Local consumers of TV fare were offered two special dishes from Wednesday evening’s menu. Neither was truly native, but pointless dwelling on the commonplace. The not altogether brain dead know well our made-in-Saint Lucia label has always been a sick joke, never meant to be taken seriously—save by out-of-town suckers.
Even Harold Dalson must be aware that what we’ve been seeking all these years to persuade our children to consume with pride—that is, our national dish—is really nothing more than a perpetuated national lie; a half-truth that defines our nature. Not that anyone gives a damn.
The not easily swallowed whole truth is that without the imported salt-fish salaison we’d be left holding a plateful of “green figs”—yet another misnomer that is further proof of our penchant for self-delusion.
You needn’t be a Robert Lewis, or a frothing advocate of hole-blocking five-dollar lunches, to know an ocean separates the green fig that is native to the Mediterranean from the not-yet-ripe banana we refer to as green fig!
An old adage comes to mind: “Beware of the half truth. You may have gotten hold of the wrong half!”
Our so-called native dish is no more native to this country than were our PM’s Sussex-born-and-raised father David Barnard, the Panamanian George Mallet and John Compton—who initially visited us from St. Vincent at age 14, then went on to father the nation—a Pandora’s Box at this time best left unopened!
Let us instead return to our roots. As with most local menus, Wednesday’s featured imported pork and more imported pork. On one table, we had the pig all glazed up, foreign apple in mouth, its belly stuffed with imported goodies.
Tout près there was roast pork prepared the old-fashioned way, by which I refer to a time before Courts and online-buying made spits and barbecue pits commonplace. At any rate, at certain Cap Estate mansions and at the palatial residences of incumbent politicians with secret oil wells.
Back in the day, I loved pork. Salted pork, especially. You simply dumped your chunk on hot coals, stepped back to take in the dizzying aroma, while mesmerized by fat-fueled flames that for several sizzling minutes rose and fell like a fiery version of Old Faithful in miniature. Then it was chow time.
I can hardly believe I used to relish burned pork fat. The roasted, sometimes hairy hide (la quen?) was to die for. Today the mere thought of charbroiled pig meat makes me dizzy with nausea. What the hell happened?
Oh, but again I digress. Returning to Wednesday evening’s pork fest: initially I was attracted to the Martiniquan-cuisine offering with the apple in its snout—until the interviewer popped his first question: “What qualifies you to be prime minister of Saint Lucia?” (Funny how this week DBS’ would-be version of Larry King suddenly found his voice. Perhaps yellow excites his red blood cells?)
Hey, don’t rush to judgment. The question was not without its interesting aspects. It promised to test the guest’s sense of humor, his sense of self-importance, his political savvy, his intelligence. His response recalled not immediately verifiable Jamaican experiences, personal accomplishments here and there, always as the leader of his pack.
Had I been his advisor preparing him for his host’s predictable opening question, I’d have suggested a different strategy. Keeping in mind the audience he sought to impress, I’d have had him saying, with a George Clooney chuckle: “That’s a great question, Kendall. However, I believe it might’ve been better put to the electorate. After all, it’s the people who finally determine who’s best qualified to sit in our parliament.”
Count on it, after that my man would’ve afforded the over-dressed, surprised host ample time to readjust his tie and his TV composure. Hey, there’s absolutely no chance he’d have anticipated my man’s riposte. Otherwise he’d not have asked the question with such demonstrated sang-froid.
My man would then have proceeded, smiling as comes naturally only to the seasoned politician: “But seriously, Kendall, what are the established criteria for the job of prime minister?”
The host would’ve jumped at the bait. It’s a safe bet he’d have cited qualifications strictly academic: a first degree in some area of economics, a diploma in sociology or some other culture-related subject, an agriculture-related BA, and so on. His fish on the hook, my man would then have started reeling him in, but slowly. With well rehearsed humility, he would then say: “Is that so? Now, let’s consider the evidence.”
The evidence would quite naturally take into account the present prime minister’s history, his well-publicized academic history, with particular emphasis on his doctorate in constitutional law.
Leaning forward, his eyes locked on the camera, my man would then ask: “Isn’t he the same prime minister that placed on our statute books the no-bail law, the press- restricting Section 361, the abortion law, the gaming law that permitted only non-nationals entry to local casinos, the business-killing VAT and so on?”
Then, as if it were afterthought: “Need I remind you that at least three of those laws were, soon after enactment, proven unconstitutional?”
Count on it, the host would by this time be wondering why he had opened his bowling with a full toss. My man would be gentle. Pointless coming on like a bully in a Gros Islet bordello. Better to kill Kendall with kindness. You know, softly.
“You see, sir,” my man would say, “while education can never be overestimated, I must remind you that some of our worst performers in government were among the country’s most academically qualified. In my humble opinion, the more important qualifications for the job of prime minister are not to be earned in a classroom. They don’t hand out degrees and diplomas for having a
social conscience. Neither for truly caring about your people; nor for sound judgment, to say nothing of the vision thing. These are special blessings from the Almighty.”
Another dramatic pause, to allow the believers in TV-land time to savor that last line. Then my man would add, eyes almost awash: “Too many politicians see the job of MP as a means by which to enrich themselves. The great thing about being an MP is the opportunity it allows us to make things better for the deprived and neglected. Nothing beats the uplifting feeling that results from knowing you’ve helped make someone happy.”
Then would come the coup de grace: “That’s why it sounds so terribly corrupt and self-interested when you hear politicians unabashedly talking about salary increases for themselves, as if oblivious of what’s happening in the private sector. You shouldn’t go into politics for the perks. If money is your main motivator, then government is not where you belong.”
Then again, the former tourism minister Allan Chastanet (hopefully he won’t mind my porky references!) must know more than a thing or two about marketing. You could say selling is in his genes. So where do I come off talking about what kind of pork has the most popular appeal?
In any event, the pork of Choice wasn’t courting votes. Although she received more supportive calls than Hot Button Issue could manage on Wednesday evening, it seemed the Guyanese import Molly’s sole purpose on the occasion was to paint an image of our politicians guaranteed to make the nation sick to its stomach—a task, as it turns out, equal to shooting fish in a barrel!