My most recent entry here has done more than I had anticipated it would, despite my apparent initial squeamishness about referencing/ critiquing the work of a fellow blogger. Without calling that person by name, as I still have not managed to learn how to do a link to her page and was duly warned off by her on this point, I was completely taken aback by the vicious trashing both of my post as well as my knowledge of the blog technology. You could imagine my surprise that I was invited to tea even in the eye of an impending storm and my initial resistance as I wanted to go home and prepare for Gustav.
Still, I graciously accepted the gesture, as I had been calling weeks before and had even mentioned on the blog that I had visited said blogger’s office, and still did not seem able to manage to secure a meeting. Hence, we drove in a queue, myself, the hostess and another guest, who I had incidentally offered to buy two loaves of bread for at the supermarket. She was preparing for Gustav but had to head off to work.
Ensconced in her arty living room, I was invited to choose between a selection of Caribbean Dreams teas and an ‘original’ black tea which I had previously indicated to her that I liked. In fact, we had had it several times before. So, I went with the familiar, as I have never especially enjoyed Caribbean Dreams, though my fellow guest noted that she bought it as a way of ‘supporting local manufacturers!’
Still, I could understand the sentiment even while I did not share the enthusiasm. We chatted politely for a while on a range of topics, ranging from among them the acquisition of FLOW cable, which both ladies seemed up in arms against. My hostess seemed keen on considering utilizing the services of one of its competitors. The suggestion came as a result of the other guest who I accompanied to our hostess’ home.
After tea, we spoke some more about politics, specifically the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in the United States (US) and the impending Presidential Elections in the Peoples’ National Party (PNP) here at home. I offered my views on the latter, indicating that there was a way in which I felt very conflicted about the leadership challenge, in part, because my love for Mrs. Simpson-Miller had less to do with the woman herself and more what she represented. This, notwithstanding that I was not completely satisfied that she did a very good job as PNP Party Leader in the last elections.
I suggested, as I have done several times in the past, that had Mrs. Simpson-Miller utilized the ‘team approach’ so evidently now in practise by her second campaign to be President of the PNP and had surrounded herself with talented young people there would be no need for this race now. Indeed, had she/ they included this particular demographic in a serious way in the last elections Mrs. Simpson Miller would be the Prime Minister and not the Leader of the Opposition at this time. But, I digress! After all, I had said to my hostess that I would not comment further (on this blog) on these matters, as I was somewhat conflicted on this issue, as noted earlier.
To return then to the earlier mentioned ‘tea meeting’, where I waited a short while after the other guest left before also leaving myself. The offer was made in one of the commentaries further to my last post that I might be able to get a ‘lesson’ regarding matters of how to post links and this kind of stuff in my blog. Still, I waited and nothing happened. So, I finally left and complimented the colour of the dress worn by my hostess as I had done earlier when I saw her in work clothes. There could be no denying the attractiveness of the bright colours of both outfits.
That being said, I was shocked to return home to read, in one of her earlier comments that day, that I had no understanding of attribution as well as the idea of ‘folk’, elements of which I had used in my last post. I proceeded, therefore, to pen a response which would, hopefully, represent my understandings of these matters as well as point out the flaws of those charges. Needless to say, I was summarily dismissed and my thanks communicated in relation to her comments about one of my photos was later dismissed also, as further evidence of ‘lack of understanding of the importance of attribution’.
I was duly informed that, the comments made had nothing to do with me and more with the photographer. Still, I persevered by highlighting that her comment in relation to my not posting the name of the photographer was incorrect. I hadearlier informed in one of my comments that the pictures were taken from the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) website: http://www.iaaf.org. This leads me to why I have recalled this unpleasant matter here.
Firstly, it is and was never my intent to cause injury and or insult to the learned scholarship of the blogger, whose views I consulted previously as well as in my last post, in part, in my look at the question of a review of the Olympics in Beijing. Indeed, it was never my intent to ‘joust’ on anyone’s behalf and to use her as a target for such unlikely practise.
A reading of the blog as well as the follow up comments might well have indicated that there was, possibly, a misreading or misunderstanding of my post and its motives as well as an adamant refusal to acknowledge the largely complimentary tone used to reference her work. Consequently, I find it interesting that these two charges were made against me in relation to my last post:
– I lack an understanding of the importance of ‘attribution’; and,
– That, that lack of understanding also is translated into a lack of understanding of the idea of ‘folk’.
Taken together, in the context of my last post, these issues are not only misleading but downright insulting. Not only do they seek to unseat the validity of my claims made in relation to telling the ‘full truth’ about the Olympic story but that, in doing so seek to cause further injury by suggesting that my post is merely (?) a repackaging of the views of others, notable among them a former teacher of mine. How absolutely outrageous, indeed!
This is both incorrect and conceptually disingenuous. Notwithstanding, as my erstwhile colleague has maintained, that she referenced said former teacher in her work, she goes further to make another remark about an ‘unreflexive use of the folk’ (in my post). To which extent, she claims there is no ‘valence’ for the arguments which I made as a result. After all, she began her attack from the premise that my remarks in relation to the tradition(s) of resistance and greatness which preceded Beijing 2008 were an academic romanticisation which constructs a, largely, ‘passive’ view of Jamaica’s recent Olympic exploits in China.
She goes even further to argue that, any associations with the history of Jamaica, founded in the type of black nationalism created out of a counter discursive grassroots ethos (?) was also to be questioned. After all, to the extent that these may be read as, what she claims is my ‘unreflexive use of [the term] folk’ marks my reading as, mostly, a claim. There were no heroes before Usain Bolt, in other words, and, certainly, whether there were, in fact, any such historical figures by which the trajectory of his genius is intersected these/ they are, fundamentally, figments of my own imagination.
I am guilty, in effect, of the elitism and latter day acknowledgement which I derided in the post. This I said sought to create Bolt and other select members of the Jamaican Olympic Team as products of a harmoniously nationalist society, albeit curiously. The ‘piece de resistance’? Any efforts to reject her claims must be viewed as ‘a torrent of words which can hardly be ploughed through, let alone understood.’ Read in this way, then, they are the mad rant of ill formed views with no actual ‘valence’ or connections to reality. Specious remarks if ever there were any!
Finally, in the most evident pandering to a populist, presumably, ‘true’ Jamaican identity/ lingua franca I was advised to: ‘tek whe [mi] self!’, as the bothersome bore I had obviously (?) now become, echoed in the annoyance presumably compressed in the Jamaican ‘Cho’ which preceded her ultimate (?) rebuke! Talk about a tirade!
Now, beyond the fact that I never proposed to see Usain Bolt as ‘folksy’, insofar as any point made in the post below, this reading of my entry is wrong on several levels. Firstly, it seeks to create a link between theorists of the ‘folk’ and what is claimed as ‘the unreflexive way’ that I, apparently, used it in the last blog and the implications of that for my look at the Jamaican Olympic team.
By discrediting ‘folk’ theorists as well as their seemingly besetting sin of ‘unreflexivity’, my post as well as the ‘claims’ made about the heroes therein are relegated to the terrain of ideal romantic yammerings not to be taken seriously and, certainly, without merit. Worse yet, my blog is the completely ‘delusional’ efforts at ‘jousting’; read in this case as ‘shadow boxing’ with straw people, as they say in academic circles. I have, effectively, created an argument of my own doing and am arguing it in relation to people/ critics who I have also constructed with the sole purpose of tearing them down with gleeful abandon.
A rereading of my post might suggest the viciousness of these claims, notwithstanding the absence of an apparent link to her page, as well as the baselessness of the charges made by my critic. Indeed, rereading my post might yet reveal that I took issue with the question of Jamaican media representations and their role in the construction of the Olympic narrative, in the larger context of what I find is a clear class bias in terms of how we ‘see’ in this society. This bias, I argued and continue to argue, further embeds the imbalanced traditions of power relationships in Jamaica caused, in part, by a type of racism founded in British Colonialism and before it African Slavery.
In consequence of which, I took issue with the question of a ‘politics from below’ (my own emphasis!) not so much because this was not the case, but that the acknowledgment is rather curious given the long history of greatness of people of African descent, specifically those from the social classes from which most of the Olympians come, in this and other societies with similar histories. To limit the contributions of so-called ‘ordinary Jamaicans’, then, as only worthy of praise at the Olympics is tantamount to a continuation of these same racist attitudes, if not to further oppress those who do not have similar opportunities to ‘excel’ in these same ways.
Do not get me wrong, I am impressed by and proud of the Jamaican Olympic team, like everyone else should be, I imagine. However, what I am doubtful of, is whether these praises by themselves achieve much in the way of forwarding an appropriate understanding of the history of struggle, resistance and achievement so poignantly encoded in Jennifer Bolt’s acknowledgement of ‘coarse cuisine’, or more appropriately, ‘peasant food’ in her son’s success at the Games. So that, whether we wish to see the ‘Gully Creeping’ exploits of the post ‘90s Rocking’ Usain Bolt as ‘folksy’ is hardly of consequence. Indeed, this was never my point at all.
Rather, it was my intention to say that, in the same way that Usain Bolt is descended from particular types of traditions, as does Shelly-Ann Fraser and Melaine Walker and others, and that there is a whole history, as yet unacknowledged, of which these talented, young Jamaicans are fundamentally part. To see this as only (?) indicative of a dichotomous tension between ‘uptown’ and ‘downtown’ is, largely, reductionist and misses certain key points about the complexities inherent in these enduring binaries.
To begin with, issues of class in Jamaica are founded, in many ways, through a performance of ideas about race and racial privilege even inasmuch as they are also about power. Race relations form the crux of the award of class privilege in Jamaica, whereby people of African descent, specifically those who seem to ‘act black’ are placed at the base of the society’s social and political hierarchies.
A brief look at what passes for ‘culture’ (read with the capital C) in Jamaica might yet prove this point; that is, in a context where many of the theorists about Jamaican art, culture and music, among others, are not members of the so-called ‘masses’. Note, I am not suggesting that they should be. Rather, that it is very curious how segregated those spheres are from each other in terms of the cultural composition of both groups. If could digress momentarily to make a related point.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit the Liguannea Art and Photography Fair which featured a number of top local artists in their efforts to advertise their wares for all to see and, possibly, consume. What struck me as very curious was the high percentage of black figures which were featured either in photographs and or, artworks, like sketches, sculptures, et cetera. More interestingly, most of the well-heeled patrons seemed nothing at all like the subjects covered in the works featured. (But then, that could just be me!)
A friend asked one of the white, Jamaican photographers whether the subjects in the photographs were paid and what is the extent of their relationship to the subject matter? At which point, the photographer explained that, subjects are given a one time payment and sign a release for the use of the photographs. That the photos are used numerous times over as well as the fact that many of the subjects were minors and, therefore, below the age of consent seemed like a non-issue. Note, I say that even in the context of whether or not parents were fully aware of the implications of signing said release forms for the use of their children’s images in these ways.
Of greater concern, though, is the notion that, largely, white and privileged elites get to determine what is an appropriate subject matter for artistic consumption insofar as its relatedness to the question of black (under-aged) bodies, objectified into the world of art for the passive (?) consumption of those who look on. Failing to see the privation and challenges evident in the studies, the glorification of blackness in this regard as an appropriate (?) subject of non-black fascination serves the explicit purposes of glamourising pain and lack of opportunities, if not exploitation.
That none of those featured as subjects were even present at the fair to consume the works is also telling. By all appearances, there is no apparent connection (compassion?) with the politics of ‘art’ with the ‘life’ of those caught up in the photographers’ objectifying lenses. This makes a very profound point in relation to the concept of ‘visuality’ which I am implicitly interrogating here; that is, in relation to my earlier point about how the Jamaican media ‘see’.
One cannot escape the inherent power imbalances of Jamaica or any other society, unfortunate enough to have experienced the horrors of slavery. However, it must be considered especially strange (?) that the actors in the relationships established, in this instance, between media, their audience(s) and specific subject matters seem so segregated.
Whether people interact with each other beyond the realms of what is broadcast, published and or even aired is not really the point. Rather, the sense of entitlement that allows certain people to feel that they (alone) should be privileged (enough) to be commentators about specific subjects is more my immediate concern. As a result of which, how much of media are aimed at educating and informing their audiences in context? How much of the Jamaican media’s thesis of praise come out what it feels are ‘appropriate’ (?) contexts for praise and not others?
Why is it that, there seemed so much discomfort, recently, with the focus on some of the athletes in the Olympic coverage and to what extent does the audience have the right and or the power to question these ideas in their own locales? This was the aim of my last post. To bring into sharp relief the contradictions inherent in the hero-worship discourse of the Olympics in the larger context of a refusal to acknowledge the complexities of the histories which preceded, even propelled these athletes to greatness. The media are front and centre in this discussion.
Why is it then, that to discuss these issues make us so uncomfortable to the point where my post is trashed and I am basically ‘read’ the riot act for seeking to make Usain Bolt, specifically, but all the other athletes in the Jamaican team ‘folksy’? And, why is it that the notion of an uncritical, unreflexivity is so unceremoniously attributed to my questioning of these very premises?
The claims made against my last entry are not only unfounded and excessive in their attack/ rebuke but also create a smoke screen in terms of seeking to divert attention away from the more substantive point of the blog, which was intended to argue that Jamaican history was, in fact, the victor in Beijing 2008. And that, the achievements of the athletes, though important, come out and, therefore, embody a larger politics in regards to how we feel about ourselves as a people/ nation. I call this the ‘nationalist question’ – a poll for which I placed at the top of the last post. That there have been no answers so far might, itself, be very telling.
However, I choose to see this conversation for what it is – perhaps a little over the heads of those not as invested or as concerned. I did say, after all, that the post was decidedly academic and has implications for my own work in the area. Consequently, I am completely mindful of how such views may be perceived as well as that they may also be represented by others elsewhere, often without acknowledgement, in their limited, if not dishonest understanding of my post.
I end, therefore, by stating that this is neither a rant nor a ‘tracing match’, as per regular Jamaican parlance; that is, even while it is seeks to clarify the apparent misconceptions arising from my last post as well as makes additional point s in this entry. Further, it makes no claim about legitimacy beyond the fact that these are some initial views, though considered, on the subject of nationalism in the context of Jamaican popular culture in the wider context of sports. And that, where these claims acknowledge the scholarship of others, is intended to tease out my own views on the matter. In that regard, thanks for your indulgence!
…Until next time, be good!
PS: Still coming up the curve on the technological ‘know-how’ of blogs. When I have it all (?) figured out, I shall be certain to advertise same in a post at some future date!
PPS: Still figuring out how to do links to other pages!
PPPS: Am reviewing all blogs to ensure that there is acknowledgement of photos and other materials used. Thanks for your patience!