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THE JOKES ARE ON ME

Published: 
Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I remember a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon showing a flying saucer with its embarkation plank extended, and a fat alien with googly eyes sprawled out on the ground (having tripped on his way down the plank) as the earthlings looked on snidely.

The other aliens watch from the top, and one says: “So much for inspiring in them a sense of awe.”

Déjà vu, all over again. In last week’s column, firing what I thought was a volley at the uppity “Creole middle classes” of St Ann’s-Cascade, I shot myself in the foot.

The column was based on a book, Energy without Conscience: Oil, Climate Change and Complicity, by US anthropologist, David McDermott Hughes.

I saw Hughes and somehow typed “Hodges”. I also called him “Hodges” in a review of the book, published the same day in the Guardian.

Well. If you’re going to be an insufferable know-it-all, the very least you have to be able to do is distinguish between “Hughes” and “Hodges”. And I find myself wondering why and how it happened.

Was it incompetence, slackness, something else? Incompetence, not so much. Everything else in the articles was OK. Slackness? A little bit, undoubtedly. But not a satisfying explanation. So what about something else, like psychological reasons?

Nothing gets laughs like a Freudian slip. But whither the slip? Could it be repressed guilt, because I also live in St Ann’s-Cascade? Do I subconsciously disapprove of myself for slagging off the good people of St Ann’s-Cascade, and decided to teach myself a lesson? Could it be unresolved issues with my mother? My father? My distant cousin, Hodges Ramcharitar, the brown sheep of the family?

Or something else? Could the “Hodges” have been dredged up from the murk of my tortured mind, an echo of Samuel Johnson: “No, no, Hodge shan’t be shot”, referring to his beloved cat? I don’t have a cat, and don’t like cats generally.

Could “cat”—“Hodge” then symbolise something from my unconscious? What could that be?

And why do I fear it being shot? Is it a sexual warning? Could it be that my subconscious inserted the word Hodges in my review and article to warn me that I’m neglecting Hodge-cat, who is in imminent danger of being shot?

Is there a Freudian in the readership? But oh, no, I forgot, Freud was so comprehensively debunked by that polymath sage, professional writer, author of three novels and co-author of a history book, Kevin “Wilhelm” Baldeosingh, that Freudians are on the run.

But wait (I can hear my one or two long-suffering readers say): Aren’t you making too much of this? Look at Trevor Sudama, for god’s sake. He brought down the country by handing power over to the PNM in 2000-2001 in the name of “integrity”. Then he sent out a press release (unsolicited) in 2013 saying Jack Warner could never win in Chaguanas. Either of those would make a normal man die of shame. But not Sudama, who bawls like a hungry pot-hound every time you remind him.

But, I might reply to my interlocutor, do I really want my benchmark to be “you ain’t as bad as Trevor Sudama?”

OK, I can hear my dogged (catty?) interlocutor continue: Look at Kevin “Dawkins-not” Baldeosingh—he doesn’t know any place where socialism works, he thinks Marx has been disproved or some such, and recently, he’s “read a book” and discovered the minimum wage should be abolished to help poor people. Yet he writes on without shame. (Or a fact/reality-check, apparently.)

No, I might again answer. Not being as happily clueless as Baldeosingh isn’t comforting either.

I suppose it could just have been a mistake. I wrote the review and column in succession on Sunday night after reading the book on Saturday and Sunday. I read the Kindle edition, so every time I went back to the book, for a quotation or to check a reference, I didn’t see the cover, so I didn’t see the name and realise my error.

Maybe, but it doesn’t answer the question.

And as long as I’m in confessional mode, I might as well get this out. I have, in the past, lathered my know-it-all insufferableness on the Bocas Lit Fest, which was on last week. I might have called its denizens “CCA7-trained hustlers”, and a “piggy posse”, who hoard opportunity—things of that nature.

Bocas’ founder is also from St Ann’s-Cascade, but has a sense of humour. She takes it with grace and actually speaks to me with a bare minimum of expletives when we meet. (Though she does enjoy reminding me I’m tubby.) She also, in a diabolical move, invited me to present an excerpt of a play I wrote at this year’s Bocas.

That should have been an easy one. Anyone with any shame, integrity, or self-respect would have said: “No, thank you, madam. My principles will not permit. It would be bad form, given my previous posture to Bocas.”

Unfortunately, the atmosphere in T&T doesn’t support shame, integrity and self-respect. I succumbed and an excerpt of my play was staged at Bocas. Ah, perfidy, perfidy. (There might yet be a Freudian connection; the woman who directed the play was Brenda Hughes. Perhaps this could explain my substituting Hughes for Hodges? Too late to explore, I’m almost out of space.)

And I might be making too much of it. I didn’t read the papers this last week, but I’m beginning to suspect that no one noticed. (If so, forget everything I said above.)

If anyone did notice, it means I can’t use the insufferable know-it-all tone for at least another week. That’s plenty punishment.

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