Time To Boycott Britain!

dettmer-popup“At his favorite seaside resort of Weymouth, the story goes, King George III once encountered an absentee owner of a Jamaican plantation whose coach and liveried outriders were even more resplendent than his own. ‘Sugar, sugar, eh?’ the King exclaimed. ‘All that sugar!'”

I found this gem in a book by Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves. What King George should have said was, “Human trafficking, eh? All that human trafficking!” And it wasn’t only individual planters who were spectacularly enriched by the unpaid labour of enslaved Africans.

Historians and economists have amassed the evidence. Britain’s industrial revolution was fuelled by the blood money of plantation slavery in the Caribbean. Bristol, Liverpool and London all flourished on human trafficking.   So there’s no need for any more talk about the right to reparations! It’s time for action. It’s time to launch a boycott against Britain until the right to reparations is acknowledged and a carefully managed process of restitution is begun.

A Caribbean boycott of Britain, initiated by Jamaica, may seem like idle talk. But, with Norman Manley’s leadership, Jamaica was the second country, after India, to boycott apartheid South Africa. At the time, we were still a colony of Britain. But that didn’t stop us. The South African government complained to Britain. And their response was that Jamaica’s regulation of trade was our own business.


'And who ordered the table scraps?'

Unlike the PNP of Norman Manley, the present Government doesn’t seem to have the guts to stand up for our rights. Why are we agreeing to take scraps from Britain’s table when we are entitled to so much more?   Take, for instance, this promised piece of a prison.   According to a press release issued last Wednesday by the Ministry of National Security, a “non-binding” memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Governments of Jamaica and the UK to “improve prison conditions in Jamaica”.

But that’s not all. The prison will also be used to get rid of Jamaicans convicted of crime in the UK! The proposed prisoner transfer, which has to be approved by the Jamaican Parliament, is designed to turn us into a penal colony.   According to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, “This is in the interest of both of us and is a good example of how we can work together to benefit people here in Jamaica and in Britain, too”.

Cameron definitely tek wi fi eedyat! What is Jamaica actually going to get out of this ‘gift’? A whole heap of criminals in a megaprison. That’s what. And when our home-grown criminals buck up the deported yardies and they start plotting together is going to be hell and powderhouse!

On top of that, I suspect that Jamaica is not going to make much money out of the construction of that prison. I bet you anything British architects will be hired to design the complex. And the Brits will get all of the high-paying jobs. Local construction workers might get a break doing the heavy lifting   But most of the promised millions will stay in the U.K. We will become a penal colony all for nothing.

It’s a well-known ‘development’ model. Foreign experts are usually the ones who benefit the most from overseas projects. Cameron himself admitted as much. Jamaica will have access to a new £300 million fund for improving infrastructure across the Caribbean. But guess who will get the contracts? The UK Prime Minister tells it like it is: “I believe that this will benefit British businesses that have the knowledge and expertise to deliver infrastructure improvement”.


Cameron also promised that US$9 billion would be spent in the region on climate change projects: “I am determined to ensure that some of that money will be spent right here . . . .” Cameron knows that it takes a lot of political clout to actually allow development money to flow into so-called developing countries. And “some” doesn’t sound like a high percentage.

Cameron probably thinks that these ‘monkey money’ projects will stop CARICOM from vigorously proceeding with a legal claim for reparations. Addressing the Jamaican Parliament, he brazened it out, “I do hope that, as friends who have gone through so much together since those darkest of times, we can move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for the future”.

imagesNo prospect of deporting to the colonies the direct descendants of enslavers to serve their ancestors’ sentence for crimes against humanity committed here! We would need a rather big penitentiary that the British government would most certainly not be willing to build. Not in their best interests. And no repatriation of their ill-gotten gains! Like many a modern criminal, the known descendants of former enslavers are living high on the hog, luxuriating in the proceeds of their ancestors’ crimes.

The word ‘reparation’ comes from the same Latin root as ‘repair’ – reparare. Its fundamental meaning is ‘re’ (again) and ‘parare’ (make ready, prepare).   Money can never repair the damage that was done to Africans, both on the continent and in the Diaspora, as a consequence of trans-Atlantic slavery. But we certainly can’t move on without it. Even if it means boycotting our ‘friends’.

Honouring Queen Mother Mariamne Samad

Mariamne Samad named herself after a woman who was stoned to death. As a child, she’d read a book of Bible stories which told the tale of Mariamne, the second wife of King Herod. As she remembers it, Herod’s son by his first wife, Doris, accused his stepmother of adultery. Confronted by Herod, Mariamne fearlessly stood her ground, proclaiming her innocence. She was put to death all the same.

Wikipedia gives a much more elaborate version of the story in which men fighting for power used women as pawns. Herod married Mariamne, the niece of his rival Antigonus, “in an attempt to secure a claim to the throne”. He banished his first wife and their three-year-old son. No wonder the boy was ‘carrying feelings’ against his stepmother.

King Herod

To cut a very long story short, Herod was so obsessed with Mariamne’s beauty he gave instructions that if his wife outlived him, she was to be killed. He did not want her to remarry. Naturally, Mariamne was not amused. Once she discovered Herod’s madness, which she certainly did not see as love, she refused to have sex with him. Herod’s mother and sister saw the falling out as opportunity to get rid of Mariamne. They accused her of plotting to poison her husband. She was convicted and executed.


Like her formidable namesake, Queen Mother Mariamne Samad is a fearless woman who has long stood her ground. On the 1st of September, she celebrated her 90th birthday. Earlier that week, we had a very long chat as she related some of the high points of her life. I was amazed at the ease with which she can recall events from more than half a century ago. Her short-term memory is just as intact.

Mariamne Samad, formerly Muriel Allman, was born in Harlem Hospital in 1922 to Alice Allman, née Brooks, and George Allman, a gold miner from Guyana. Her parents met while listening to Marcus Garvey speaking on a street corner in Harlem. Muriel’s parents became ardent Garveyites and raised their daughter in keeping with Garvey’s philosophy and practice of self-reliance.

Muriel met her husband-to-be, Clarence Thomas, when she was only 14 years of age. She was a member of the Garvey Legion and he was a stern leader of the children. Three years later, they were married. As she put it, “Most of my peers went into factory work, but I went into marriage.” Some cynics may not see the difference as clearly as Muriel did.


Three months after their marriage, Muriel discovered that Clarence was a Muslim. She was an agnostic, like her father. Clarence wanted them to change their names, but Muriel refused. She didn’t want “all that foreign stuff”. Clarence, to his credit, didn’t insist. By then, he must have realised that Muriel was no walkover. In fact, she was quite feisty.  She once teasingly accused him of being a ‘predator’ for snatching her from the proverbial cradle.

It was a near-death experience that forced Muriel to agree that the whole family should adopt Muslim names. In a case of mistaken identity, their son Teddy was almost murdered by a gang of youth who came looking for another Teddy Thomas. It was a five-year-old boy who persuaded them that they had the wrong Teddy Thomas. Teddy soon became Sayeed.

The imam who was presiding over the renaming ceremony had recommended Maryam for Muriel. But she didn’t like the Mary bit and chose Mariamne instead. And Clarence Thomas became Abdul Samad. Reborn in America, Clarence had been born in Jamaica. In 1965, Mariamne Samad came to see what her husband’s country was all about.

Commodore Hotel

The Samads had been part of the Federation movement in New York. Mariamne remembers meeting Norman Manley at a grand reception at the Commodore hotel on 42nd Street. He touched her Garvey button, which she always wore, and said, “He was a great man.” Surprised, she responded, “What? From you?” To which Manley replied, “I was just doing my job.”


When Independence followed the collapse of the West Indies Federation, Mariamne welcomed the birth of ‘a new black nation in the West’. But Jamaicans weren’t ready to be black. Mariamne’s daughter, Sayeeda, came to Jamaica to take part in the Independence celebrations. She had a Miriam Makeba hairstyle and people just laughed at her. It was Sonny Bradshaw and his Big Band who embraced her, giving her an opportunity to perform with them.

SEs Mariamne Samad’s own mother-in-law, Imogene, was quite upset by her son’s choice of wife. She is alleged to have said, “I don’t mind Clarence marrying an American. But why he has to marry this black one and she don’t have tall hair?”

When she found out what ‘tall’ hair meant, Mariamne was quite unfazed. At the time, she had an Afro, dyed a beautiful rust colour. And she always wore African clothes. In fact, she’s credited for introducing the dashiki as an African-American fashion statement.

Sister Samad has spent most of her life as a Black Power activist. In New York, she established the Sankore Nubian Study School on Garveyism and was frequently invited to teach African history and Garveyism in the New York public-school system.

Now resident in Jamaica for more than three decades, Sister Samad still continues to teach and live Garveyism. During Heritage Week in October 1999, she was installed as Queen Mother in a grand ceremony that acknowledged her role as an exemplary female elder. Much earlier, in the 1970s, she was similarly honoured in Ghana.

Regretfully, Sister Mariamne Samad has long outlived her husband. Unlike Herod, Brother Abdul was not foolish enough to have plotted his wife’s death. He knew better than that. His Mariamne had to stay alive to sustain their life work: honouring the legacy of Marcus Garvey.

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 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.



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.


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.