Sometimes things happen that you can do nothing about, save to wish the reality was otherwise. I feel that way whenever I hear, see or read the stupid or insensitive things colleagues said, displayed or wrote. Most times I convince myself they simply don’t know better. Sometimes, I am tempted to leave it, they say, for another show. But then there are times you when you just know you can’t wait for that other show! Take the two latest examples:
Scene 1, Act 1: A reporter covering a recent meeting of the House of Assembly openly complained—in plain black and white—about the number of times debating MPs say “Mr Speaker.” Clearly, the reporter had not a clue about the Westminster parliamentary, and probably never heard elected parliamentarians debate, whether in the British House of Commons or the US Congress. I put that one down as just another case of pardonable professional ignorance. Still wish my colleague hadn’t publicly made such a fool of himself.
Scene 2, Act 1: A seasoned scribbler with decades of history in the business of opinion writing last week wrote a mile-and-a-half of a missive about the Governor General’s Throne Speech not being even a figment of her own imagination. Not much known for embracing anything gubernatorial in these times, my fellow scribe took precious time off to pass some serious water—from up on high—down on Her Excellency’s 2013 Throne Speech. He basically accused her of offering bovine feces for sugar cake, of reading out loud things she knows not to be true, even of misleading the nation into believing we are who we aren’t and that we can do what we can’t.
Let’s take Scene 2: From what my friend wrote, Her Excellency’s birthright or her mile-long academic CV, her longevity in the position (thanks to succeeding administrations) or her unique multi-linguistic delivery of Messages of State just don’t matter. As far as he’s concerned, this Dame representing Her Majesty Queen in St Lucia is nothing but a genuflecting puppet who takes distinct pleasure in reading out to the public anything handed her by the political directorate to read—even if she knows it to be outrageous “hyperbole.” In his book, all her 16 consecutive annual deliveries to Joint Sittings of the House and the Senate were mere ceremonial statements of political fantasy that have always had absolutely nothing to do with the day’s reality. Consequently, Her Excellency and all her annual statements as head of State were dutifully written-off to the scrap heap of local Throne Speech history.
Porjab Her Excellency. I felt bad reading the article, not only because I knew the writer was aware she would not respond, but also because I felt he’d been entirely unfair, if not insensitive (I won’t say disrespectful), to the national gubernatorial First Lady. Yes, I know we live in an age when everyone has more rights than everyone else, with our children having more rights than their parents, and animal rights often superseding the rights of their owners to sustainable habitats or nutritional resources.
Some of us who believe in the power of the pen carry on as if we have all the rights and freedoms to write and say whatever we want about anyone, in the name of Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression. We even have the right to be stupid, as we’re often reminded. We’ve given ourselves the right to insult our leaders, even the right to cuss-off our Moms and Dads, if we think they deserve it. But we also abuse those rights—and for sweet nothing. And that’s becoming more and more of a big problem.
Social Media has been a game-changer on the Press freedom front. Too many people still actually believe that you can write or say anything, anyhow, anywhere, anytime, about anyone—once it’s on the Internet. Most who claim such rights today don’t want to even discuss, far less adhere to, the responsibilities that come with them. They simply want to shoot from the hip and spit straight into the face, no holes barred. To them, that’s what “Democracy” is, so, write without fear, publish and be damned, feel free to talk your talk—no sweat!
But awah! Press Freedom and Freedom of Information are nowhere free. That’s why there are checks and balances everywhere and limits or boundaries beyond which we’re not expected to go. (Not that we can’t, just that we’re not expected to, except in undoubted publicly justifiable cases or circumstances.)
I refuse to believe that my writer friend does not know that no Head of State’s speech is ever a reflection of his or her private thoughts. Queen Elizabeth II opened the 2013-14 session of the British Parliament this week, doing just what our Dame did here—reading a speech written by the Dave Cameron Conservative legislators in charge of the UK Government, in which she outlined each and every new law to be introduced by the David Cameron Cabinet in the coming legislative year. I haven’t heard even the stiffest opponents of the Monarch say a word of anything about their Queen’s delivery of her annual speech at Westminster. But here, my friend seemed out to prove that his pen is indeed mightier than the Queen’s sword—or the GG’s word. It’s as if he wanted to demonstrate we’re still a society where you have the legal right to shake your floor mat in your neighbour’s face, once it’s done in the name of cleaning your home.
But my fearless writer friend—who behaves like his lance is longer than Sir Lancelot’s—is absolutely lucky that St Lucia is not Thailand, where you can be jailed for simply saying you don’t like the King or the Royal Monarchy. Or in Islamic societies, where simply saying anything out of the ordinary about Prophet Mohammed can lead to the most dire consequences.
As elsewhere in the Commonwealth, our Governor General’s annual Throne Speech is open to any and all kinds of interpretations—depending on who’s listening and who’s talking or writing about it. My good friend clearly considers it an annual bore, but not me.
Me? Like every opinion writer everywhere else, I see it as an always perfectly dependable weather vane signaling government’s legislative and other major national intents in the coming fiscal year. Unlike the scribbling critic’s expectation, the Throne Speech is not meant to be the policy-making address, but it’s no less an indicator of how
the government plans to shape our lives and run the affairs of state in the next year.
All that said, my fellow journeyman seems very much alone in his demonstrable will to show he can ‘dis’ our Governor General—No Big Thing! But this Dame is not a game—neither to win or walk over. Everyone knows no one else here can reply better—in English and Kweyol than Dame Pearlette. But, as my friend well knows, she’s fettered and not fenced by the trappings of her office.
The Dame isn’t responsible for implementation of the policies she announces annually. The only applause she got last year—and quite sustained it was—was when she announced government intended to make it possible to do business with the state using credit and debit cards. One year later, as she promised, all the arrangements are already in place for us to pay government with plastic.
If my good friend (no Romanus Lansiquot pun intended here) had been listening more with his ears and less with his eyes, perhaps he would have
heard those other things she said that meant something good for him and us, instead of only seeing and hearing Kenny Anthony. I don’t expect him to be any less brutal on the Prime Minister if he looks and listens (to the presentation of the real Budget Address) on Tuesday. But whether or not he does, I do expect him to accept it was insensitive, if not unfair to the Dame to equate her to a dependent and distressed damsel doomed to be
dipped in Danish doo-doo if she didn’t do or go exactly according to the script of the gospel written by Kenny Anthony.
Say One, Say Two! I know I should defend my writing friend’s right to write as he likes—and to bowl like he feels. But I don’t think our lady on the hill deserved those deliberate bouncers. She may not be exactly his Fatima, but she’s still our only dame still scoring at the wicket. And nothing in her so-far not-out innings suggests she’s earned any
of those wild baseball swings to her face from my friend’s pen or pencil of a brickbat!
Abodie, Abofess! That’s one time I wish his keyboard had done like the CSA and opted to go on strike, with immediate effect, for the next three weeks!