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Perhaps the most dubious endorsement for Jamaica’s new Prime-Minister Elect, Portia Simpson-Miller, came from a woman who proudly declared, ‘All mi dog a seh Portia!’

 

Yes, apparently even her flea-bitten mongrel had fallen captive to the Portia Fever that was sweeping across the island, a fever which I confess I fell captive to as well – even if a little late, and even if only in response to the disgraceful tactics that some members of the JLP had begun to employ towards the end.  The woman’s dog however had gotten onto the bandwagon early, and instead of his usual haruuff haarruuuff harrruuuufffs against thieves, this unlikely mascot had become far more eloquent and was now saying to one and all, ‘Portia! Portia!’

 

Incidentally, it is worthy of note that this ‘Portia Fever’ did not register on any poll, as if it was simmering, but ever so quietly.

 

Now it is hardly the first time that a dog has been used to campaign for people or for causes in Jamaica. Why, even on Election day yesterday there was a fresh picture circulating of a green man and his green dog on a green bike, going out to vote for the JLP.

 

And then, how could we forget the stand-off in Tivoli  Gardens over a year ago when the community came out to protest the warrant that had been put out for their don and leader, and they brought out one prophetic dog who carried the sign, ‘Jesus die for Us/ We will die for Dudus!!!’ (My friend, Annie Paul, might point out that the clear rhyme scheme in this little sign helps us to pronounce ‘Dudus’ correctly — not the incorrect Doodoos’ that has become popular.)

Anyway; we know of course that 72 men eventually did die for Dudus, but I’ve always been curious as to what exactly happened to the dog. (for some reason police never report on canine casualties)

 

 

With the help of the Observer’s cartoonist, Clovis, Portia gained another unlikely mascot in her election campaigns – that of the ‘faggot’. And I mean to say that word in all of its crassness – in the way that it even bears the echo of the word ‘nigger’ – in the way that it is supposed to connote a people who are not really people at all, but strange, abominable creatures whose opinions or votes should never be taken into account. For that is what Clovis’s cartoons were trying to depict – and the loud message from his sketches was clear:  look Jamaica – it is not only the ‘dogs’ that are saying Portia, but also the ‘faggots’!

And I gather this was supposed to discredit Portia, because, of course, who in Jamaica would want to keep company with these less than human beings.

 

              

 

At three months, Andrew Holness has become Jamaica’s second shortest serving prime-ministers. Donald Sangster set the still unbeatable record by dying 6 weeks into the job. At least Sangster got an airport out of it. We probably can give Andrew a bus park or something.

Upon Young Andrew’s ascendency (much has been made about the fact of his youth) he promised a politics that was going to be new and different. Ironically, in this promise he became the same as every other politician before him. I have to confess I have never liked the man. Despite his youth he seems one of those who has become old before his time –  one of those strange men who have decided that a certain measure of sobriety plus a constant scowl on one’s face not only connotes intelligence but indeed *is* intelligence. Now he is by no means a fool, or at least he doesn’t seem one to me; rather he is a man of moderate intelligence – a man with a capable mind, but nothing special. I have never heard anything particularly inspiring or savvy come from his lips. And when he was made Minister of Education he embarked on a policy of censorship for godsake! You couldn’t make it up! He decided in his own sanctimonious way what literature was sufficiently sanctimonious for a Jamaican classroom. While the religious right wing cheered, it was a scary lesson to everyone else on what is likely to happen when a small-minded man gains power.

 

 

The sad thing of course is that Young Andrew must hardly believe himself a small-minded man; the small-minded rarely do. And he must not be aware of the limits of his limited and limiting intelligence – one of its limits being the inability to fully appreciate its limits. And so it was, three months ago when he became Prime Minister, he preached in his uninspiring but sanctimonious way the usual tripe about new and different politics, and he probably sincerely believed that he *was* committed to something new and different. Ah bwoy. Poor limited man.

In fact, the only thing new and different in the elections came from an older woman – from Portia Simpson-Miller, who took the perfectly reasonable and hardly earth-shattering stance that she would select a cabinet based on people’s abilities and that she had no interest in what happened in their private bedrooms. [See the short clip below. Well worth it!]

 

Portia Defends Her Stance

 

For this single comment, she won the ire of the cartoonist Clovis who gave her her unlikely mascots, and of certain members of the clergy who encouraged their congregations to punish Portia for daring to be compassionate, and of course, of members of the JLP who launched a sudden gay-hate campaign that was hardly new and different but in fact so old, that it was reminiscent of the kinds of campaigns that Hitler had organized in Germany to whip up unthinking nationalistic support around a cause that excluded niggers, faggots, dogs and others who supposedly were a danger to all that the nation stood for. And poor limited Andrew who sanctimoniously promised a politics that was new and different, who parroted the usual words of how fed up Jamaicans were of the old-style, bigoted, hate-mongering petty campaigning tactics of yesteryear, said hardly a word when his compatriots began to deliver just that.

I wonder if Andrew even knows how many votes changed to the other side in the end, and were people saying, ‘we really, really *are* tired of it all, the lowness of it, and how you always insult our intelligences!’ I for one did not care to see Portia back in Jamaica house at the beginning of the campaign, but bwoy mi glad fi see her there now!

Still, Jamaica today seems properly stunned that Portia indeed, despite her unlikely mascots, not only won last night’s election, but won by a landslide. But you know – despite wanting something new and different, sometimes we must listen to what old people say. For my granny did tell me, every dog have him day, and every puss him 4 o clock.

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16 thoughts on “Jamaican Politics: Making Unlikely Mascots out of Dogs and Faggots

  1. Hah! anedda good one Kei…and thanks for the gift of the placard that bears out what i was saying re correct pronunciation of ‘Dudus’…

    I had forgotten the cartoon of the two families–i wonder if Clovis/the Observer will learn anything about how limited their power to influence people really is?

    • Thanks Annie!

      But the Observer? Learn something? You have more faith than me. But seriously, when did they get so bad? They were a pretty good paper in the beginning. Weren’t they?

  2. My comment at the time, and still is this: wasn’t it mr holness who himself proposed a safe and peaceful election? so what ironic change of tune is this? one violence is better than another? no violence at all should be tolerated. none. it does seem an irresponsible act on the part of a leader, et al, to incite in such a manner. he should not have been so dull in his speech, and inject energy and elicit fervor based on what he will do for us, not incite over the orientation of an already marginalized group.

  3. Now that you’ve got that off your chest….dwl. There really were moments there when you were channeling Jamaica Kincaid — she who does snark like nobody else. You certainly bring it right home.

  4. There was actually another grotesque cartoon from Clovis, which I searched for but was not published online. These cartoons remind me of the horrible racist depictions of black people a century (or less) ago – features distorted, bulging eyes etc. What an earth-shattering admission by PSM that she would actually have Cabinet members based on their abilities (the equivalent of non-whites in a racist society)… But don’t forget a couple of things Kei – the depth of voter apathy, especially among the youth. And the fact that some grey old faces will reappear in Gordon House alongside Portia. My personal view is that nothing – nothing – will change. I always vote, but never expect too much. I am a horrible old cynic.

    Happy New Year!

    • You’re very very right Petchary. While I am very satisfied that Portia won, it’s more for me the happiness that something that appeared almost .. well… evil, actually lost. I still hoping that some good will come out of this — but not in an incredibly hopeful way, if that makes any sense.

  5. Wow! Now that you mention, I have to also confess a curiosity about the fate of the emphatic dog in the picture above.

    I think that the Jamaica Observer and Clovis have no idea how tired the vitriolic and homophobic campaign that they embarked on was to thinking Jamaicans. For a few seconds I was upset with the moderator of the debate for even posing the questions given the magnitude of all the real problems that Jamaicans face. But you’re correct that when Vaz and Mullings tried to whip up a homophobic backlash it reeked of desperation – and the leader should have stopped it.

    I think Clovis’s real failure as a propagandist is his failure to understand the cardinal rule that a little goes a long way.

    As for Holness, I strongly disagree with the estimation of his intelligence. He censorship misstep seemed to stem from being a sincerely religious person who leaned towards the protection of people from vice in literature and art as religious people are wont to do periodically. But that stance didn’t have much of a chance in our democracy.

    • Fair enough. I not convinced enough to take back my assessment of his intelligence right now (which again, I think is quite capable), but I guess we will see in due time. But also what you mean that stance wouldn’t have a chance in our democracy? It did! His policies went through!

  6. Good one Kei! I posted on a list serve that the biggest victory out of the elections is that Jamaicans stood for something different and it really isn’t about homosexuality. The Observer/parts of JLP ran a dirty campaign and its not that it only back fired but the sustained pushback from various parts of the society to this type of campaigning was something really good. I believe that Jamaicans are tired of the usual crap and the JLP’s/Observer campaign made it easy to look the other way.

    On the other hand, I am also tempted to be cynical and say that PNP probably just used the Observer and JLP tactics to energize their base differently, which has always the deciding factor in a Jamaican election. Since voter turnout was as it is always low this just might be the case – but I’ll leave that for Ian Boxhill.

    On Andrew’s intelligence, I agree with your original assessment. When it comes down to it both parties did not offer anything significantly different. A part of Andrew’s problem is that is he does not have any of the ‘charms’ that Jamaicans love in their political leaders. I suspect he will be voted out, as party leader at the next conference rendering him to the rest of the failed wannabe leaders, the bitter likes of Pernel Charles, Mike Henry and Karl Samuda.

  7. Portia’s stand for what is, after all, nothing more than simple decency represents a return to what is best in the tradition of the People’s National Party. The Observer’s nonsense, the JLP’s gay-bashing, the noise emanating from the fundie churches all served to obscure that there is also a tradition of liberal openness in Jamaica, and the PNP has been one of the carriers of that tradition. It is about time that gay Jamaicans began to benefit from it.

    When people like Holness censor books, I am reminded that when I was in high school at the tail-end of the Shearer government people passed banned books (like The Children of Sisyphus) from hand to hand, and we read them. When Patterson’s novel was unbanned by Michael Manley (bona memoria), and a copy arrived on my school’s library shelves, the librarian wasn’t sure it should be there, because of all the bad wud. I persuaded her that it ought to be, got her — a Seventh Day Adventist — to read it, and it stayed. I was a damn’ serious 15-year-old, and learnt the difference between censors and liberty back then.

    Freedom is a constant struggle, and every step towards widening it to include all people matters.

  8. Many watched, and many learned, but unfortunately not enough did the learning thing!? The way of the JLP was in no way surprising, as the way of ignorance offten ends with your ass exposed, (Di higher monkey klime, di more im expose) and thanks to Vaz & Mullings, bwoy dem expose!!! Seriously folks, boaring is out… Were pass the bullshit just because somebody seh suh, and Mr. Holliness just was’nt saying much, neither to show leadership in his own party, living up to the promise of “No dirty politics” keeping his underlings in check, or waking us up with serious direction for Jamaica, YAAWN!!! PSM is your time now please prove the Church, and all the negative ones wrong, be strong and forcefull, especially when its needed.

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