I YAM WHAT I YAM

Bad news!

My fan club (peaked at about 10 members) is in rapid decline.  The signs have been apparent for some time.  Since 2011’s change of Government necessitating my own switched focus, online comments about my political analysis have been particularly chilly and my biggest fan, Roanja (he/she reads and critiques my every word), has found a JLP bias in everything I write.  Congratulations, Roanja, I know your task isn’t easy.

Until recently, I lived in Hope that my essays into humour would at least keep me in readers’ good books.  But alas, it’s death in Constant Spring for me.  On November 22, the following appeared as a letter to the editor from one Diane Lewis:

Gordon Robinson’s column ‘All balls-ed up’ (Tuesday, November 12, 2013), was a boorish and vulgar rant. There was nothing amusing or entertaining about it.

Mr Robinson, your ruminations about women are puerile…..

Sniffle.  Sob.  I guess it’s time for me to pack it in.  I’d be tempted to leave Diane alone to try finding a sense of humour but she’s one of many so I’d better re-warn those who came in late about the reason I write.

In my first Gleaner Column (August 11, 2009), I wrote of my extreme disappointment in the revival of the great play Smile Orange:

My favourite Play; the Play I had been worshipping for almost 40 years; the Play of Plays; was in reality the beginning of the end of humour in Jamaican Theatre…..

I mused aloud further regarding the death of humour:

This set me to thinking about the demise of humour worldwide.  As usual, the Americans started it.  First, they deleted the “u” and then, contrarily, poked fun exclusively outwards, never at themselves……

So, my promise to readers of this new Column (both of you) is that I intend to strike back.  I will revive real humour….

So, I don’t write for social snobs; pious prudes; or suburban suss lovers.  Diane, that column you considered “a boorish and vulgar rant…. about women” was written (putatively) by The Old Ball and Chain and poked fun at me.  Get reading glasses (or classes).   

Attacks have come from everywhere (I smh and move on) but the most cowardly came from Booklist Boyne at his recent anthology launch (of course, he calls it a “book”).  Readers will be shocked to learn I wasn’t invited.  Anyhooo, my moles at the launch tell me (confirmed by later Gleaner report) what was launched was a rocket attack on me (without calling my name) as a “ra ra” columnist.  His witless theme was that one can criticize without being insolent (ya think?) citing as proof the self-aggrandising non sequitur of both Portia and Young Andrew’s presence.

Well, goody, goody, gumdrops.  Boring Booklist finally concedes his critique is ineffective.  Personally, I can’t definitively identify such critique.  It’s true he writes Prime Ministers’ speeches which his Sunday column praises uncontrollably soon after delivery.  Critique?  When I read his offerings (infrequently), he’s writing exam papers (on the one hand; on the other hand) taking extreme care NOT to express a personal opinion (might offend someone).  Congratulations Booklist.  Everybody likes you.

Now, I’m going to shock the world.  I agree with Booklist.  One can criticize without being insolent.  I also believe that one can criticize without being obsequious.  Also, one can criticize without self-aggrandisement.  Agreed, Booklist?  Ok, then, the only uncertainty is whether either of us, and, if so, which one, is insolent, obsequious or self-aggrandising.

Hello.  I’m Johnny Cash.

                   “I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
but is there because he’s a victim of the times.
”         

Here’s the thing, Booklist.  Brace yourself.  Hard hitting, truthful, analytical critique, laced with humour, isn’t insolence.  Insolence is writing in praise of pne’s speech writing and expecting readers to swallow it as an “independent” point of view.  Insolence is calling oneself an opinion journalist and only infrequently offering an opinion.

                   “I wear the black for those who never read
or listened to the words that Jesus said
about the road to happiness through love and charity.
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.”

Again, in my political critique, I don’t write for pseudo-intellectuals, bookworms, social climbers or persons wanting to make progress by sucking up to politicians while standing on the backs of the vulnerable and the voiceless.  I write for the downtrodden, poor, classless, hard-working backbone of this country who, when we converse, tell me how angry they are about what.  I write for security guards working for minimum wage and unable to buy a Burger as a treat.  I write for those who can’t afford the bus fare and must walk to work.  These citizens mean everything to me.  They’re highly intelligent but living in a country where reckless governments have condemned them to unemployment or under-employment. 

They read my Sunday columns.  They don’t know I write on Tuesdays.  Their budget only buys one Gleaner per week.  They beg me to keep writing; keep criticizing; keep exposing truth.  It’s for them that I stay up all night despite my many other obligations to write twice per week when I should write only for Tuesdays.  If you saw my remuneration you’d know it’s not for the money.  It’s for them.  They love that I don’t pander to any politician.  They like that I write simply rather than trying to impress them with imaginary complexities that only I can understand.  Clarity is my watchword.  For them.  They don’t call me “insolent”.  They call me “brother”.  They are my inspiration NOT dusty piles of snooty tomes written in ivory towers about airy-fairy philosophy.

                   “Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
in our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes.
But, just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
up front there oughta be a Man in Black.

                 I wear it for the sick and lonely old;
for the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold.
I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been.
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.”

So, Booklist, enjoy your anxiety for pfficial validation.  Fret not, the Morris Cargill Award is yours.  I’ve promised the Gleaner that the day my work is submitted for any award is the last day it appears.  Then you can boast you’ve outlasted yet another former gleaner columnist.  Meanwhile, if justified, I can critique the PAJ in my usual “insolent” style. 

                   “And, I wear it for the thousands who have died
believin’ that the Lord was on their side.
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died
believin’ that we all were on their side.

                 Well, there’s things that never will be right, I know,
and things need changin’ everywhere you go.
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
you’ll never see me wear a suit of white.”

Until our political leaders begin respect us, I’ll not suck up; I’ll not beg; I’ll not change.  I’ll continue to treat them as they deserve.  What does a Prime Minister who smiles at a microphone inches from her mouth and warbles on about a constituency improvement project mean by calling a young journalist who then asks about Richard Azan “rude”?  Why’s she suddenly so concerned about the space between her mouth and the mic?  She’s treated the journalist with disrespect.  On that topic, she gets no respect from me.  I’m “insolent” that way.

The sad fact is she also disrespects her decision to re-instate Azan by her ignorant reaction to questions.  Everybody knows that, based on the law as I understand it, the notorious case facts and the Contractor General’s report, I believe Richard Azan might’ve committed an offence.  So what?  Is it Azan’s or the Government’s fault that the D.P.P., (again, in my opinion) treated with the matter only superficially thus denying Jamaica its right to a fulsome court inquiry? 

What should Azan do?  Call the D.P.P. and insist she prosecute?  What should the Prime Minister do?  By all accounts Azan is an excellent, hard-working junior Minister.  Should Portia seek a “Trial by Downtown Don” for Azan since our impotent justice system refuses to have one?

It’s time we leave Richard Azan alone to do his work.  His name hasn’t been cleared.  It’s equally true nobody has proven he did anything wrong.  Public commentators should re-direct their ire on this issue towards the D.P.P’s office.  By refusing to answer perfectly fair questions on Azan, the P.M. does a disservice to the electorate; the media; Richard Azan; and her Government.

                   “I’d love to wear a rainbow every day
and tell the world that everything’s OK.
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
’till things are brighter, I’m the Man in Black.

Booklist, continue intellectualising about Jamaica’s 150% of GDP debt; why statist policies are best; our wonderful Prime Ministers all in a row.  Meanwhile, don’t be “insolent”.  Keep them as your friends.  Me, I’ll continue to write “insolently” for the downhearted and downtrodden.  I’ll continue the work of great philosophers you’ve read but don’t understand.  I won’t be polite.  I’ll insist on clear thinking and I’ll stubbornly refuse to obfuscate. 

So, Diane and Booklist, here’s what I suggest:

I hold no brief for the late Wilmot “Smutty” Perkins” but I agree with one abiding principle he often espoused (no, Diane, that’s not intended as another “vulgar” reference to women).  Your radio has a magic knob.  It’s used to change the station or turn the radio off.  “Smutty” often advised abusive listeners to use the knob. 

Diane/Booklist, I promise you I won’t change.  I cannot and won’t pander to gender, position or status.  I’ll be beholden only to the truth. 

Frequently, I’ll use my eccentric brand of humour to make my point.  If you think it “vulgar” or “insolent”, turn the page.  There you’ll find a polite presentation of seventeen sides of every issue written in his own obsequious, self-aggrandising style by the one and only Booklist Boyne.  Enjoy.                  Peace and Love

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