Mek Sista P tek her time!

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.


Wat a way certain people a run down Sista P fi call election! A wa mek? Ascorden to Constitution, election no ha fi call so till way down a April. 2017! Di way me seet, since Sista P never call election last year, she might as well tek her time decide her mind.

5237368-cunning-smiling-red-devilDem a throw word pon Sista P seh she no know weh she a do. She dis a wait-wait an dem no know a wa she a wait fa. She mek dem know seh she a wait pon God. An a it mek dem a tek her mek poppyshow. If plenty a dem odder politician did wait pon God fi tell dem weh fi do, tings mighta plenty better fi wi. It look like a devil a tell some a dem weh fi do.

Suppose Sista P have big plan weh she naa tell nobody? Member seh a February 26, 2006 she beat out Peter Phillips fi turn leader a di PNP. Mi wonder if Sista P a consider fi step down after 10 year. If she do dat, PNP ha fi pick a new leader fi carry di party go eena election. An dat a go tek lickle time.

Sista P no gi mi no message fi gi unu. An God no reveal nutten to mi. Mi a no no prophet. Mi dis a wonder. An all me know, Sista P no ha fi fret bout fi her legacy. It safe. Di first woman fi turn prime minister eena Jamaica! Dat kuda never easy. An all who like gwaan like seh Sista P a eedyat, mek mi aks dem a who a di eedyat dem weh mek her turn prime minister?


Den mi can just see di runjostling fi tek over from Sista P. Di best candidate me tink, a di said same Peter Phillips weh Sista P did dust out fi turn party leader. Im have sense an im work hard. An it no easy fi deal wid IMF an ha fi a carry pure bad news come gi wi. Well lickle good news to. But not to dat. Fi wi dollar pop down. An it look like seh it naa go ketch up itself fi now.

If Sista P gi up di prime minister work, she have nuff tings weh she can do. Di first ting mi wuda like see her do a fi write one book bout her life. No ongle wa deh pon Wikipedia. Bill an receipt. She can get one duppy writer fi help her write di book. An she no ha fi shame fi get help. Nuff cebrelity wid book, a duppy write di book.

PortiaA20160127RBAn wen di book come out, Sista P can go lecture all bout. A yard an abroad. Michael Manley dweet. P.J. Patterson same way. Eddie Seaga. Wen politician lef office, dem no ha fi siddung a dem yard naa do nutten. Sista P have fi her Portia Simpson Miller Foundation weh set up eena 2010. She can gwaan divel it up.

Sista P no fi mek none a di man dem shub her out a office. Dem too renk. A chruu she a woman mek dem a tek liberty wid her. Look how much old man deh eena Parliament! Anybody a tell dem fi go a dem yard? An Sista P stronger an dem. Mek dem wait! God wi tell Sista P when a di right time fi fly di gate. Time longer than rope.


Wat a wie sortn piipl a ron dong Sista P fi kaal ilekshan! A wa mek? Azkaadn tu kanstityuushan, ilekshan no a fi kaal so til wie dong a Iepril. 2017! Di wie mii siit, sins Sista P neva kaal ilekshan laas ier, shi mait az wel tek ar taim disaid ar main.

Dem a chruo wod pan Sista P se shi no nuo we shi a du. Shi dis a wiet-wiet an dem no nuo a wa shi a wiet fa. Shi mek dem nuo se shi a wiet pan Gad. An a it mek dem a tek ar mek papishuo. If plenti a dem ada palitishan dem did wiet pan Gad fi tel dem we fi du, tingz maita plenti beta fi wi. It luk laik a debl a tel som a dem we fi du.


Supuoz Sista P av big plan we shi naa tel nobadi? Memba se a Febieri 26, 2006 shi biit out Peter Phillips fi ton liida a di PNP. Mi wanda if Sista P a kansida fi step dong aafta 10 ier. If shi du dat, PNP a fi pik a nyuu liida fi kyari di paati go iina ilekshan. An dat a go tek likl taim.

Sista P no gi mi no mechiz fi gi unu. An Gad no riviil notn tu mi. Mi a no no prafit. Mi dis a wanda. An aal mii nuo, Sista P no a fi fret bout fi ar legisi. It sief. Di fos uman fi ton praim minista iina Jamieka! Dat kuda neva iizi. An aal uu laik gwaan laik se Sista P a iidyat, mek mi aks dem a uu a di iidyat dem we mek ar ton praim minista?


Den mi kyahn jos si di ronjaslin fi tek uova fram Sista P. Di bes kyandidet mi tingk, a di sed siem Peter Phillips we Sista P did dos out fi ton paati liida. Im av sens an im wok aad. An it no iizi fi diil wid IMF an a fi a kyari pyuur bad nyuuz kom gi wi. Wel likl gud nyuuz tu. Bot nat tu dat. Fi wi dala pap dong. An it luk laik se it naa go kech op itself fi nou.

ghostwriterIf Sista P gi op di praim minista wok, shi av nof ting we shi kyahn du. Di fos ting mi wuda laik si ar du a fi rait wan buk bout ar laif. No ongl wa de pan Wikipedia. Bil an risiit. Shi kyahn get wan dopi raita fi elp ar rait di buk. An shi no a fi shiem fi get elp. Nof sibreliti wid buk, a dopi rait di buk.

An wen di buk kom out, Sista P kyahn go lekcha aal bout. A yaad an abraad. Michael Manley dwiit. PJ Patterson siem wie. Eddie Seaga. Wen palitshan lef afis, dem no a fi sidong a dem yaad naa du notn. Sista P av fi ar Portia Simpson Miller Foundation we set op iina 2010. Shi kyahn gwaan divel it op.

Sista P no fi mek non a di man dem shub ar out a afis. Dem tuu renk. A chruu shi a uman mek dem a tek libati wid ar. Luk omoch uol man de iina Paaliment! Enibadi a tel dem fi go a dem yaad? An Sista P chranga an dem. Mek dem wiet! Gad wi tel Sista P wen a di rait taim fi flai di giet. Taim langa dan ruop.



Just look at how certain people are trying to force Sister P to call elections! Why? According to the Constitution, elections don’t have to be called until way down in April. 2017! The way I see it, since Sister P didn’t announce the date last year, she might as well take her time to make a decision.

They are undermining Sister P, claiming that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. She’s just waiting, waiting and they don’t know what she’s waiting on. She let them know she’s waiting on God. And now they’re taking her for a joke. If a lot of those other politicians would wait on God to tell them what to do, things might be much better for us. It looks as if it’s the devil that’s telling some of them what to do.

editorsforumj20130620rmWhat if Sister P has big plans she’s not telling anybody? Remember that is was on February 26, 2006 that she beat Peter Phillips to become leader of the PNP. I’m wonder if Sister P is considering stepping down after 10 years. If she does, the PNP would have to pick a new leader to take the party into elections. And that’s going to take time.

Sister P hasn’t given me any message to deliver. And God hasn’t revealed anything to me.  I’m not a prophet. I’m just wondering. What I do know is that Sister P doesn’t have to be concerned about her legacy. It’s safe. The first woman to become prime minister of Jamaica! That could never have been easy. And as for all those who like to insist that Sister P is an idiot, let me ask them who are the idiots who made her prime minister?


Then I can just see the infighting to decide who is going to replace Sista P.  I think the best candidate is the same Peter Phillips Sister P defeated to become party leader. He’s sensible and hard-working. And it’s not easy to deal with IMF and have to bring us only bad news.  Well, a little good news too. But not so much. Our dollar has collapsed. And it doesn’t seem as if it’s going to recover any time soon.

If Sister P gives up the job as prime minister, there are lots of other things she can do. I think her first project should be writing her autobiography.  Not just what’s on Wikipedia.  But the whole bill and receipt. She can employ a ghost writer.  And she doesn’t have to be ashamed of getting help. The books of many celebrities are written by ghosts.

TIME+100+Gala+TIME+100+Most+Influential+People+qwSYDPRKYtZlAnd when the book is published, Sister P can do lecture tours all over. At home and abroad. Michael Manley did it. P.J. Patterson as well. And Eddie Seaga. When politicians leave office, they don’t have to sit idly at home.  Sister P has her Portia Simpson Miller Foundation that was set up in 2010. She can continue to develop it.

Sister P shouldn’t make any of those men force her out of office. They are too rude.  It’s because she’s a woman, that’s why they are are taking liberties with her. There are so many old men in Parliament! Is anybody telling them to go home? And Sister P is fitter than them. Let them wait! God will tell Sister P when it’s the right time to make the call. All things in their time!





HAJ Building ‘Solutions’ On Sand

The policy makers at the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) clearly didn’t go to either Sunday or Sabbath school.  Or if they did, they weren’t there the week the other children were learning the chorus about wise and foolish builders:

The wise man built his house upon the rock

And the rain came tumbling down

And the floods went up

And the house on the rock stood firm.

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

And the rain came tumbling down

And the floods went up

And the house on the sand went ‘splash’!

This catchy children’s song is based on the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 7:24 (New Living Translation):  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock”.  In this non-sexist translation, the ‘man’ of the King James Version, whether wise or foolish, becomes the gender-neutral ‘person’.  A very wise move.

The HAJ’s reckless policy of converting protected lands into house spots is a classic example of building on sand.  This practice is not at all sustainable.  It’s short-term thinking at its worst.  In fact, the ‘solutions’ the HAJ keeps fabricating to fix the housing shortage in the Kingston metropolitan area often create new problems. An excellent example is the ‘development’ of Long Mountain.  First it was the Long Mountain Country Club.  Now it’s the whole hillside down from the Country Club and right across from the Mona reservoir that’s at risk.

Long Mountain goes ‘splash’

Mona dam

A 2000 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Long Mountain Country Club clearly outlined the potential threats to the reservoir. There was the risk of an estimated 50% increase in surface runoff from the site.  The report warned that if the runoff got into the reservoir it could “negatively impact the water quality.”  The assessment also underscored the importance of protecting the four wells at the foot of Long Mountain which could be contaminated by the development.

Effects of soil erosion

The report documented the risk of soil erosion as a result of “removing vegetative cover to facilitate construction.”  It noted that “a build up of sediment reduces the capacity of the reservoir and could also clog pipes and drainage outlets, increasing the maintenance cost of the reservoir to the National Water Commission”.  The new development (Mona Estate, Section One) that is now being pushed by The Housing Agency of Jamaica was also the subject of that 2000 environmental impact assessment.

Again, the risk to the reservoir was highlighted:  “Additional storm water will be discharged into existing drainage channels to increase erosion on the lower slopes facing the reservoir, particularly where the extensively fractured and fragmented rock is loosely attached to the fine grain matrix and therefore, highly erodible.  From field observations, there are a number of drainage channels on the lower slope that are capable of carrying storm water laden with sediments directly into the reservoir during periods of high rainfall.”

Conflict of interest

P.J. Patterson

That warning about loose rocks running into the reservoir is a reminder that it’s not only sand that’s an unstable foundation for building.  Not all rock stands firm.  Despite all of the warnings in that 2000 EIA, both the Ministry of Housing and the developer, Robert Cartade, simply disregarded the report.  With the complicity of the Cabinet, led by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, protected lands were degraded to make way for the Country Club.

As part of the application process for a permit for the proposed Mona Estate development, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) asked the Housing Agency of Jamaica (the developer) to commission and pay for a new Environmental Impact Assessment.  I do understand that the cost of the assessment must be borne by the applicant.  But, surely, it would be better for NEPA to manage the process rather than the developer.  This would avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest:  He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Howard Mitchell

This issue was highlighted at a meeting convened last Wednesday by the HAJ to present to the public the EIA prepared by EPN Consultants Ltd. In response to questions about the assessment, Barrington Brown, a civil engineer at EPN Consultants, referred more than once to the HAJ proposal in the first person:  ‘we’ and ‘our’ development. I suggested that this was a Freudian slip signifying collusion of the consultants with the HAJ.  I was rebuked by the self-important Chairman of the proceedings, Howard Mitchell, for speaking out of turn.  But it was worth it.

‘Wa gone bad a morning’

The Housing Agency of Jamaica is on a very slippery slope.  It appears to be operating on the ‘principle’ that ‘wa gone bad a morning cyaan come good a evening’. The latest EIA makes it absolutely clear that “the proposed development site is zoned for public open space in the 1966 Confirmed Kingston Development Order for Kingston while in the emerging Kingston and St. Andrew Development Order, 2008, the proposed zoning is public open space/conservation”.

But the two-faced assessment goes on to say that “there has been in the past a relaxation of the zoning restriction”.  So because there have been breaches in the past we should just keep on turning conservation areas into housing!  The HAJ insists that it’s only 20 acres that are to be captured this time and 200 acres will remain as public open space.

A promise is a comfort to a fool.  Soon it will be another 20 and another 20 until the whole of Long Mountain overlooking the reservoir will be one big ‘development’. Those of us who want to protect the environment for ourselves and future generations must appeal to Prime Minister Simpson Miller and her Cabinet to recapture the lands that were so carelessly given to the HAJ.  Or we will all drown when the rain comes tumbling down and the floods go up.

Cooking Up A Storm In The ‘Intellectual Ghetto’

Last Wednesday, CVM TV aired an intriguing documentary on the life of Wilmot Perkins.  The sinister title of the programme promised high drama: Unmasking ‘Motty.’  Presumably, Motty had been masquerading all along as everything but himself. The TV programme was, apparently, designed to blow the dead man’s cover.

Elaine Perkins

I did see a new side of Motty.  He was very much a self-made man.  The most memorable mental picture from the documentary is the room full of tools for the many trades Motty mastered.  According to his widow, Elaine, Motty had a passion for shaping his world with his own hands.  He built several houses from scratch, a challenge that would stump his less clever detractors.

As it turns out, all of us who agreed to be interviewed for the documentary unmasked ourselves to some degree.  Our view of Motty was defined by our own angle of approach.  D.K. Duncan was deadly.  He pulled no punches.  By contrast, P.J. Patterson was rather restrained.  Much attacked by Motty, P.J. was, nevertheless, quite gracious in his final judgment of the man.

I thought I’d behaved myself.  All the same, I ended up in trouble with Mrs. Perkins. In response to a question from the presenter, Andrew Cannon, about why the University of the West Indies, Mona (UWI) was constantly attacked by Motty, I offered this opinion:

Motty at St. Peter's College

“Well, I saw Motty as a man who didn’t get a chance to get the formal education that he wanted.  And I felt that having dropped out of ahm the seminary, and didn’t, you know he didn’t get the opportunity to go back to university, he ‘carried a little feelings’ against university-educated people.  He used to ‘throw word’ on the University of the West Indies – the intellectual ghetto.  And, you know, you don’t want to say is because he didn’t come to UWI; but he sounded like a lot of it was just ‘bad mind an grudgeful’”.

Elaine Perkins was not amused. Staunchly defending her husband’s contempt for the intellectual ghetto, this is what she had to say:  “Well if it produced her, it is indeed a ghetto.  He’s not wrong.  You know, why doesn’t she go and, you know, do some good work for her country.  She should do something worthwhile with herself.  Go and cook!”

Miss Hottas

And there I was thinking I was already cooking!  My students in the intellectual ghetto like to call me ‘Miss Hottas’.  I tell them I can’t leave all the hotness to them.  I have to keep ‘lickle fi miself’.  So I just laughed when I heard Elaine Perkins trying to relegate me to the kitchen in a most classist and un-feminist way.

But so many people have commented on what they saw as her deliberate rudeness, I felt obliged to become aggrieved.  I didn’t want to disappoint my defenders who were winding me up.  But before getting all hot and bothered, I thought I should ask Mrs. Perkins exactly what she meant by cooking.  Perhaps, she simply wanted me to have a nice diversion from intellectual work.

I called CVM TV and asked the producer of the show, Garfield Burford, to put me in touch with Mrs. Perkins. She told him she didn’t want to talk to me.  And I could write anything I felt like about her. Living with Motty must have its rewards.  You learn how not to give a damn.

So here’s how I deconstructed Mrs. Perkins’ off-the-cuff remark.  The ‘ghetto’ bit didn’t bother me.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘ghetto’ is an abbreviation of the Italian word  ‘borghetto’, meaning “the quarter in a city, chiefly in Italy, to which the Jews were restricted”.  True, the word implies discrimination.  But people who are culturally isolated often turn disadvantage into opportunity.  They are forced to become self-reliant and very creative.

Last Thursday, as I watched Kevin MacDonald’s magical documentary on Bob Marley, I kept thinking of just how many talented people have emerged from Trench Town!

That ghetto has certainly been a centre of intellectual ferment.  If the University of the West Indies could find a way to recharge and transmit the creative energies of Trench Town in its heyday, we’d definitely be cooking.

Flying past my nest

Elaine Perkins appears to have unmasked herself by sending me off to the kitchen.  Throughout the documentary, she tried to present a pretty image of Motty as a defender of poor people.  He was a heroic figure who wanted to see the underprivileged rise up to claim their rightful place in a truly democratic Jamaica.  And Mrs. Perkins’ seemed to share her husband’s love of the oppressed.

Caribbean Domestic Workers Network Launch

But her dismissive ‘go and cook’ comment could reasonably be interpreted as a sign of vexation that I had flown past my nest.  My branch of work clearly ought to be domestic service. Even so, are helpers not entitled to pass judgment on Motty? And how could I be bright enough to think I’m qualified to be a professor?  Only at a ghetto university.

For the sake of my supporters, I must defend myself against Mrs. Perkins’ charge that I’m good for nothing but cooking.  By the way, I’m a pretty good cook.  The problem I have with cooking is that the fruits of one’s labour are so quickly consumed.  You cook for half a day and it’s all over in a few minutes.

I know I’ve done ‘something worthwhile’ with myself for the three decades I’ve taught literature and popular culture at the University of the West Indies.  Just last week, at the final class for the semester on “Reggae Poetry”, I asked students what had they really learnt in the course.  One of them said, “I’ll never look at reggae the same way.”  Another said, “I didn’t know it was that deep”.  That’s good enough for me.  I’ll just keep on cooking.

Is The GSAT A Ponzi Scheme?

GSAT survivors

LET’S FACE It. The Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) isn’t just about measuring the academic accomplishments of primary school students. The test is a clear sign of the failure of our educational system to make adequate provisions for all children to access high-quality secondary education.

A ministry of education paper, ‘What is the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT)?’, admits that there is a serious problem with ‘the system’: “One challenge faced by the process is the public perception that students are not ‘placed in a preferred school’. Upon examination of the system it becomes clear that the ministry’s ability to place students in their preferred schools is dependent on the number of places available in each school, as well as the number of students selecting that school.”

It was P.J. Patterson who famously defined Jamaican politics as “the fight for scarce benefits and political spoils carried on by hostile tribes which seem to be perpetually at war”. P.J.’s vivid imagery of war could just as easily be applied to our educational system. Last month, approximately 44,000 students took the GSAT. They are battling for 45,324 secondary school places.

Jamaica College

Those ‘objective’ figures suggest that there are more than enough places for all potential secondary school students. No scarce benefits. But there’s a not so subjective subtext that must be taken into account. Certain schools are ‘preferred’ precisely because parents know that some secondary schools are much better equipped than others. And most students will not get into their parents’ preferred school.

Hampton High School

After reading the GSAT paper on the ministry’s website, I called the Student Assessment Unit to get more data. The staff member to whom I spoke was very helpful. I learned that last year the first choice of approximately 19,000 of the 44,000 GSAT candidates was one of just 15 ‘preferred’ schools across the island.

On average, each of these schools can accept only about 500 grade-seven students each year, for a total of 7,500 places. If you can pass GSAT maths, you will quickly figure out that 11,500 disappointed applicants (about 60 per cent) failed to get into these ‘preferred’ schools.

Olympic GSAT training

In a culture of scarce benefits and educational spoils, it’s not just the academically fit who survive. There are other factors that determine performance. In the war for places in ‘good’ schools, the wealthy usually beat the poor. Preparing children to take the GSAT is quite an expensive business. And it is, in fact, a business for the many service providers.

Take, for instance, GoGSAT which outlines payment options on its website: “GoGSAT offers service at a Bronze, Silver and Premium service level”.  Like the Olympics. GoGSAT’s choice of names for the levels of its service cleverly acknowledges the fact that preparing for the GSAT is an extreme ‘sport’. It requires the discipline and endurance of an Ironman Triathlon athlete. Just ask any child (or parent) who has survived the rigorous training programme for the GSAT.

And GoGSAT’s fees are not cheap. At the top end of the scale, students can get personalised online tutorials for J$12,000.00 per month. The generic packages are, of course, cheaper. The rate for the one-month premium package is US$45.00. But it does get more economical the more months you take. For a year, it’s $US149.00. The basic/bronze service is actually free and quite helpful, as I’ve been told.

As early as grade one, students can start preparing for GSAT with the GoGSAT service. It seems as if most students cannot pass the GSAT by simply going to school. Extra lessons are compulsory. And if you can’t afford personalised, silver or premium extra lessons, ‘yu salt’. But why should a test of the achievement of grade six students be so difficult? Shouldn’t ‘achievement’ be the outcome of six years of teaching and learning in primary school? Apparently not.

If students are forced to take ‘extra lessons’ to pass the GSAT, something must be fundamentally wrong with the primary education programme. Or with the Grade Six Achievement Test! The failure of students to ‘achieve’ cannot be dismissed as simply a matter of individual ability, or the lack of it.

Selling illusions

I am indebted to one of my friends for the brilliant insight that the whole GSAT pretence of ‘achievement’ is really a Ponzi scheme. Ponzi schemes sell the illusion that everyone can get rich by ‘investing’ in a dubious enterprise. In the case of the GSAT, the Ministry of Education is selling the illusion that all students who achieve can get into ‘good’ secondary schools.

The people who get in on the Ponzi scheme early in the game do get back their money. But those at the very bottom of the predatory feeding chain don’t stand a chance. Poor people’s children at the lowest levels of the GSAT pyramid have a very hard time collecting any benefits and spoils from the system. Most of them leave school barely literate and completely unprepared for the job market.

Wealthy people who can afford to send their children to expensive prep schools and who can pay for Olympic GSAT training are at the top of the Ponzi scheme. They will certainly get excellent returns on the money they’ve invested. Even if their children don’t get the right scores for admission into ‘good’ schools, these well-connected parents can use their influence to manipulate the system.

It’s time to ‘mash up’ the Ponzi scheme. We should abolish the GSAT and assign places to secondary school purely by lottery. If by chance an Outer City Prep School student draws the bad card of an Inner City High School, that’s that. And if the luck goes the other way, so be it. The playing field would finally be level.

Perkins, Seaga and the Mongrel: Last Part

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

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

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

P: Yes.

C:  And you cannot converse.

P: What does mongrel mean? What it mean?

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

P: Heh, heh!

C: to yu inna patwa now becau

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

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

P: You’ve abandoned that?

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

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

C: No!  Listen!

P: So a mongrel, the primary meaning of mongrel

C: Is a dog

P: Is a dog of no

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

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

C: Of no definable breed

P: No, hold on little!

C: Wait nuh!

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

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

P: You don’t like dogs?

C: Me don’t like mongrel dog.

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

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

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

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

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

C: Is a mongrel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

P: Absolutely! Absolutely!

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

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

C: But what I’m saying

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

Edward Seaga

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

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

C: It is irrelevant.

P: So you tell me.

C: It is irrelevant.

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

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

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

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

P: What is your perception of what he meant?

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

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

C: My perception?

P: Your perception.

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

P: What did you understand him to mean?

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

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

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

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

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

P: Run by a bad breed dog.

C: Come een like a bad breed dog party.

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

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

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

Norman Manley

C: The Manleys were mongrel.

P: The Manleys are mongrel.

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

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

C: Literature, man

P: Or of language and literature

C: Because language is literal and symbolic

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

C: No, no!  I am not

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

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

P: Hold on little bit. A what?

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

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

C: Stop tell lie pon me.

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

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

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

[commercial break]

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

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

P: Yes.

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

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

C: No, Mr. Perkins.

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

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

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

C: I don’t know what Mr Seaga meant.

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

C: I don’t know what he meant.

P: So what are we arguing about?

C: Mr. Perkins, communication

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

C: is a two-way process.

P: Yes ma’am.

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

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

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

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

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

P: What are you saying, then?

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

P.J. Patterson

P: I didn’t see that.

C: Alright?

P: I don’t know anything about it.

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

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

C: No.

P: You know anybody who saw it?

C: Yes.

P: Who saw it?

C: Yes. JLP ad with monkeys in it.

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

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

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

C: Yes!

P: What does that mean?

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

P: Yes. Alright.

Michael Manley

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

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

C: Yes.

P: Pure black party.

C: Yes.

P: I follow you.

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

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

C: Who, who has so far departed?

P: Mr. Seaga

C: No, he has not departed

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

C: No, no, Mr Perkins!

Ronnie Thwaites

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

C: You mean other mixed race people?

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

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

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

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

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

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

P: Not having been at the intellectual ghetto

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

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

C: Of course. Is symbolic.

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

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

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

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

P: You know, ma’am, I keep saying you know, I keep saying you know ma’am, the problems of this country, hold on little bit, the problems of this country, with all the violence that you hear going on in so-called ghettoes and inner city areas, right? That is not where the problems of this country lie, you know.

C: The problem is with the university, nuh.

Clovis Brown Cartoon

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

C: How mi know yu were going to bad talk the university?

P: But how you mean? I must tell you plain and straight, who should be offering some kind of leadership. You went to university and you get an education and you study English literature and English language and instead of coming back to help people understand you are using your superior education to befuddle them. Right? And

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

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

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

P: No, I tell you something

C: Any pollster

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

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

P: What are you? A lecturer?

C: Yes.

P: Or a professor?

C: No, mi no reach professor yet.

P: Yu no reach professor yet.

Erna Brodber teaching in Woodside

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

P: A follow you.

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

P: Because I wonder what would happen if I were to send copies of this tape around to universities of the world

C: Yes, what would happen?

P: What would they think of the University of the West Indies?

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

P: What a brilliant set of people!

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

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

C: Do it nuh, man!

P: I once

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

P: I once heard a discussion on an American television programme. Serious, serious discussion about black people being genetically disadvantaged. And I wouldn’t want to provide any evidence to support such a theory.

C: Oh, so you’re saying that I’m, so yu a call mi a mongrel?

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

C: Yu a call mi mongrel. Is alright.

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

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

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

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

P: Dr Cooper!

Rex Nettleford

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

P: Oh God!

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

P: Oh God! Poor

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

P: OK, ma’am.

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

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

C: Let me tell you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

P: Yes, yes, yes.

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

P: A follow you.

C: There is good in the worst of us.

P: I see. I’m sure. I’m sure, ma’am.

C: Even UWI.

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

C: And to you, mi dear.

P: Have a wonderful new year.

C: Thank you, man.

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

Perkins, Seaga and the Mongrel, Part III

Wilmot Perkins

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

C: Mr Perkins you are asking me how black people

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

C:And why black people vex.

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

C: Yes, and I teach literature

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

C: That is why

P: You have an obligation

C: Perkins

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

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

P: That’s what you doing, you know.

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

P: And you now coming to tell me

C: Mr Seaga might have

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

C: But you not listening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

P: I didn’t ask you any such thing

C: meaning of degenerate,

P: I didn’t ask you any such thing

C: Well you never put it that way, but

P: I never asked you any such thing.

C: Your question to me is

P: No such thing.

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

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

C&P: and Michael Manley

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

P: I never said any such thing

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

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

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

P: Which people?

C: From that symbolic

P: Which people?

C: domain

P: Which people?

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

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

C: But you should be

P: No, I’m not interested

C: because it has become an election issue.

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

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

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

C: But I represent a whole heap of people.

P: A highly educated woman, right?

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

Edward Seaga

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

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

P: You are not doing that?

C: I am not doing that.

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

C: Wait nuh, man!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C: High school debating.

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

C: No, no, no!

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

C: Nnnnh nnnnh.

P: One of the two.

C: Life is not as simple as that.

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

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

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

C: Mr. Seaga

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

[commercial break]

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

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

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

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

P: But you’re going on forever.

C: No

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

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

P: And Seaga himself.

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

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha

C: we no longer have ‘high brown’ people

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha

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

P: Oh, so I, I see.

C: Language operates simultaneously

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

C: Yes, that is what

P: That’s what you’re teaching there.

C: That’s what we teach in our department

P: I follow you. I follow you.

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

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

C: Because I can compare it with other universities

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

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

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

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

P: Then what are you saying?

C: Mr Seaga, hear me, “Mr Seaga,”

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

C: Racial

P: A mongrel in Jamaica

C: Racial mongrel

P: Hold on little bit.

C: At one level

P: Hold on little bit.

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

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

C: Mr Perkins you don’t understand that?

P: But you interrupting me now.

C: You don’t understand?

P: You’re interrupting me now.

C: That is true but I mean

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

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

P: Maybe so.

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

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

C: No, no, no!

P: Yes ma’am.

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

P: How you mean?

C: High-class

P: A high-class

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

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

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

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

C: You understand

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

C: Right.

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

C: Depending on

P: That is the way the symbolism works!

C: if you talking about race. Yes!

P: A mongrel man in Jamaica

C: But we wouldn’t call them mongrel

P: What we would call them?

C: We would call them ‘high colour’.

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

C: No, we wouldn’t call them mongrel.

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

C: It is usually pejorative.

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

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

P: It means something contemptuous.

C: White racism and notions of racial purity

P: So hold on a moment

C: This is why mongrel is something negative

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

C: You gone back to Mr. Seaga?

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

C: What did he mean? Tell me!

P: Hold on little. What you are saying,

C: You tell me what he means

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

C: No, Mr. Perkins!

P: and that is disparaging!

C: No, I’m not saying that!

P: But what are you saying?

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

P: Say it again, ma’am!

C: Let me say it again.

P: Say it again.

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

P: Yes ma’am.

C: Promise, promise, promise, promise?

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

C: I know.

P: You go ahead.

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

P: Oh, you agree with me.

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

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

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

P: Yes.

C: in the heat of the moment.

P: Yes.

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

P: Yes.

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

P: A follow you.

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

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

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

P: What!

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

P: Oh!

C: All me a tell you is how

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

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

P: Yes

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

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

C: Yes, that mean dog

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

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

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

Perkins, Seaga and the Mongrel, Part II

Wilmot Perkins

C: The power of metaphor, Mr Perkins

P: I beg you pardon

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

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

C: No, Mr Perkins.

P: Yes ma’am.

C: Literal meaning is being applied symbolically.

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

C: Yes Mr Perkins

P: OK fine, we agree on that.

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

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

C: The literal, yes

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

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

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

C: Listen to me nuh man!

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

C: Alright, but

P: Don’t bring that one to me

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

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

C: Alright.

P: And it means other things as well.

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

P: Ha ha ha ha ha

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

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

C: It also means that.

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

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

P: Yes. Meaning what, though?

C: Eh?

P: Meaning what?

C: What does, you mean, what does

P: Meaning meaning degenerate.

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

P: Degenerate.

C: Meaning mixed up, not pure class.

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

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

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

C: racial purity. Alright.

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

C: Not necessarily degenerate.

P: Degenerate is one of the meanings.

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

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

C: Hmnnn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

P: Yes.

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

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

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

P: But but but why?

C: Why?

P: Why? Because

Hold on just a moment for me. Hold on.

[commercial break]

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

C: You are talking about race or ideology?

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

C: When did I say that now Mr Perkins?

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

C: I was

P: Could you, could we deal with this?

C: Let me answer nuh!

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

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

P: Let us leave aside

C: Let mi finish nuh, Mr Perkins!

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

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

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

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

P: Was he a person of pure race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C: I don’t know Mr

P: You don’t know?

C: Seaga’s pedigree.

P: If I told you

C: And I use pedigree symbolically.

P: If I told you

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

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

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

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

C: I am a man of mixed race

P: The party under Norman Manley

C: Ih hih, was a mixed race party.

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

C: It was mixed race.

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

C: Now listen to youself.

Florizel Glasspole

P: Glasspole, Wills Isaacs

C: Mr Perkins, fair is fair.

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

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

P: Mr Glasspole

C: you will listen to me!

P: Mr Glasspole

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

P: Yes, of course I’ll listen to you.

C: I’m listening.

Wills Isaacs

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

C: Alright.

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

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

P: Yes, yes. Yes, yes.

C: Are you promising

P: Yes, you go right ahead.

C: you will not interrupt?

P: People are listening to you. You answer

C: Good.

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

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

P: Thank you very much. That is precisely

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

P: That is precisely what he was saying.

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

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

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

P: Ha ha ha ha ha

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

P: Thank you very much.

C: Good.

P: Precisely what I’ve said.

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

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

Michael Manley

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

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

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

P: I’m listening, yes, yes.

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

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

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

P: I have not been doing any such thing.

C: Yes.

P: That is not true.

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

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

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

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

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

C: Right.

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

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

P: Good good.

P.J. Patterson

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

P: Does he?

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

P: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha

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

P: How can it be degenerate?

C: Listen to me, Mr Perkins.

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

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

P: No!

C: as meaning

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

C: black people

P: Stop there

C: as dogs

P: Stop there for me nuh please.

C: I’m not going to stop

P: Yes, please stop

C: Unless you are taking a commercial break.