It’s not often we find ourselves in a position to brag about being the first to accomplish something in the OECS, let alone in the whole Caribbean. But suddenly, there we are, with enough evidence to convince the worst skeptics, ready to say without fear of contradiction, that we invented the fake-news phenomenon, albeit by another name. Oh, I fully expect the confederacy of dunces to say “dah mahn eh know what de hell he talkin’ about.” And it wouldn’t be the first time they miscalculated. That’s what dunces do; they miscalculate. Besides, when the blind and ignorant have nothing with which to counter indisputable fact, they forget about the song and turn on the singer. They, at least have a reasonable excuse, if you get my drift.
I mean, who in their right mind would deny that long before there was Fox News and Bill O’Reilly; long before anyone had ever heard of fat Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, Saint Lucia already had Juk Bois—the living breathing one-man equivalent of the mentioned unholy trinity. Naturally, we never gave Juk Bois his due. Just as we’ve never quite been able to give due credit to Derek Walcott—though we pretend to once a year, maybe out of shame and embarrassment. We are proud Looshans, and that’s what proud Looshans do; we pretend our brothers and sisters are exactly like the rest of us—talentless, with nothing worthwhile to offer . . . until of course some foreign country lays claim to what’s really ours. Ask Daren about that. Bravo, too. We prefer to hand out awards to foreign crooks and “serial rapists in our midst!”
Let’s face it, for countless years most of us dismissed Juk Bois as, well, a roro factory. We said he was an entertainer (when we really meant to say he was a clown!). We said he existed just to bring light relief to the especially uneducated; to give them something to laugh about when everything around them was miserable and growing worse by the minute. (Of course we know now that Juk Bois is and has always been as much enjoyed by the nation’s rich best brains as by the depressed and deprived, though they wouldn’t admit it unless you handed them such sums as only the likes of Walid Juffali could afford!)
Rather than giving the local boy due credit for his inventiveness and his unique imagination that knows no boundaries, we did everything possible to get him the hell off the radio. He moved from station to station, yes, but that did not mean he was ever off the air. We laughed about how he couldn’t put together an English sentence, let alone report a murder case en langue mama noo—which everyone knows comprises no more than a dozen or so dodgy words understood only in Haiti and in Dominica, which someone with a UWI degree once described as “the two poorest and most ignorant nations in the world!”
Of course, the character responsible for that stinging putdown was wrong—on all counts. As poor as regular Haitians and Dominicans may appear to the jaundiced eye, those who truly know what the rest of us really don’t know will tell you the leaders of the mentioned two territories have salted away in various bank vaults around the world more dollars than the combined treasuries of the whole OECS can boast. In the second place, regardless of the scant number of entries in your Creole dictionary, that had never been a problem for the nimble-tongued Juk Bois. If no one had yet coined a Creole world for “sesquipedalian” or “vicissitudes,” no problemo. Juk Bois simply created his own, kinda like Humpty Dumpty who famously said to Lewis Carroll: “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean. Nothing more, nothing less.”
What did it matter if the folks at Bois Patat and Morne Serpent and Barons Drive and Derriere Morne didn’t quite get what Juk Bois was saying? Bet on it, they all imagined they understood him perfectly. And count on them to spread the word, in their own peculiar style, with its mind-boggling twists and turns. Before you knew it, news was being made—whether or not you chose to call it roro. Let’s not forget to credit the regular news outlets that treated whatever Juk Bois said as gospel, unwittingly legitimizing roro—today defined in the Oxford dictionary and by Google as “fake news” and “post truth.”
A small digression: More than ten years ago, while driving a lady friend home from work, Juk Bois came over the radio. For a full fifteen minutes he reported on a court trial that I’d earlier attended and he had not. Let me tell you, I was astounded by all Juk Bois claimed had occurred in the
courtroom. (Then again, perhaps I just didn’t get him right, right?) I could not resist telling my friend the truth, detail by shocking detail. She listened in graveyard silence. But after she had disembarked near her house, she turned around and said: “I hear you, you know. But I believe Juk Bois, even though he does lie!” As they say, case closed. Here’s hoping Juk Bois lands a statue or something in Constitution Park, for special services to education in Saint Lucia!