Con­fes­sions of a rat

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Gor­don Robin­son is an at­tor­ney-at-law. Email feed­back to col­umns@ glean­

PEO­PLE KEEP ask­ing me ‘how’ and ‘why’. Why give it all up? Why live for the last 20 years in rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity? Why share a 13-year-old car with the Old Ball and Chain? Just get a bank ‘bor­rows’ and own a criss CR-V! To that last, I re­mind them bank loans must be re­paid.

Very few of my pro­fes­sional col­leagues (those clos­est to me per­son­ally; some fol­lowed in my foot­steps) un­der­stand why I walked away from what seemed like pro­fes­sional utopia af­ter 1997. Then, as a se­nior part­ner of a lead­ing law firm for 15 years, I had a pretty good rep­u­ta­tion as a civil ad­vo­cate but also as an ad­min­is­tra­tor (in pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors), led a lit­i­ga­tion depart­ment team that was sec­ond to none, and in­tro­duced many in­no­va­tions into how law was then prac­tised that stream­lined and in­creased pro­duc­tion. I was the poster boy for what most would call ‘suc­cess’.

Then, on De­cem­ber 31, 1997, I called it a day and have rarely left my home since. I do put­ter around the law still, but as se­nior coun­sel only on projects I find at­trac­tive when in­structed by one of the in­struct­ing at­tor­neys still alive (num­ber dwin­dling daily) who un­der­stand my idio(t) syn­cra­cies and quirky op­er­at­ing sys­tems. I have no of­fice, no staff, no listed tele­phone num­ber. Many months pass with me earn­ing zero in­come. Yet, I’ve never been hap­pier or health­ier. Fat? Yes. Ugly? Hell, yes. But no doc­tor has built a big house with my cash.

Why and how’d I do it? I had two rea­sons, one method. Rea­son One: I was sick and tired of the rat race. It’s de­hu­man­is­ing and de­mean­ing. I re­alised that, spir­i­tu­ally, even when you win that race, it still means you’re a rat. Uh! Ya too rude! Uh! Eh! Oh, what a rat race! Oh, what a rat race! Oh, what a rat race! Oh, what a rat race! This is the rat race! Rat race! (Rat race!)


I spent most of my early lawyer years rep­re­sent­ing var­i­ous in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and drank the spiked Kool-Aid that taught per­sonal-in­jury lawyers were am­bu­lance chasers, re­pair­men crooks, doc­tors fa­cil­i­ta­tors of ma­lin­ger­ers. I had many scin­til­lat­ing suc­cesses cros­sex­am­in­ing high-pro­file doc­tors, but, over time, recog­nised it was my skill, NOT claimant malfea­sance, that cost many their chance at com­pen­sa­tion. The lengths to which in­sur­ance com­pa­nies would go to avoid set­tling le­git­i­mate claims be­gan to cur­dle my blood. Some a gor­gon-a, some a hooli­gan-a, some a guinea-gog-a in dis ya rat race, yeah! Rat race!” The straw that broke the camel’s back was a case in which I recorded one of my big­gest and most cel­e­brated ‘suc­cesses’. A worker for a JPS-con­tracted tree trim­mer fell and was paral­ysed. He sued JPS and the con­trac­tor. Re­tained by in­sur­ers, I ap­peared for JPS and won.

After­wards, I learnt of the claimant’s cir­cum­stances. He lived on a Port Maria Hospi­tal ward with only in­ter­mit­tent care. His phys­i­cal con­di­tion was too des­per­ate to be de­tailed in a fam­ily news­pa­per. The penny dropped. I re­alised the law was an ass and in­sur­ance com­pa­nies heart­less, in­hu­man par­a­sites.

What would it cost an in­surer, hav­ing col­lected JPS’s pre­mi­ums for years, to of­fer a gra­tu­itous set­tle­ment to the claimant (who was put in harm’s way by a JPScre­ated scheme of work for JPS ben­e­fit) so he could live in rea­son­able com­fort? I was ashamed of my­self for us­ing my tal­ent to help re­duce a hu­man be­ing to an an­i­mal. I vowed that, there­after, I’d act AGAINST, rather than for, in­sur­ers. Don’t for­get your his­tory. Know your des­tiny. In the abun­dance of wa­ter, the fool is thirsty. Rat race; rat race; rat race!” Rat Race ap­pears on Bob Marley’s Ras­ta­man Vi­bra­tion al­bum writ­ten by Bob, but iconic foot­baller Al­lan ‘Skill’ Cole (Bob’s ‘bona fide’) claims co-writ­ing cred­its and sued Is­land, Uni­ver­sal and Tuff Gong for breach of copy­right. Arse­nio would say, “Things that make you go hm­mmm ... . ”

Rea­son Two: I was miss­ing my sons’ child­hood. And for what? The pur­suit of filthy lu­cre? I still get Rod­ney Danger­field treat­ment from Old BC’s greedy sons and Old BC her­self, while ‘jug­gling’ non-ex­is­tent fi­nances, of­ten in­sists I ‘get a job’, but I just roll over and watch Flash on ca­ble. Oops, I for­get, FLOW can­celled Flash’s chan­nel! But my bill re­mains un­touched.

The ‘how’? Sim­ple! Who­ever asks, I an­swer, “I’ve em­braced poverty.” They all laugh and mut­ter sar­cas­ti­cally, as Noah did when a loud voice in­ter­rupt­ing his home-im­prove­ment work iden­ti­fied it­self as God, “Right!”

P.S. Apolo­gies to ed­u­ca­tion icon Sis­ter Mau­reen Clare, who I pre­ma­turely sent to the great be­yond. A tor­rent of calls from past Im­mac­u­late stu­dents as­sure me that she's not only very much with us but still a mem­ber of the Im­mac­u­late ex­ec­u­tive. No won­der that school con­tin­ues at the high­est stan­dard.

Peace and love.

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