Wilmot Perkins, My Worthy Opponent

Listening to Wilmot Perkins’ radio show was a lot like taking castor oil. A little dose every now and then was very good for the digestive system. Like the compulsory ‘washout’ for children at the end of the summer holidays!

Just suppose you’re clogged up with too many illusions about the goodness of human nature. And suppose you find yourself thinking that, perhaps, Jamaica isn’t such a bad place after all, given the global picture. You start to get worried. Is your mind playing tricks on you? Could you be happy in a fool’s paradise?

Don’t panic. All you had to do was tune in to Mutty and the bush doctor would prescribe just the right cure: gloom and doom in generous quantities. But a steady diet of Mutty’s medicine was downright dangerous. It could cause terminal depression, incontinence, flatulence, heart murmurs and civil unrest: you name it. Just like those supposedly legal drugs advertised on United States television! The side effects of the ‘cure’ are often far more deadly than the disease.

A lot of people were addicted to ‘Perkins On Line’ and, before that, ‘Straight Talk’. They are now suffering from terrible withdrawal symptoms: intense irritation, weeping, light-headedness, paranoia, anxiety, nausea, headaches, intestinal disorders, sweating, tingling in the hands and feet and, most of all, an unsatisfiable craving for their fix.

Give the man a chance!

Susan Taylor

I really couldn’t listen to Mutty’s talk show five days a week. I couldn’t take the castor oil. But I did occasionally get caught. I once overheard Perkins trying his best to depress some students who were visiting the radio station, telling them that there was no future for them in Jamaica. I’d been listening to Susan Taylor, former editor of Essence magazine, who’d been a guest on the ‘Breakfast Club’. And I’d carelessly left the radio on.

As soon as I heard the voice of our Jamaican Jeremiah, I tuned out. Then I said to myself, “Don’t be so intolerant. Give the man a chance! When last you ever listen to ‘Zig-Zag Talk’?” So I turned the radio back on only to hear Mr Anansi claiming to feel a searing pain in his heart – something melodramatic like that – as he thought of the plight of these poor children whose future was surely blighted. It was quite a performance.

I was so annoyed, I tried to call in to the programme. After 15 minutes, I gave up. And I felt a healing pleasure in my heart as I heard a number of callers chastising Jeremiah for being a false prophet. Under the guise of sympathy for these poor schoolchildren, Mr Gloom and Doom seemed to be cunningly spreading a wicked message: ‘don’t care; give up; no bother try; yu done dead already’.

Bob Marley, the barbarian

Another time, I heard Mutty declaring with absolute contempt that Bob Marley was a ‘barbarian’. It was these lines from Bad Card that had provoked him:

I want to disturb my neighbour

‘Cause I’m feeling so right

I want to turn up my disco

Blow them to full watts tonight

Inna rub-a-dub style.

In sympathy with Mutty, I must confess that I routinely call the police to shut down dances that go past 2 a.m. – even though I did propose in last week’s column that an exception be made for the annual Trench Town Rock concert.

All the same, Mutty didn’t acknowledge the full context of Marley’s noisy lyrics. The singer seemed to be throwing words at his neighbours on Hope Road who objected to a Rastaman living so close to them:

You a go tired fi see mi face

Can’t get me out of the race

Oh, man, you said I’m in your place

And then you draw bad card.

And as for Mutty’s barbarian curse: originally, the word meant ‘foreigner’. A Barbarian was a native of Barbary, the 16th-century European term for northwest Africa. Given the racial politics of colonisation, the word was later extended to mean ‘a rude, wild, uncivilised person; an uncultured person’, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. And language was a   test of culture.

Barbarism is defined as “The use of words or expressions not in accordance with the classical standard of a language; hence, rudeness of language”. ‘Barbaric’ Patwa was a topic on which Mutty had rather predictable opinions.

Quite frankly, I don’t think Bob Marley would have been particularly concerned about being called a barbarian. After all, he fully understood class warfare in Jamaica. As he put it in We an Dem:

We no have no friends

Inna high society

We no have no friends

Oh, mark my identity

Me no know how we an dem

A go work this out.

Juvenile debating tricks

Mutty and I had quite a few entertaining verbal battles which I’m sure he enjoyed. I suppose I was a worthy opponent. Mutty usually trapped unwary callers by resorting to juvenile debating tricks: “Is this so, or is this not so? Are you saying X or are you saying Y?” Just make the mistake of saying, “Both X and Y.” That was the end of you. Mutty would let out a devastating ‘ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!’ and bring the conversation to an undignified conclusion. He couldn’t get away with that kind of ‘logic’ in our clashes.

Proverbial wisdom warns that one should not speak ill of the dead. One should also not make up stories about the dead. In death, Wilmot Perkins is at grave risk of becoming a saint. Mutty would not be amused. I think he rather liked the image of himself as a fearless warrior for all sorts of causes. He loved to deflate people who were full of themselves; and full of it. He was no Mr Nice Guy. Walk good, Mutty! I’m certainly going to miss sparring with you.

The Roast Breadfruit Syndrome

I got some really interesting feedback in the media to last week’s column which was published in the Gleaner as well as posted  here on my blog.  The first was from Theo Mitchell who talked about the roast breadfruit syndrome – black outside and white inside.  His letter to the Editor was published in the Gleaner:

Brownings Think They’re Special

Published: Monday | January 9, 201217 Comments


Many thanks to Professor Carolyn Cooper for her article, ‘Dying to be beautiful?’, published in The Sunday Gleaner of January 8.

I’ve always espoused the view that Jamaica is delineated along the line of two distinct social groups – the black majority and the ‘brown minority’.

Prior to reading your article, I was making a bowl of oatmeal and something just hit me. It is what I call the ‘brown people syndrome’, as persons of that hue think that everything should be fast-tracked and handed to them. They should not wait in lines at the bank or follow procedures to get documents and/or procure service at any entity, especially if it is a public-sector entity.

As per your ‘Page 2’ friend, I think she suffers from the classical ‘brain-bleaching syndrome’. Your peers in the Department of Sociology would have no objection if I called her a ‘roast breadfruit’!

On another note, she is often critical of people’s deportment, and to be honest with you, she is always poorly dressed! Well, that’s her business.

I encourage you, Professor Cooper, to continue to speak the truth, albeit controversial and unpalatable at times. There are persons who read your articles with open minds; look forward to hear your views on contemporary ‘Jamaican issues’, and take careful note of what you say. We may not digest all that you’ve conjectured, but it’s all right to be off the mark at times.

I’ve always admired you and your work. I bid you and your family all the best for the new year.

Many blessings to you, ‘mother of controversy’.



A rather peculiar response to the column/post  came in another letter to the editor, published two days later, this time in the Jamaica Observer:

Dr Carolyn Cooper, end your misery — go ahead and bleach!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dear Editor,

Professor Carolyn Cooper has a curious preoccupation with skin bleaching. I have formed the view that she doesn’t love her black skin and would secretly like to bleach, even while she pretends otherwise.

I started to believe that when she invited and elevated Vybz Kartel to guest lecture at the University of the West Indies, at the height of his controversial bleaching and desecration of his skin a la the Colouring Book.

My view was further strengthened by her article Dying to be beautiful published in The Sunday Gleaner, January 7, 2012, when she took on the Observer’s Page 2. The column smacked of unadulterated red eye and bad mind.

Dr Cooper must know, since she writes for that newspaper, that the winning formula in Page 2 was copied in what is being called “Something Extra” by The Gleaner. Her suggestion that the Page 2 is dominated by brown people could just as easily be said of “Something Extra” as the same people I see on one I also see on the other. Of course, Page 2 is far more creatively written and presented, which is further cause for more red eye and bad mind.

My suggestion to Dr Cooper is that she should just end her misery, go ahead and bleach her skin. Vybz Kartel might be in jail, but I’m sure he can arrange, even by phone, to give her the links to his source of cake soap and other bleaching chemicals.

Vanessa McFarlane


Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Dr-Carolyn-Cooper–end-your-misery—go-ahead-and-bleach_10544626#ixzz1jcs2rpJi

The most instructive response of  all came from the editors of the Gleaner.  On Wednesday, January 11, the Gleaner published the following statement:

Correction & Clarification
Professor Carolyn Cooper labelled the Jamaica Observer’s editorial policy relating to ‘Page 2’ social coverage as racist.
We wish to state that we have no evidence to suggest that this is [sic] basis of the newspaper’s decisions cocnerning [sic] its social coverage.
The Gleaner Company does not share Dr Cooper’s assessment of the Observer’s editorial policy.
We regret the publication of the offending words.