Taking Liberties With Marcus Garvey

Jamaican art critics can be very intolerant. Not just the professionals who arrogantly expect us to take as gospel their point of view. It’s also the amateurs who depend on the evidence of our own eyes to pass judgment about the value of art. Especially when it’s about public figures!

I remember the controversy over Christopher Gonzalez’s inventive sculpture of Bob Marley that the Government commissioned in 1981. Born in Kingston, Gonzalez was living in Atlanta. David Boxer, then chief curator at the National Gallery, was sent to check on the progress of the work. He immediately ‘sighted’ problems.

Bob-Marley-Statues-2

Bob was growing out of a tree root. Like a merman, the singer had no feet. Worst of all, the face looked nothing like Marley’s. When the sculpture arrived in Jamaica, angry reviewers comprehensively dissed it. They authoritatively declared, “Dat a no Bob.” The statue was a brilliant evocation of the spirit of Marley. But that’s not what the people wanted.

Neither did Bob’s family! Cedella Booker and Rita Marley insisted that the image was inappropriate. Edward Seaga, then prime minister, agreed. Alvin Marriott was commissioned to do a realistic sculpture, which stands (on feet) across from the National Stadium.

Gonzalez’s sculpture is now rooted at Island Village in Ocho Rios after languishing for many years in the National Gallery. It should be transplanted to The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. There it would inspire students to “be bright and out of order” – as a clever sign on the college campus advocates.

DEADLY REVIEWS

Two Fridays ago, a bust of Marcus Garvey, made by the renowned sculptor Raymond Watson, was unveiled at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona. The swift response of the amateur art critics was uncompromising: “Dat a no Marcus Garvey.” Some of the reviews I’ve heard are deadly: “Im look like im have cancer”; “It look like bees sting im pon im top lip”: “Im deh pon SlimFast”.

GarveyB20170523C

A Gleaner article by Paul Williams, published last Wednesday, records more responses: “‘Tek it dung,’ one woman said calmly. ‘That statue does not represent Marcus Garvey – that’s a fraud,’ pronounced an elderly Rasta, donning the colours of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). With photos of Garvey, and sometimes using expletives, he ranted until way after the formalities were over.”

Edward Seaga, a former distinguished fellow in the School for Graduate Studies and Research at the UWI, could have given valuable advice about the politics of commissioning public monuments. A student of anthropology, Seaga fully understands the power of symbols. He knows that Garvey is the embodiment of Black Power, not just for Rastafari but also for the black majority.

As minister of finance, Seaga played a leading role in bringing home Garvey’s remains from the UK in November 1964. That was an eloquent political statement. Seaga was also instrumental in ensuring that Marcus Garvey was declared Jamaica’s first national hero in 1969. I’m sure Seaga would empathise with those critics who are distressed by Raymond Watson’s representation of Garvey.

MOTHER MARIAMNE SAMAD

unknown-2The worst thing about the image is not that it doesn’t look like Garvey. Most of us haven’t seen Garvey in the flesh. Mother Mariamne Samad, who is 94, is the only person at the ceremony who actually met Garvey. She was five years old and she remembers being at the corner of 132nd Street and 5th Avenue in Harlem when Garvey briefly spoke to her.

Our images of Garvey have been mostly defined by photographs. We trust that they are accurate. But long before Instagram filtering, photos have been touched up, often to remove melanin. At the unveiling, Professor Rupert Lewis, eminent Garvey scholar, declared in a conciliatory tone, “There are many images of Garvey that you can get from his 52 years.”

True! Unfortunately, Raymond Watson’s image of Garvey reveals nothing of the authority, passion and power of more full-bodied representations of our national hero. I wouldn’t go as far as cancer. But Garvey seems poorly. His posture conveys passivity. He looks like a weakling. Who approved this diminished portrayal?

The bust should be replaced with an image that inspires unequivocal admiration of Garvey’s accomplishments as an illustrious pan-Africanist rallying the black world to affirm pride in race. Perhaps the CHASE Fund could support the commissioning of a new sculpture for UWI. And Watson’s could be donated to Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey. It would take its rightful place among the many images of Garvey archived there.

Under the visionary leadership of Dr Donna McFarlane, director/curator of Liberty Hall, the interactive museum has recently been redesigned by the brilliant creative team, Art on The Loose, based in Chicago. Marcus Garvey’s life story is told in inspiring words, sounds and images. It’s a completely engaging multimedia experience.

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The best thing about the UWI monument is the Garvey quotation inscribed on its base: “What I write today may live with me, but when I die, my writing lives on; therefore, what you do or write must be so clear as to live on when you are gone, that others who may read it might get a clear conception of what you mean.”  The UWI needs a lucid monument to Marcus Garvey that portrays a clear conception of the meaning of the man. Perhaps, next time, it will be a full-scale statue.

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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 I

On Monday, December 29, 1997, I had an hour-long conversation with Wilmot Perkins on his radio show, ‘Perkins On Line,’ about Edward Seaga’s description of the People’s National Party as a ‘mongrel’ party.  At the time, I was writing a column for the Jamaica Observer and excerpts of the transcript were published in the paper in three installments.  The first was titled, ‘Playing fool to catch wise’.   In the next few blog posts, I’ll be serialising an unedited transcript of the entertaining conversation.  

Perkins: ‘We’re back here with you on line. Hello?

Cooper: ‘Hallo?’

P:  Yes, ma’am, good afternoon to you.

C: A very good afternoon to you Mr. Perkins.  I’m Carolyn Cooper . . .

P:  Ooooh, Miss, Mrs . . . Mrs or Miss Cooper?

C: Miss Cooper

P:  Miss Cooper.  How are you?

C: Fine.

P: Good.

C: Very well. All the best for the new year, Mr. Perkins.

P: Oh, thank you very much. And the same to you!

C: Thank you. No, well the reason I’m calling, you see, is because somebody just called me a little while a go to say that you were on the air telling people that mongrel does not mean dog.  Is that right?

P. Does not mean dog.

C: I didn’t actually hear that, so I’m wondering if that’s what you actually said.

P: That a mong, mongrel does not necessarily mean dog.

C: Oh, you’re saying ‘necessarily’.

P: Yes

C: Oh you’re modifying it.

P. No, no, no, no!  No, no, no, no!

C: So you concede that it does mean dog as well.

P. It, it, well, there are dogs; there are mongrel dogs and mongrel all sorts of other things.

C: Alright.  Now, Mr. Perkins, I don’t know which dictionary you consulted for that definition but my trusty Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, listen to the definitions it gives for mongrel.  The first definition, “a dog of no definable breed”

P: Yes

C:  “resulting from various crossings.”

P: Yes

C: 1b, “applied to persons as a term of contempt.”

P: Yes

C: That’s the primary meaning.  The secondary meaning 2, “an animal or plant resulting from the crossing of different breeds or kinds, restricted by some to the result of the crossing of varieties opposed to hybrid”; and 3, “a person not of pure race, chiefly disparaging.”

P: Uh huh

C: So when you say mongrel is not necessarily dog, Mr. Perkins,

P: Yes

C: You not being fair.

P: Why?

C: Because the primary meaning of mongrel is a “dog of no definable breed”.

P: But the primary meaning implies that there are other meanings.

C: Yes, Mr Perkins, I’m not saying there are not other meanings.

P: So therefore, if it has – hold on with me – if there are other meanings,

C: Uh huh

P: Right, and, and, and if there are other meanings of the word mongrel

C: Yes

P: Then why do you light up on what you are calling the primary meaning to say that that is the only meaning?

Edward Seaga

C: Because, Mr. Perkins, in the context of Mr. Seaga’s usage – let me tell you now, I didn’t hear him, you know; this is all hearsay. I didn’t hear what he said. I gather he said this is the PNP is a mongrel party, not the pure – well I don’t know if he said pure, it’s not the . . .

P: No, he said, he said that it was not the party of Norman Manley,

C: Or?

P:  Nor of Michael Manley

Michael Manley

C: Alright

P:  It is now a mongrel party.

C: OK.  Now in that context of usage,

P: Yes

C: I take your point that, perhaps, he did not mean mongrel as dog, although he . . .

P: No, hold on little bit.  Hold on little bit.  Ahm, you are a graduate of a university?

C: Yes man

P: And a teacher, and a teacher of English?

C: Yes, I teach literature, but you know literature,

P: You teach literature.

C: The raw material of literature is language.

P: Is language

C: So I teach language.

P: Language.  Therefore I assume that you are not only familiar with the semantics of words but you are familiar with words used as metaphor.

C: Oh yes, Mr Perkins!  If I were to say . . .

P: And if the word, if the word is used in relation to  

C: Careful now Mr Perkins, careful what you say

P: Yes.  Analyse with me. The word mongrel, the primary meaning you say

C: No, not I say

P: Alright

C: The Oxford

P: The Oxford Dictionary.

C: The primary meaning is a dog.

P: Is a dog

C: Dog.  Of no definable breed

P: Of no definable breed. If the word is used  . . .

C: Metaphorically?

P: Hold on little bit. If Mr Seaga says that the People’s National Party is a mongrel party

C: Yes

P: He clearly is not talking then about a dog.  He’s talking about a party.

C: He’s talking about the party, but he’s applying to the party

P: No! Hold on just a moment!

C: A word – mongrel – is functioning there as an adjective describing the party.

P: Miss Cooper

C: Yes sir.

P: If he’s . . .  you say the primary meaning of mongrel

C:  Uh huh

P: Is a kind of dog. Yes.  Now, if he is using the word not in relation to dogs, to a dog, but to a party

C: He’s using it metaphorically.

P: Then he clearly is using the word metaphorically.

C: Right

P: Now, so what we are dealing with here is a metaphor.

C: Mr. Perkins, a lot of your listeners don’t know what metaphor means.

P: Hold on! We’re not dealing here with a statement of fact; we’re dealing with a metaphor.

C: Yes, well we’re dealing with a statement of fact, that he did say that the PNP is a mongrel party.

P:  No, no! That is not the fact that I’m talking about.

C: What we have to establish now is what does that factual statement mean.

P: No, no! No, no! That’s not a factual statement. That’s not a factual, what I would call a factual statement.  It is a metaphorical statement.

C: Alright, no, I’m operating at two levels; first, the first level is to say let us establish

P: Did he or did he not say it.

C: Yes

P: Yes, he did say something. 

C: I didn’t hear it.

P: He did say it.

C: He did say it. So we’re moving on to the next level. What did he mean?

P: What kind of statement is it? Does he mean that the PNP is a dog? Or is he making a metaphorical statement, ahm, to mean that the PNP is a, is a dog of no definable character?

C: Yes, that is what he’s saying.

P: A dog, no, no! Does he mean that the PNP is a dog? Or does he mean that the PNP is a party? Because he didn’t say it was a mong mongrel. He said it was a mongrel party.

C: He’s using it . . .

P: Hold on little bit. No, no, no, no! The word mongrel in the context, I heard what he said; the word mongrel was not used as a noun.

C & P: It was used as an adjective.

C: Alright.

P: Because it qualified party.

C: Ok. Yes

P: So Mr Mong Seaga was not talking about a dog. He was talking about a party.

C: That is like a dog

P: That shared

C: He was talking about a party

P: that shared in his view 

C: that is like a dog, Mr. Perkins.

P.  Hold on little! No, no!

C: He was talking about a party that he was comparing to

P: No, no, no! He wasn’t comparing. This wasn’t a comparison

C: He was comparing the party to

P: No, this was not a comparison.

C: A kind of dog.

P: No ma’am. No, no, no, no!  Come now. He was not talking about a dog.

C: Alright, Mr. Perkins

P: He didn’t use the word mongrel as a noun. He used it as an adjective.

C: And as an adjective

P: As an adjective he used it.

C: As an adjective, it contains the qualities of the noun.

P. Hold on just a moment. Hold on. He used the word mongrel as an adjective qualifying the word party.

C: Mr. Perkins, this might confuse you more. Let me

P: Hold on just a moment nuh! Hold on. Let me tell you what he said.

C: Yes.

P: He used the word mongrel as an adjective qualifying the word party.

C: Ih hih.

Norman Manley

P: So he isn’t talking about a dog. He’s talking about a party.

C: OK.

P: That shares some of the attributes, in his view, of a mongrel.

C: Right.

P: OK

C: Good.

P: Good. So we are agreed on that.

C: Yes.

P: What’s wrong with that?

Hieronymus Bosch's 'Wriggling Things'

This is how I answer that question in my column published in the Observer on January 17, 1998:

“Good question.  You see what’s wrong with that.  When I pin down Mr. Perkins – he is forced to concede that mongrel means dog and the PNP is being compared to a dog – he tries to wriggle away by pretending that we really agree”.

There’s a lot more wriggling in Part II.

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.  He 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.