Two seemingly disconnected things have converged, in my mind: the saga over NHT/Outameni and the just-started Commission of Enquiry on events in Tivoli Gardens in May 2010.
Several days ago, Robert Pickersgill, lifetime chair of the ruling PNP and a Cabinet minister, disparagingly referred to those criticizing the main actors in the NHT/Outameni on Twitter as being the ‘articulate minority’ and not being ‘ordinary Jamaicans’.
Naturally, some who felt the label referred to them reacted negatively, to the extent that they took to rebuttals on Twitter and action in the form of some demonstrations at Emancipation Park. That was a good sign, that some were not afraid to visibly and publicly match words with actions.
Very few Jamaicans take well to being marginalized or, worse, being dismissed as irrelevant.
In the initial reaction to Mr. Pickersgill’s remarks, it was contrasted to a natural opposite, the ‘inarticulate majority’. On reflection, that may be totally wrong. A keen political observer noted that Mr. Pickersgill knows Jamaicans and their culture very well. In that case, would he be so crass as to insult a group who may include many influential people? If one looks at Jamaican Twitter users they include none other than the PM herself and the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition. They may no longer be ordinary Jamaicans, but irrelevant they are not. Add to that mix some of Mr. Pickersgill’s Cabinet colleagues, such as Miss Lisa Hanna, who some see as an aspirant leader. Add too, leaders of the private sector, such as Presidenet of the PSOJ, Chris Zacca, it’s CEO Dennis Chung, who is also a well-known columnist, and entrepreneur William Mahfood, head of Wisynco. With that perspective, Mr. Pickersgill would seem totally out of whack alienating so many people of influence, and supposedly some of his political allies. He would also be on the verge of insanity, because the remark includes him, as he has a Twitter account–albeit not used since 2012. So, would he be the pot calling himself black? I think not.
What may make sense is that the articulate minority he refers to is not a single bloc. Society has many such blocs. Politicians fit, so do those in the justice system, so do entrepreneurs. So, the Twitterati may not need to get all huffy, but instead realize it’s part of a social mosaic. Whether it represents ordinary Jamaicans in someone’s eyes for them to grapple with. Anyway, what does ‘ordinary’ mean or signify? I would like to think all Jamaicans are extraordinary–no one nuh betta dan wi.
That makes sense also if you reject the idea that the articulate minority is set against some inarticulate majority that is supposed to be ordinary Jamaicans.
The majority of Jamaicans may not have excelled academically but they are not inarticulate.
That’s the crossover point with the Enquiry. We saw on TV, live, how the articulate minority known as attorneys tried to trick and bamboozle some ordinary Jamaicans. in their own way, they were superbly articulate. First, they expressed themselves fully–the whole range of emotions were on show, anger, frustration, humour, sadness, etc. They were not beaten back by those who spoke differently to them, using arcane phrases and using diction that was clearly Standard English. However, in full Jamaican patois, they gave as good as they got. Maybe, the Enquiry needs a translator to bridge any apparent gap.
We’ve seen the now viral outburst of ‘Rosie’, complaining about her flooded home, and her now famous ‘tutty gran’ (thirty grand). Ordinary Jamaicans speak this way, but they are not inarticulate.
So, what was Mr. P. really saying? I’m still not sure, but the man is no political fool. He’s a survivor and knows that making enemies of the majority of your people is not good politics.
I think we should embrace that we are part of some articulate minority. As I said a few days ago, that term describes the average voter. One only becomes a majority when most join your group. What’s important is to which other minorities should one be attached. It’s clear that we all need to articulate.
We’ve seen that unwillingness to be articulate as voters, with turnout falling over the decades. But, not voting is also an articulate statement.
Marginalisation is a dangerous ploy in Jamaica. (Michael Manley moved boldly against it with his inclusion of bastard children fully into the rights of legitimate offspring.) We saw yesterday how one activist, Lloyd D’Aguilar used the perceived threat of that to nearly derail the Enquiry’s proceedings. Was he mistaken? Maybe, but the reaction to the threat was typically Jamaican, even if done by one that was anything but ordinary.
Most politicians don’t survive without thinking before speaking. What may be hard is to fathom those thoughts.