gall and gumption

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Subject Fields and Pious Ejaculations

I’ve been subscribing to the St. Kitts Nevis mailing list since I was living in St. Kitts. At irregular intervals I ask myself what is the point, it takes up a lot of space in my mailbox, not to mention the time deleting the messages, I don’t like most of the people on the list and my contributions to any discussion are met, most of the time, with silence or worse.

The people of St. Kitts do not like foreigners telling them about their business.

So I lurk which means a mass of these emails landing in my mail box every day, from 50 to 70 of them.

But it is, with certain reservations, a source of news about St. Kitts and Nevis, probably the best source outside of St. Kitts and Nevis. If you look in the Caribbean news agencies -- there is one in Cayman, Caribbean Net News, and there was one in Barbados that was sort of struggling to come into existence and is only available by subscription -- they only print government press releases. Not because they wouldn’t like to do something better, but because they haven’t found a way to make a regional service along the lines of the AP or AFP a sustainable concern. There are a lot of reasons for this, something to explore, certainly, but the main result is that what they get to work with are government press releases.

The thing is the regional news agencies can’t give you the news on the ground that is being reported and written locally. So you don’t have a sense of crime, for example, or of how policy decisions are actually affecting people, or -- and this is a critical area -- what kinds of deals get made with foreign private investors.

But on the SKN mailing list, when someone gets murdered in St Kitts, as happened shortly after Christmas to poor Lorenzo Greene, owner of the Why Not? Bar and sandwich shop in Basseterre, it is all over the list really quickly. (Greene’s wife was murdred too, it was quite horrible and there were two more murders very shortly after, like within days, and these appeared on the list also). Many of the people on the list are nationals living abroad, and they report back to the list whatever they hear from home, they bring back news from visits, it is very interesting to watch the use of the mailing list as a way to keep informed.

There are also extremely partisan divisions. It is a mix of people, lawyers practicing in New York to semi-literate rastas. The government posts all its press releases on the list and there, they are sometimes met with, among other things, derision. They “buse” the PM’s Press Secretary heartily whenever the notion takes them, and to me this is a really good sign. “Buse” is one of several Kittitian words that I grew fond of. It is, of course, short for “abuse” but this new version has a slightly different meaning. It means tell somebody off or tease them, or bitch about them.

Anyway along with the political arguments there is a lot of other stuff. There is someone who sends out the Word For The Day, some little bit of Bible. There is a woman who sends out great gobs of glurge every week. Everybody is religious. Cricket, of course, turns up all the time. And deaths are always acknowledged, calling forth interesting and touching recollections of the departed and of former days when these little islands were very different places from what they are now.

If a woman cuts off her boyfriend’s penis anywhere in the world or a man has a heart attack while getting down with a woman old enough to be his mother, they are sure to have lots to say about it.

The worst thing about them is the xenophobia and the intolerance and the touchiness. One reason why i stopped posting on the list was because I would call them on this stuff, especially on the racist remarks that they would make, for which I got roundly abused.

I do not read most of this mail. I delete it and only read what looks interesting. But the titles of the email have a daffy poetry that I do enjoy.

This one for instance:

Those with blemishes should not throw stones.

Now, I will not read this, I’ll take the chance of missing something amusing, because life is just too short. But my mind keeps wandering in the direction of the blemish-free: what ar they permitted to throw? Chairs? Bricks?

. Professor Malaprop here, never gets through even a subject header without abusing both the caps lock key and the English language. Now, there is always a libel suit in progress against the PAM Democrat, and there is always a libel suit in progress against the Labour Party’s paper, the Labour Spokesman. When I first got to St. Kitts and saw these papers, my feeling was, to borrow a phrase from Samuel Johnson, that “it is difficult to settle the proportion of iniquity between them.” Not long before I left the Democrat changed its managing editor. The woman who took over -- great that she was a woman, by the way -- was the sister of my veterinaian. Very nice people, both of them. She had worked for the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, I think, anyway she was educated, with a broader view of the paper's responsibility. The paper is better for it, too.

Someone tried to start a discussion with the question: “Who is Greater -- Jesus or God?” which I thought we had thrashed out back in about the second century. Not getting much of a response, he proposed, “Which is Greater -- Jesus or Voodoo?”

Strange to say, that one didn’t go anywhere either.

Someone has discovered
Proof that Education is Important

Yet another writer feels compelled to admonish the others:

Guys, we should respect our age!

God’s creation in pairs!
could be glurge, I don’t want to know.

We are enjoined by somone else to

Explicate His Wonders!

About once a year there is a long and spirited debate about the late Sir Robert L. Bradshaw, or “Papa Bradshaw,” the Labour leader who rose from being a lowly sugar worker in St. Kitts’s poorest village to becoming leader of the Labour movement, founder of the Labour Party, and one of the Great Men of the Caribbean’s history in the 20th century. He was an impressive figure and a controversial one, who even now, almost 30 years after his death, casts a long shadow. When these debates start up there is a sort of triangular effect. The Children of Papa Bradshaw, that is, the steady Labour loyalists on one side, the PAM people on Side 2, who really are annoyed with the present Labour government and take every opportunity to say that Labour has betrayed his legacy. On Side Three of this debating triangle is the Nevis contingent, who to a man and/or woman, detest Bradshaw, his memory, his legacy, his character, the whole shebang. The feeling, when the old man was alive, was mutual.

So they will bash away at this subject from these three sides and it can go on and on and on and on. Towards the end of one bout of it last year I saw my favorite subject header of all.

Got up this morning and read nothing about Bradshaw. THANK YOU JESUS.

When you say “THANK YOU JESUS” you say it fervently as if you are at a revival meeting or perhaps just as a pious ejaculation. It comes out like “TENK yu JEEsas!” and the intent is to be killingly ironic. Whatever the immediate relief you are thanking Jesus for, you see, you also thanking him for giving you the strength to have put up with this jackass's nonsense, you are thanking him, as you are inspired to do in church, for sending you the relief, and for that matter, the trial too.

In Jamaica there is an old-fashioned expression that I hope is still in use.

"See me trial, Lord!" as used when you find yourself talking to an idiot. Or, more forcefully, "Lord, if you ever see me dying trial!"


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