Don’t blush, baby!
Chris Gayle beg likkle p** p** from a white girl on TV and it's like the whole world wants to lose dem goddamn mind! As Dwayne 'Vybz' Vaztel might say, "Ah weh dem feel like?" Actually, Gayle didn't even get around to beggin' it. He was just asking the girl to get a drink.
Whoa! Maybe I've started off on the wrong foot when there's a lot of spin balls and strange agendas at play. So I'm going to ask the reader, as the ultimate umpire, to declare a 'no-ball' and mek de game restart.
Look, we Jamaicans are quite nice people, but I think it's fair to say of us that we don't value or prize shyness. In fact, we don't have much time for the splendid qualities of reticence, internality and understatement. We value loudness, aggressive self-expression, brashness and boldness, almost above all else.
For the avoidance of any doubt, I wish to make it clear that I consider this a national character flaw, not something to be unreasonably proud about. So as part of that package, we're not the most polite people around.
Politeness isn't even something that registers on the list of important qualities for many of us. We're more inclined to see it as a sign of weakness, and this is a dangerous thing. It was the incomparable Edmund Burke who astutely noted, "Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend." Think on it.
Naturally, our carelessness with manners spills over into personal relationships and interpersonal interactions. And when it comes to the eternal battle between the sexes, it's chaos. For instance, many Jamaican men feel it's their right, nay, duty to eye-rape an attractive woman, regardless of the time and place. It's so egregious it's actually comical.
In this way, our system of gender imbalance could hardly be worse. It's difficult for any half-decent-looking woman to make it down the street without insistent catcalls and lewd invitations.
So when I first read the report saying that Gayle had made inappropriate and sexist remarks to a reporter, I already had formed the assumption that Gayle had demanded something inappropriate from some helpless victim woman.
Then I watched the supposedly awful video. What a disappointment! It's rubbish! Gayle was on a high after smashing some runs, and perhaps that's why he was tone deaf. He makes a pass, the reporter parries, and instead of imposing a little chill on himself, he comes at it again and again. Awkward. Inappropriate. But not a hanging offence.
By the way, if uber-lawyer Bert Samuels is right that an impending law could make Gayle's comments to the Australian sports reporter a punishable offence in Jamaica, that needs immediate amendment. Not unless the Government is deciding to create thousands of new offenders.
Let's push it away from Jamaica and Australia for a moment. Consider the following statement (a less evolved man might make):
"Yuh bottom getting big doh! Don't blush, baby!"
If you hear that in an American accent, you know the next statement is likely to be: "Whut!? You sexist pig! You will be hearing from my lawyer tomorrow. That's sexual harassment! You think just because we've been married for these past 10 years and have seven children together you can talk to me that way?"
However, read the sentence again, this time in a Trini accent. Now then! The reply is likely to be: "Fi real? And y'know I been behavin' an' not getting' on bad or nutten, but it jus' a grow and get reeeal BIG! Oh, Gawwwwd! I am BLESSED!"
Culture and context
Of course, culture and context matter enormously. But that's the thing about context: We read our social context through our perceptions and awareness of what's going on around us. And sometimes we fail to read it correctly. Some even fail quite often. But social awkwardness does not - or should not - create a criminal.
Let's agree that Gayle's come-on was tacky. Know what? The outrage industry is equally tacky. The reporter put him down and he went his merry way. It's not like he was stalking her with his big Jamaican bat.
At no point was Ms McLaughlin under any threat, and if she felt a little uncomfortable, that's part of the price of living in a free society: We make each other feel uncomfortable sometimes because, for the most part, we can say and do what we want. Being impolite isn't against the law. Even being offensive isn't usually against the law.
Look here, I can't swear for another man. But to take that little talk from Gayle and turn it into an international embarrassment is ridiculous. As much as I'm the greatest fan of social order and decorum, the propagation of the species requires a little daring from the male every now and again.
Come to think of it, I don't find it surprising at all that Australia is unable to produce enough pickney. I wonder if they want to hire some Jamaicans as consultants about how to grow a population. Right now they import to fill the gap.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics notes that:
"Since 1976, the total fertility rate for Australia has been below replacement level. That is, the average number of babies born to a woman throughout her reproductive life has been insufficient to replace herself and her partner."
Why am I not surprised? If it's so complicated for the male of the species to proposition the female of the species, it's likely that p** p** naw goh run, and so the social system will fall into serious decay.
That's what happens when a man can't even beg likkle p** p** without the whole society grabbing their gaping mouths like it's some horrific scandal for a healthy, athletic man to ask a healthy, good-looking woman out and tell her that her eyes look nice.
- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.