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.”
Under 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.”
My 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!
These 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
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.
In 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’.
As 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.