I wonder how many readers of this column are familiar with the word “mondegreen?” I certainly was not before I bumped into it while looking up the lyrics for Bringing in the Sheep and serendipitously stumbled upon Bringing in the Sheaves, written by Knowles Shaw and based on Psalm 126:6—“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
I now know a “mondegreen,” is a misunderstood or misinterpreted word or phrase resulting from a mishearing of the lyrics of a song. In the Scottish ballad The Bonny Earl of Murray the line “laid him on the green” is often misheard as “Lady Mondegreen.” In the 1874 Shaw composition “sheaves” is often misheard as “sheep,” “sheets,” “chiefs” and yes, “cheese.” By the way, ”sheaves” is the plural of “sheath,” which is a bundle of grain. We have our own local classic mondegreen . Remember Herb Black’s I am for King . . . Are You For King? Remember how nearly everyone misheard “for King?” And now that we’re all abruptly so much wiser it remains to remind ourselves we are human, not sheep; despite we continue to demonstrate characteristics peculiarly ovine!
Consider this: “There is no need for me to recall the elaborate promises made during the last electoral campaign. We are all familiar with the promises. We heard the solemn promises to turn the country around in six months to a year . . . Any school child can call the bluff on all the dodges, excuses and prevarications that continue to be the stock-in-trade of our government. But these mamaguying techniques cannot efface the reality of our existence; nothing can wipe away the central fact that Saint Lucia has made little or no progress since the last general election. Almost four years have slipped away. The government is now left face-to-face with its own wrongheadedness; its own deception and its own incompetence.
“Our people are plagued by unemployment and low incomes. They suffer from malnutrition and many children die as a consequence. Many live with housing conditions unfit for human beings. Poor education and illiteracy continue to hamper our development. Most Saint Lucians have such limited access to basic health facilities that their lot is a life of disease, physical suffering and early death.”
Now take a deep breath, dear reader, slowly exhale before you read on: “Our youth see this society, not through the rose-tinted glasses of our prime minister who tells us about increased tourism arrivals and the hotel projects underway and to come, therefore everything in the garden is rosy. Our youth are the ones sitting on the bottom rung of survival in this society. They are the ones who know how rosy is the stench of the ghetto. They are the ones grubbing for pennies to keep body and soul together. The ones waiting endlessly for promised jobs. They are the ones being hunted down and killed for smoking a joint. They are the ones jailed for petty crime while the big-shot crooks go scot-free.
“It is clear the entire community of justice has taken a severe beating. The image of the police has been severely tarnished and the prime minister has displayed a total lack of principle and utter contempt for law and order. The lesson has not escaped the youth of Saint Lucia. It has fed their cynicism. It has reinforced the corruption in government and the police. It has given solid proof of police brutality. It has proved conclusively that there are sick, ruthless killers operating under the cloak of police work. It has shown politicians can manipulate the magistracy and the police. It has proved, finally, in Saint Lucia there is no justice.”
So, my fellow Saint Lucians, I ask you: Where do we go from here? It’s as if we have decided to remain as helpless sheep looking on while our insane shepherds burn down the grass that feeds us and the sheds that offer shelter from the sun and rain. A few among us, reminiscent of the so-called house niggers of another time of horror, I dare to say, ruled by our insatiable bellies and not by our intelligence, suicidally support the brutality meted out to our fellow enslaved, oblivious of the inevitability that sooner or later it will be our turn to be dragged bleating into the slaughterhouse.
On Wednesday, Andre Paul took a call from a young man whose voice he quickly recognized. “Hello,” said the host of What Makes You Mad? “how’re you doing?” The caller said nothing had changed since his last call, when he had informed Andre of his plans to join ISIS.
“But why would you want to do that?” asked the host. “I know things are not all that rosy and many young people are frustrated. But you have to be strong” blah-blah-blah-blah.
The young man was having none of that. He rattled off several reasons why he had come to the conclusion that “there is no justice in this country and there never will be until something is done about the perpetuators of injustice.”
“Wait a minute, caller,” Andre pleaded. “I wouldn’t say there is no justice. I agree things could be better but that doesn’t mean nobody gets justice in . . .”
The young man cut him short. “How can things ever get better when you have representatives of the people who care only for themselves?” He said in effect that parliament comprised not one but two opposition groups that did nothing but oppose one another, with no thought for the people.
For at least fifteen minutes Andre sought to reach the caller’s soul with his Bible-tinted advice. He wasted his time. The caller said he had no fight with people and their faith. What he cared about was the wall-to-wall injustice. He touched on IMPACS, the broken justice system, the neglect of those “who don’t have a big name” and so on. By now Andre had all but surrendered the floor. It was quite clear to him that his caller was educated and quite able to make his case without the host’s assistance.
“Do you have a job?” asked the host, somewhat desperately. The caller chuckled. “My frustration has nothing to do that,” he said. “I have a slave job with a slave master who doesn’t pay for overtime . . . but I can live with that.” What he could not live with, by all he said, was the official attitude.
“But ISIS . . . “ Again his caller cut Andre off at the pass. “Don’t tell me about ISIS,” he said, “I know all I need to know about what they are about and I will join them. They know what they are doing and those who join them know why they’re joining.” (In the U.S. the caller would by this juncture have been arrested and charged under anti-terrorism laws . . . but this is Saint Lucia. We’re not quite there—yet!)
He soon got around to suicide bombers. “But don’t get me wrong,” he told Andre. “I will not blow myself up. I just need to get my hand on some guns . . .”
“To do what?” asked Andre.
And his caller said: “What do people do with guns?”
“Caller,” said Andre, “although I have a job don’t think things are easy for me. Things are tough even for people with jobs.”
The caller struck back at lightning speed: “You’re doing fine. I was talking to a woman the other day and she told me she is a tenant of yours.”
“Oh, but the house she rents does not belong to me. It belongs to someone else!” You could tell at this point that desperation was warehousing in the radio host’s liver.
From all the caller shared with Andre and his audience, there is good reason to believe he is not alone, that there are others right here in Saint Lucia who had been brought by their circumstances to the desperate place the caller now inhabits. The word is that ISIS has been recruiting in Jamaica and Trinidad and who knows where else! As if already the writing were not on the wall, less than three hours later the news was out that a young woman had been raped at her workplace at gunpoint by two animals in men’s clothing, in broad daylight. The police also took the opportunity to mention a previously unreported rape of a British tourist at her hotel.
Remarkably, the callers to Wednesday’s Newsspin were not nearly as outraged by the latest rapes as they were about what they perceived to be officials pissing in their eyes and calling it rain. As we get ready on this our 37th anniversary of Independence to party like its 1999, some food for thought: the quoted four paragraphs at the start of this feature, though they read like an on-the-spot report on the current state of Saint Lucia, were written by the late George Odlum referencing the period 1982 to 1986. Yes, almost 30 years ago!
Perhaps the time has come for bringing in not only those who profit by pretending to be sheep but also their blood-sucking vampire-shepherds. Which, I suppose, was the message at the heart of Andre Paul’s wannabe ISIS soldier.
My dear good shepherds, You bin warned!