Dionne Jackson Miller | We are not minions, Daniel
I am writing with reference to Daniel Thwaites’ column in The Sunday Gleaner on October 25 titled ‘Joe the Baptist’ – a response to which I also aired on my programme ‘Beyond the Headlines’ on Radio Jamaica.
I’ve found that in this country many conversations take place without an acknowledgement of the class bias and privilege which permeate everything in our society.
But privilege and class bias have a way of revealing themselves and outing the owner. And the latest Jamaican so outed was Daniel Thwaites, who in his op-ed, defends Joe Matalon, the chairman of the RJRGLEANER group for making a personal endorsement of Mark Golding for President of the People’s National Party.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’ve found that we also have a big problem separating issues. So let me be clear. I have no problem with Daniel Thwaites calling Mr Matalon whatever he wants to, praising him as much as he wants, and agreeing with his position as much as he wishes. Many others have done so in the past week.
My issue is with this sentence in his column.
“I continue to have high hopes for that merger, but it wasn’t the chairman’s mild ‘forward’ to his friend that undermines confidence in its future so much as the enthusiasm of the minions to turn on him. Disgraceful.”
Ah. There it is. By the use of that one word, Daniel Thwaites exposes his contempt of and dismissiveness of us, the workers.
Here’s what Merriam-Webster says about the word ‘minion’ – “ a servile dependent, follower, or underling. The earliest uses of minion referred to someone who was a particular favourite, of a sovereign or other important person. Over time, however, the word evolved a more derogatory sense referring to a person who is servile and unimportant.”
And there you have it, folks. The servile, unimportant workers of the RJRGLEANER Group dared to ask questions and raise concerns about an act of the group’s chairman. Talk about flying past yu nest? Who we think we be? Because we are, according to the goodly Mr Thwaites, just minions.
Let’s not overlook the curious paragraph that mentions “peasant resentment”.
Daniel Thwaites says that socialist political organisations “cleave to the idea that a man, however low or high his station, shall have the privilege accorded to any other man. In practice, it’s been far more colourful, as, for example, when the Chinese enacted widespread ‘struggle sessions’ against the ‘bourgeoisie’ to satiate Mao’s violent fetishes, vent peasant resentment, and ritually humiliate the landed for all manner of made-up crimes.”
“Vent peasant resentment” and “humiliate the landed (meaning rich people who own land) for made-up crimes”.
Back to Merriam-Webster for a definition of peasant: “A member of a European class of persons tilling the soil as small landowners or a usually uneducated person of low social status.” I leave it to you to ponder what is the possible purpose of a reference to peasant resentment of the landed in an article objecting to the minions of the RJRGLEANER Group raising concerns about the actions of its chairman.
And, of course, there was his statement that he “watched the controversial endorsement while it was first being broadcast, and again after various donkeys started to bray”. Apparently, to take a different point of view from the learned Mr Thwaites makes one a donkey.
Anyway, back to his description of us as minions. This is a plainly classist description of those of us who earn a paycheque for a living and who had the audacity to raise our heads in the relatively tame act of asking the chairman of the group, for which we work, why he took a particular action, which we maintain, affects us. Mr Thwaites is offensive and I have no problem in declaring myself offended.
Perhaps we should shut wi mouth wid wi likkle bit a money. Guess what Daniel Thwaites? I won’t. I reject your rudeness. I reject your offensiveness. I reject your classism. I reject your designation of me and my colleagues as minions.
How about figuring out how to write a column and express a point of view without denigrating those who have a different point of view and without demeaning workers? But then again, there is a great deal of value in knowing what people really think of you. As a colleague said to me yesterday about the op-ed, “If you nuh mash cockroach, you nuh know him insides”. I see you, Daniel Thwaites. And now I see your insides.
Dionne Jackson Miller is a journalist, attorney-at-law and host of ‘Beyond the Headlines’ on RJR 94 FM and All Angles on TVJ. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org