Carolyn Cooper, Contributor
I certainly don't mean bowing in the dancehall sense of the word. The governor general is a most honourable representative of Her Majesty the Queen of England. He's two in one and one in two, both male and female.
Not the same as bisexual, but close. Everybody knows that Missis Queen would never engage in any act as undignified as bowing - whether giving or receiving. So, as viceroy, the GG is compelled to follow in her royal footsteps.
Incidentally, the vice in viceroy has nothing to with indecency, whether sexual or otherwise. The origin of this four-letter word is Latin. This 'vice' means 'in the place of'. The much more common vice comes from another Latin word, 'vitium', meaning 'failing or defect'. The GG is, literally, a stand-in for the roy/roi/king, who, in the present case, is actually a queen. This, of course, does not mean that the GG is a drag queen.
All of this queer body politics would be so much more straightforward if our GG was an actual woman. That will be the day! And, by the way, I do know that for some purists, 'was' is supposed to be 'were'. I teach English for a living, even though the people who brand me the 'patwa docta' conveniently forget that uncomfortable fact. If I really didn't want poor black children to learn English, mi woulda wicked fi true. But that's another story. The subjunctive mood is almost dead. Even in England! Nobody much talks like that anymore. It's only a few diehard grammarians who are keeping the subjunctive on life support.
The obvious advantage of appointing a female governor general is that, in theory, there would be no confusion around gender identity, since there's a woman on the throne of England. All the same, if you give some women even the illusion of power, they turn into monsters just as frightening as domineering men. In any case, since the job of governor general is so cushy, our men don't mind acting like women. True, the GG has to keep standing for a couple of hours in the sweaty heat, handing out medals on National Heroes Day. But that's nothing when you take into account all the benefits, like kissing beauty queens. Not to mention the hefty pension!
SUBMISSION TO THE MONARCHY
My irreverent reflections on substitute royalty were inspired by a congratulatory call from one of my mischievous friends who raised a provocative question. Does bowing to the governor general to accept a national honour constitute submission to the monarchy? We had a good laugh. And we wondered if it was/were possible to accept a Jamaican national honour without bowing to the Queen of England in the person of our governor general. Could national honours not be disentangled from the old colonial relations of dependency?
Apparently, it's not that easy. Our head of state is still the Queen of England and our honours mimic the British ones. The Order of Jamaica is equivalent to a British knighthood and the Order of Distiction resembles the Order of the British Empire. You really can't have your medal and eat up yourself over its origins. Take it or leave it. Like Orrett Rhoden, who declined the honour at first, you have to stand on principle. Rhoden's issue wasn't with the queen; it was with the prime minister. All the same, I thought it admirable that he made a dramatic public statement to highlight what he sees as the marginal space occupied by classical music in Jamaica. And then he accepted the well-deserved distinction.
No, I'm not proposing that Adidja 'Vybz Kartel' Palmer be given a national honour. But I did have a revealing conversation about him two Mondays ago at King's House. A rather respectable-looking gentleman introduced himself and charmingly said he was pleased to meet me. He had read my column, 'Vybz Kartel's book for CXC', published on April 14. He bought 'The Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto' and was so impressed with Kartel's insights that, so far, he's given away 12 copies of the book to friends.
That column provoked 75 responses on The Gleaner's website, most of which were hostile. The Grand Inquisitor's comment was typical: "I didn't want to at first, but after reading Professor Cooper's article, I went out and bought the book and actually used it, when I ran out of toilet paper at home ... ." The Inquisitor's backside must be rather tough. And with that primitive name, I'm not surprised at the intolerance. S/he would have done very well rooting out heresy during the Inquisition.
I was pleased to hear that my column had motivated even one person to actually read Kartel's book. I speculate that most of the people who have dismissed the book have not read it. They are so prejudiced, they can't distinguish between the message and the messenger. Their answer to the question, "Can anything good come out of Gaza?", is a self-righteous "No!"
I missed the rehearsal for the Heroes Day ceremony. I had gone to Miami to give a public lecture, 'Global Reggae: Jamaican Culture Big & Broad', which marked the opening of the exhibition of the top 100 entries in the 2013 International Reggae Poster Contest at the Multitudes Contemporary Art Gallery. Rockers Movement, promoters of the Miami Reggae Festival, hosted the event, which celebrated the convergence of music, graphic art and scholarship on reggae.
On my return, I was given elaborate instructions by one of my friends who urged me to remember to bow at the right times and not to turn my back on the governor general.
In 1968, Jamaican national honours replaced the British awards. But after almost half a century, we haven't gone far enough in the journey to full emancipation. We need to liberate ourselves from both the form and substance of dependence on our colonial masters.
The Queen of England should not still be our head of state. And the governor general should be made redundant. King's House, the official residence of the viceroy since 1872, ought to be converted into a museum in honour of the people of Jamaica. As a nation, we really must turn our back on the monarchy and all its expensive trappings. It's time to bow out.
Carolyn Cooper is a professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Visit her bilingual blog at http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.