July 3, 2015

The Olive Branch

Satiricus didn’t believe in holding grudges. “What’s the point,” he asked himself. “We’re all dead in the end, no?” Satiricus was given to having these discussions with himself – and it was why he’d get some odd looks from folks since he’d speak out aloud occasionally.

Anyhow, Satiricus was so pleased to see former Minister of the Government, Mr. Old Time Biggie, going to meet the new President.

His wife had sent him a posting from some social media site showing Mr. Biggie going through the gates of the Office of the President. And even though he’s been out of office for a month, the pic showed Mr Biggie, working his phone even as he was walking. Mr. Biggie was such a go getter! He was probably offering some words of comfort and solace to some poor children whose father had perished in a mining collapse.

Mr Biggie was standing head and shoulders over his other comrades who kept whining on being “cheated out of office”. “Well that was progress, no?” thought Satiricus. “So what if they were cheated? Even though the whole country had been waiting for riots to break out – IT DIDNT!!” That was progress and Satiricus was always one to salute progress.

Ex-Minister Mr Biggie had also pointed out that the cheating wasn’t as big as in the past. Heck!! In the old days the cheating would’ve been by hundreds of thousands of votes. Here it wasn’t even 5000!! “Why!! That was practically almost NOT cheating!” exclaimed Satiricus loudly, as his neighbour looked at him kinda funny.

His wife had snickered when she’s passed on the pic of Mr Biggie sidling into the Presidential compound. And Satiricus just knew what she and so many other were thinking: that Mr Biggie was stabbing his comrades who’d made him into what he was, for a “lil wuk”. But those were people with small minds. They didn’t know that Mr Biggie was doing it all – not for himself – but for his comrades.

And this was why he’d announced that he was taking a “sabbatical” from his party. He wanted to build bridges to the new government for his old comrades. Speculation that he was just trying to protecting his own rear end, was so unkind. Mr Biggie was like name and nature…not that he had a BIG ego….just a BIG heart!

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Battle of the lushes

Satiricus was no great “sport man”. He just enjoyed hanging out at the back-street bar with the guys. “OK,” he confessed to himself, “It wasn’t a ‘bar’ – just an old rum-shop”.
But as a habitué of his old rum-shop, he knew who were the “sport men” in Guyana. While Satiricus tended to dismiss many of their exploits as “urban legends”, he’d run into them enough to know that their reputation was well deserved.
Satiricus, of course, was thinking of the Rum Jhaat and Naga Man. Both of these fellas had been born in Hindu homes and their names were living proof that there was something to those folks checking “the book” to name their children.
Which parent would have the prescience to name him son “Rum Jhaat” at birth without knowing that he’d be a lush by the time he became a teenager? Rum till I die!! was his motto!
And Naga Man? “Naga” was Hindi for “snake” – and he did turn out to be that – just ask his old comrades from the PPCEE!! But “Naga” was also short of “Nagara” – that incessant drumming that just forced you to dance.
Naga Man loved his Nagara music – especially when he was drinking. Which was every day! And the drunker he got, the louder he liked his booming music.
But here it was, he and his buddy had gotten into power – and look what Rum Jhaat went and did. Ordered all music in rum shops and bars to stop at 2:00 a.m.
“2:00 a.m??!!!” he screamed at the Jhaat. “How de hell you can do dat! 2:00 a.m. is just when I getting into me Nagara dancing!” Satiricus just happened to be in the right time at the right place and heard it all.
Rum Jhaat just took another swig of the Bush Rum, that the two of them drank for old times’ sake. “Budday!! You know I does start drinking wid me roti in the morning. By 2:00 a.m., I done!! My driver does drag me home den!”
“Dat is always yuh prablem!! Is only you…you…you!!!” Naga Man screamed. He was getting real worked up. “You know I does really start fuh drink at 11:00 p.m. and by 2:00 a.m., I just getting crank up! And when I get crank up, I need me music at top blast!”
“Naga, me friend. Is de big man tell me fuh do da. Da man does just sip brandy!” said Rum Jhaat in amazement.
“But hear nah. Now dat yuh air-condition you new house…play yuh music inside and doan disturb anyone!”

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Audit reports

Satiricus was so in awe of bookkeepers. Satiricus had attempted to squeeze through college but he didn’t make it. The little grey cells just couldn’t handle all that knowledge.

But every now and then a tidbit would pop into his head. Like whenever he thought about those fellas called bookkeepers who entered numbers in books all day long, He’d remember Pythagoras. The old Greek genius had pronounced: “All is numbers” and even “God is a number”.

Then how could a duffer like Satiricus not fall at the feet of bookkeepers who were more familiar with numbers than with their own wives.

So when Satiricus heard that two old bookkeepers, Lalloo Ram and Ghoul Sarran had been chosen to check out the numbers the PPCEE government had left behind in their books, he breathed a sigh of relief. They were not just bookkeepers…these men had advanced to the practice of “audoting”.

Audoting numbers the way Lalloo Ram and Ghoul Sarran did was a very arcane science like tassology. Satiricus’ wife practiced tassology, but called it “reading tea leaves”.

Tassology always gave you a good answer. You just had to brew the tea leaves in a cup and drain it away. In Satiricus household, it was usually drained into his mouth. His wife would then look at the pattern of the tea leaves at the bottom of the cup.

If, for instance, she saw a “snake” – the woman had a wonderful imagination – that meant “hate”. “House” meant “success”.

Audoting numbers like Ram and Sarran was also like Haruspex. But this couldn’t be practiced in Guyana because folks here ate the “guts” of chickens or sheep or whatever – which practitioners of Haruspex were supposed to “read” or interpret.

Satiricus particularly would have liked the reading of sheep’s “livers”, since he assumed he could always eat them once the divination was complete. He liked sheep liver.

But Satiricus was a bit confused. Well, more than a bit confused to tell the truth. But then numbers always confused him. He was an avid follower of audoting by the two bookers because they had newspapers columns and blogs.

For years now they had been audoting the PPCEE government…and published their findings in the said newspapers and blogs.

Satiricus always wondered how they could do those audots when they never had access to the Government’s books. But then he figured these bookkeepers were so expert in audoting that they didn’t need to see the books to find that “corruption”, “waste” and “theft” was rampant.

Imagine what would happen now they could actually see the numbers!!! Oooooh! Satiricus literally tingled. But then a thought struck Satiricus.

Sometimes his wife was horribly wrong with her “tea leaf reading”. She once told a woman that her husband had five outside children. After murdering the man, the woman found out he’d had a vasectomy when he was a boy!

Would Lalloo Ram and Ghoul Sarran ever fess up that they were wrong about the PPCEE?

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Information man

Satiricus knew he might not be the brightest bulb in the world. But precisely because he didn’t cast a bright light, he told himself, he could always tell who were the bright lights.
And one of the brightest lights, Satiricus always thought was the Nagga Man. What else could he be, if the great Dreddi Hagan had chosen him as his anointed successor? It was just that those jealous pretenders in Dreddi’s party had cheated him of his inheritance.
“But didn’t someone say ‘you can’t keep a good man down’?” wondered Satiricus. And so it was with the Naga Man. Here he was – a heartbeat away from the Presidency. And yet handling it so modestly.
How many men would not insist that a signed agreement which gave him power and dominion over “all domestic affairs” was “no big thing”. This paragon of virtue didn’t want what sounded suspiciously like “dominion over all men”.
Dominion over all animals was one thing, but over men? “Naaah!” said Naga Man.
“And chairing over meetings,” thought Satiricus. “What could be more boring than that?” Satiricus was happy that Naga Man had cleverly sloughed off that to the Commander in Chief.
But what made Satiricus happiest – because he knew it made his hero Naga Man happy – was the announcement that Naga Man was now in charge of “information”.
Back in the day when his dear leader Comrade Dreddi had won the elections against the dastardly Pee an’ See, the great man had called Nagga Man into his study. Alone.
“Comrade Naga,” intoned Dreddi, as he waved his hand to encompass his office. “You know that you will one day inherit all that is mine. But today let me ask you: what is it you want?”
“Most respected Comrade Dreddi,” replied Nagga Man with tears in his eyes. “You know I want nothing but to serve you and sit at your feet.”
“OK…OK…that you can do any time,” replied Dreddi Hagan somewhat sharply. “But what you want now?”
“I’ll take ‘information’ if you don’t mind, Comrade Dreddi,” replied with downcast eyes. “You know how I’m full of information.”
“You’re full of something, all right,” said Dreddi. “But ‘information’ it is.”
“And here it is,” thought Satiricus in amazement, “23 years later, Nagga Man manoeuvred to get the very job he wanted all along. To talk all day long.”
Those who said he was full of hot air or worse were just jealous.

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A tale of a saint

Satiricus never knew why people so bad-minded. No matter what Naga Man did he couldn’t please this lot. Here it was he was showing his humility as a son of the soil and refusing all the big jobs promised by the Cunnumunu Accord…but yet they were saying he was shafted.

Naga Man had been shafted many a time, and he certainly would know what a shafting felt like, wouldn’t he?
Back in the day, he’d claimed that his old boss Dreddi Hagan had promised to make him his successor when he passed into the great beyond. But was that ever done?? “Nooooooo!” exclaimed Satiricus.

That was some shafting no?? And never mind those same Naga Man haters said Dreddi had never ever made that promise. Bad minded!

Then there was time there was a big argument in his old place of employment and all he said as he left was, “I done wid y’all!” And lo and behold (as people who’ve heard voices behind burning bushes are wont to say), he received a letter as to how he’d QUIT his job!!
Jeez!! This was as bad as old SollyMoore being sick and his new boss told him he’s quit. No benefits!! That’s shafting no. “So trust me,” said Satiricus, “Naga Man knows a good shafting when he gets one.”

So when he said he didn’t want any big job because for him to be kept as a “gofer” for Prezzie was for the good of the country, he meant it!! The man was a saint.

Satiricus wiped a tear from his cheek and snuffled a bit as he thought of the sacrifice of Naga Man. This great man didn’t mind that his big title didn’t mean anything.

And this was why this nonsense about the road in front of Naga Man’s humble abode being repaired, hurt Satiricus even more. Here this man had refused to move in the big Mansion on Main Street his predecessor had lived in.

Forget his story about finding “two rats in the oven”. Naga Man had never been bothered by rats. In fact, when he’d been growing up in Whim, rats were so common they were treated practically as pets. He just didn’t want to move into such glamorous quarters.

Satiricus was willing to bet anyone that Naga Man would never move to Main Street. Satiricus just hoped all these critics would “shut deh suh-an-suh mouth”!!

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New Maths

Satiricus was always sulky when the NGSA scores came out. Just as he’d been back in the day when it was called the “Common Entrance”. His days. Excepting that there was absolutely nothing “common” about the tests.
Satiricus always whined to his parents about why he had to learn about things like “as white as snow” when he’d never ever seen snow. How come he couldn’t say “as white as soursop inside”?
But his kids had told him that nowadays they were teaching more local stuff in English and sure enough his last son (who looked just like his dear old Dad!) had gotten into a “town school”, thank you.
The boy was BRIGHT: he was studying on his computer all day and night. His wife didn’t know what she was talking when she accused the angel that he was playing games on the computer! How the heck could you play cricket on a computer?
But there was that Maths that use to scare the young Satiricus more than horror movies. You might wet yourself at horror movies, but at least you didn’t get whipped on the behind like in Maths.
Satiricus spent more time as a kid plotting ways to get rid of Mrs Gravesande, his Maths teacher, than actually learning to add and subtract. Just thinking about it again made Satiricus’ blood boil.
But he felt like things were changing and his son getting into a town school proved that. The boy told him they were introducing “new Maths” which was based on real world things that actually existed in Guyana. Like in English.
Satiricus was pleased because it was the kind of Maths he always did as a kid – but they always told him his answers were wrong. Like when Mrs Gravesande asked him if you add one cow to another cow how may would you get?
How could the answer “three” be wrong? At their farm two cows meant a cow and a bull and if you add them they get a calf. It made no sense to add two cows.
Anyhow since the new government came in, he saw in action the new Maths his son was talking about.
Take the 40 per cent Ministers the KFC was supposed to get. If there were 28 Ministers, that would mean 11, no? No! Because the 28 Minister were not all Ministers! 13 of them were JUNIOR ministers, which meant they were not Ministers! That made sense to Satiricus. It was the kind of answer he used to give in school.
The new Maths answer that Satiricus liked best was the answer to the question, “If the coalition wins 33 seats to Parliament, how many seats do they get in Parliament?”
33?? Wrong!! The answer is 36…Three are “technocrats”!
Satiricus just loved this new Maths! It was Guyanese Maths! Quick now: If you go on a TIP raid and arrest 20 girls, how many TIP arrests did you make?
Ask Minister Simona “I is” Broomes!

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Improving on Cheddi

Satiricus was so proud of the Naga Man to show the nation what a classy guy he was. Before he had become Prime Minister, some folks used to make fun of him because he showed “tough love” to his grandkids.

If his President could boast about six lashes on the posterior never hurt anybody, what was objectionabłe about screaming “shut yuh so-and-so mouth” to grandkids?

But now he was elevated to the second highest office in the land, here was his chance to really show what a mensch he was. “And boy did he show them!” thought Satiricus.

When the reporter asked he hadn’t moved into the PM’s office, Naga Man, eyebrows arched upwards as he pointed out, “The office don’t even have curtains much less a desk!!”

“But your predecessor worked from a boardroom with a large table he used to spread his papers on,” said the reporter. Naga Man contemptuously educated the reporter, “Desk is to work on and table is to eat and drink from! And when I sit down at that big table I will want to eat and drink.”

“And the old PM liked to have the windows open without curtains so he could enjoy the breeze in the old colonial structure,” continued the reporter.

Naga Man curtly replied, “I does only work in air-conditioned offices with heavy curtains to keep out the sun and wind.” But what really showed Satiricus that Naga Man had class was when he complained he couldn’t even move in the PM’s residence to live because “there were two rats in the oven”.

Now Satiricus thought folks were unfair to Naga Man, in saying he was insulting the old PM’s wife for not keep a clean kitchen. But a classy guy like Naga Man would NEVER do that!!

What he did was put those uppity Trinis in their place by calling the MANICOU – which had been prepared for some a visiting delegation from Trinidad – “rats”!!

“That’ll show them, now that we have oil!” gloated Satiricus.

And as the clincher for staying at his own home (to which the road has been resurfaced) Naga Man pointed out that there was plastic stapled onto the ceiling of the PM’s residence to keep it from leaking. “But Jagan, your idol, used to keep buckets on the floor to collect the water!” replied the reporter.

“According to the dialectics, Comrade, dis time na Lang time, and dis time na Jagan time!” concluded the Naga Man.

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Cat fights in culture

Satiricus was so excited. Here it was that as a newspaper hack for two decades, up to now he’s had to report on the “culture wars” going on in other countries. And of course, these countries were also dubbed “developed”.
US has its culture wars between the conservatives (“gay is bad”) and the liberals (“down with Bruce Jenner…up with Caitlyn Jenner”!). Even those yahoos in Australia had culture wars – and they couldn’t even pronounce the word “mate”.
Why the heck couldn’t we have a culture war. Jeez…didn’t we feel strongly about anything cultural? Was politics and ethnic voting the alpha and omega of Guyanese existence? Seemed to Satiricus, in addition to the humiliation of being “just above Haiti” economically, even that country could boast about a “culture war”.
Between those aspiring to the pretensions of the “Grand Blancs” and of course, the Creoles. But now we had a full-fledged culture war…Satiricus could now stop hanging his head down in shame, like Tom Dooley.
And the war was between two Titans (with a capital “T”) of Guyanese culture – Gruel Johnson and Barry Braffit. Over the last decade Gruel had kinda eclipsed Barry on the culture scene. But Barry was more of a roots man and was involved in a bit of this and a bit of that so he was able to keep his head above water.
Gruel, on the other hand, insisted on being a pen pusher and so was at the mercy of those who could print the aforementioned scribblings. Or more often, not.
His battles against the Press Baron were legendary…no quarter was shown. Barry on the other hand, was more measured. Being a couple of decades older than Gruel, maybe the result of experience….Or as Gruel claims…just plain old, selling out to the master?
So Barry pointed out that Gruel had also done his share of selling out and sucking up to the Baron. And Gruel countered that Barry was just sticking up for another culture club member who didn’t have the guts to come out into the open because she had been feeding big time at the Baron’s trough. And paying off Barry on the side.
If by now you think this is just an old cat fight between two ageing Queens, and where’s the “culture war”? you’d be wrong. Very wrong. In culture it’s all about words.
This seemingly petty mudslinging, more suitable for fishmongers, is called a “trope” by these members of the literati. What you see is just “signifying” very deep cultural concerns.
As you can tell by their allusions to words like “Cerberus”, “discourse”, “Brutus” and so on….
You mean you don’t know about those things, you from the great unwashed masses?

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Political Saviour

Satiricus is still all agog about the dust-up between the “big” three ladies in the Social Protection Ministry.

“See what you get when you change a name?” his wife asked him. “When the Ministry was called “Social Services” everything was “Yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir”. Now only one day after they change the name’s to “Social Protection”, the place turn like a fish market!”

Satiricus was still getting used to his wife expressing (loudly) an opinion on everything under the sun…and then some. Married to the woman for 23 years, he’d had to use water-boarding torture to even get her to comment on the weather.

Now with the new government in place, suddenly she had an opinion on Einstein’s theory of relativity! She must’ve been an Opposition sleeper all these year, Satiricus figured.

“What do you mean?” asked Satiricus, in a puzzled tone.

“Well, ‘services’ suggest you have to bow and scrape to people…can’t even look them in the eye. ‘Protection’?? Man… you now like soldier and Police! You got to talk tough and you got to act tough!” Mrs Satiricus grinned.

“The Broom Lady really fit the bill, then,” conceded Satiricus. “Imagine she go in the bush and bring out those girls who were kidnapped by those evil gold miners!! And imagine some of those girls had the nerve to even fight the Broom Lady!”

“But Sato, I wonder why Volga Laurent get the Senior Protection Minister wuk,” confessed Mrs Satiricus. “She don’t look too tough to me.”

Satiricus perked up. This new wife who now knew everything was asking his opinion? She didn’t know what was going on? Satiricus’ chest puffed out a bit.

“But dear, you don’t know is Volga put the WAPNU/KFC into government?” Satiricus tried to contain his smirk.

“Who? I thought it was Naga Man, who bring his flock from the east and saved the day.”

“Nah!” said Satiricus knowingly. “Naga Man didn’t bring squat.”
“So what Volga do?”

“You don’t remember when Volga play sick in Parliament and didn’t vote to cut out the Speciality Hospital and the Amerindian Fund?” asked Satiricus.
“But I think the party was upset with she then,” replied Mrs Satiricus with a frown.

“Tactics, my dear, tactics!” smirked Satiricus. “How else they would get the Amerindian vote, and the contract for the Specialty Hospital? Politics is never what it seems!”

Mrs Satiricus looked at Satiricus with admiring eyes!

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National honour

Satiricus was so pleased that after a lapse of 13 years National Awards are back, he’s come out of hibernation. And he’s so pleased about that old statesman and exemplar of morality Hamilton Green received the Order of Roraima. He won’t even bother to disguise the name as is his wont.
But because folks might think he can’t be objective about the man who single-handedly changed the character of the Garden City, Satiricus will just use excerpts from an August 16, 2002 column by that famous ex-UG lecturer from the Muckraker. He wrote this after Green praised Burnham’s “accomplishments”:
“The former PNC strongman now turned moralist has another name. It is a German name. Do you know it? Hamilton Green’s political name is Albert Speer. Albert died believing in the greatness of one of history’s most evil, diabolical and inhuman leaders – Adolph Hitler.
“Mr Green was at a tender age when he was swept off his feet by the Machiavellian genius of Forbes Burnham. He stuck to Burnham’s apron coat like a bee to honey, Mr Green’s maturity unfolded largely because of this attachment.
“From obscurity and non-achievement at Queen’s College to possession of a large Caribbean country given to him on a platter by his benefactor, Forbes Burham, Hamilton Green is too blind to see the other ingredients that make up Burnham’s genius.
“Mr Green sounded like a schoolboy last week when on Burnham’s death anniversary, he reminded us of the things Burnham built; roads, bridges, cultural institutions among other achievements. He repeats this same theme every year ad nauseum.
“But someone should give Hammie a plane ticket to South Africa. There he will see the fantastic cities like London, New York and Hong Kong that the fascist, white racists built in South Africa. How does Hammie feel about these men? They ruled South Africa with an iron fist and treated 22 million innocents Africans like animals.
“Burnham ruled Guyana for 21 years, yet every year, you have this mantra about Burnham’s precocity by Hamilton Green. Green cannot point to anything in a large ocean of Burnham’s perversities, immoralities, debaucheries, megalomanical (sic) propensities, and pathological display of arrogant and imperial power.
“Twenty one years are certainly not a fleeting moment. But Green only remembers the Linden Highway. Twenty one years are a lengthy period but Green only remembers the Demerara Harbour Bridge. I have the experience to live under Burnham’s rule and Green’s account is a ghost story. And ghosts do not exist.
“Because of the huge mountain of research materials that exists on Burnham’s rule, one is forced to question the sincerity of the metamorphosized (a term as you know, Burnham liked to use) or the new Hamilton Green. Green has a new bandwagon – the spiritual revival of the nation.
“But how serious should we take a national figure who had immense power under the worst Caribbean leader the Anglo-phone Caribbean gave birth to yet absolutely refuse to acknowledge the ill, wrongs, pain, suffering, humiliation, indignities and abuse he heaped upon his country.”

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