Daniel Thwaites | Star Boy and the village ram
Though my home is The Sunday Gleaner, there is a pang of jealousy when I consider THE STAR and the magnificent stories that find their way into that tabloid newspaper. THE STAR has been crushing it lately. Two somewhat complementary stories, in particular, have ignited by imagination, and I feel duty-bound to draw them to your attention.
We learned recently about star boy Esroy 'Tattoo' Parkins, 32, who openly and flagrantly has three full-time women, two of whom live with him in complete harmony. Said Esroy:
"A two gyal me one live with, one pregnant and the other one supposed to be pregnant now, too."
That's a confident investor. He's put in the work and achieved one result, and he knows with certainty that his other efforts will bear fruit one day. There are economies of scale built in to the relationship. Melissa, one of the lucky ladies, broke it down like this:
"Me and Anna-Kay, who is Tattoo's babymother, have been living very happily together ... . We take turns to cook, wash, and clean the house and take care of his son."
THE STAR offered this droll, but ultimately helpful clarification in the midst of the eye-popping revelations:
"Under Jamaican laws, a person can only marry one individual. It is also a crime to marry another while still legally married."
The other story, published on August 16, concerned 73-year-old Sterling Campbell, who lives in the Westmoreland community of Maxfield, and who has announced that he's retiring from his lifelong job as 'village ram'. Unsurprisingly, Sterling is known as 'Ram Puss'. He is now philosophical about his exploits:
"I think my time come. Mi don't want to mash up nobody else love life."
This fighter isn't retiring because he's been knocked out of the ring. It's a deliberate laying down of the gloves, even though he's still capable:
"Right now, mi have woman a Chester Castle and other places that I can push them door anytime, eat, drink, play, and sleep if I don't want to leave til next morning."
Ram Puss explained to THE STAR that he has slept with more than 100 women across Jamaica, and was active in 12 of the country's 14 parishes.
Two Parishes Untouched
Naturally, this raises the vexing question of what may be wrong with the women of the two exempt parishes? Only Portland and St Mary escaped his attentions. Although it isn't explained in the story, I attribute this oversight to geography. These parishes are just too far north and east for a man hailing from the south and west.
All the same, it does leave a question mark over St Thomas, which did manage to receive amorous attention from Ram Puss. If the ladies of St Thomas benefited from his efforts, why couldn't he cross the border into Portland? But let's be fair: Although we may have equity concerns, it would be asking too much to require Ram Puss to extend equal attention to every remote corner of the island.
The thing is, one has to appreciate the effort and dedication that someone like Ram Puss has to put into his craft. It involves, I would imagine, a unique skill set involving budgeting of time and resources, logistics with supply lines and re-provisioning, and careful attention to what we would call human-resource needs, labour relations, and people management. A man of this calibre isn't just making sperm-of-the-moment decisions.
The village ram is a venerable Jamaican institution. It's far too easy to sneer at Ram Puss' feat, as does Joyce Hewlett, executive director of Woman Incorporated, who "described Ram Puss' promiscuous behaviour as disgraceful".
Readers may recall a piece published in The Sunday Gleaner about a month ago called 'Is monogamy an outdated custom?', by Lennie Little-White. Monogamy has always, at best, been an aspirational target. Of course, we consistently and hilariously fail to live up to the ideal, and it's perfectly legitimate to question whether it ought to be an ideal because we consistently fail to achieve it.
But have no doubt about it: Polygamy has never gone out of fashion.
When early Christians insisted on monogamy, it was indeed revolutionary. It freed women, children, and slaves from the sexual predation of powerful men. There's no great mystery to this. By containing and ordering the rapacious appetites of the powerful, the weaker were allowed room to live and breathe.
Thus, when Little-White writes that polygamy "did not find favour in Western European societies with religious traditionalists who insisted that monogamous marriage become normative and legally enforced in most of the world's highly developed countries", I wonder if he thinks that a mere coincidence?
One of the biggest problems societies have to grapple with is the patrimonial control of political and economic power, by which is meant the biological tendency that people will favour their own offspring. It can be moderated, limited, circumscribed by tradition and custom, but never fully exterminated.
If 'The Big Man' can take 10 wives and have a hundred offspring, the dynamics of patrimonial control change drastically. Have a look at the United Arab Emirates if you want to see an abortion of a society run along such principles, funded by their polygamous tradition. A salutary effect of monogamy was to limit the opportunity for patrimonialism.
A thought expressed best by the brilliant deviant Oscar Wilde comes to mind: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
Let's be cautious about throwing out ideals just because we're such notorious, riotous, hilarious, and consistent screw-ups.
- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to email@example.com