Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Pop-up, pop-down, and poppy-show

Published:Sunday | December 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Daniel Thwaites, Contributor

Sometimes I think my granny was a philosopher watching current events. Consider her distinction between 'pop-up' and 'pop-down'. You might guess they are opposites. Not so.

Generally, things pop down and people pop up. When something is poppin' down, it is falling apart. However, when someone is poppin' up, hilarity has ensued. There is a special case, though, where people can pop down, as when a former hot girl's better days are behind her, and under normal conditions, that is a tragedy, trust mi.

Naturally, I much prefer to pop up than to see things or people pop down, although, make no mistake about it, pop-down can cause serious pop-up, which, should it occur too frequently, is a sign that you're observing a poppy-show. Now if my granny designated something a poppy-show, it usually meant it was poppin' down so severely that it was beneath her dignity and not worth paying attention to, except perhaps to pop up.

I see this Tivoli enquiry's chairman, Sir David Simmons, trying to ensure that it doesn't pop down too often. So far, he's doing well. I want to insist that the enquiry, and its conduct, are important not only for Tivoli and its self-appointed guardians, but for us all. We're entitled to truth and understanding of what was done in our name, and how it came to pass that Jamaica nearly totally pop down.

Remember the Manatt enquiry and Chairman Eyebrows? Lucky you. I can't recall. All I remember is a long funeral ceremony for Mr Golding's political career officiated by a chairman occasionally peeking out from behind formidable hedges. All the same, I don't blame him; I blame the gardener. Everyting did pop down. It was a poppy-show.

Current terms of reference

In any event, the current terms of reference are far wider and, handled well, may unearth some interesting facts about those disturbing days. For instance, we are hearing intermittently about money compensation already awarded. It appears that the Government of the day brutalised West Kingston, then lavished money on it in sums that may dwarf Outameni. In fact, I hope to hear this matter explored in depth at the enquiry. How and by whom were state resources expended after this unnecessary and destructive incursion?

We stand to learn these things, and more, if the whole thing doesn't fall apart, aka pop down. That came close to happening when Lloyd D'Aguilar, who is neither resident of Tivoli nor attorney, diverted attention from actual witnesses and gave cause to pop up.

As far as I could tell from press coverage, D'Aguilar is convener of the Tivoli Committee. What I've come to deduce is that he's also the chairman, president, CEO, COO, managing director, secretary, and probably one-third of the membership. Plus, he got into trouble by insisting, in effect, that he's also counsel (and you know what they say about the man who acts as his own attorney).

Upon hearing the decree of ejection, he announced, as if to a massive: "The Tivoli Committee is MOVING out!" But then he was the only one who got up. Believe me, I will support a lonely warrior, but the juxtaposition of the grand declaration against the sorry image was ... hilarity ensued.

So The Gleaner scolded him for succumbing to that ancient political temptation of loving the limelight so much, one betrays the mission. But instead of seeing this as testimony to his potential to do good, his response was defensive and severe: "Your attempt at character assassination, and belittling me proves that a positive impression was created in people's minds that this kangaroo enquiry is going nowhere and is a farce ... ."

And stop he did not! The Gleaner played a "dastardly role in the days leading up the May 2010 massacre" and "bears as much responsibility as the soldiers and policemen who committed the crimes", and neither the newspaper "nor [its] Establishment columnists are willing or capable of an intelligent or honest discussion about this".

Remarkable. Quite apart from already assuming the unqualified guilt of the police and soldiers, he collapses what might be considered a critical moral boundary between imperfect reporting and squeezing a trigger into a man's head. "As much responsibility"? On this interpretation of moral responsibility, the exhausted reporter is part of the death squad. Hey, good luck with press freedom under D'Aguilar's regime!

Plus, notice that pre-emptively attacking "Establishment columnists" is an impressively economical way of - in advance - dismissing all contrary opinion, even the mildest recommendation for patience before blazing up like bamboo fire.

Actually, D'Aguilar invites peremptory dismissal with his anchorite's angularity, zany eyes, and zanier blogging. From his blog, I discovered he pretty much hates everybody. And yet in some kooky fashion, and even though he can't get over himself or out of his own way, he's attached to the idea of justice for Tivoli, and that can't be a bad thing.

However, I'm guessing his own self-assessment must be telling him it was a mistake to soil the sheets so early in the night. I wonder, though. I'm fascinated by the capacity for self-critical introspection, but not everyone is capable of it.

Still I believe that if ever there's a time when a man might be induced to self-recognition, it's when there's what my children call an 'Epic Fail', and when the grand object of his own stated intention has been crushed by his own doings.

Unsurprisingly, after totally losing it, he subsequently begged to be readmitted to the farcical kangaroo court, and is trying to jump the fence back in. And now I've seen where television newscasts begin with the D'Aguilar drama and only later move on to stories of mangled bodies and destroyed property. Is that what he wants?

It was evident that Chairman Simmons was searching for a response to D'Aguilar's "hack" barb. Eventually, Simmons shot back: "You are a nuisance." True, Mr Chairman, but not just a nuisance. Mi granny woulda haffi teach yuh some Jamaican. De word yuh lookin' fah is 'poppy-show'.

Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to