By Garth A. Rattray
For the life of me, I cannot understand why so many people, including educated individuals, believe that a whale is a very large fish.
Well, that was the description that opposition parliamentarian J.C. Hutchinson gave of his status as a veteran. While arguing about the orange hue of what was supposed to be a gold colour on the cover of a commemorative compact disc, it appeared as if neophyte government parliamentarian Raymond Pryce loudly ordered the senior politician to sit down and shut up. That inspired the senior MP to declare that he was not a fish.
Everyone assumed that he was declaring his heterosexuality and, by extension, intimating that the status of his verbal attacker may not be the same. However, the veteran later claimed that he was only declaring that, unlike Mr Pryce, he was not a newcomer to Parliament (and, therefore, deserved respect). But then he went on to say that he was not a fish but that he was a whale!
That fish remark could have been a vicious barb aimed at Pryce, or a totally innocent demand for respect, or a double entendre. Pick one, any one, because I very much doubt that we will ever hear the truth. Mr Hutchinson's explanation of his utterance sounds like a whale of a tale devised to step back from the brink.
I have several problems with all of this. Fish are cold-bloodied, strictly aquatic craniates that breathe water; whales (cetaceans) are large, intelligent aquatic mammals, that (like us) breathe air. Mark you, there is a very large fish called a whale shark ... but it is a shark (a fish), nonetheless.
No fish can ever grow or transform into a whale. Therefore, Mr Hutchinson is neither fish nor whale. I don't know if he has grown into a whale shark. For his sake, I hope not, because that would make him sharkish.
The noun 'fish' is used to describe the animal, but I also found that the word is sometimes also used to describe a woman, a new prisoner, a freshman in school, a sexually inexperienced person, a weakling, a heavy drinker or a bad poker player. There was no direct reference to a homosexual - except in Jamaican vernacular.
The way that I see it, since our society is so sensitive to the sexual orientation of people, and since it is such a hot topic (even in politics), and since there was a chance that the word could have been misinterpreted, it should not have been used.
Harping on carp
But, for me, the most amusing and ironic thing about all this entire affair is that the only fish that could lay claim to being a bona fide 'PNP' fish is the goldfish (Carassius auratus auratus). It is from the carp family and is a popular pond fish that can be found in several colours, one of which is orange.
Therefore, from any perspective, Mr Hutchinson could never be a fish of any kind - not a PNP fish, newcomer or any other 'fish', so his announcement was unnecessary.
As for his young parliamentary counterpart, obviously he qualifies as a PNP and as a newcomer, but, for most of us, any other reference to anything to do with a 'fish' is pure conjecture and should not be alluded to in any public forum.
The overarching lesson here is the need for mutual respect and forthrightness. There is way too much crassness, dishonesty and disrespect for each other in Jamaica.
Several parliamentarians apologised. However, we need much cooler and far more tolerant heads making important policy decisions.
Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.