Misplaced outrage?
Opposition Leader Mark Golding and a People's National Party supporter in the slavery skit that has attracted widespread criticism.

Dear Editor,

Education means more than knowing the 3Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic). It also includes the capacity to think critically and understand metaphors, images, and art.

It is said that, "Life is mirrored in art, especially the art of theatre, displaying often what we as a society do not want to see or feel." As such, the use of plays, skits, or other forms of dramatic presentations have been used in protest, conveying the injustice of the time.

The perception of oppression and the economic conditions of the 1950s and 1960s in Britain gave rise to a type of theatre identified as provocative theatre, that is, "the kind of theatre which grabs the audience by the scruff of the neck and shakes it until it gets the message". Writers created plays that were concerned with the "unjustness they felt in the social, economic, and political climate of that period".

In Jamaica, the pantomime and other plays, such as those written by Basil Dawkins, address social issues by clothing them in theatrics, causing the audience to laugh rather than contemplate how to become an agent of change.

Perhaps it is because we are an oral society, but the best way of communicating is via the visual and auditory. Thus, effective advertising involves using the senses to create images in the minds of audience members.

Babylon is an ancient image that symbolises oppression. Culturally, Jamaicans see the police as an embodiment of this negative perspective and as such he/she is often characterised in local plays as a dunce.

In the aftermath of the 1999 gas strike, then Prime Minister P J Patterson became known to the people as Pharaoh, another image of an oppressor. Modern-day slavery and that of the past use similar symbols.

The uproar surrounding the skit by Opposition Leader Mark Golding is a continuation of provocative theatre. The so-called backlash is perhaps because it challenges the sacred cow that our political tribalism and colourism has blinded us from seeing.

Four years ago we had a similar uproar around Senator Robert Morgan's tweet: "If you sit with Lammy you will rise with fleas." People's National Party (PNP) General Secretary Julian Robinson had written to the political ombudsman expressing objections.

In my letter 'A matter of interpretation' (Jamaica Observer, October 10, 2019), I pointed out the importance of understanding literature.

Now protestors cannot get beyond Opposition Leader Mark Golding pulling a chain from the neck of a dark-skinned man. Are we really dunce?

Dudley McLean II


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