Ethon Lowe | Remembering Morris Cargill
The last few months, amid a flood of articles from armchair crime fighters telling us how to fight the scourge of crime in Jamaica (the same humdrum, nothing new), two topics dominated the headlines: the government-proposed National ID System and the appointment of Chief Justice Bryan Sykes.
The former had me yawning until a glimmer of interest was aroused, when there was suspicion that it could be a fulfilment of the end times and the Mark of the Beast. Nothing like a good mystery to spike one's interest. Alas, this fizzled.
While death by boredom is a distinct possibility, I hope to amuse and entertain you with writings from one of the greatest exponents of satire - Morris Cargill.
As Morris aged, like many of us, he succumbed to nostalgia. He remembers an English woman, Mrs Bourne, a starchy widow of a colonial civil servant. She was deeply concerned with all manner of good works that included an activity known as visiting the sick.
As she got older, and less able to walk long distances, she acquired a bicycle and, in addition to visiting the poor, rescued stray animals. On one occasion, she picked up one of her stray cats, exclaiming, "Oh, dear me, my little pussy is losing its hair." Her gardener working nearby turned to her and said with genuine concern, "I tell you, ma'am, all de time, dat all dat bicycle riding is bad fi yu."
On the subject of pussy (the variety without fur), Morris informs us that, "Henry Ford, the great automotive engineer, said that had he been asked to design a woman, he would never have put the intake manifold so near to the exhaust. This has caused much grief to women and put a great deal of money into the pockets of doctors. Some are like bottomless pits into which many unfortunates fall, and others become useful repositories for smuggling cocaine."
From a medical doctor's perspective (or vantage point, if you prefer), once you have seen one, you have seen them all. Or so I thought. Over the years, however, one cannot help but notice their unique shapes and personalities - a wink here and a smile there.
As regards the penis, he makes the point: "Too many men are unimaginative practitioners of the wham bang, thank you, ma'am school. There is no point in using one's penis as a club when women prefer rapiers." I suspect our own Nature Boy, who resides in my area, noted for being exceptionally well endowed, uses his like a whip to force his partners into submission.
"Jamaican men disclose their penis anxiety by constantly clutching their crotches presumably to remind themselves that nobody has recently chopped them off." Or disappeared as in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1990, when there was a strange rumour that genitals were disappearing, usually after bodily contact, such as handshaking. Many Lagos residents checked their genitals immediately after a handshake. Morris warned his readers: "Just to be on the safe side, check your genitals if someone shakes your hand."
Morris was not a great admirer of the Patois Bible. "Personally, I've never regarded the Bible as much of a book, and it seems to me to describe it as God's Word is singularly unflattering to the Almighty. But the King James Version is redeemed by the beauty of its language. Now, even that is to be lost."
To preserve its beauty and meaning, Morris decided to offer his version, translating a passage from Genesis: "Big Massa, im seh to Adam, ef unoo go touch dat tree in de miggle deh, unoo wi get bus arse. But sinake craf cyan done. Im seh to Eve doah mek Big Massa fool unoo. Is frighten im frighten seh unoo wi get as smart as im. Nat a ting gwine happen to yu. So Eve nyam de fruit an it sweet ar bline. She say to Adam, "Gwaan, man, tek a try. And henceforth, all humans have been cursed by original sin."
Morris Cargill was profoundly pessimistic, yet never despairing, frequently sarcastic but never lapsed into cynicism. His polemics provoking pompous people were sugar-coated with wit and humour: "You can get away with murder if you make people laugh."