Craven Choke Puppy Dog

The Jamaican proverb about the dog that chokes because of greed came to mind as I kept thinking about the way in which the Holness administration appears to have mismanaged the coronavirus pandemic. Let me make it absolutely clear that my use of the proverb is not intended to suggest that the leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) comprises humans with canine tendencies. I would not dare to make Eddie Seaga’s grave error of judgement when he described the People’s National Party (PNP), led by P.J. Patterson, as a “mongrel party.”

Still for all, Jamaican mongrels have recently been stepping up in life. Lucky stray dogs have been adopted by caring Canadians and are now living the life of Riley in foreign. They even have an upmarket name: Caribbean terriers. I expect that many non-canine Jamaicans are quite jealous of the dogs that are benefiting from opportunities denied to humans. Incidentally, I first used the pronoun “who” in reference to these dogs and was quickly corrected by spell check which forced me to substitute “that.” Dogs, after all, are not human.

But, in fact, these new Canadian citizens have assumed near-human status. They are enjoying unexpected privileges as creatures of substance. They are treated like family, not strays. They now have enough to eat in their new homes. They don’t have to hunt for ‘scrapsiz’. Perhaps, because they are unaccustomed to specialist dog food, they may take a little time to adjust to their new diet. But they are no longer craven. They are not likely to choke because of greed.


The meaning of craven in Jamaican is different than in English. The somewhat wrongly named Dictionary of Jamaican English defines ‘craven’ in this way: “craving, greedy, avaricious.” In English, craven means “extremely cowardly.” Both meanings of the word seem to apply to Andrew Holness for rushing to call elections last year as the pandemic was surging. The cowardly JLP craved continuing power and decided that the sooner elections were called, the better their chances of victory. They didn’t give a damn about the health of the nation.

Holness was too craven to realise that the PNP, led by Peter Phillips, was no threat to the JLP. And the top dogs in the PNP who supported the re-election of Phillips as party leader were also quite craven and cowardly. I speculate that they knew Phillips could not lead the party to victory. But voting for him was a sure way to frustrate the ambitions of rivals yelping for the juicy bone of party leader. Phillips would be forced to resign after defeat in the general elections and a successor would then be selected. The greedy rivals failed to recognise that choosing a new leader before the elections would have been advantageous. So they all choked on a massive election defeat.

If Andrew Holness had waited another six months to get the virus under control and then call elections, the JLP would still have won. The victory might not have been so overwhelming, especially if the PNP had a new leader. But Holness was too afraid to take this risk. His miscalculation reminds me of Aesop’s fable about the craven dog and the bone. While crossing a bridge, the dog saw his reflection in the water and assumed it was another dog with a bigger bone. Greedily, he figured he could take the bone from that dog and end up with two. He jumped in the water and lost his bone.


Unlike the craven dog, Holness managed to hold on to his bone. He led his party to victory. But at what price? Thousands of supporters of both parties, many of them unmasked, came out in the streets to enjoy the festivities of the election campaign. There were motorcades that attracted spectators. It was partying as usual. The reckless hypocrisy of politicians who were breaching the COVID-19 protocols they were supposed to be defending was obvious.

The response of many other lawless Jamaicans was, “If election can keep, party can keep!” You couldn’t blame them. The Government had set a terrible example with disastrous consequences. Who knows exactly how many infections resulted from the superspreader elections? On September 4, the day after the general elections, Minister of Health Christopher Tufton announced that COVID-19 was in the community-transmission phase and could no longer be easily traced from person to person.

Couldn’t this development have been anticipated before the elections? The advice from the minister of health was that we should assume that everyone we meet has the virus. Has contact tracing been suspended? Instead of leading by example, the Government allowed craven cowardice to compromise the health of the nation. And they have not had the courage to apologise for their folly and systematically try to gain widespread support for safety measures.

Instead, the Government is introducing fines and imposing curfews. Imprisonment at home for three weekends is not the answer to the crisis. Self-policing is the only system that can work. In addition, the Government must release accurate COVID-19 figures, especially the number of deaths, to scare the hell out of all those foolish people who are still not taking the virus seriously.

One thought on “Craven Choke Puppy Dog

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  1. “Craven” is such a brilliant word, and it sums up much of the behavior of our leaders and others during these COVID times. I always say you cannot have your cake and eat it too, but many seem to think it’s possible. Humans’ greed! It will be the death of us, literally. PS Thank you so much for your kind birthday e-card, it was great! I was trying to respond in kind but it didn’t seem to work!

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