Gordon Robinson | The curious case of the fleeing skills
Eight days ago, my telephone rang. This is an infrequent occurrence, as most know this grumpy old man no longer speaks on that noisy, jangling invasion of privacy. Those who forget are further discouraged by a lengthy voicemail recording that tests the patience of all but Job's most avid proteges.
But the Old Ball and Chain had left Casa Tout sleeveless, so, despite PM's revealing announcement that this was finally permitted in government buildings, I suspected it was she needing me to don my cape and rescue her from some officious security guard. Who knows? These days, she might even have been shot.
So, I answered. It was Gene Autry: "Fatboy! Someone here wants to speak to you," and he was gone before I could complain. In the brief interlude while his instrument changed hands, I consoled myself with the certainty that Autry knew my every idio(t)syncracy, so this must be somebody I'd welcome. Soon a vaguely familiar voice came on the line.
"This is a voice from your distant past," he began. I did my best impression of a politician by obfuscating to disguise my ignorance: "How far past?"
"You used to know me as The Beast!"
To say I was pleasantly surprised would be the understatement of the millennium. I hadn't heard from the Beast in 40 years. He has lived in Florida doing good work with Food For The Poor. He was here briefly for a funeral (it's that time of our lives), so we caught up telephonically as best we could. After he hung up, my mind drifted to the number of our youthful inner circle long disappeared.
Dessie, the great (domino) player, resides in New York and worked for the United Nations for decades. Haemorrhoid migrated to Australia 30 years ago. He has two children and two grandchildren, who I'm certain he regales with his famous shaggy-dog tales.
The Dunce stayed behind (I didn't say "kept back") and continues in that honourable profession 'walk foot/kick stone'. Otherwise, only Little D, after a brief stint in Canada, remains, like Gene Autry and me. We never went anywhere. So, Autry was around to partner Old BC's 'baby', SputNick, to win a major bridge tournament named in memory of SputNick's great-grandfather Lionel Hall. In that event (circa 2013), SkullDougery (aka, The Computer Whiz) finished third playing with Valerie 'WMD' Marshall, and I was fourth with Balmain Brown, whose son Walter 'The Bomber' Brown is a rising star of the game. What does 'WMD' mean? Work it out. It's comic!
I maintain that bridge is eminently compatible with Jamaica's secondary education, where it'll impart proficiency in logic and dispute resolution. Between current administrators' insane aversion to adding bridge to schools' extra-curricular activities and Jamaica Bridge Association's moribund nature, a generation of youth is missing a golden opportunity formerly generally available.
But, I digress. The Beast joined the first wave of Jamaicans who saw no hope of prosperity here and so sought progress elsewhere. Today, what Dr Watson might call the curious case of the fleeing skills continues in alarming numbers.
We must stem the bleeding by reconstructing our education system to educate for life (instead of exams), then adjust fiscal policy to encourage small business investment by tax incentives. That's how you make space for disadvantaged youth to recognise and grasp opportunity.
Draining the lifeblood in taxes from a minority who submit to the system while a slew of bandooloo operators evade taxes with impunity may impress the IMF, but, as Freddie Mackay once reminded, "What sweet yu, it will soon sour yu!" The Dunce would say: "If a macca, mek it jook yu!"
Peace and love.
P.S. Last Tuesday, online reader davynth won a (Domi)No Prize for correctly interpreting band name MSFB as Mother, Father, Sister, Brother. Maybe Dr Google helped. Regardless, congratulations, davynth, for proving that obscenity, like beauty, always resides in the eye of the beholder/mind of the bereader. DWRCL!
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.