Not in my kick-ass cabinet

Las May’s cartoon in last Thursday’s Gleaner kicked Senator Dorothy Lightbourne to the curb. His nasty representation of the senator’s fall from grace is just vicious:  Prime Minister Golding sends his former minister of justice and attorney general flying with a well-placed boot to the butt.

At a time when women in Jamaica are constant victims of abusive men, Las May portrays the prime minister as a classic perpetrator of physical and psychological violence against a woman! If I were Bruce Golding – God forbid – I would demand an apology.  But an apology, by its very nature, cannot be legislated.  It has to be freely given by the offender.

There’s no question that Senator Lightbourne deserves to be kicked out of the cabinet.  Metaphorically speaking, of course.  The kick is a familiar image of dismissal.  We use it all the time.  So much so that it has become a cliché.       Las May’s cartoon puts the punch back into the metaphor through the power of visual narrative.

You know that other cliché:  a picture is worth a thousand words.  Saying that Senator Lightbourne has been kicked out of the cabinet is a thousand times less violent than seeing her literally brought low. Las May fully understands the power of the picture.  That’s his job.  He knows what he’s doing.  His attack on the senator is a deliberate blow below the belt.

Dorothy Lightbourne

True, Senator Lightbourne is no angel of light.  She foolishly ventured down some rather dark tunnels of deceit.  Seemingly pretending to be a victim of Alzheimers, she conveniently forgot dangerous truths.  I completely understand how Senator Lightbourne could fail to recall very recent events and yet could so clearly remember K.D. Knight kicking her chair thirty one years ago.

That’s how Alzheimers works.  Long-term memory remains intact.  It’s short-term memory that vanishes.  But Senator Lightbourne should remember the Jamaican proverb that warns, ‘trouble deh a bush, anansi carry it come a yard’.  Alzheimers is not a disease to ‘run joke’ with.  Is bad enough to ‘put goat mouth’ on other people.  You shouldn’t put it on your own self.

‘Dutty Laugh Jamaica’

Las May has also joined the long line of people – including me –  who need to apologise to Mr. Clifton Brown. Mr. Brown never said ‘the bus can swim,’ as I reported in last week’s column.  That was DJ Powa’s splicing.

Incidentally, truth really is stranger than fiction.  Looking for a picture of Mr. Clifton Brown on the internet, I ran into this story:

“MP Raises Issue of Flooding in the Cotswolds

10th February 2011

Yesterday in the House of Commons, Wednesday 9 February, Cotswold MP, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, once again raised in [sic] the issue of flooding in the Cotswolds. Subsequent to a letter from Mr Barry Russell, the Environment Agency’s Area Flood Risk Manager, Mr Clifton-Brown took the opportunity to raise his concerns in a debate on the Funding of Flood Risk Management in Parliament.”

So it’s not just in Jamaica that there are problems with flood waters.  The very same Britain to which 60% of Jamaicans want to return for governance is having grave problems with basic infrastructure.  Even in Britain, there are many rivers of bureaucracy that cannot easily be crossed.

Sharon Hay-Webster

In last Friday’s editorial cartoon, which focuses on Sharon Hay-Webster’s exit from the People’s National Party, perhaps to join the Jamaica Labour Party, Las May makes Mr. Brown say, ‘Sharon, you canna cross it . . . ongle if you are a fisser-‘oman!’

Like Simon Crosskill and Neville Bell, who so vulgarly derided Mr. Brown on the now rebranded ‘Dutty Laugh Jamaica,’ Las May seems to feel entitled to ‘tek Mr. Brown mek poppyshow’.  Bell did apologise to Mr. Brown.  But it sounded like he was forced to mouth an apology.  I don’t think his heart was in it.

I also wonder why Crosskill got away with not apologising to Mr. Brown in the same formal way that Bell did. He behaved just as badly as his co-host.  Though the camera focused on Bell, Crosskill’s laughter was audible throughout.  Crosskill was the set on. Straight-faced, he pretended to be conducting a serious interview with Mr. Brown while setting up Bell to be the fall guy.

Just look at the way Crosskill introduces Bell’s apology to viewers:   ‘And in case you didn’t know it, today is a white shirt day.  It’s surrender day.’  Crosskill’s choice of the word ‘surrender’ immediately turns the promised apology into a joke.  Surrender is giving up against one’s will.

In response to Crosskill’s declaration, Bell says, ‘Yeah, let me start there.’  And what is Crosskill’s response:  ‘So quick?’  It’s as though he’s surprised that Bell is actually taking the apology seriously as a matter of urgency.  But Bell’s response to that ‘jook’ is not a good start:     ‘Yeah, my producer said I should I should do it at this time.’  The repetition of ‘I should’ suggests that the apology itself, not just its timing, is legislated by the producer.

This is what Bell says:  ‘Ever since that interview that I was a part of with Mr. Clifton Brown last Friday, a number of folks have suggested that my behaviour was inappropriate.  There was no intention to be disrespectful, there was no intention to ridicule Mr. Brown and at no time was I laughing at Mr. Brown.  Having said that, because of the perception, I do want to apologise to Mr. Brown.’

Bell’s apologia reminds me of Sir Hilary Beckles’ equally bogus apology for comparing Chris Gayle to ‘Dudus.’  In Beckles’ case it was the ‘deductions’ not his actual statements that were the problem.   So, too, with Neville Bell.  It is the ‘perception,’ not the reality, of inappropriate behaviour that forces him to surrender to the weight of public opinion.

Simon Crosskill’s indirect ‘apology’ is much more honest – no surrender: ‘Now I understand, I don’t know if is certain, that Clifton also now has benefitted not only from the video but from the interview and is getting a fairly large contract with one of the telecommunications companies.  So the whole perception that Clifton was embarrassed and we were being wicked to him is misplaced.’

Crosskill asks a trick question: would the public be as offended by the mockery of Dorothy Lightbourne or any other politician?  Of course not.  Even though she’s been kicked out of the cabinet, Senator Lightbourne is still powerful.  She’s on one side of the social divide and Mr. Brown is on the other.  That’s the big difference.  If only the Prime Minister would kick himself off the cabinet!  But that’s one river he cannot cross.

Beckles caught in the slips

Chris Gayle

Sir Hilary Beckles’ statement of regret at comparing Chris Gayle to ‘Dudus’ is, quite frankly, an apology for an apology. No typing error here:  the meaning of these two apologies is not at all identical in this context.  The first apology is a weak excuse for the second.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives four contradictory definitions of ‘apology’:

1.       The pleading off from a charge or imputation; defence or vindication from accusation or aspersion

2.       Justification, explanation, or excuse

3.       A frank acknowledgement, by way of reparation, of offence given, or an explanation that offence was not intended, with expression of regret for any given or taken

4.       A poor substitute

   The history of the word ‘apology’ reveals how meaning changes over time.  It also illustrates the way in which English, the world’s most greedy patois, devours words from other languages, sometimes mangling their meaning.  As Louise Bennett puts it so mischievously in Aunty Roachy Seh, ‘dem shoulda call English Language corruption of Norman French an Latin an all dem tarra language what dem seh dat English is derived from.’

The English ‘apology’ comes from the Greek ‘apologia.’ Originally, an apology was an act of self-justification.  That’s the second meaning of the word given in the OED:  a defensive speech.  By the 18th century, a new meaning of the word evolved: the OED’s third definition.

Crude statement

Dudus under escort

Instead of immediately accepting that he’d erred in making the unfortunate comparison between Gayle and ‘Dudus,’ Sir Hilary first tried to suggest that it was a matter of ‘misunderstanding’ and ‘misrepresentation.’  Those of us who were angered by his crude statement were suffering from a failure to understand.  It’s not that we understood and took offense.  We were not smart enough to read beneath the surface of his statement and fathom its hidden depth of innocent meaning.

When that ploy failed, Sir Hilary attempted another stroke.  He took a crack at an apology. But the ball edged the bat and he got caught in the slips. The knight’s apology is not one that commoners would readily accept.  It doesn’t have quite the right degree of humility.

Sir Hilary’s statement of regret appears to be a classic ‘apologia’ masquerading as an ‘apology.’ It’s a rather elaborate justification of what he said and what he thinks we all misunderstood.  Here’s a quote that’s posted on the website of the Barbados Nation:

“I am satisfied that the parts of my lecture which have caused public concern have been misrepresented and misunderstood and deductions made which were not obvious to me or intended.

“I am now aware of the anguish these deductions have caused in Jamaica and, in particular, an offending reference, which was not intended in any way to be comparative to anyone. I truly regret this.

“My assessment of leadership as expressed in public images was not intended to produce any negative effect or harm to any cricketer, especially to Mr Chris Gayle, who I consider to be an outstanding West Indies cricketer.

“I offer this statement of regret in all sincerity.”

The surprising clause, “I am satisfied,” has no business in a genuine apology.  What can Sir Hilary’s use of the word ‘satisfied’ possibly mean in this context?  ‘I’ve had enough?’  ‘I’m pleased?’  ‘I acknowledge the fact that I’ve made one hell of a mistake?’

Sir Hilary’s fundamentally unapologetic apologia reproduces the fiction of misrepresentation, misunderstanding and (baseless) deduction.  It is the deductions that have caused anguish, not the substance of his own remarks!  And if likening Chris Gayle to ‘Dudus’ ‘was not intended in any way to be comparative to anyone’, what was the point?  Was it a slip of the lip?  And, if so, what does this Freudian slip reveal?

Arrogant cricket board

C.L.R. James’ vintage cultural studies text, Beyond a Boundary, published in 1963, gives a brilliant account of the history of West Indies cricket. I’m sure Sir Hilary knows this book intimately.  James devotes an entire chapter to the Panamanian-Jamaican batsman, George Headley, who isn’t even mentioned in the professor’s grand genealogy of the fall of West Indies cricket from the Father of the Nation, Sir Frank Worrell, to the degenerate Don, Chris ‘Dudus’ Gayle.

True, the magisterial Headley wasn’t a captain.  But he certainly led by example.  James reverentially describes the master in the Latinate terms of his Queen’s Royal College education: ‘nascitur non fit’ – born not made.  He elaborates:  ‘this West Indian narrowly escapes being the greatest batsman I have ever seen.  Pride of place in my list goes to Bradman, but George is not far behind.’

I don’t think it’s a simple case of anti-Jamaica prejudice that makes Sir Hilary finger Gayle as the bad man of West Indies cricket. It’s much more complex.  As a member of the West Indies Cricket Board, Sir Hilary appears to have internalised the arrogance of rulers who desperately try to keep the ruled under control.  And Gayle will have none of that.  So he must be a don in the worst possible sense of that word.

In the early years of Spanish conquest of the Americas, the title ‘don’ unapologetically belonged to the aristocracy, somewhat like a knighthood.  These days, a don is, supposedly, a social outcast, though in the case of ‘Dudus’ so much political capital was expended to prevent him from being cast out!

Sir Hilary

Sir Hilary’s error of judgement is not only the deliberate comparison of Gayle with ‘Dudus’.  It is also his failure to recognise that uprooting don-manship in West Indian cricket may just mean wresting power from the aristocratic dons of the West Indies Cricket Board and putting it securely in the hands of enterprising players.  Cricket is no longer a gentleman’s game.  It’s big business, as Chris Gayle knows all too well.