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Reputation is not a renewable resource

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Dear Editor,

“Good name in man and woman, dear my lord

Is the immediate jewel of their souls

Who steals my purse steals trash

But he that filches from me, my good name

Robs me of that which not enriches him

And makes me poor indeed”

Othello, Act 3, Scene3


There is a call for the firing of the head of a State agency who received a suspended sentence for a drug offence 25 years ago.

If one visited Chancellor Hall on a Friday night when I was a university student, particularly on Block B where I lived, one could not be faulted for thinking that sections of the residence were on fire. That would be wrong. But the place was definitely going up in smoke. Some of my classmates turned their beds on their sides, pushed them against the wall to make space for the drums and chillum pipe users. Some female students would turn up claiming that they were borrowing books, leaving hours later, sans books.

If some minister of morality should appear today and demand some retroactive retribution for those jokers many top positions in the private sector, politics and the pulpit in Jamaica and the Caribbean would immediately become vacant.

The strategy of personal attacks on individuals with decades-old stories and rumours has worked very well for people and parties in this country. Edward Seaga could not be faulted for laziness or lack of vision. So they started with his colour and did such an artful and complete job on him, many Jamaicans eventually found him unelectable. I shave asked his detractors — even in academia — to give reasons for their claims. None have ever been able to respond.

So, that smear job was a success. Seaga resigned in Opposition, even after recording growth never since matched; even after Hurricane Gilbert recovery efforts.

Then it was Bruce Golding's turn — a man with so much to offer this country. And the strategy worked again.

Now it is Andrew Holness's turn. And you can't blame his opponents. If a strategy works, stay with it. Since Holness insists on using a pen knife against attackers coming at him with sharpened cutlasses, let me just say this and move on. There is nothing going on at Petrojam that started during the Holness Administration.

In the 1950s, a US Senator, Joseph McCarthy, started a campaign against suspected communists. His political star skyrocketed. He was soon made chairman of the subcommittee on investigations. Many Americans from all walks of life — even Charlie Chaplin — lost careers and reputations because of what became known as McCarthyism. With notions of a presidential run a real possibility, McCarthy looked for more red meat and picked a fight with the US Army. The Army hired an attorney, Joseph Welsh, to defend it. Realising that things were not going well for him, McCarthy decided to accuse Welsh's young partner of being a communist. Welsh responded with lines that would become immortal, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

Overnight, McCarthy's immense national popularity evaporated. He was censured by his colleagues, ostracised by his party, and ignored by the press. Some two and a half years later, depressed and rejected, he spiralled into alcoholism, and died at 48.

For those who fail to see what is implied, let me say it the simplest way I can: Do not try to advance your personal, professional or political careers by destroying the reputation of others. It's not cruel, it's wicked.

Reputation is not a renewable resource.


Glenn Tucker