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Saturday 26 May 2018
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Commentary

Man who opened our mouths

DEBBIE JACOB

DR MORGAN JOB had the dubious distinction of being that person many people loved to hate. In an age when people secretly grumbled about politicians, corruption and incompetence, he stepped forward to be the voice of dissent. This, as you can imagine, has never been an easy task in Trinidad. That’s why we always had calypsonians singing double entendre.

In his own way, Job was like a calypsonian. He had a deep, sing-song voice that strung together criticisms in an artfully rhythmic way. Never mind that calypsonians found him fair game for criticism.

It’s difficult to imagine the important role Job played in the 80s and 90s, when people swallowed government inefficiency like a bitter pill. In the uneasy world of political criticism, Job was a breath of fresh air with a prickly touch.

He attacked political rhetoric of the day. His comments, sometimes cringe worthy, sometimes hilarious, resonated with everyone in the sense that he forced people to react either for or against him.

He poked and prodded at politicians with their penchant for talk and no action, and that endeared him even to those who thought it fashionable to disown him. Blunt, caustic — always critical and unapologetic — Job served us well as a character foil for politicians.

Job was a character: confident, articulate, multidimensional and honourable in his own self-defined way. Most of us found him mesmerising — or at least bizarrely fascinating.

In many ways, the former Tobago East MP from Tobago East was the lovable villain, although I’m sure it didn’t seem that way to politicians who went about their business with absolutely no consideration for the havoc they wreaked from their lackadaisical attitude towards their jobs.

Politicians made it easy for Job to come off as a champion of the people. If you could listen to criticism, you could find wisdom and entertainment in Job’s opinions. Make no mistake about it, Job was a man of the people. This was not always easy to spot — especially on his Prime Radio programme.

When Julian Rogers — decades ahead of his time — decided talk radio was the wave of the future, Job took centre stage. No one seemed more fitting for talk radio than an effervescent Job. People tuned in just as much to witness his antics as his message.

He pushed the limits, often got in trouble, and still he persisted in controlling the show. If someone disagreed with his viewpoint or irritated him, Job simply cut them off. I think many people called in just to see if they could survive a conversation with Job.

After going through a whole host of producers, someone asked me if I would like to try producing Job’s show.

“No way,” I laughed. I knew there was no way to rope in Job.

I liked Dr Job immensely. I admired his fearlessness and his humility. When someone mentioned that humility in an internet tribute, I knew exactly what he meant. With a soaring confidence, Job could come off as controlling, but when he sauntered into the newsroom, he stopped to speak to everyone as a colleague. Nothing was beneath him. He sold his books in the airport.

Once, when I was assigned to do a feature on him, Job had me meet him on his land. With cutlass in hand, Job, wearing rubber boots, chopped bush — even sugar cane, I believe. When out of breath, he paused to speak to me. Job was not a man afraid of hard work.

Television and radio presenter Errol Fabien was right to chastise us all who laughed at Job. For many, Fabien reminded, “He was too black, too bright and too forthright.” Oh, how we love to tear people down in this country.

But, in the end, I think we all recognise that Job tried to educate us all. I had to smile when former UNC prime minister Basdeo Panday described Job in the Trinidad Guardian as “a historian with class.” What exactly that means, I do not know. I’ve never thought of historians as vulgar. On Facebook people remembered Job as a classical guitarist, an outspoken, “brave, misunderstood man” — even a “prophet.”

Most of all, people recognised his heart was in the right place: here in Trinidad in the heart of all our problems. My bet is that the late Dr Morgan Job is going to become a legendary — perhaps even a mythical — figure. I see a movie in the making.

RIP, Morgan Job. Because of you, many of us learned to open our mouths.

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Smart man ting nah

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Stair in defeat

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