Sun | Nov 28, 2021

Brian-Paul Welsh | Comedy of errors

Published:Sunday | May 21, 2017 | 12:00 AM

One of the interesting mechanisms we have developed to survive the anguish of the weekly tragic bombardment is to find amusement where it typically shouldn't exist. This penchant for locating the comedic value in our dysfunctional State is part of the levity that now typifies this proxy kingdom in the Caribbean, and is a quality that has been ingrained into the psyche and culture of the local inhabitants after enduring centuries of pain and suffering.

Some of the stewards of this land, blessed with privilege and seniority as evidenced by their swollen guts and wallets, have become quite adept at exploiting our affinity for things of delight by lightening the mood as distraction from the gravity of the situations we so often face.

Our nightly news broadcast is a fine example of this farce in motion, a preservation of all the elements of the classical pantomime, and for seasoned and aspiring performers alike, it offers the grandest stage for their frequent flights of fancy.

The most recent skillfully executed improvisation that had tongues wagging for days on end came from veteran grandstander, the Duke of Red Hills Road, Karl Samuda, when he told a precocious newcomer about his grass in a tone ordinarily reserved for the servants.




This particular diatribe, the most vulgar in a growing series, concerns allegations that Samuda's subjective interest in the cattle industry conflicts with his objective interests as agriculture minister, resulting in the removal of the Dairy Board CEO who had earlier been painted by the eloquent antagonist as a stubborn cog in the engine of prosperity, and who might now be seen by viewers as Samuda's slaughtered scapegoat.

A few crass episodes later, the minister again burst triumphantly on to television screens armed with evidence of his innocence and the confidence that the curtain would be closed on this messy scene.

For now, his cows can graze peacefully in their luxurious pasture, thanks to a thrilling performance by this experienced playmaker, but the rest of us, still searching for humour in this ugly situation, have concerns that sear through the media optics and touch on the perception of the very "stinking politics at the lowest garbage level" the minister so scornfully rejected.

We can soon expect a scandalous tit-for-tat as members jostle for moments in the spotlight to deliver their quotable soliloquys and excite the villagers. Longevity has long been about style over substance, popularity over significance, and as such, the most senior characters typically have the most tricks in their repertoire.

Speaking of trickery, following the recent perennial rains where we saw the usual desperate images of our people clinging to their shelters after being inundated by floodwaters, we heard the prime minister emphatically declare the end of riverside dwellings specifically, and informal settlements more generally.




Witnessing first-hand the squalid living conditions that have been commonplace along Jamaica's agricultural belt for centuries, spurred those in leadership to once more consider ways of belatedly dignifying those who voted them into power. This means that in addition to overseeing rapid economic development over the next five years, Government has promised to come up with a scheme for providing housing solutions to vulnerable Jamaicans like the ones frequently marooned in flood-prone areas.

How these houses will be paid for needn't be deliberated at this juncture. All that matters is the existence on record of such a promise, just like the one made a decade ago by then Prime Minister Bruce Golding to appoint a task force to pilot a no-building boundary along the Hope River. Now that the prime minister's wife is MP and 'river mumma' in the area, we can surely expect this promise to materialise, in keeping with the latest assurances.

Climate in Jamaica is more or less predictable, with generally just two seasons: hot and wet, and hot and dry. We can expect flooding of some type at regular intervals and with the wisdom of foresight, execute the appropriate plans when the weather permits.

The arrival of Prince Charming and his handsome entourage with flashy smiles and flashing lights might have momentarily soothed the fears of a few, but at night when thunder rumbles and there is no politician inside, what comfort can their words deliver?

- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. Email feedback to and, or tweet @islandycynic.