Gordon Robinson | Stop the Kamina bashing
As an occasionally practising lawyer, I agree with UWI including the Use of English in every first year course.
Maybe the original reason was to try to improve on the functional illiteracy rate churned out by primary and secondary schools. But I believe it’s also necessary to prevent adult linguistic abominations too often the norm, especially by politicians.
As a teenager, one of my favourite radio programmes was BBC’s My Word. It was a game show satire featuring two teams trying to speak for one minute on a given topic without hesitation, repetition or deviation. Opponents could challenge alleged breach of the rules by pressing a buzzer, and, if the challenge was upheld, were allowed to complete whatever time was left of the minute. The team speaking at the end of the minute won that round.
The programme not only encouraged economy and focus, but creativity, as a famous quote was read at the start of the half-hour show and each team had to make up a satirical back-story to be told at the end for extra points.
I’ve already told the story of my favourite My Word creation involving Lord Illingworth’s line from Oscar Wilde’s 1893 play A Woman of No Importance “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable”.
The comedic full back-story that so helped mould my own approach to creativity involved a fake family of aristocrats named Bale whose station in life came with the title “honourable”. An attraction grew between two cousins, Etty and Sparky (was a wartime radio technician). At a family picnic, Sparky was seen “courting” a coy Etty by lakeside. Of course, the punch line was, “The Hon. Sparky Bale in hot pursuit of the Hon. Etty Bale.”
So now you know why I’m such a stickler for language. It was an integral part of my nurturing environment. I recoil whenever I hear linguistic abuses that have become part of the lexicon. For example, “condolences” and “congratulations” are presumed to be sincere. If you must preface them with “sincere” it sounds like they aren’t.
Then there’s the unforgiveable tautology created by abuse of “absolutely”. Persons asked yes or no questions whose answers go on interminably are bad enough but the majority of those who answer “absolutely (yes or no)” are exposing a tendency to dissemble. An accused citizen who answers the charge “absolutely 100 per cent not guilty” is almost certainly guilty as sin.
Recently Jamaica suffered a crushing international defeat when its candidate for Commonwealth secretary general, Kamina Johnson-Smith, was turned back in her unprecedented effort to unseat an incumbent. It kinda reminded me of local internal party challenges to sitting leaders that have become a thing these days.
But this was no internal political party contest. This was a challenge mounted by Jamaica to gain international influence and it should’ve been supported by every Jamaican patriot, regardless of concerns about protocol and policy that should’ve awaited the post election stage. Instead tribalists, anxious for relevance, did everything to overtly and covertly undermine the campaign. Mark you (no pun intended), the campaign, poorly planned and implemented, needed no outside destabilizing.
After her defeat, the Opposition leader, on a Papine political platform said:
“Kamina did her best ... Mi naf dis her today.” But, in that same speech, he’d already trashed the idea of contesting of which Kamina was a major participant. He called the candidature “ill-advised” and opined, “If you a mek a move like that you haffi have the thing lock. It nuh mek no sense you push out and you might lose, what kind a foolishness that, mi nuh know who put dem up to it, star, but to tell you the truth, it is an embarrassment.”
Unpackaged, undiluted rubbish!
Did Peter Bunting have “the thing lock” when, with Mark’s enthusiastic support, he challenged incumbent PNP President Peter Phillips?
Golding exposed his limitations further: “When a Jamaican put themselves up, we have fi support, still, so mi never really come out hard but inna miself mi sey it is a little weird thing.” INNA MISELF? What the Granny Gungus Natty is that? We see lots of this at Caymanas Park where too many punters only announce they had the winner AFTER the race is over. If you feel you “have to support”, then support. Hard! Like you did for Peter Bunting against Peter Phillips. If you feel you can’t support, don’t. This wishy-washy, wimpish approach to leadership is exactly what Jamaica doesn’t need.
Maybe suffering a senior moment, he said, “Government decided to divide CARICOM by pushing up a candidate.” Really? Seriously? CARICOM was divided before it was born since Busta used political opportunism to destroy the visionary West Indian Federation and Eric Williams famously predicted, “One from 10 leaves nought”. On this particular issue, CARICOM was divided in 2015/16 when Ronald Sanders ran against the Baroness (with Antigua’s support) and remains divided now.
But I won’t join the chorus condemning Mark Golding (undeservedly called, “colonial”, “contemptuous of Jamaicans” and worse) after his comment, “JLP bwoy dem nuh stop shot demselves”, I read (and heard) “bwoy” not as an adjective, but as an exclamation akin to “bwoy, what a way dem good!”. There’s a pause between “JLP” and “bwoy” that should be interpreted kindly. But it’s time Mark realises his lame attempts to look and sound like a “rootsman” by inappropriate overuse of the lingo and cringe-worthy attempts at dancing aren’t working. The optics are unconvincing.
It’s sad to see tribal Jamaica carping at Government collectively and Kamina personally for trying to increase Jamaica’s global influence. The snide “proxy candidate” reference is particularly offensive, especially coming from PNP – recently expert in that technique. A facile characterisation of her attempt at the post as being for “personal ambition” is pathetic.
Perhaps finger-pointers can name ONE politician whose candidature wasn’t at least partly for personal ambition or as proxy for a political party or vested interest. Maybe BoJo did ask Jamaica to run against the baroness. So flippin’ what? Does that make Jamaica a British/BoJo “proxy” or a nation accepting an offer of opportunity to make international waves for its people’s benefit?
Why was the baroness running? Was it personal ambition or for some altruistic belief in her calling to run the Commonwealth Secretariat (considered one of the world’s top diplomatic jobs) on an annual salary of nearly £160,000, and from a four-storey Mayfair mansion?
What makes the baroness more altruistic than Kamina? Was Ronald Sanders more altruistic than the baroness? Are we just deflated because we picked the winner then and the loser now?
LESSONS TO LEARN
My friend The Terrible Tout always says his favourite girlfriend’s name is Winsome. Her last name? Losesome, of course! At least this time Jamaica owned its own candidate and wasn’t selecting one of two foreigners.
Without personal ambition there can be no national ambition. People without personal ambition don’t run for political office. So can we please (pretty please) focus on the many domestic issues available for critique (like crime and public health) and stop this unseemly demeaning of our own on the international stage? Post mortems are better focused on what we did wrong in the campaign (lots) and how to do better next time.
In the end, the Jamaican campaign team managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Rwanda. In my opinion, three major factors led to that event. Jamaica’s campaign was loud and over confident, exposing international diplomatic inexperience. The elephant in the room is written in black and white. Jamaica underestimated the effect on black African nations smarting from colonial rule and determined to fight back (including for reparations) of the campaign accusation that it was kowtowing to British desire for continued colonial control.
That allegation was supported by BoJo’s intemperate, unintelligent, premature and crassly partisan public support. The writing in black and white appeared on the wall from as far back as the state visit by Paul Kagame who didn’t then nor since publicly support Kamina.
Jamaica’s campaigners failed to see beyond a self-perceived communications infallibility so made no attempt to cut off the baroness’ exploitation of her natural affinity with Africa and Africa’s “ambition” not to lose its “turn”. We stuck to our four years “entitlement” and ended up with none.
Now, we must ask ourselves if Kamina, having been rejected for an international diplomatic post by 27 Commonwealth leaders, should continue as foreign affairs minister. Future bilateral talks could be awkward. I’m sure Government, super-confident of victory, already had a replacement identified. Maybe it’s time for that candidate to be told “on your marks” while government massages shuffling Kamina to a more senior ministry like Health which, in my opinion, urgently needs her acumen.
Peace and Love!
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org