Mon | Nov 19, 2018

Carolyn Cooper | Sound clash with Daniel Thwaites?

Published:Sunday | November 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Even those snobs who pretend to have nothing but contempt for dancehall culture actually enjoy a boisterous sound clash. Like an enterprising promoter, The Gleaner's opinion editor tried to set up a clash between Daniel Thwaites and me. Two Fridays ago, he emailed this warning, "Look out for Daniel's response."

The previous week, The Gleaner had published an inflammatory column by Thwaites with the provocative headline, 'Patois activism and ulterior motives'. He perversely declared that the "endgame" of "Patois activists" was to stop Jamaican children from learning English. After a fair bit of rambling, he finally came to his senses:

"I think the more Patois activists convince us that the goal really is English proficiency and not some romantic and nationalistic investment in an isolating Creole, people will get on board. If it works to teach English as a second language, let's do that. The objective, though, is to get English taught."

But the objective of bilingual education is not just to teach English. It's also to help students understand the value of Jamaican, their heart/head language. And the two objectives are not incompatible. Thwaites dismisses education in, and about, "Patois" as "romantic" and "nationalistic". He doesn't seem to appreciate the global reach of Jamaican culture. Our language is not "an isolating Creole". People all over the world are learning Jamaican to connect with our culture.

 

MORRIS CARGILL'S ACOLYTE

 

In this sound clash, Thwaites draw di first dub plate. Mi lick back wid a next chune, 'Daniel Thwaites channelling Morris Cargill'. And that was the end of that as far as I was concerned. But no self-respecting promoter could be satisfied with a sound clash that goes for only one round. The crowd would bockle him. So the opinion editor wanted me to look out for Daniel's response, 'Patwa Queen too long on the throne'. And, presumably, to answer it!

I regally told the editor I couldn't be bothered. Sound clash flop! But there was a succession of letters to the editor last week promoting the clash. On Wednesday, the editor made what he must have thought was a killer argument. If I didn't answer, people would say I was afraid of Thwaites. I had a good laugh. Mi never fraid fi Morris Cargill, the high priest of Englishness. Is him acolyte Daniel Thwaites mi a go fraid fa?

On Thursday, the promoter got very lucky. There was a letter from Kevin D'Arcy with this headline: 'Battle royal - Cooper vs Thwaites'. And D'Arcy made an insightful point, "Thank you, Gleaner, you are the ultimate winner in this match. Awesome!"

 

GRAINS OF WISDOM

 

Instead of setting up a sound clash between columnists to excite readers, The Gleaner should continue revamping its image. Changing the format of the paper was an excellent decision. But there's more to be done. Young people should become top managers. In the digital age, the first thing that would go is that old-fashioned G logo. It was probably designed in 1834 when The Gleaner was founded.

Then the literal meaning of the name 'Gleaner' doesn't capture the imagination of most readers these days. A gleaner is a farm worker who picks up grain after the harvest. It also means someone who collects bits and pieces of information. Today's sophisticated millennials don't glean their news in the same old way.

Fortunately for The Gleaner, after almost two centuries, the company has benefited from brand name identification, just like kleenex, aspirin, velcro and band-aid. Gleaner is the generic name for a newspaper. Even the Observer is sometimes called a gleaner!

Then since I do appreciate the financial advantages of a successful sound clash, I decided to fling a next lickle chune pon Daniel Thwaites this week. And the "ultimate winner" can't be only the promoter. The two selectors, "Daniel in the Lion's Den" and "Super Cooper" have to get their share. Nuff! So see fi mi dub plate ya so!

 

CHILDISH NAME-CALLING

 

Rather than responding to my argument, Thwaites resorted to childish name-calling: Patwa Queen, elderly, unhinged and harridan. He seems to regard the top spot on The Sunday Gleaner's Page 9 as an English throne, formerly occupied by his idol, Morris Cargill, and Dawn Ritch. I suppose I'm a 'Patwa' usurper. But I'm not a throne-sitter. I'm more a standard-bearer for the Jamaican language, like Junior Gong's tireless flagman.

I am an elderly woman. So what? Old age usually elicits respect. And unhinged is the kind of label insecure men use to demean powerful women who are not hinged to/in their proper, subservient place. The same goes for harridan. An angry old woman! Both young and old women often have a lot to be angry about - including abusive men who try to give them bitch licks.

Harridan is probably of French origin - haridelle - meaning old horse. In Daniel Thwaites' relatively juvenile eyes, I may look like a pop-down nag. Little does he know I'm hot to trot! And no matter what else Thwaites writes about me, I'm not answering. No more sound clash! The 'Patwa Queen' knows how to carefully choose her subjects.

- Carolyn Cooper, PhD, is a specialist on culture and development. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com.