Wed | Aug 23, 2017

'Progress' not all progressive

Published:Sunday | January 31, 2016 | 1:00 AM

The world is going to pot.

Unfortunately, it's not my fat pot. Also, no, this isn't an anti-ganja tirade. I'm just saying 'progress' is overrated.

Take electricity, for example. Some fella named Edison (more like Meddlesome to me) is accused of discovering it. Why couldn't he leave well enough alone? For the first 10 years of my life, I knew not electricity and we got on fine. Every morning the ice truck would stop by and a huge chunk of ice was trundled, using large pincers, into the icebox. Yes, icebox. I was 10 years old before I heard the word 'fridge'. Now, all we have is electricity bills we can't pay and electrical contraptions making life complicated and privacy impossible. I concede there are pluses and minuses to everything, and, in those halcyon days when 'idle' housewives were the fashion, husbands frequently surrendered to wanderlust:

I'm gonna move

Way out on the outskirts a town.

I'm gonna move

Way out on the outskirts a town

I don't want nobody

Who's always hanging 'round.

The icebox kept meat cool enough for the day so only the day's consumption was purchased fresh from the butcher. Today, among the world's top 10 rip-offs, with origins linked directly to that Meddlesome chappie, is the supermarket, the 'fridge's' co-conspirator that provides wives with an excuse to buy a month's supply in one visit. The larger problem is these visits occur daily until a year's supply of rubbish you'll never use is piled up in the home. This is in slavish obedience to all wives' overriding mantra, 'No spare cash is to be left lying around the house.'

I'm gonna tell you, baby

We're gonna move away from here.

I don't want no ice man.

I'm gonna get me a Frigidaire

when we move

Way out on the outskirts a town.

I don't want nobody

Who's always hanging 'round.

When I was growing up, public transport was the norm. Very few could afford cars. The milkman visited every morning before 6 o'clock and left two bottles of fresh milk (cream on top) on your porch. The bread man arrived in a van whose precursor was horse drawn. If you woke up early and caught him in a good mood, he'd allow you to ride beside him for a short distance. Some grocers even had delivery boys.

I'm goin' bring my own groceries.

I'm gonna bring 'em every day.

That'll stop that grocery boy,

And keep him away.

When we move

Way out on the outskirts a town

I don't want nobody

(Yeeehaha) always hanging around.

There was, of course, method to this seeming relocation madness. Nobody wants to present a stationary target.

It may seem funny, honey (hehehehe);

Funny as can be.

If we have any children

I want 'em all to look like me.

William (Will) Weldon and Roy Jacobs wrote blues classic I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town in 1956 before electricity had completely conquered civilisation. Young proofreaders, anxious to prove their agility around Google, might find co-writing credits given to Roy Jordan or Andy Razaf, depending on where you go on the meddlesome Internet. Before giving in to the urge to make 'corrections', please visit Casa Tout and inspect the original vinyl recording. Many blues legends, including Ray Charles and B.B. King, recorded this song, but, for me, the definitive version is by Louis Jordan (arranged by Quincy Jones).

Then, there's the telephone. My one regret during a life dissolutely spent is that I wasn't an adult when Alexander Graham Bell was born. Had I been, I'd have martyred myself for the world by strangling him! He's the culprit who introduced that noisy, jangling invasion of privacy called the telephone. Now, with 'progress', the instrument is our new colonial Master. Nobody can resist the lure of a ringing phone, no matter how rude they must be to people with whom they're then conversing.

To youth, the telephone is like an idol that must be worshipped unquestioningly. Telephones now perform every required lifestyle task, including the all-important home delivery of pornography. Children are now permanently glued to telephone screens thus ensuring ophthalmologists' eternal wealth.

The upshot of all this modernism is that the old rules of restraint and civility no longer apply. So Everald Warmington can assault a female journalist trying to take his picture and give complaining media the middle finger. A nuh nutten. That same man can display the most obsessive conduct towards a female parliamentary colleague, and, when she ignores him, twice call her "Jezebel" in public, withdrawing only when forced to do so by parliamentary authority. Is it possible he really wants her to be his Jezebel? If so, what does that make him?

Let me tell you 'bout Ahab, the Arab,

The Sheik of the burning sand.

He had emeralds and rubies just dripping offa him

And a ring on every finger of his hands.

He wore a big ol' turban wrapped around his head;

scimitar by his side.

And every evening, about midnight,

He'd jump on his camel named Clyde ...

... and ride.

When a political representative considers it his job to officially complain about the tightness of a female colleague's pants, something's cock-eyed somewhere. How does he know, without being in them, how tight they are? Why should he care? I'm fairly certain he's not interested in testing their tightness, so what exactly does he want? Attention?

... and you could hear him talk to his camel

As he rode out across the dunes

His voice would cut through the still night desert air

And he'd say,

'Ah yea abba ah yea yea abbla ah yea!'

Which is Arabic for, 'Whoa, baby!'

Clyde would say

'Mhuurr; Mhuurr!'

Which is camel for, 'What the heck did he say anyway?'

Ray Stevens, a died-in-the-wool conservative famous for his musical spoofs but whose biggest hit was the ballad Everything is Beautiful, has been defending his song Ahab the Arab against accusations of racism and religious intolerance since it was first released in 1962. Now 75 years old, Stevens recently explained again to Nashville Gab:

"When I was a kid, my mom gave me a book called Arabian Nights, and I wrote the song just from information I learned outta that book. You know, the book talked about Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves and 'open sesame' and, you know, all the fun stuff that's in that book. And so I thought, I'll write a [song] about this guy, and he's messing around with one of the sultan's girls in the harem. There's nothing racist about it."

I'm told (the publication isn't on my reading list) that Warmington produced a lengthy defence of his actions in a rival newspaper which, when boiled down to gravy, asserts that she insulted him first. He hasn't specified what the lady parliamentarian is alleged to have said but is quoted as saying, "It cannot be that because you may be a woman you can be disrespectful to me and I ignore it. Whoever you are, I will respond in like fashion." Oh, dear. Retaliation? That's a 'defence'?

Warmington wasted no time blaming media, who he called "PNP proxies", and lambasting them for reporting trivial issues instead of "the level of poverty and suffering in this country; the murder rate, the crumbling infrastructures, the sliding dollar". So, exactly which of these crucial issues was he addressing by twice calling his female colleague "Jezebel"?

For some unknown reason, whenever this PNP proxy listens to Everald the Unsteady, I picture a man riding and talking to a camel (i.e., an incurable whack job). But, I guess that's progress. In the good old days, educated men were proud of having to be creative in seeking young ladies' attentions and even in the art of the insult. Then, ladies were treated deferentially by men taught gender etiquette and discipline growing up. Today, thank;s to electricity and telephones, anything goes, including figuratively throwing your toys out of the pram in a fit of public pique; insulting a female colleague in retaliation to a perceived insult; and publicly chatting up a media analyst while she's interviewing you.

Welcome to the new millennium. Don't blush, Baby! Don't like it? Go to Hell! Or, better yet, kiss my black ra$$! Yep! You gotta love progress.

Peace and love.

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