#COVID19Chronicles-118: August 10, 2020-Who’s got your goat?

One obvious problem of playing tag is that you are there to be tagged, too, if you don’t catch people.

Jamaican politicians love to play ‘gotcha’, which is like political tag: rather than focus on matters of substance and policies, they like to get in little niggly jabs. Death by a thousand strokes, in a way.

When I wrote yesterday, little did I know how all-seeing I was. My blog post included:

I like Damion Crawford as a political showman, who is one of the most entertaining of all the current politicians…My biggest problem with Mr. Crawford, is that, as a mathematician, he’s often guilty of not following his arguments to their logical conclusion, and gets wrapped up in his own entertainment.’

Not long into the morning, I then saw a tweet from said Senator, querying some COVID19 data, and unable to square the circle. I tried to help:

The real problem for the Senator was simple; he had chosen to use data summarized by the Gleaner newspaper rather than the data supplied daily by the Minister/Ministry of Health and Wellness, which had all the figures to solve the non-puzzle.

Twitter is a herd and when it smells blood it tends to head straight for the kill, so there was a veritable ‘feeding frenzy’ over the mathematician struggling with some simple maths. Gotcha! Gotcha back!

Things reached a political head when the Minister decided to pile on:

The double entendre ‘Check yourself, bro’ was a master stroke.

As often happens, people double down rather than back down or admit they may a (silly) mistakes and politicians never make mistakes, right.

The Minister didn’t need to make the obvious point that he and his ministry had ‘said it a little louder’, but obviously some couldn’t hear…and now must feel…ridicule.

As the adage goes, when stuck in a hole, just stop digging.

For me, it was telling in several ways. I don’t know if many people really saw the solution themselves, or just saw it solved and then used that knowledge. But, what better than to beat someone with their own stick and Senator Crawford’s stick was the fact that he’s a mathematician.

But, give a dog a bone and somehow it won’t let go, even when it’s dry and starting to look like a fossil.

But, it was telling in terms of what passes for motivation and real points of importance. So driven was the senator to prove he was right when most saw he was wrong was the simple point that his problem with the numbers wasn’t due to those whom he wanted to target. The Gleaner editor was locked in a bathroom only findable by the hysterical giggle that could be heard from behind a cubicle door. If he’d written ‘The Gleaner needs to give us the full details’, he could have gotten away almost scot-free including with a jab at a common enemy, the ‘fake news’ media. But, no. Wag bone, wag.

The Senator has a soft spot for goats, but he ought have learned the lessons of his defeat in East Portland—the goats that people may want is curried in a pot:

But someone really got his goat, yesterday.


International Men’s Day, November 19

Yesterday was International Men’s Day, and unwittingly I ‘celebrated’ it doing some stereotypically manly things. As usual, I woke early, and began with a few muscular exercises, toning my body into something that would be a good sexy shape: tight abdomen, firm thighs, and some ripples where muscles were well defined. If this were the ‘good old days’, I would have topped that off with a cigar and an early morning pint of beer.

But, first let’s be serious. The IMD theme for 2016 is Stop Male Suicide. I’m already focused on raising awareness about male mental health issues and one of the concerns that need to be addressed is whether ‘being a man’ is so stressful that many men are falling foul to a set of mental strains, which stereotypically they are not talking about. But, men don’t talk about emotional stuff, as everyone knows, except if it’s about sex and to use the words of the man just elected to lead the USA some ‘locker room’ stuff like grapping women by the young feline. What’s a man to do? 

Actually, men (the ones I know from all my years) talk a lot about emotional stuff. It was a man who gave me advice about deciding if work was about my family or about satisfying some people who’d forget me in a second, once I was gone. I know plenty of men who cry when they are upset and excited–and not just when their sports team has won or lost. I know many men who hug their sons and kiss them and, hug each other and embrace each other freely, without thinking there’s anything wrong with that, other than what’s in YOUR mind. But, let the stereotypes have their day in the sun.

Let me get back to me and manly pursuits.

Funnily, I’d gone to bed the night before with more than a small smile on my face after reading about ‘10+ Handsome Guys Who’ll Redefine Your Concept Of Older Men‘. It featured some images of whawt ‘sexiness’ is for elderly. A few things struck me about this ‘concept’: it went for another set of firmly held stereotypes. Look at the hunk in the picture. Who’d not want a piece of that? But, hang on! All of the pictures were of white men.

Sexy is…bearded, tattooed, and…WHITE!

Hello! Where are my guys? Where was uber-hunk, Idris Elba–Mr. James Bond-maybe?

Is Idris too black to be sexy?

If you want to argue that Idris is too young, at 44, then what about Denzil Washington (in his 60s) or your favourite US president, Barack ‘Mr. Smooth’ Obama?

Well, beards are in, and while I ponder the tattooing and how best to stck my thumbs into my unbuttoned jeans, I know I am on the way to sexiness. My Movember beard is well on its way.

Facial hair is here! 🙂

But, back to celebrating manhood.

I watched some sport in the wee hours of the morning, with live golf from Abu Dhabi and taped tennis from London. Men were being men and showing that they can hit balls better than other species. Oh, the joy! Then, after a quick breakfast, which I made myself without waiting for any of the many women in my household to do it, I got into watching a mega-match between Manchester United and Arsenal–big boy football. It was good, strong stuff, with little love lost between the sides, whose managers, had shown before that even big boys get upset with each other about their toys. Who can forget last year’s lightweight bout? 

“Push me? I’ll push you, first!”

But, sadly, I had to drag myself away from another series of that boys’ games, and get ready to play in a golf tournament: more men, with men and boys, being men, at the weekend. Well, there was a smattering of women, but thankfully not enough to change things much. 🙂

Women released from womanly duties for a little fresh air 🙂

The golf wasn’t my best, but after a lot of early morning rain near my house, though not at the course, my mind wasn’t really on the task. My good wife travels a lot and was home for another weekend, and I didn’t want to be out all day, ahead of another of her trips on Sunday. But, I couldn’t control my time, as I waited a lot during my round. After about 6 holes, I really felt time would be well spent just packing it in and heading home. My partner was of a similar mind, as we watched clouds roll in. But like good, strong men, we pressed on, and toughed it out. We got better on the back nine. We finsihed in just over four hours, which wasnt that bad, really.

I scooted off across town to meet a man, straight after my match. He had promised to fix the screen of my phone, which had dropped while I was carrying a prize for another golfer a few weeks ago. I got to his work place with plenty of time and sat, grabbing a typical Jamaican Saturday lunch of a hot patty and cocoa bread.

Jamaican Saturdays are about patties and cocoa bread 🙂

While I ate, we talked…about his job, and helping people. Funny that!

After he’d fixed my phone and I thanked him, I headed home. I saw group of mainly elderly men on the school field as I was leaving: they were playing frisbee (with a smattering of women). They were not of the sexy shapes to which I aspired, but they looked happy.

As I reached my house, my wife and daughter were headed out. Oh, well! So much for my thoughts. Anyway, the weekend is their time.

Plans for drinks with a friend got hastily cancelled, so I sat and caught up with the day. I joined a Twitter online chat about what it means to be a man, which used the #ManTalkJa hashtag. Some useful conversations were going on about what it means to be a man in Jamaica, a place where I think stereotypes and labels are the norm, and people don’t want to delve deeply into understanding social issues. Fittingly, this exercise was organized by one of our energetic youth movements.

I’m not going to try to define what it means to be a man; each person should do that for him or herself, and try to agree, especially if they are in a relationship. I do/have done lots of seemingly less-manly things:

  • I parent (not babysit);
  • I cook (not just egg and chips);
  • I cry (just put on a soppy film and see);
  • I wear pink a lot (it’s my wife’s favourite colour, she says);
  • I have tried to braid my daughter’s hair (not one of my best efforts, but I tried);
  • I try to look after my health (including going for my annual check up–and the prostate check is not fun, but important :();
  • I am ‘the husband of’, which I dislike as much as my wife being ‘the wife of’, and it’s often women who refer to us so :(.

I fight stereotypes like they are my sworn enemies. Women who grumble about my not opening doors for them, or always taking out the garbage, need to reread that manifesto about ‘equality’. My wife has her own bank account, about which I know nearly nothing other than its number, in case of need for transfers. I own property jointly with my wife, who thinks that all of it is hers 🙂

I have no sons, and am extremely happy about that.

It’s hard for me to know now how much of my views on manliness are just what I grew up with: my parents were always equal parts of my upbringing, with my father often the one at home, when my mother worked at nights; my father’s a great cook (thanks to him mother); my mother taught me to sew and wash clothes to avoid marrying a woman for the ‘wrong’ reasons).

I’m also the product of many experiences. One of my favourite stories is about how I sat with a prime minister for a long meeting, and he held my hand on his sofa for most of the two or so hours we talked. It’s part of the custom in Guinea that men kiss on greeting (blame the French), and hug, and touch each other as signs of trust. If I had pulled away, I think our conversation would have been very short.

I don’t think you can ‘tell’ a homosexual by what he wears, or how he speaks, or what he carries. Effeminate men are not homosexuals, automatically; burly men are not rock-solid heterosexuals. If you care that much, better to get the story straight from the ‘horse’, rathe than making the sly and snide assumptions–women, again, are awfully bad at doing that 😦

One of the great things about European life is the need to carry documents, and with that has developed the need for ‘man bags’ or pouches. It’s OK, guys! I prefer small, leather, to large cloth bags. After a while, bulging pockets are limiting.  When I used to tote my baby and toddler around on trips, my bag was an essential part of organizing our movements.Screen Shot 2016-11-20 at 3.38.30 AM.png
I’m not going to take on here Jamaican (or Caribbean) notions of maleness, much of which strikes me as ‘forced conformism’. Maybe, I’ll work my way towards doing that for this time in 2017.

In a stew over what?

Earlier this year, Britain was in a food crisis: horsemeat was found in burgers and kebabs. England had gone to the dogs! Well, criticism of people and their morals was falling on our ears like cats and dogs. Comedians, who thought their careers were over, looked through all of their old material about horses and horsing around, and all of the sick jokes about eating cats in certain restaurants. But, the British are so civilized, my dear. How could they? It’s exotic, dear. Chic meat. The French have been loving horse meat for years and everyone knows that French cooking is the best. Case closed.

The Japanese eat raw fish, and sushi restaurants have taken over the world without having the name McDonald’s associated with it. Steak tartare is RAW meat (beef or HORSE), and is also sought after like gold dust by the world ‘cultured’ diners.

Jamaica often comes up on the radar when people think of exotic foods. “We so loved your escoveitch fish,” “Bammy should be on sale everywhere,” “Oxtail and butter beans, where have you been all my life?”

It’s a land where people still eat whole fish: we don’t do fillet. Jamaicans eat most animals from nose to tail. A typical meat shop will have on offer: pig tails, pig feet, cow heel, oxtail, cowskin, chicken head, tripe, liver, kidneys, goat head, fish head, and more. Our favourite dishes are renowned for having everything in them. Mannish water tastes great, despite what’s in it.Mannish_WaterRat soup was supposed to be good for curing whooping cough, and a good number of Jamaicans have had to drink that and are still living to tell the tail. Curried iguana is reported to be a delicacy in Trinidad. Armadillo is also known as ‘Texas turkey’, and is favoured in some other southern US states, especially by Cajuns. Agouti (aka guinea pig) was a go on the menu in Guyana. Dominica has its annual rabbit festival, where you can cuddle bunnies, but you can also have them curried, fricassee, jerked, stewed and a whole variety of ways. So, why are we croaking about people thinking that eating crocodiles and mongoose may not be so bad? In a country where people hold their heads thinking of the horror of people having to buy bread by the slice, these things may indeed be nice. By the way, bread by the slice used to be the norm until people got so rich that they could buy whole loaves and waste much of it. But, let’s be grateful for bread pudding.SONY DSC

I’m not going to fall into the trap that says some things are off the menu because they look cute. Every lamb looks delightful, but once that cuddly little fur ball has been roasted and had a dollop of mint sauce touched on the side, it’s not cuddly any more. WIll we cry “Foul” over birds like quails or Cornish hens. When a Chinese banquet is festooned with roast and barbequed pigeons are we going to say to the great host with the most money “I’ll pass, thanks,”? Chow down!

I can find information that tells me that crocodile meat has major health benefits, for the heart, lungs, and other vital organs. I also know that those who like organic food would be thrilled because it can be good for some other organs 🙂 Jamaicans are keen on anything that will big them up, especially in some areas where small is not considered beautiful. So, many of us will say “Bring on the crocodile!”jamaica-croc_2258

Now, I know that some Jamaicans may not be all ready to latch onto their African heritage, but hear me out. One of the most famous eating places in the world is a restaurant in Nairobi, named ‘Carnivore’. It specialises in game meat, all-you-can-eat, grilled and roasted: giraffe, wildebeest, ostrich and crocodile, most of which is reared on a nearby reserve. Real ‘farm-to-table’ stuff. People flock there from all over the world. It’s a roaring success. It once made the world’s top 50 restaurants. Jamaican artistes, such as Shaggy and Sean Paul have performed there. Maybe, what we should focus on is exploiting the desire for the exotic and getting ourselves on the map as somewhere that can offer these delicacies with rum, jerk sauce, some skimpily-dressed damsels, and herbs 🙂 and seasoning that will make your eyes and mouth water.Meat_roasting_at_Carnivore_restaurant_in_Nairobi If you are a vegetarian, I will accept that you have issues with crocodiles and mongoose. But, then meat and fish are not on your plate, anyway. Anyone else, who’s a carnivore, should just accept that the fad, but, possibly, more than that, for things like not-before-eaten reptiles, is a matter of taste and opportunity.

I’d rather think that we have a way to harness such tastes–accepting that we may have to rear the stock rather than plundering them from the wild. I recall, from a few years ago, when Barbados was going through a plague of giant snails and locals sneered at the notion of having such things on their plates. My friends in west Africa, who already loved these gastropods, wondered how they could get to Barbados to start shipping the gastronomic delights of snails east across the Atlantic. In Florida, where the snails have also begun their invasion, eating them has also come up as an option.

Yes, there are health risks, but give me a break, there are health risks with everything: salmonella, foot and mouth disease, worms, germs, insecticides… We take care. Wash in bleach and move on! Not that simple? Then wash in tap water and all will be well.

Non-traditional exports may well be what saves Jamaica from going down the proverbial toilet and it’s too much to just huff and puff about how terrible it is to go after a different kind of food. Think carefully and look at how the options can be made to work in our favor. If we really don’t want to eat it ourselves, dress it up well and put our flag on it. It’s a dog eat dog world out there, we’re told, and Jamaicans have too often not had a dog in the right fights. Eat or be eaten!