Big man and small ideas


Thursday, September 04, 2014

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WILLIAM Shakespeare -- the same one whose immortal work Hamlet sent people rushing to the Little Theatre a week ago -- made one of his characters say: "The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones."

Notice then, how at the passing of some people, we try our best to preserve the good and bury the evil with the result that we create tributes so lavish that survivors have been known to check the casket to make sure that the occupant is not just somebody bumming a ride to the cemetery.

Fortunately, we have those for whom we don't have to gild the anthurium, as Prof Nettleford used to say. Currently, we are extolling Roger Clarke, noted for his smart, witty sayings which have been circulating all over the place.

You'd never know he was one of the breed called politicians whom we delight in dissing. Newspaper cartoonists had a field day while he was among us. They "took set" on him, doing their best to depict him as an overweight buffoon -- "a failure like di res' a dem". If it upset him, he didn't lose any sleep over it. Once more, the man whom his fans called "Uncle Roger" has managed to have the last laugh. Across the nation, he is being paid such homage that he has left his former tormentors looking fool-fool.

To the farming community, he was one of their own. They, like others, have been taking the edge off their grief by retelling every Roger joke they know -- and there were many. On the serious side, Roger Clarke won their approval, not with blind loyalty, but from first-hand experience of his humanity and his capacity to communicate with everyone, friend and foe alike, especially those on the opposite side of the political fence. He made friends with everybody and they with him even as he held to his own ideology. Politics is not for the faint-hearted. Roger fought the battle hard, disarming his opponents by wrapping dissent with humour and disarming attackers in the way only he could. (See the letter by Daryl Vaz in yesterday's edition of this publication.)

It was not so much what he said but how he said it. The punchlines to some of his tales were not necessarily drawing-room material, but nobody could deny they were devastatingly funny; made even more amusing because they were accompanied by a deadpan face, so solemn that you would end up wondering if you really heard what you thought he said. Few could resist cracking up when the full force of the punchline hit.

For those -- especially in media -- who tried to taunt him, he "colt the game" every time, like the domino fanatic that he was. How could you win if what sounded like a compliment was really a well-timed attack, said one of his admiring 'victims'. He especially liked having the last word with talk show hosts who thought they were taking him down.

He knew when to sing slow instead of "bussing" fight, and then pounced. Consider the story of the guango tree at Liguanea, St Andrew, some years ago, which he ordered to be cut down as part of a road-widening programme. He promptly became the target of angry conservationists who sponsored full-page newspaper advertisements denouncing his insensitivity at destroying a tree. How barbaric! When he announced that the tree was old and rotten to the core and was a danger to the environment around it, the dissent escalated. When the tree was finally chopped down, the rotten core was revealed. The storm of disfavour died down. Roger, the nature man, who knew trees, could identify a rotten one when he saw it...and another Roger story was born.

In recent times, he has been subjected to a savage bout of cartoon-bashing, or as he would say in the language of rural culture "dem tek set like pitcharie" -- a quarrelsome bird. Not too many Fridays ago, he called me on RJR's Hotline programme to lodge a complaint, he said. Not about the "tek set", but that he couldn't understand -- or so he claimed -- why nobody had written about him or cartooned him on that particular day.

He requested that I pass the complaint, on his behalf, not only to the management of the particular media house but to the press at large. He was deeply disappointed (he claimed). If you don't know better, you would be puzzled as to how a politician could have been concerned at not being taunted. But this was Roger again, pulling a fast one on anybody who couldn't take a joke.

It has been announced that Roger will be given an official funeral on September 13 in recognition of his contribution as minister of agriculture and fisheries and member of parliament. He had also served previously as minister of local government and mayor of Black River at another time. The service will be held at St George's, the parish church in Savanna-la-Mar. You can be sure that mourners will be coming from far and near. Before arrangements were settled, members of the farming sector had given thought -- I'm told -- of a great assembly at Denbigh to bid their own farewell to the man they knew as the farmer's friend. It would be most appropriate if they did, saying a unique goodbye to their Uncle Roger.

LIFE IN JA: Investigations into the death of Mario Deane continue. The involvement of US civil rights defenders included a guest pathologist observing the autopsy. Earlier in the process, some people -- myself among them -- felt uneasy at the tone of some of our visitors' utterances. There was a sense of condescension, conveyed especially by one of the spokespersons. It didn't last long, thankfully. Things settled to assist the Deane family in their dark hour.

Dr Baden, a US-based pathologist who was brought here as a part of the visiting team, attended at Cornwall Regional Hospital on Tuesday, where local pathologist Dr Saranji conducted the autopsy. Dr Saranji was later commended by Dr Baden for competence, integrity, and independence. One wonders what had been expected.

TEK LESSON: Our diminished reputation can only be renewed when all ah we demonstrate that only we can free ourselves. Heard it before?

WHO IS SMARTER? Why are we so "unbright" that so many of us left it for the very "lastest" minute, because we want to push and shove to get Smarter Cards for bus travel? And what about the offer for schools to invite the JUTC mobile team to their premises so that students may get their cards in an orderly and sensible way? How many took up the offer? Cho man, do better dan dat.




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