Sat | Nov 18, 2017

Gordon Robinson | A 'closet Comrade'?

Published:Tuesday | November 14, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Recently, I've been particularly harsh on the PNP.

So, I waited for it. I knew it was coming since too many Jamaicans have no use for reason once they can wallow in tribalism. Sure enough, at the foot of my column for Sunday, November 5, this incisive comment from 'Andyb':

"The PNP will do what it needs without advice from you labourite journalists posing as neutral."

Aren't we wonderful? For us, there's no argument that can't be answered with a label. Not that I care. It's no insult to be called 'Labourite' (as noble a vocation as 'Comrade'). But, maybe, in the interest of full disclosure, it's time to unveil my political pedigree.

Since I've never appeared on any voters' list, I doubt either side can claim me, but a PNP girlfriend (hush, not a word to the Old Ball and Chain) insists on calling me a 'Closet Comrade'. She may be right.

I was born to 'die-hearted' PNP parents. One of my earliest memories is standing beside them outside our gate on Old Hope Road armed with brooms after the PNP won the 1955 elections. I was one year old. Yes, I do remember!

At 12, I started spending summer vacations with my mother. Her second husband was a founding PNP member and Norman Manley's first campaign manager. They resided then on Aralia Drive, Mona Heights, where my days were spent with the girl next door (well, across the road), Betty Russell (now Mrs Charles Williams), climbing trees and playing records on her old portable player.

He lay face down in the desert sand

clutching his six-gun in his hand.

Shot from behind, I thought he was dead

for under his heart was an ounce of lead.

But a spark still burned so I used my knife

and late that night I saved the life of Ringo ...

In the evenings, my stepfather, Keith 'K.G.' Gordon-Martin (aka 'Mush'), delivered my political education. He regaled me with stories from the good old days when he'd lead crews of PNP strongmen to break up JLP meetings. He carried me with him to PNP political rallies in every conceivable location. Because K.G. volunteered her, my mother spent days at Drumblair typing N.W. Manley's memoirs, despite her typing being substandard at best. When I moved in with them at 14, they lived on Anthurium Drive and the girl next door (oh, alright, across the road) was Karen McLean (now Old BC).

My mother told me N.W. (a magnificent but fearlessly fast driver) taught her how to drive through water. She passed on his lessons. Select your gear before entering water; don't change gear while in water; regularly apply brakes to keep them dry. Not even automatic transmission/computerised cars have discredited his advice.

 

AN EMBARRASSMENT

 

K.G.'s tutoring was so effective that, when forced by UWI to study politics, I never attended lectures, yet passed with flying colours. When 'Joshua' mandated conservation to battle the 'oil crisis', K.G. bought candles and forbade us to turn on a light. When he died (1974), Mum was angered because the PNP ignored his passing. The only PNP member who remembered him was the legendary Florizel Glasspole, who sent a wreath.

During the 1970s, Michael Manley was my hero. His courage in the face of world disdain for smaller nations was inspiring; his vision clear and resolute; and his love for the poor and vulnerable real. He believed in equality and justice and his policies reflected this.

However, the PNP's performance from 1990 to now has become an embarrassment to me and its stewardship of Jamaica's assets reckless at best, corrupt at worst. For 30 years the PNP has appeared rudderless, visionless and more interested in power than people. Jamaica's political parties have become homogeneous.

Perhaps my disappointment is deeper and I criticise more harshly because of historical association. So, call me whatever makes you feel better about your slavish belief in your party's propaganda. This 'closet Comrade' will continue to record local politics as I see it because I'm not beholden to any party or anyone. I refuse all government work.

Although I'll represent any deserving individual, including politicians, I won't represent a political party. My allegiances are to Jamaica and truth.

Ringo, recorded in 1964 by Canada-born actor Lorne Green, best known as Bonanza's Ben Cartwright, was my and Betty's favourite record. We didn't care that the lyrics bore no resemblance to the actual life of western gunslinger Johnny Ringo. We played the record repeatedly until we wore out the grooves.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.