See, hear, speak no evil

See, hear, speak no evil

Sunday, September 22, 2019

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There are a sort of men…

That do a willful stillness entertain,

That therefore only are reported wise,

For saying nothing.

Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice I,1

There is this famous caricature of three wise monkeys that shows them all seated; one has its hands over its eyes, the other has its hands over its ears, and the third covers its mouth. They embody the proverbial principle, see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.

It's Japanese in origin and has endured the passage of time in various countries. But one doesn't have to go as far afield as Japan to adopt that principle, for we have our own version right here in Jamaica, ergo, “See and blind, hear and deaf.”

In other words, mind your own business and don't fass in other people's affairs. It does have more than a tinge of the anti-informer culture that is embraced here, as no one likes or respects anyone who informs on another. The 'informer fi dead' culture is real.

This could be born out of fear, perhaps protectiveness, or simply a dislike of tattletales. But the fact is, it's perhaps best to hold true to the maxim of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. We'll see what that's all about right after we hear what some readers have to say of what I spoke on 'Marriage, Prison or Paradise'.

Hi Tony,

The usual and common refrain spoken during marriage ceremonies includes the words, “For better or worse, for richer or poorer, till death do us part.” Some marriages experience the worse and poorer, while others are richer but not necessarily for better. As for the till death do us part, this sometimes can feel like you are experiencing a life sentence in prison.


Dear Teerob,

Many women are definitely in the prison of marriage. They do most of the work and child-rearing, plus many are the primary breadwinners, while the 'anointed one' mostly prances around being married, but available. Women just choose to stay because of the children, finances or to save face. Men are the ones in paradise. Nuff said. Been there, done that.


Ah bwoy, I got so many responses to that article, plus the one dealing with the 'Good Wife', but I'll have to share more in the future. Now, it's on to the issue of seeing, hearing and speaking, or more specifically, knowing when to do all three and when not to.

True, it has been said that silence is golden, and that loose lips sink ships, referring to what could happen during wartime if the enemy got wind of whatever secrets people would disclose and jeopardise the war effort. Remember the other Jamaican proverb, “Bush have eyes and wall have ears.” You just don't know who is listening.

But the truth is, we cannot function effectively as a society without information. As sophisticated and high-tech as a police force may be, it cannot be successful in its operations without informants.

And yet, informants are vilified, frowned upon, and even killed if discovered. In the American culture they are called snitches or rats. In fact, the word rat is even used as a verb, as in “To rat someone out”, meaning to inform on them.

Does this also hold true in the area of relationships man and woman business? Is it okay to see and hear things and yet not speak of what you saw? Is it better to leave couples to work out their differences without the benefit of outside assistance via information? I put it to you, if you saw your good friend's wife out with another man, would you feel duty-bound to let him know, or would you adhere to the maxim of the three monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil?

If you, as a woman, saw your best friend's husband out with a young, hot woman in a most compromising situation on some late night occasion, would you call her and let her know? After all, in both instances it was evil that you witnessed, as the married man had no business being out with another woman, dancing with her all night, especially knowing that he's married to your best friend.

It's a tough call, but the scale tends to tip towards the side of females being informants rather than men. Women often feel obliged to regale their female friends with information about their partners. Behold, the birth of gossip.

It's been said that men tend to stick together and defend their friends, even to the point of lying. “Yes man, he was with us playing domino all night.” Women, on the other hand, will protect their friends by speaking of the evil that they see.

“Deborah, I tell you, I saw your husband out with a young woman having dinner, and they were very lovey-dovey.” It's very rare that a man would buss on his bredrin if he saw him out with a woman. But would he inform on the wife? “Hey Curtis, I saw your wife and a man going into a hotel, and it wasn't you.”

Rarely does this happen, unless the man is malicious, vindictive and wants the woman for himself. That being said, some women who relish seeing, hearing and speaking of the evil that they see may also have ulterior motives.

By telling the wife that her husband is cheating the marriage will possibly mash up, and the wife will be as unhappy as they are. Yes, misery does love company, and many single women are miserable. Others want the man for themselves and will enjoy carrying news to the wife so that she will leave the husband, and then she can move in.

But apart from those vipers, there are women who are genuinely concerned and are behoved to carry news of the husband's wrongdoings to the wife. Should they? What is also true is that some women do not want to hear the truth but prefer to live in oblivion, a fool's paradise, in la-la land.

More than often, women have given information to wives and that same wife turned around and cursed the informant. “Is lie you telling on my husband, because you want to mash us up.”

Even when the evil is staring them in the face, many wives will prefer to live in a state of denial — blind, deaf, and dumb to the actions of their husbands. “I'd rather not know what he's doing. He's a good father to the children and a good provider.”

Flip the script now, would you tell your bredrin that his wife was dealing with another man? What if he was your true, bona fide best friend, or your brother, your cousin, someone really close to you? Would you be the rat and snitch on the wife, or would you be like the three monkeys and see and blind and hear and deaf and dumb? Old time people used to say, “Cockroach don't business inna fowl fight.” “When dem head touch pillow, dem same one turn round and cuss you.”

There's even a reggae song, Leave people business alone. Plus there's also the slim possibility that things aren't what they seem to be. After all, your bredrin's wife could simply be having a business dinner with a client, or your friend's husband could just be treating a co-worker to an appreciation dinner. The fact that he was at a fancy restaurant or hotel late at night should not influence your opinion.

Maybe we shouldn't be hasty with judgement and jump to conclusions. But when it's as obvious as them dining out and holding hands in public, whispering and giggling intimately in public, then there is a dilemma of immense proportions. Even Shakespeare asked, “Is whispering nothing, is leaning cheek to cheek, is meeting noses?”

And then for the final flipping of the script, would you like someone to inform you if your significant other was seen out with someone else acting cosy? See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. It's a tough call.

More time.

Footnote: Venture onto our roads at your own peril. Apart from the terrible taxi drivers, the bullying bus operators, the brazen bike riders, we also have to contend with the state of our road repairs. Of course we welcome the road improvements, but it seems as if the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. As soon as the road is paved, another department digs it up to lay pipes or cables. Then they make pedestrian crossings across the thoroughfares but leave a high concrete barrier in the middle — a female senior citizen had to climb over one recently. So, they then create spaces in these barriers so wide that buses can illegally pass through them and act surprised when vehicles use them as a shortcut. Is no one thinking? For your safety, stay off the roads if you can, for the inmates have taken over the asylum.

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