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Monday 19 February 2018
Commentary

Radio barrackyard

BC PIRES writes a weekly column for the Newsday

God, grant me the change to buy expensive distractions, the drugs to endure the things I can’t change and the indifference to wisdom necessary for living in Trinidad – Reinhold Neibhur’s Serenity Prayer rewritten for 2018 TT

Old Mr Yearwood used to impart to us, his form three CIC English class, his own approach to life: “He who knows, and knows that he knows, is a wise man: follow him; he who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is ignorant: teach him; but he who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool: shun him.”

You’d shun almost every-firetrucking-body in Trinidad applying that today; certainly everybody in electronic media, bar half a dozen exceptions.

What passes for radio talk show in Trinidad is disgraceful. Presenters daily openly declare, or at least display, their ignorance of everything upon which they’re allegedly commenting. One day last year, at around 2.30 pm, just as secondary schoolchildren across the islands were boarding maxi-taxis, I heard one idiot “host” read aloud on air a text from a friend, in which the words “cream pie” featured.

That expression is defined in “urban” dictionaries in highly explicit sexual terms, but the “host” spent the rest of his show sequentially asking callers-in what “cream pie” was, since he didn’t know – Trinidadian radio show research. You could, though, take comfort in the fact that no schoolchildren would have heard, since all school maxis would have been tuned in to dancehall stations.

The week former president Max Richards was buried, I felt sorry for David Abdulah, trade unionist, media commentator – and educated person. His co-“host” on I95FM radio berated the late Max for having used “the n-word” in his inauguration speech. In vain did David A try to explain to his dunce sidekick that Max Richards was quoting Derek Walcott – a Nobel Prize-winning firetrucking poet! – and that the famous lines: “I’m just a red nigger who love the sea/ I had a sound colonial education/ I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me/ And either I’m nobody, or I’m a nation” were actually celebratory of blackness.

David’s co-“host” could not grasp the concept of quotation, an inability that ought to have disqualified him ab initio, but he went on to trump his own ignorance with his pretentiousness, assuming the mantle of righteous outrage when he was plainly no Ice Cube. He remains, however, one of Trinidad’s more popular radio hosts because the modern African-American-Trinidadian self-ridiculing combination of arrogance and ignorance is largely shared, and rendered as patriotism, by the listeners.

In this week’s episode of a TV show that, seemingly genuinely, apparently thinks of itself as satirical, the host – obviously the intelligent one of the pair, since he was wearing the jacket – and his sidekick could hardly contain their derision when one of their video clips showed someone struggling to pronounce “uncharacteristically.” In-between their guffaws over the stumbling mispronunciation – “un-character-ist-ic-ically” – they managed to demonstrate the proper pronunciation: “on-car-act-ar-istically.”

Do they know they need to shun one another? They would be out of car-act-or if they did.

Walking around Jackson Square in St Clair, where regular, year-round Savannah people flee the Conny-voll massive trying to lose 20 kilos in two weeks to fit into their skimpy costumes without looking like tim sams, a friend and I encountered an exercise group. Wrapped around a whole corner, they shouted encouragement to one another to keep up the pace across 30 or 40 metres.

We, a pair not of their tribe, or, indeed, their Tribe, in the time it took to walk through their group, heard all their business: because it was shouted out for all of St Clair to hear. Exaggerated, almost belligerent laughter went up around us like the rope around a Carnival band. If I had a dollar for every “Oh-gaad-oh!” or “Oh geeed!” or every raucous cackle we endured in that long half-minute, I could have gone to Fete with the Saints.

“If I told them,” I said to my friend, as we emerged, “that theirs is barrackyard behaviour, you think they’d be ashamed?” She didn’t give the answer we both knew: No, they would be proud. Vacuous, vain and vehement, they embody the modern spirit of Trinidad: shout loud and think not at all and whoever shout loudest win the party and/or the Parliament.

Give them a microphone and they could be Trinidad’s number one drive-time radio show.

BC Pires is the Wandering J’Ouvert who taunted the kol-chur on the way to his own crucifixion. Read more of his writing at www.BCPires.com

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