Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Daniel Thwaites | One bag ah gold medal pon Boyne enuh

Published:Sunday | January 7, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Ah jus one bag ah gold medal pon him enuh

Champion Boyne! Yuh know how de damn ting goh!

My speculation about why Ian Boyne's death has touched off so much mourning is that people appreciated his attempts at even-handedness and balance. Plus, to 'booklist' from an old Spiritual, "though sorely tried and tempest-tossed", the guy kept it classy, which is more than I could ever claim for most others, or myself.

You see, even those of us who occupy a more polarised space can acknowledge the deftness it would have required to keep Ian's footing, particularly in a small society where everyone pretty much knows everyone else, and whiny reputation destruction is the second favourite national pastime.

A remark Ian made to me back in the '90s when I first met him - "I know my audience" - has stuck with me. The truth of it was evident every Sunday. In tone and content his opinions were centrist and centreline, those of the solid God-fearing nationalist, anxious to give each man his due in politics, and a voice of one crying out in the wilderness on cultural and religious matters.

Those are solid and generally unimpeachable boundaries.

But there's a downside. He didn't challenge his audience enough, even when there was an absolute need to do so. For example, I wondered aloud in these pages if his email had been hacked based on the vocal support he was giving to the ZOSO legislation before it was amended to limit prime ministerial power.

Another example that springs to mind was his ridiculously awful column about Fidel Castro being "absolved by history", as the great Cuban bloviator had himself famously predicted. Boyne drew no distinction between the young revolutionary fighter whose people were suffering rickets and malaria, and the crusty old megalomaniac clutching on to his monarchy before bequeathing it to his brother. But it was as if decades of repression had zero impact on Ian's assessment; as if nuance was capitulation to some enemy.

So we definitely weren't always on the same page. In fact, in our last conversation he nudged me for being too ready a flamethrower. I responded that I don't belong to the fence-sitting school of columnising. Then, I remarked that I was happy to see that he only had two hands, given that he was wont to use so many to make points: On the one hand, but on the other hand, then on another hand, and finally, on a next hand. This all transpired in good spirits, of course.

But here's the thing: I am perfectly comfortable admiring people, even those who share my specific diversions, who I have no intention or desire to be like. And I respect the man like Ian who can hold the middle ground, search out reasons to charitably interpret the actions of each man, and on top of it all, non-ironically defend the faith in Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

It's a rare man who will tackle an argument without also taking a swipe at the man making it. I'm no angel in this respect. But such men exist, and Boyne strived to be that kinda guy; he wasn't a bar-brawler or street-scrapper. His tendency was to avoid bitter confrontation.

 

DEEPLY HURTFUL

 

That's why I feel pretty certain that Gordon Robinson's sustained attacks on him must have been deeply hurtful. To a man who made his way into books through determination and self-discipline, to be saddled with the put-down 'Booklist' can't have been a treat. I never spoke to him about it, but, think about it. And on top of that was the raucous bitterness of the attacks. Consider 'Booklist Boyne the God of Babble':

"By these self-serving, narcissistic methods, Booklist picks the fights he thinks he can win... He's an expert at erecting straw men and then bringing them down. Personally, I find his debating skills limited to non-existent. If there was no high-sounding previous author for him to quote extensively, he wouldn't be able to make a single point... Booklist, nobody of any intellectual depth, multidimensional experience or ability to think laterally has any interest in debating you."

Ouch! There's blood dripping from snarling jaws here. We have dismissive contempt and sneering disregard delivered mechanically and methodically over these last few years.

So you can imagine the shock when, after Boyne's death, Robinson announced himself an innocent sheep in wolf's clothing. Actually, he admired Boyne all along!

"Everybody knows I had lots of fun at his expense in my columns, having created 'Booklist Boyne' as one of my many literary characters, but nobody should mistake that character for the real person."

Now Boyne was a giant in the field, an extraordinary transformative journalist, and a painstaking perfectionist.

Whuttt? "Literary character"? Surely it's because I'm an eediat, but yuh did fool me!

I mean, speak no evil of the dead and all that jazz, but a mere coffin shouldn't interfere with intellectual combat.

Choosing one's enemies is far too important an undertaking to be derailed by such a slight thing as death. I mean, I'm up for as much hypocrisy as the next guy, but this was disgraceful.

Here's the thing with bredda Boyne. I never read him or heard him trying to take down anyone. Maybe that's because he ultimately was a pastor who believed in redemption. He was a good man. Better than most.

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