Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Letter of the Day | Are we dunces?

Published:Thursday | September 14, 2023 | 12:06 AM


Education means more than knowing the ‘3 Rs’. It includes the capacity to think critically, understand metaphors, images and art.

It is said that “Life is mirrored in art, especially the art of theatre, displaying often what we as a society do not want to see or feel.” As such, the use of plays, skits or other forms of dramatic presentation has been used in protest, conveying the injustice of the time.

The perception of oppression, and economic conditions of the 1950s and 1960s in Britain gave rise to a type of theatre identified as provocative theatre, that is, “the kind of theatre which grabs the audience by the scruff of the neck and shakes it until it gets the message”. Writers created plays that were concerned with the “unjustness, they felt in the social, economic and political climate of that period”.

In Jamaica, the pantomime and other plays, such as those written by Basil Dawkins, address social issues, often clothed in theatrics, causing the audience to depart from the scenes laughing – or trapped in the emotional zone of ‘no problem’ – rather than contemplating how to become an agent for change.

Perhaps it is because we are an oral society, but the best way of communicating is via the visual and auditory. Thus, effective advertising involves using the senses to create images in the mind of the audience, especially through skits, plays, etc.


Babylon is an ancient image that symbolises the oppressive principle.

Culturally, Jamaicans see the police as an embodiment of this negative perspective and he/she appears in local plays as dunce.

In the aftermath of the 1999 gas strike, then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson became known to the people as ‘Pharaoh’, another image for oppressor. Modern-day slavery and that of the past use similar symbols. The skit performance by Opposition Leader Mark Golding is a continuation of provocative theatre. The uproar around it, or so-called backlash, is perhaps because it challenges the sacred cow that our political tribalism and colourism have blinded us to seeing.

Four years ago, we had a similar uproar around Senator Morgan’s Tweet: “If you sit with Lammy you will rise with fleas.” People’s National Party General Secretary Julian Robinson wrote to the political ombudsman expressing objections.

In my letter, ‘A matter of interpretation’, ( Jamaica Observer, October 10, 2019), I pointed out the importance of understanding literature.

Now, protesters cannot go beyond Mark Golding’s ‘pulling the chain from a dark-skinned man’... people stuck with Mark (as white man). Are we really dunce?