Tue | Jan 23, 2018

Daniel Thwaites | A Praasssperity New Year

Published:Sunday | December 25, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Although by orthodox lights Easter is the high point of the Christian year, I've always been weak for Christmas. It's the best time of the year. Everyone's enjoying himself. The carols are playing. Rum. Pudding. What's not to like?

Only when you've experienced the devastating, death-like, life-sapping pall of winter do you gain respect for the excellent tradition of putting the festival of lights, and the reaffirmation of life, right among the shortest days of the year. Yes, it's the equinox, and it hearkens back to deep pagan roots before the dawn of civilisation. So what? That makes it more, not less, wonderful.

Thankfully, this year, there have been few of the hectoring and tiresome lectures about December not really being when the Nazarene was born. We get it! Now let's get back to the celebration.

Of course, this year, the country is in the grips of a terrible crime wave, and so the only responsible option is to use extreme care in one's movements. Has it ever been this bad? I sincerely hope my friend, Bobby Montague, is cooking up something to attack this problem. But the news has been a litany of disaster, with terrifying new crimes and tragedies leaping over each other to horrify us. And there's every indication that the next year will follow the trend.

Crime wave aside, I believe we are, collectively, enacting the sad back-and-forth between stunned disbelief and dawning acceptance of reality that can be seen in every child around seven years old, when they figure out that Santa Claus isn't real. Somebody at school told her that Santa was a 'mek-up' ting, but she wanted to believe that the big kid was a 'know-it-all' who was just sour. Now she's beginning to see that it was the truth.

Coming up to the general election, it was Audley posing as Santa Claus and, along with Andrew, he promised Jamaica that they would raise the income tax threshold without claating us with new taxes. This idea gave them lots of traction, and I shudder when I hear people saying the JLP didn't win the election based on ideas: They most certainly did. It's just that the idea was mostly hocus pocus.

So, this past year, we learned that the promise wasn't exactly the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And coming up to Christmas, I wonder about the dramatic timing of my comic hero, Audley Claus, to have reminded everyone in the middle of a crime wave and the Christmas season that there's a fat new package of taxes about to drop. That's a bummer!

Everyone knows that generally I'm a great fan of Audley's comic timing. The instances of his intentional humour are so numerous. One would have to go way back to 'Wata Bwoy' days, and then the graduation to 'Man-a-Yaad', coming up to when he challenged Andrew with a promise to "Bring back the looove!"




The elaborate dandy-shandy and hide-and-seek he played with the IMF and World Bank back in 2010 must never be forgotten. For one thing, it showed the class of athletics that we know Jamaicans are capable of: running and jumping, and so on.

But also, it's the only way to set the context for the remarkable turnaround that Portia was able to engineer. What a tremendous historical irony that it took the common sense of Sister P, who the idiot scornful (even in these pages) derided as unequal to the task of leadership, to bring Jamaica back from the brink.

But I'm straying far from my topic, which is how unfortunate the junior minister's timing is in reminding us, right in the heart of the festive season that 'chicken merry, but de Government hawk de near'.

Anyway, having made that point, I want to wander back on to the grounds of why Christmas is so special. It celebrates the Incarnation, and I am of the view that even those who are unbelievers should be eternally grateful for the cultural revolution that Christianity gave to mankind: truly, out of the Darkness shone a great Light.

To drive a point home, we sometimes have to be a little dangerous with the generalisations. But that's the nature of things, and at our core we live by simple stories.

There are two stories about the 'enlightenment' of humanity to be found among people like myself who still talk in that way. In one version, which normally goes unchallenged nowadays, mankind was lucky to have the achievements of the ancient pagan Mediterranean, which shone brightly until the spread of Christianity eclipsed the growth of Reason and lurched mankind into 1,000 years of the Dark Ages. As the classics were refound and learning once again began to spread, the Christians were overthrown. Out of this revolution comes Enlightenment, Science, Democracy, Liberalism, and all manner of other good things, including fried fish and festival and even gummy bears.

This is, of course, poppycock invented by the likes of Edward Gibbon and a number of Frenchmen in the 18th century.

Another more archaic story is that mankind was rescued from the unremitting savagery and terrible darkness of paganism, where men were slaves to superstition and the domination of the one over the other was the only rule. Into this world came the Christ, and his moral revolution has been a slow-moving gathering cultural force that has given value to the life of even the lowliest, driven away 'downpression', and set the captive free. To not put too much of a fine point on it, this latter is a far more accurate picture, although it violates all the current pieties of political correctness.

And in that spirit, I wish you a merry Christmas and a (Desmond's voice) and a Praasssperity New Year!

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.