Reality Tess for Christmas

Published: Sunday | December 22, 2013 Comments 0
Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine kisses Tessanne Chin after Chin was announced the Season 5 winner of 'The Voice' on Tuesday in Los Angeles, USA.-NBC
Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine kisses Tessanne Chin after Chin was announced the Season 5 winner of 'The Voice' on Tuesday in Los Angeles, USA.-NBC

Orville Taylor

What a Christmas present! We lost our voices, as underappreciated and underpaid Jamaican songstress, Tessanne Chin, won 'The Voice', going into the land of US and A, defeating thousands in a competition reserved for Americans. It was like Jodi-Ann Maxwell, who S-P-E-L-L-E-D her way into history in the Scripps Howard Spelling Bee, in 1998, beating Americans in their own version of English.

Vanquishing our friendly 'neighbours' to the north always gives us a high, like Whitney Houston's favourite, whether it is Arthur Wint in the 1948 Olympics, or Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce 60 years later.

Again, the axles on the bandwagon are screaming, the Transport Authority is about to corral the driver for overloading, and those who ignored T-I-F-A's and other female artistes' cries for parity and equity in concert fees are now saying Tess is the greatest. Ask Sting's Isaiah Laing, the organisers of the Jazz and Blues Festival, and Sumfest's Johnny Gourzong if they would have headlined her and given her top money.

Nevertheless, it is a great diversion, as we needed the good news in a nation that is notorious for ignoring its own. Yes, the same nation that cussed South Africa's former rulers for what they did to Mandela still refuses to pardon the greater forerunner, Marcus Garvey, for a prejudicial conviction in 1929.

Tessanne chose not to play false; this is the same young lady who revealed, with a thick Jamaican accent, that music was her "bread an' butta", and whose father, with a black Jamaican voice, said, tearfully, "Mi baybi!" Indeed, she sounded more Jamaican than the fleet-footed African-looking sprinter.


Still, as Tess tickles our fancy and we go nuts over the results, all is not well in Jamrock, and she admitted it. Not quite the bombshell that Renee Anne Shirley dropped as she pointed fingers on Jamaica's drug-testing administration, which discarded her, Tessanne delivered the sobering hyperbole that the country had the worst road network in the world. And to drive her new car on it, she would have to 'tek Kia'.

It was as jarring as a ride on the potholes that have a lot of road, because Christmas is a time when we fall into a stupor, willingly suspend our disbelief, and surround ourselves with myths and fantasies. Never mind that poor children have no chimneys, and Santa Claus, the red-faced geriatric, who would die of heat stroke in the tropical climate.

But Christmas is a myth and hardly more than a commercial segue from a pagan holiday vaguely annotated to the birth of Jesus. Those of us brainwashed in the various Christian traditions and who want to avoid secularising what ironically was originally a pagan celebration focus on the image of Mary, heavy with child, a faithful Joseph, leading her on the donkey, with tight reins on the ass, as he looked for a room. Forced to hunker down in a barn, Mary, still a virgin and with an uninitiated birth canal, used an animal feeding trough and pushed out a little white baby Jesus.

Most people, for example, are unaware that if Jesus was born in 00 AD (CE), then he would have been born after Herod the Great died. And if there was a census being taken up by the governor, Quirinius, he would have been born at age six.

Indeed, the Nativity scene with donkey and sheep, and child in swaddling clothes lying in a manger in a stable, did not ever exist. Nothing said that the Magi went to the stable or that they went at the time of birth; and they were not kings. Angels did not sing,

according to the Bible. There were three gifts but an unknown number of wise men, and no mention of the jackass either.

But, if believing the myths and ignoring the reality makes Christmas better, I say thank you, Tess, because you have given us a brief respite. When the voices die down and the pine trees wither, the homicide rate could likely to run 25 per cent more than it was in 2012. With a minimum wage that increases from $5,000 to the token $5,600 in January, the Opposition, expectedly, tells the nation that the amount is much too small. Yet, its own measly increase in 2007 was the same drop in the bucket that is so insensitive to the cost of living, that the poverty line would report it for spousal neglect. Furthermore, youth unemployment is still almost 40 per cent.

Then, the American dollar seems angered by the ascendancy of Chin. Starting October below J$103: US$1, after the blind auditions began, it is now at a record J$106: US$1. Rumour has it that between the Government and the International Monetary Fund, the target is somewhere past J$130:US$1. Keep your eyes peeled: This is the same IMF that said earlier in the year that the dollar was overvalued, and there were Jamaican pundits dismissing the sceptics who were shuddering.

As stated innumerable times, the evidence is unconvincing that there is any real benefit to the Jamaican people when there is devaluation. In fact, I am willing to bet that if we were to do a statistical test to measure correlation and imply causation, we might find that the fall in the Jamaican dollar has historically been associated with increases in the crime rate. However, that test is yet to be done.

Nevertheless, our own present Christmas myth is that we have wise men from the Orient, who are bringing us gold, frankincense and myrrh. However, the word 'Magi' does not actually mean wise men. More accurately, it means men who have secret knowledge and tricks. It is from that word that magic and magician comes.

A word to the wise: Despite getting gold, and the expensive incense and perfume, Joseph, Mary and Jesus remained poor.

The Magi are here, and despite the resemblance, it is not Tessanne's Chin.

Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host. Email feedback to and

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