would immediately conclude that you’re my bosom buddy. Just take a look at what Bawypy spewed out on The Gleaner’s website last week in response to the publication of your letter to me:

“Ms Cooper you are not Kartels mother, you seem more to be his woman, ur obviously in love with him and you were wrong to bring him inna the university to chat crap and now you are trying to fool Jamaican people again, stop it! Neither you or Kartel is an intellect.”

Apparently, Bawypy had to be reined in. There’s a note beneath the post: “Edited by a moderator.” This is the very first comment that comes up when you go to last week’s column. There are at least 97 others. Most of them are probably just as sensational. I don’t need to know for sure.

But even readers who are presumably much more sophisticated than Bawypy could be misled by my use of the conventional greeting, ‘dear’. Take, for instance, Mr Damion Mitchell, news editor of The Gleaner/Power 106 News Centre. He really ought to know better. In an article published on Monday, March 5, Mr Mitchell rehashes my column and proceeds to make unfounded assumptions.

This is what the news editor wrote: “In a letter to his friend, university professor Carolyn Cooper, Kartel said … .” Now, Mr Palmer, you and I both know that we are not friends in any normal sense of the word. At best, we are acquaintances. And, even so, not to ‘dat’. The first time we met was last March when you came to speak at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Since then, I’ve not laid eyes on you.

Kartel in Jamaica Journal

It is true that we’ve emailed and spoken in the course of my academic work as an analyst of Jamaican popular culture. But these interactions cannot reasonably be regarded as signs of friendship. In fact, I’m sure you will recall that your very first email to me was rather unfriendly. After your appearance at the university, we did have more pleasant exchanges on two matters.

The first was about the business of publishing your lecture, ‘Pretty Like a Colouring Book: My Life and My Art’. You’ll be pleased to hear that it came out last week in the latest issue of Jamaica Journal. Vybz Kartel’s picture on the cover of the high-quality, undersubscribed journal is likely to attract many new readers. The Institute of Jamaica must be congratulated for understanding the broad appeal of dancehall culture. If the French newspaper, Le Monde, can capitalise on your notoriety, why not Jamaica Journal?

The second issue we discussed was your endowment of the Adidja Palmer Prize to be awarded each year to the student with the best grade in the Reggae Poetry course I teach at UWI. You readily agreed to fund the prize. Given your present circumstances, the matter has been suspended. The grave charges that have been levelled against you would taint the prize, and so, must be taken into account.

I do not know if you are innocent or guilty. I trust that you will receive a fair trial and the truth will be revealed. If you are guilty, you must suffer the full consequences of your actions. If you are innocent, you will be vindicated. Justice must prevail.

Yours sincerely,

Carolyn Cooper

(P.S. I know that like ‘dear’, the closing salutation, ‘yours sincerely’, may also be misinterpreted by careless readers like Bawypy and Mr Mitchell,The Gleaner’s news editor).

Conclusion of Adidja Palmer’s letter

“Ms Cooper, please publish this letter so that the Jamaican people can see my point of view on this serious matter as my life depends on the outcome of this case.

“In closing I would like to let the people know that i am an innocent man and i have faith in my lawyers and know that i will be acquitted. Thank you. Sincerely yours Adidja Palmer.

P.S. I have enclosed a poem i wrote. feel free to publish it as well. Thanks Ms C.”

(A poem) Guilty before trial?

by A. Palmer

The police have found me guilty and i

haven’t gone to trial yet,

but they spread propoganda on T.V. & internet

Dem a beat it in the people’s mind

that i’m guilty and deserve death,

but the public knows how the police

operate, so mi nah fret.

So many people in court for allegedly

taking 4, 5, 6 pickney life,

So how they don’t discuss that on

‘CVM at sunrise’?

Allegations of extrajudicial killings

by security forces have already been issue,

but i’ve never seen them on t.v. so

much, talking about that, did you?

Me never kill nobody yet

but they say my music breeds crime,

that’s why they’re on my case they

want me imprisoned long time.

I am an artiste so i know things

will make the news,

but don’t crusade this ungodly way to

distort peoples views.

Mi swear my innocence before all

mankind and God,

why would i risk going to jail Leaving

behind 7 children, after mi nuh mad.

I am not the first man

The romans soldiers have sacrificed,

like me, that man was not guilty

That man was Jesus Christ.

A Letter From Adidja Palmer

Adidja 'Vybz Kartel' Palmer

‘Yu a Kartel mada?’ A dat one lickle yute ask me one Satday last month. Im dida walk an sell inna Tropical Plaza. ‘Weh yu seh?’ mi ask im. Im see seh mi lickle slow. So im ton i roun: ‘Kartel a yu son?’ Mi ask im, ‘Wa mek yu seh so?’ Im seh, ‘Mi see yu pan TV.'”

So I’ve now joined the band of aggrieved mothers who routinely appear on national news loudly protesting against the arrest of their sons who, supposedly, have been falsely accused of crime.

May Pen Cemetery

The youth must have seen the LIME TV interview at the Trench Town Bob Marley Tribute Concert in which I said I wanted to visit Kartel at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre. Quite an ironic name! There can’t be much of a view of the horizon from that vantage point. The May Pen Cemetery, perhaps; but that place of final rest cannot possibly be an appealing horizon for most prisoners.

It’s not easy to visit the Centre. You need a TRN card – the TRN number on your driver’s licence is not enough. You also need two passport-size photos, certified by a justice of the peace. You have to submit a formal application, which takes two weeks to be processed. And the prisoner has to agree to be visited. Last week, I got the temporary TRN card, so the distance to the horizon is decreasing.

The man and the role

On air, I did express doubts about Kartel’s guilt, based purely on my assessment of the DJ’s intelligence: Vybz Kartel couldn’t be foolish enough to think that Adidja Palmer could get away with murder! That is certainly not an indulgent mother’s stubborn affirmation of her son’s complete innocence. It’s a recognition of an essential distinction between the man and the role he plays as a DJ.

At the now-infamous lecture Kartel gave last year at the University of the West Indies, I asked him a penetrating question: Does Adidja Palmer ever disapprove of Vybz Kartel? His frank response was, “Yes.” I think Palmer knows that Kartel is an unstable character. Stardom really does make some intelligent entertainers lose their grip on reality.

Like it or not, Kartel is undoubtedly an international pop star. This January, one of France’s premier newspapers, Le Monde (The World), carried a story on the DJ in its Culture and Ideas section. According to the journalist, Arnaud Robert, it was “one of the most-read articles on Le Monde website the week it was published”. The story is illustrated with a box of Kartel’s signature cake soap and a photo of the DJ, naked from the waist up, displaying the much-tattooed canvas of his skin.

Guilty with explanation

Truth really is stranger than fiction. The same week the youth asked me if I was Kartel’s mother, I got a letter from my questionable son. Over the three decades I’ve been teaching literature at the University of the West Indies, I’ve received ‘whole heap’ of letters from Jamaicans imprisoned at home and abroad. Many of them send poems, asking for help in getting them published. Prison seems to bring out the creativity of criminals.

I once got a letter from a young man locked up at the St Catherine District prison for murder. He did not pretend to be innocent. He was guilty with explanation, a peculiarly Jamaican plea: “Miss, my action was not premeditated we had an on the spot arguement which developed into a fight knives were brought into play he got a stab and die.”

What is so intriguing about this man’s account is his poetic use of the passive voice. He did not stab the man. The man ‘got a stab’. The grammar of the sentence absolves the stabber of responsibility. The knives that were ‘brought into play’ apparently acted all by themselves. And the victim was so inconsiderate that, having got a stab, he took it upon himself to die!

Using media to slaughter

In his letter, Adidja Palmer (definitely not Vybz Kartel in this case) most certainly does not plead ‘guilty with explanation’. He declares that he is completely innocent. ‘So mi get it, so mi give it’:

“Dear Ms. Cooper,

Good day to you and i hope you are in the best of health and the highest of spirits, but I am not.

“Ms Cooper as you know i am in jail on numerous charges and i’d like to tell you that i am an innocent man who needs your help because i’m being painted as this evil ‘D.J. by day, don by night’ murderer who is society’s number one cause of crime and violence. The police is using the media to slaughter me and as such i don’t think i will get a fair trial. They are using the media to form public opinion of me that is so contradictory to the person that I really am. They (police) have tried my case in the public & found me guilty.

“Every single piece of alleged evidence, every new development in the case is thrown on t.v. as if this is a soap opera, but i can assure you that this is no movie to me. This is about my life and my freedom and i take them very seriously.

“My charges are merely allegations, but they are giving the public the impression that i am guilty and that is not fair to me or my family.

“I have been to court on numerous occasions and saw hundreds of accused men who are charged with heinous crimes like murdering children, killing police officers, burning & shooting whole families and i have never once saw police on t.v. discussing the development of those cases, much less every week, as in my case.”

To be continued. . .

Perkins, Seaga and the Mongrel: Last Part

C: Mr Perkins, why yu don’t listen mi, boss? Me woulda never like fi have yu inna my class, yu know, yu woulda get pure ‘F’.

P: But you came to me, ma’am, with a whole long dictionary definition of mongrel

C: Never like have yu inna my literature class.  Pure ‘F’. Because yu don’t listen.

P: Yes.

C:  And you cannot converse.

P: What does mongrel mean? What it mean?

C: Mr. Perkins, mongrel mean whole heap a different thing. Mi a go chat

P: Heh, heh!

C: to yu inna patwa now becau

P: But you came to me with a, you came to me with a long dictionary definition.

C: Mr. Patterson. Hear me, “Mr. Patterson”

P: You’ve abandoned that?

C: Mi a call yu “Seaga”, mi a call yu “Mr. Patterson”

P: Have you abandoned, have you abandoned the dictionary, have you abandoned the dictionary definitions you came with?

C: No!  Listen!

P: So a mongrel, the primary meaning of mongrel

C: Is a dog

P: Is a dog of no

C: Come from nowhere, low-class dog a mongrel.

P: No, no, no! It didn’t say low-class. It didn’t say low-class. I happen to know

C: Of no definable breed

P: No, hold on little!

C: Wait nuh!

P: I happen to know, listen to me for a moment, I happen to know something about dogs.

C: Yes, I don’t like dogs. Mek mi tell yu dat.

P: You don’t like dogs?

C: Me don’t like mongrel dog.

P: I am very fond of dogs and I have kept a lot of dogs in my time.

C: Mr. Perkins, me feel seh dog must stay out a yard.

P: And I can tell you, ma’am, hold on little bit,

C: I don’t have dog inna mi bed and dem tings.

P: Hold on little bit, I can tell you that a good dog, as I would define it,

C: Is a mongrel.

P: No, no, no, no! Has nothing to do with whether the dog is a mongrel. OK? You have mongrels that are first-class dogs. If you’re talking about watchdogs.

C: So Mr. Seaga meant a compliment to the PNP when he said

P: No, no, no, no! No, no, no, no!

C: So wat yu bring up dis eedyat argument for now?

P: You are telling me that a mongrel is a low-class, wutliss dog. That is not true. There are mongrels that are damn good dogs. OK? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!  As anybody who keeps dogs will be able to tell you.

C: Yu know, mi meet a man on the road with a dog an mi seh, “Bwoy, yu out wid you mongrel.” An di man laugh; im seh, “My mongrel get training, you know. My mongrel a no ordinary mongrel.”

P: Absolutely! Absolutely!

C: OK? So we agree that mongrel can get training.

P: Man! And them can be good, too.

C: But what I’m saying

P: You go in – some people have mongrel in dem yard yu can’t go in there.

Edward Seaga

C:  This is it. But what I’m saying now, Mr. Perkins, is that Mr. Seaga never mean mongrel in any positive way, so this is a idle argument. If you were writing a essay now, mi woulda just cross out dat an

P: Me know yu woulda cross out all kind a thing, but what you would cross out don’t mean nothing.

C: It is irrelevant.

P: So you tell me.

C: It is irrelevant.

P: What Mr., what you understand Mr. Seaga to mean.

C: Yes. And you are asking me what im mean. How could I tell you what im mean? What I’m saying is

P: But then what are we arguing about if you don’t know what he means? What yu arguing about?

C: What I’m arguing about is perception of what he meant.

P: What is your perception of what he meant?

C: The perception out there, from people I’ve been talking to

P: No, I’m talking about your perception.

C: My perception?

P: Your perception.

C: When I heard the thing in the market Saturday morning, last week Saturday morning, I said to myself, “What? Im seh dat? No, man, im coulda never seh dat.”

P: What did you understand him to mean?

C: What I understood him to be saying was that the high-class PNP done wid an yu only have bad-breed dog a run it.

P: Bad breed, bad breed dog a run it.

C: Yes, that is what I understood.  And that is what a whole heap of people also understood.

P: Bad breed, bad breed, bad breed dog. You think he meant dog. We’re back with the literal meaning. You think he was talking about dogs.

C: No, I’m saying that, even when I’m saying bad breed dog, that is still a symbolic meaning. He’s saying that the PNP now is

P: Run by a bad breed dog.

C: Come een like a bad breed dog party.

P: Not a pure bred dog. A bad breed, mix up dog.

C: And now this is where I’m saying that the language thing is so complicated

P: But what you say, hold on, hold on little bit

Norman Manley

C: The Manleys were mongrel.

P: The Manleys are mongrel.

C: Mongrel in the racial sense. OK? So that is where now, in a sense, Mr. Seaga’s metaphors got mixed up. In the interpretation.

P: Oh, you are assuming. You are assuming. Hold on little bit. Hold on little bit. You as a teacher, hold on, you as a university teacher of language

C: Literature, man

P: Or of language and literature

C: Because language is literal and symbolic

P: Absolutely. You as a university teacher of language and literature and language hear what a man says and you are interpreting what he says by first assuming that he did not mean to say what he actually did say. He meant something else.

C: No, no!  I am not

P: But, but, but, hold on little bit now. The man used the word mongrel and you are telling me that im use the wrong word. That’s not the word im shoulda use, it shoulda  be something else. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

C: Mr. Perkins, yu know, in debating yu know wat dem call that? A straw man.

P: Hold on little bit. A what?

C: A straw man. And then you beat it down and you say, “Bwoy, look how mi bad!  Mi lick down di man.”

P: No, no! But you – let tell you something, ma’am.

C: Stop tell lie pon me.

P: No, let me tell you something. Let me tell you something.

C: Yu ask me how I get to it, me personally.

P: No, hold on a little for me. Hold on little bit for me. This is entertaining. Hold on.

[commercial break]

P: Thank you very much. We’re back here with you ma’am.

C: Mr. P? First question. Yu ever hear of the word paradox?

P: Yes.

C: Alright. That is one of the words we literature people deal with. Let me – yu know me like the dictionary because, yu know, it tell yu wat people tink the word mean over time and it can change up; but is useful. Listen to what a paradox is: “a statement seemingly self-contradictory or absurd though possibly well-founded or essentially true”. Now I’m going to apply paradox to my understanding of Mr. Seaga’s use of mongrel.

P: You first have got to establish that Mr. Seaga, that there was some reason for thinking that Mr. Seaga intended paradox.

C: No, Mr. Perkins.

P: We are trying to devise what Mr. Seaga meant. Or what reasonable construction can be put upon what Mr. Seaga said.

C: Mr. Perkins, I am not trying to say that Mr. Seaga’s statement was paradoxical. I am using paradox to explain my interpretation of what he said.

P: I follow you. Alright. Go ahead. Let’s hear it.

C: I don’t know what Mr Seaga meant.

P: You don’t know what Mr Seaga meant.

C: I don’t know what he meant.

P: So what are we arguing about?

C: Mr. Perkins, communication

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

C: is a two-way process.

P: Yes ma’am.

C: What, you might say something, it is what is said and what is received. And what happens in miscommunication like what has been happening to us now, when me don’t listen and you don’t listen, is that the sender send out the message and me receive it wrongly. I don’t know what message Mr Seaga intended to send out. I am just telling you now how

P: You don’t think that, hold on, you don’t think that you ought to owe it to consider that? Before accusing him of making racist remarks. You don’t think you ought to consider what he meant before you go accusing him of making racist remarks?

C: You know what I’m going to ask you to do Mr. Perkins? Ask Mr. Seaga to come on tomorrow and explain what he meant and then we will have a three-way conversation.

P: No, no! I am asking you. You are telling me that you had no idea what he meant, but you have a long dissertation as to what he must have meant.

C: No, no! I am not saying that I don’t know what he meant, you know,

P: What are you saying, then?

C: Only. I’m not only saying I don’t know what he meant. I’m saying 1) I don’t know what he meant, but I’m going on to say I can tell you how what he said impacted on me and on other people. Let me be specific. When I went to the market I saw one of my friends. And, you know, I greeted her and said, “hi”.  She was talking to somebody else and she laughed and said, “the mongrels are holding discussions.” I said, “what you talking about?” Because I don’t know where I was I never hear about the mongrel business. And she said, Mr. Seaga had a speech at a party meeting which was on TV and he said the PNP now is not the PNP of Norman Manley and Michael Manley is a mongrel party. And she and this market lady were talking – in fact the lady go even so far as to seh, “mongrel? A monkey im a call we.” And I even had to say, “no man, how you get from mongrel to monkey?”  Then is afterwards I hear that there was some JLP ad wid some monkey or something which people felt was a reference to PJ being a black man.

P.J. Patterson

P: I didn’t see that.

C: Alright?

P: I don’t know anything about it.

C: So I get it, so I give it.

P: So the perception. But, hold on little bit now. Yu putting that out although yu didn’t see it yourself.

C: No.

P: You know anybody who saw it?

C: Yes.

P: Who saw it?

C: Yes. JLP ad with monkeys in it.

P: No, no, no! I thought you meant who saw Mr Seaga

C: The ad with the monkeys in it, no, no, no I never saw it. This lady just said to me she thought . . .  she gone from mongrel now to monkey. Alright. One of the issues that we are not really touching on at all, because I think it is central to the thing, is the whole question of the way in which blackness is perceived in Jamaican society. Because you get a paradox, see mi paradox here now, that racial purity, in the dictionary definition of mongrel is seen as something positive by white people. When dem mix up with other people is problem for dem. Although yu have black people now

P: Hold on, I’m not understanding you. Racial purity in the dictionary definition of mongrel

C: Yes!

P: What does that mean?

C: A mongrel is a person not of pure race. Pure race. If you have pure white you’re not a mongrel. And if you have pure black you’re not a mongrel. But if you mix-up you are a mongrel.

P: Yes. Alright.

Michael Manley

C: So this is the paradox I’m trying to get you to understand, in the way people respond.  What people were saying is that when Mr. Seaga says this party is not like Manley of old, the two Manleys, is a mongrel party

P: Yes, what he meant was that it was a pure black party.

C: Yes.

P: Pure black party.

C: Yes.

P: I follow you.

C: And then they go on to think, me too, language is emotive is not rational all the time.

P: In other words, in other words, he has so far departed from the dictionary definition of mongrel

C: Who, who has so far departed?

P: Mr. Seaga

C: No, he has not departed

P: That he’s using mongrel to mean not a mixed up person but a person of pure race. And that applies

C: No, no, Mr Perkins!

Ronnie Thwaites

P: not only to Mr. Patterson, hold on a moment nuh, it applies to Dr Peter Phillips, Dr Paul Robertson, to Bobby Pickersgill to Mr. Ronnie Thwaites to ahm ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, I don’t finish yet ahm, help me out nuh, give me some more

C: You mean other mixed race people?

P: Mr. K.D. Knight, Mr. ahm, come, give me some more, nuh.

C: Well, you remember this is why I have problems with racial categories.

P: I’m looking for all the purebred people in the party. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

C: You want to make what I’m saying absurd, but I know you have sense.

P: I’m not making it absurd, ma’am. But speaking of it, it is absurd.

C: You understand full well what I’m saying and a whole set of your listeners understand full well what I’m saying. I believe that, I’ve discovered that even some hardcore JLP people were vexed with the mongrel thing because they, too, began to feel that it is really black people the reference was to. But I don’t know. I’m not going to say Mr. Seaga was calling black people dog. I wouldn’t say that. He’s an anthropologist and he would know that yu call a man a dog, im going bite yu. But what I’m suggesting is that in the racial climate in Jamaica now where black people are very sensitive to a history of blackness being seen as negative, you understand, and mix-up brownings being seen as positive, when you have two browning leaders and you have a black leader and the leader of the Opposition says the party mash up now is mongrel, you can understand – but maybe you can’t understand because, you know, you not able to make the symbolic leap yet, you know, you ought to be able to understand

P: Not having been at the intellectual ghetto

C: Intellectual yes – because metaphor is a very intellectual thing. Although I shouldn’t say although – and, indeed – the intellectual ability of the Jamaican people around metaphor is evident in their proverbs.  Our proverbs. We use metaphor all the time for abstraction. Sorry fi mawga dog, mawga dog bite you.

P: Yes, yes, yes. So when people say, hold on little bit. When people use words like that mawga dog an dog ha too much master go to bed without, is people they calling dogs?

C: Of course. Is symbolic.

P: I see what you mean. They’re being disparaging of people. Calling them dogs. Black people. Black people.

C: Joan Andrea Hutchinson has a wonderful poem where she has a dog Rover quarrelling she no like how people dem just a use dog as insult an im well

P: And they’re being disparaging of black people.

C: A wonderful poem. For what Joan is doing is now reversing the cultural associations between dog and something negative that we see in the Oxford dictionary. Mongrel, applied to persons as a term of contempt. You understand?

P: 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 ghettoes 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.

Clovis Brown Cartoon

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

C: How mi know yu 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, yu know, anybody out there who listen to this conversation, a bet yu dem tell yu seh a yu a try mix up people, a no me! A bet yu anyting. Wi coulda do a poll. Mek one a dem

P: Look ma’am. Hold on little, I’m not in the business of winning votes.

C: No, mi nah look no vote, man. But mi a seh, you are trying to tell me now that me a mix up people.

P: No, I tell you something

C: Any pollster

P: What are you at the university, ma’am? What are you at the university?

C: What yu mean? I teach literature. I’m a normal, ordinary lickle teacher.

P: What are you? A lecturer?

C: Yes.

P: Or a professor?

C: No, mi no reach professor yet.

P: Yu no reach professor yet.

Erna Brodber teaching in Woodside

C: Mi only write one book. Mi need to write one more book. Mi writing a book right now on Dr. Erna Brodber. She is down in Woodside and she’s a brilliant analyst of Jamaican culture. Mi a write one book pon her now. So when mi done dat book mi wi go up fi professor. But mi no ready fi professor yet.

P: A follow you.

C: Mi a Senior Lecturer. Yu know, professor in waiting. Yu know, mi just a hold on. Yes. So wat yu ask me dat for now?

P: Because 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?

C: You would be surprised, you know. They might say that, “Bwoy, you have people, academics

P: What a brilliant set of people!

C: No, maybe what they would say is that imagine these poor academics, instead of marking their papers – mi have a whole heap of papers to mark, yu know – they are entering the public domain and trying to inject lickle sense into a very important medium, the talk show

P: I wouldn’t do it all the same, yu know. I wouldn’t do it.

C: Do it nuh, man!

P: I once

C: You wouldn’t do it. You wouldn’t want

P: 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 yu a call mi a mongrel?

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

C: Yu a call mi mongrel. Is alright.

P: It said something about their brains being too small.

C: Oh, yu know big brain have more sense than lickle brain?

P: Out of that brain, big or little, I don’t think much sense is coming.

C: Yu shouldn’t keep throwing word at UWI, yu know. We have produced some fine minds, yu know, doing well all over the world. Let me give you this joke.  One of my students, she was here for just one semester waiting to go to University of Florida, and I went up to University of Florida for a conference and she came to me and said “Dr Cooper, you can’t understand how I am upset.”

P: Dr Cooper!

Rex Nettleford

C: “Me leave UWI to come to Florida and I’m studying Caribbean Studies and is all you people’s books them teaching up here. Your book on my course. Dr. Chevannes’ book on my course, Prof. Nettleford. And I’m asking myself

P: Oh God!

C: why I left UWI to come to University of Florida when all the people are back at UWI.

P: Oh God! Poor

C: I had to laugh. The work that we’re doing, the scholarship is well recognized, you know.

P: OK, ma’am.

C: Mr. P., is only you keep knocking UWI.

P: Well, I’ll tell you something. If you will come here and talk nonsense like you’ve talked today, I have no choice.

C: Let me tell you.

P: You give me no choice. I would love to say wonderful things about the university.

C: And Mr. P., you can’t use me as the standard, you know.

P: Ah! I see. Alright. Oh, I see. So, OK.

C: I could be one of the last dunce people leave at UWI that don’t weed out yet. You can’t judge the whole institution off me, man. That’s not fair.

P: I see what you mean. Alright. Maybe that isn’t fair.

C: We can’t judge the value of your programme off this one conversation that we’ve had. That no fair. But sometimes yu come good, yu know.

P: Yes, yes, yes.

C: I don’t listen to yu all the time. But every now and then mi catch yu and sometimes mi hear yu wid dem bad breed people and yu a try wid dem. Mi no seh yu bad all the time, but mi can’t manage di whole heap a contention and di way yu like fi laugh after people.

P: A follow you.

C: There is good in the worst of us.

P: I see. I’m sure. I’m sure, ma’am.

C: Even UWI.

P: You keep searching for it in you, yah. Keep searching. Don’t lose faith. Alright. Thank you very much. All the best to you.

C: And to you, mi dear.

P: Have a wonderful new year.

C: Thank you, man.

P: Well that brings us to the end of “Perkins on Line” for today. We’ll be back tomorrow at the usual time and in the usual place and we look forward to your company.

Perkins, Seaga and the Mongrel, Part III

Wilmot Perkins

P: Please stop. Because what we are discussing, hold on little bit,

C: Mr Perkins you are asking me how black people

P; What we are discussing is not why black people vex. What we are trying to do is to analyze Mr Seaga’s statement and to devise his meaning.

C:And why black people vex.

P: Now hold on just a moment. You are an educated woman

C: Yes, and I teach literature

P: Right? You are an educated woman. And an educated woman has an obligation of leadership. Hold on little bit.

C: That is why

P: You have an obligation

C: Perkins

P: not to come here and try and fool up black people and to get them to believe something other than what the man meant.

C: Mr. Perkins I’m not, I’m not. Listen Mr. Perkins,

P: That’s what you doing, you know.

C: I wrote a column, you know, in which I said

P: And you now coming to tell me

C: Mr Seaga might have

P: You start out by telling me that mongrel mean dog and is a disparaging statement, and then you turn around and start telling me that mongrel is high caste. In Jamaica.

C: But you not listening.

P: So then there should. No, but if mongrel in Jamaica means high caste, if mongrel in Jamaica means high caste then what you should be interpreting Mr. Seaga as having said is that the PNP is a high caste party. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

C: Mr Perkins what I’m saying is that mongrel operates in two domains, in these two domains symbol simultaneously. So at one stage mongrel is positive and at another stage mongrel is negative.

P: So the PNP, what Mr. Seaga then should have been saying, ma’am, is that the PNP [break in tape; end of side one]

C: . . . being fair, you are not allowing me to answer the question.

P: No ma’am, I am going to transcribe this con con conversation and offer it to, offer it to the newspapers to publish and let us see the fallacies of your reasoning.

C: Up to now I don’t get to my point yet, you know. You won’t mek me finish. You ask me how we move from the symbolic

P: I didn’t ask you any such thing

C: meaning of degenerate,

P: I didn’t ask you any such thing

C: Well you never put it that way, but

P: I never asked you any such thing.

C: Your question to me is

P: No such thing.

C: Mr. Perkins, let me finish. What you are saying is that Mr. Seaga simply meant that the PNP of now is a low rate, low class

P: Is a degenerate, no I never said anything about low class. I said degenerate. That it had degenerated from the high standards of Norman Manley

C&P: and Michael Manley

C: And, what you’re asking me, how could these wicked people take Mr. Seaga’s innocent remark and configurate it

P: I never said any such thing

C: Alright, this is how I’m interpreting it

P: No, no, no, no! Tell me what I said, don’t tell me what you would like me to have said.

C: I’m, I’m talking now for the transcript so I’m being even more careful than before. Mr. Perkins, you’re asking me how did these people now move from that – not, you not going call it innocent

P: Which people?

C: From that symbolic

P: Which people?

C: domain

P: Which people?

C: The black people like me who vex Mr Perkins! How we get to dog?

P: I never, I’m not, I’m not interested in how you vex, why you vex

C: But you should be

P: No, I’m not interested

C: because it has become an election issue.

P: I am not a, I’m not a politician, ma’am.

C: You ask me how people took race out of what Seaga said and I still don’t get there.

P: I’m not, I’m not talking about people. I’m, I haven’t addressed any issue about people. I am talking to you. Hold on little bit.

C: But I represent a whole heap of people.

P: A highly educated woman, right?

C: Yes, Mr. Perkins. You would not believe how many people thank me for writing that column

Edward Seaga

P: Educated precisely in this area and you are a specialist, you are a teacher of English, you are supposed to understand language and I’m asking you why is it that you are setting out to create the impression that Mr. Seaga made a racist remark.

C: Nnnh, nnnh. I am not doing that Mr Perkins.

P: You are not doing that?

C: I am not doing that.

P: Would you then agree with me that he did not make a racist remark?

C: Wait nuh, man!

P: Would you then agree with me that he did not make a racist remark?

C: Wait, Mr. Perkins, let me talk. Two of us can’t talk one time.

P: I’m asking you, would you agree with me that he did not make a racist remark?

C: No, Mr. Perkins. I could never agree with you that

P: So you are saying that he did make a racist remark!

C: I did not say that. I said I’m not agreeing with you that he did not make a racist remark.

P: But then you must either believe that he made a racist remark or that he did not make a racist remark. One of the two.

C: Save that for high school debating. That kind of strategy don’t work with big people. That is high school debating.

P: It is not high school debating, ma’am.

C: High school debating.

P: It is not high school debating. It is strictly logical.

C: No, no, no!

P: It is either that he made a racist remark or that he did not.

C: Nnnnh nnnnh.

P: One of the two.

C: Life is not as simple as that.

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

C: Mr. Perkins, racism is something that is perceived as well as given, OK?

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

C: Mr. Seaga

P: Hold on just a moment. Hold on just a moment for me please.

[commercial break]

P: Thank you very much. We’re back here with you ma’am.

C: Yes Mr Perkins. Now in the break I thought and said, you know, I must tell you I’m trying my best to not behave like a mongrel. I’m trying to behave like a high breed dog. So please, don’t interrupt me so that I have to shout at you and carry on bad.

P: But if you, if you talk rubbish I have to interrupt you.

C: No, Mr. Perkins. You must have courtesy. Courtesy means that even if the person is chatting rubbish, you give them a chance to finish and then you can

P: But you’re going on forever.

C: No

P: If I allowed you to go on, you would go on for the next half an hour and the programme would be over.

C: No, I don’t want to do that Mr. Perkins but as we’re having transcript conversation now, I want that when you transcribe the thing I can actually say what I mean and not get, you know, flustered and chat foolishness in the heat of the moment. So what I’m saying quickly now, to just wrap up, how did we move from, ahm, the symbolic meaning of mongrel as degenerate, you know the the, you know, applied to a person as a term of contempt; how did we move from that level now to the original meaning, the literal meaning of a dog of no definable breed. And I was trying to explain about how mongrel in the racial sense is highly valued but, ironically – we don’t even touch irony now – because the first thing I said but wait, look at the levels of irony in Mr. Seaga’s use of this metaphor. PJ Patterson is not a visible mongrel in the way that Michael and Norman Manley are visible mongrels.

P: And Seaga himself.

C: Let me finish nuh! So that when the notion of ahm ahm you know racial purity is applied, PJ would be less of a mongrel than ahm, you know, the Manleys. Now the vast majority of the people look at that comparison and say, “but wait, what is this man saying?” What he seems to be saying is

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha

C: we no longer have ‘high brown’ people

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha

C: we no longer have good mongrels leading the party what we have is bad pure-black people leading the party. And that is how the symbolic leap now is made back to the literal. And that is how people say, “But wait. What Mr. Seaga is really saying is that if ideologically, ahm, old PNP and new PNP not really that different, because I don’t know up to now, I don’t know if anybody has said what he meant by the party being degenerate. In what area has it degenerated? In ideology? Has the ideology changed? How do you constitute the degeneracy? So people seh, “a mussi race im a talk bout. Im must a seh PJ black and dem brown an den im a seh, ahm, a mongrel. So maybe im a seh mongrel a black people.” That is how metaphor works Mr. Perkins.

P: Oh, so I, I see.

C: Language operates simultaneously

P: That’s what you teach at, is that what you teach at the university?

C: Yes, that is what

P: That’s what you’re teaching there.

C: That’s what we teach in our department

P: I follow you. I follow you.

C: And I’ve taught not just at UWI and I don’t mean because I’ve taught elsewhere that mean that me teaching at UWI therefore

P: Well I’m glad that you didn’t teach me

C: Because I can compare it with other universities

P: In other words, what I understand you to be saying

C: Yes, now let me hear if you understand me properly, and I will listen now

P: Is that when Mr. Seaga was saying that the PNP was a mongrel party what he really meant was that it was a purebred party. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

C: Ahm, no, that is not what I’m saying.

P: Then what are you saying?

C: Mr Seaga, hear me, “Mr Seaga,”

P: You are saying that PJ Patterson, hold on little bit, hold on just a moment, hold on little. You are saying that in Jamaica mongrel is a high-class thing.

C: Racial

P: A mongrel in Jamaica

C: Racial mongrel

P: Hold on little bit.

C: At one level

P: Hold on little bit.

C: But you also have mongrel dogs at the same time

P: Hold on little bit. Hold on little bit. You, you as a teacher

C: Mr Perkins you don’t understand that?

P: But you interrupting me now.

C: You don’t understand?

P: You’re interrupting me now.

C: That is true but I mean

P: You as a teacher of English at the intellectual ghetto

C: Ghetto is a good term you know. A lot of good people live in ghetto.

P: Maybe so.

C: And a lot of people who are not in the ghetto would love to get in.

P: You are telling me that in Jamaica, that Jamaica people understand the word mongrel to mean a high-class dog.

C: No, no, no!

P: Yes ma’am.

C: I did not. Now you see, you see what you doing?  You mixing categories.

P: How you mean?

C: High-class

P: A high-class

C: When we looking at mongrel as high-class we not talking about dog anymore. We talking about race.

P: Yes, but then listen. But hold on little bit.

C: I know you don’t go to university but

P: Oh, so hold on little bit. No I don’t go to university. I don’t go to, I didn’t go up there and have you people like you teach there.

C: You understand

P: Now hold on little bit. Do I understand you to be saying that a mongrel dog is a low-class dog?

C: Right.

P: But a mongrel man is a high-class man in Jamaica?

C: Depending on

P: That is the way the symbolism works!

C: if you talking about race. Yes!

P: A mongrel man in Jamaica

C: But we wouldn’t call them mongrel

P: What we would call them?

C: We would call them ‘high colour’.

P: We’d call them but if, but if, we wouldn’t call them mongrel?

C: No, we wouldn’t call them mongrel.

P: So if, so if where the word mongrel is used in relation to human beings in Jamaica

C: It is usually pejorative.

P: It does not mean, hold on little bit, ma’am, it does not mean high-class brown man, then.

C: No. It means, it means something contemptuous so that is why

P: It means something contemptuous.

C: White racism and notions of racial purity

P: So hold on a moment

C: This is why mongrel is something negative

P: So hold on a moment. So when Mr. Seaga says

C: You gone back to Mr. Seaga?

P: Yes, yes, because that is what we’re talking about. When Mr. Seaga says that the PNP has become a mongrel party

C: What did he mean? Tell me!

P: Hold on little. What you are saying,

C: You tell me what he means

P: what you understand him to be saying is that the PNP was a mongrel party under Norman Manley and now it has become a purebred party under PJ Patterson,

C: No, Mr. Perkins!

P: and that is disparaging!

C: No, I’m not saying that!

P: But what are you saying?

C: But I’ve said it and when I try to say it again you interrupt

P: Say it again, ma’am!

C: Let me say it again.

P: Say it again.

C: Alright. You promise you’re not going to interrupt?

P: Yes ma’am.

C: Promise, promise, promise, promise?

P: I’m sure my, my listeners are going to find this amusing.

C: I know.

P: You go ahead.

C: Listen to what I’m saying again. See if you can catch it now Mr. P. Alright. What I’m saying is that when Mr. Seaga said the PNP of today is not like ahm Manley and so, it is now mongrel, OK, I agree with you, give him the benefit at the doubt of the doubt that he had no reference to dog in mind and relating it to PJ being black.

P: Oh, you agree with me.

C: Wait nuh, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.

P: You came with something different at the start. But anyway, carry on.

C: I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. What he was responding to wasn’t mongrel as dog, he was responding to the notion of mongrel as a person not of pure race, chiefly disparaging or he meant it as a person, as a term of contempt. All he wanted to do was just diss the PNP. Alright. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, the analogy that he used, the word mongrel, had certain emotive overtones, resonances – that’s why when you’re dealing with oratory and political campaigning you have to be careful what you say

P: Yes.

C: in the heat of the moment.

P: Yes.

C: Because I do not believe that if Mr. Seaga was thinking rationally he would have said this.

P: Yes.

C: Knowing what mongrel mean in Jamaica. Mongrel is dog a street weh you kick and carry on bad about. Nobody no respect mongrel dog.

P: A follow you.

C: Alright. So this is the mistake that I think he made. Is the language trap him up.

P: What did he mean? What did mongrel mean as he used it?

C: How me fi go know wa Mr. Seaga mean, boss?

P: What!

C: Me no inna Mr. Seaga head! Me cyaan tell yu weh im mean!

P: Oh!

C: All me a tell you is how

P: But you seem to be telling me a great deal about what he means.

C: Me never tell you yet what him mean. Me tell you what the dictionary seh di mongrel mean,

P: Yes

C: An me no tell – how me coulda go tell yu wa Mr. Seaga mean, boss?

P: But how you mean? He used a word whose meaning you must – that word mongrel is an English word

C: Yes, that mean dog

P: That is used in Jamaica and that is used to communicate an idea and you as a university teacher

C: How the university come into it, Mr Perkins?

P: A teacher of English, an expert in Jamaican dialect, you must know what mongrel mean! What does it mean?

Perkins, Seaga and the Mongrel, Part II

Wilmot Perkins

C: The power of metaphor, Mr Perkins

P: I beg you pardon

C: The power of metaphor by its very nature – analogies, comparisons, are intended to bring with them the literal meaning of a word and apply it in a symbolic way to something else.

P: But if it is the li, if it is is is, it is not the literal meaning that is being applied. It is the symbolic meaning.

C: No, Mr Perkins.

P: Yes ma’am.

C: Literal meaning is being applied symbolically.

P: So Mr Seaga is using the word mongrel as symbolism.

C: Yes Mr Perkins

P: OK fine, we agree on that.

C: No, we don’t agree on it you know. Because what you are saying is that the symbolic meaning of mongrel is not to be applied to the PNP.

P: How you mean the symbolic meaning, of course it is to be applied.

C: The literal, yes

P: The literal meaning of mongrel cannot be applied to the PNP

C: Listen to me Mr Perkins, I listened to you. Your argument is that mongrel literally doesn’t just mean dog, although you didn’t tell that to the listeners earlier. And you said not necessarily dog, but you not even telling them that it means dog. The primary literal meaning

P: Hold on, Miss, Miss Cooper. I’m good at this. When I make statements I’m good at analy, analyzing statements. Don’t try that one with me. If I say, hold on little bit, hold on little bit,

C: Listen to me nuh man!

P: If I say that mong mongrel does not necessarily mean dog that statement implies that it means dog.

C: Alright, but

P: Don’t bring that one to me

C: By saying necessarily what you are trying to do is diminish its literal meaning.

P: No no no no. I am saying that among the things that it means is a dog.

C: Alright.

P: And it means other things as well.

C: OK, so we can move from that point. We both agree

P: Ha ha ha ha ha

C: that mongrel literally means a certain kind of dog.

P: It means a lot of other things, in addition.

C: It also means that.

P: That is one of the things that it means.

C: Next level now. Mongrel also has a symbolic meaning. That is the second thing the dictionary says. It says, “applied to persons as a term of contempt.”

P: Yes. Meaning what, though?

C: Eh?

P: Meaning what?

C: What does, you mean, what does

P: Meaning meaning degenerate.

C: Meaning, well when you say . . .  meaning mix-up.

P: Degenerate.

C: Meaning mixed up, not pure class.

P: No, no, no, no! It means degenerate.

C: It, no, it means just that, no, let me tell you something, you know, some of these definitions, for example, are coming out of white racist notions of

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

C: racial purity. Alright.

P: Hold on little bit. What does the word mongrel mean? What does the word mongrel mean in such a context? It means degenerate.

C: Not necessarily degenerate.

P: Degenerate is one of the meanings.

C: Sometimes you get improvement of stock from mixing, you know.

P: No, no. Not, not, no, no, no, no. Not from mongrelizing ma’am.

C: Hmnnn?

P: This again is something that I, hybridizing produces improvement of stock. Not mongrelizing.

C: Well I’m not an expert on hybrids or mongrels. OK?

P: So a hybrid and a mongrel are not necessarily one and the same.

C: No, no, you remember I read the original definition that showed you that a mongrel and hybrid . . .

P: So what I’m suggesting to you is that a mongrel is a degenerate of a species.

C: Alright. Can I ask you a quick question?

P: Yes.

C: Did you think Mr Seaga intended a compliment to the PNP?

P: Of course not. But the PNP has not been particularly complimentary to the to Mr Seaga or the Labour Party and I don’t hear anybody complaining about it.

C: No, well, I, maybe people, maybe, I don’t know why people are not complaining. But a lot of people were upset by the comparison between the Party and the mongrel.

P: But but but why?

C: Why?

P: Why? Because

Hold on just a moment for me. Hold on.

[commercial break]

P: We’re back here with you ma’am. Now if may go back for a moment to what Mr. Seaga said. He said that the People’s National Party today is not the party that it was under Norman Manley’s leadership, nor the party that it was under Michael Manley’s leadership. It has become a mongrel party. Now in the literal meaning of the word mongrel which is an animal of no definable breed, would you say, would you say that Mr M Norman Manley was pure bred or would he be classifiable as a mongrel? In the literal meaning of that word.

C: You are talking about race or ideology?

P: In terms of race. Because, you see, you are suggesting that Mr Seaga was implying a sort of racist, er, er this was an act of racism.

C: When did I say that now Mr Perkins?

P: Well, you brought up the question of racism and European ahm attitudes. So I’m asking you.

C: I was

P: Could you, could we deal with this?

C: Let me answer nuh!

P: Could we deal with it. Is Norman Manley, was Norman Manley a mongrel?

C: Listen to my response based on the dictionary definition which I read earlier. The third definition of mongrel is “a person not of pure race, chiefly disparaging.” And the reason I brought een, ahm, white racism at that point is to explain that, in my view, the reason that a person not of pure race would be seen as a disparaging, ahm you know, reference

P: Let us leave aside

C: Let mi finish nuh, Mr Perkins!

P: Yes mam, but you are taking, you not answering my question.

C: I am coming to answer the question. Why don’t you just listen? The reason I mention racism, especially white racism, is that there’s a, you know, there’s a whole notion of racial purity that is seen as a virtue, you know, by many. There’s a whole history of it. I don’t have to go into it for most of your listeners who are conscious of these issues. That, the reason that it’s disparaging to be mixed race

P: But that is not the issue here ma’am. The issue is whether Norman Manley was a mong, was a person of pure race.

C: Now what I’m trying to get at is that the question of racial purity is being used by Mr Seaga as a way of talking about a degenerate PNP. Now if we go literally to the question of whether Norman Manley was a mongrel in this third sense of a person not of pure race

P: Was he a person of pure race

C: Well, of course, I have problems with “pure race.”

P: Was Norman Manley, whatever pure race is held to mean. But you have been talking about pure race. So don’t tell me you don’t know what pure race means.

C: No, no. What I’m saying, I have, I have ideological problems with

P: Was Norman Manley a person of pure race? Yes or no?

C: Well in the ordinary, everyday, commonsense meaning of pure race, I would think not.

P: No. Was Michael Manley, was Michael Manley a person of pure race?

C: Well, pure, again, in the sense of not being the result of various racial mixings, no.

P: Was, is Edward Seaga a person of pure race?

C: I don’t know Mr

P: You don’t know?

C: Seaga’s pedigree.

P: If I told you

C: And I use pedigree symbolically.

P: If I told you

C: And I am not calling Mr Seaga a dog. I am using pedigree symbolically.

P: If I told you that I happen to know. If I told you that Edward Seaga is not a person of pure race, ahm, would you accept that?

C: Of course. You know him better than I do.

P: So, in other words, then, in other words, listen to what the man is saying

C: I am a man of mixed race

P: The party under Norman Manley

C: Ih hih, was a mixed race party.

P: No, no, no. He’s saying the party, whatever the party was under Norman Manley

C: It was mixed race.

P: No, no, no, no. Yes it the the race, the the I mean all the, Glasspole

C: Now listen to youself.

Florizel Glasspole

P: Glasspole, Wills Isaacs

C: Mr Perkins, fair is fair.

P: Now hold on. Just listen to me for a moment nuh ma’am.

C: Alright. If I listen to you for a moment

P: Mr Glasspole

C: you will listen to me!

P: Mr Glasspole

C: Perkins, if I listen to you will you listen to me?

P: Yes, of course I’ll listen to you.

C: I’m listening.

Wills Isaacs

P: Mr Glasspole, Mr Wills Isaacs, Dr aah Gentleman from Manchester the whole lot of them in that party were all mixed up. Mongrel people from the point of view of the issue of pure race. So is Eddie Seaga himself. Now what, therefore, why do you believe that Eddie Seaga, and you should explain this to me, that Eddie Seaga is using the word mongrel in a racist sense which applies, he’s saying that in Norman Manley’s day, the party was not a mongrel party. In Michael Manley’s day the party was not a mongrel party although PJ Patterson was a member of the party and a high-ranking member of it. What he’s saying is and all the people who are now leaders of the People’s National Party were in the party in Michael Manley’s day when he said the party was not a mongrel party. The party is now a mongrel party, he says. If he is using mongrel in a racist sense then he is being, he is disparaging as much himself and Norman Manley and Michael Manley as he is dis disparaging anybody in the PNP now.

C: Alright.

P: So why have you selected, why have you and other people at the University who should know better, why have you elected to suggest to people that this was a racist remark?

C: Mr Perkins are you going to allow me to answer?

P: Yes, yes. Yes, yes.

C: Are you promising

P: Yes, you go right ahead.

C: you will not interrupt?

P: People are listening to you. You answer

C: Good.

P: Hih, hih, hih, hih, hih!

C: To answer that question how do we make the leap from the symbolic to the literal? – because that is what you’re really dealing with now. What you’re saying is Mr Seaga was speaking at the symbolic level. He was not speaking literally. He was saying that the PNP, the old school PNP had high standards and now it has degenerated. That is the sense of

P: Thank you very much. That is precisely

C: Mr Perkins I thought you said you would listen. Shut up! You are not honouring our contract.

P: That is precisely what he was saying.

C: You are not honouring our contract. You said you would let me speak.

P: But of course you’re speaking. I’m not stopping you.

C: You asked me how did we get from the symbolic domain

P: Ha ha ha ha ha

C: to the literal, and I’m explaining how we got to that domain. So we are in the symbolic domain. Where what he’s talking about is not dogs but the notion of degeneracy.

P: Thank you very much.

C: Good.

P: Precisely what I’ve said.

C: Mr Perkins keep quiet and let me finish nuh!

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

Michael Manley

C: You ask me how do we go from the lit, how do we go from that symbolic domain to the literal. Now Mr. Manley senior Mr. Manley junior are mixed race. In the Jamaican context that particular mixture – because is not all mixtures that are equal, you know – that brown mixture

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

C: Is associated, you’re listening? Don’t laugh

P: I’m listening, yes, yes.

C: you might miss something important. You asked me to answer a question and I’m answering.

P: I see a torturous piece of reasoning coming up. But go ahead.

C: From the symbolic to the literal. You have been shifting your definition of mongrel between the symbolic and literal domains.

P: I have not been doing any such thing.

C: Yes.

P: That is not true.

C: Mr Perkins keep quiet and mek mi finish mi point nuh.

P: Well don’t accuse me of what I haven’t done.

C: Listen to me.  I’m going to answer you.  How do we get from symbolic to literal?

Literally, as you yourself said earlier, Mr. Manley senior, Mr Manley junior were mixed race. Mongrel in terms of racial definition. In Jamaica, our national motto, “Out of many, one people” at a certain level valorizes, it bigs up brownings. It bigs up mixed race people. This is the standard that many people aspire towards. Many black men have to get light-skinned women to improve the stock of the children.

P: In other words, if you are a mongrel you are a higher caste.

C: Right.

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

C: If you are a mongrel you are high class.

P: Good good.

P.J. Patterson

C: Both Manleys are mongrels in the racial sense. Mr Patterson, who, as he says, if he comes down into the audience looks like the masses, appears to be pure

P: Does he?

C: In certain contexts, purity is not an asset.

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha

C: Racial purity in Jamaica, especially if it’s African racial purity, is seen as degeneration. It is a deviation from the high ideal of brownness.

P: How can it be degenerate?

C: Listen to me, Mr Perkins.

P: I don’t understand. You know what degenerate means?

C: I’m explaining how, why black people in this country vex. I am trying to tell you why black people in this country vex when Mr Seaga says a statement which they interpret

P: No!

C: as meaning

P: Hold on just a moment for me, hold on,

C: black people

P: Stop there

C: as dogs

P: Stop there for me nuh please.

C: I’m not going to stop

P: Yes, please stop

C: Unless you are taking a commercial break.