Trump does not equal Por­tia

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - An­nie Paul An­nie Paul is a writer and critic based at the Univer­sity of the West Indies and au­thor of the blog, Ac­tive Voice (an­ Email feed­back to columns@ glean­ or tweet @an­niepaul.

DON­ALD TRUMP may well be the new pres­i­dent of the USA by the time this col­umn is pub­lished. De­spite what the polls are show­ing the day be­fore the most con­tentious US elec­tion in his­tory, I’m in­clined to think that Trump will pre­vail. It is the mo­ment, af­ter all, for top dogs to snatch back priv­i­lege and power from those per­ceived to have made in­roads against them — as seen in the Brexit vote in Bri­tain or Modi’s tri­umph in In­dia — so why should the US buck what seems to be a global trend?

What I find hard to stom­ach are those who claim there are sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Don­ald Trump’s sup­port­ers and lo­cal sup­port for Por­tia Simpson Miller. I lis­tened in dis­be­lief as a friend dis­placed his rant about Trump and his “dumb” sup­port­ers on to — his words — the “dumb Ja­maicans” sup­port­ing Por­tia Simpson Miller. There’s no dif­fer­ence be­tween Trump and Simpson Miller, he as­serted over and over again.

When I sug­gested it was prej­u­dice mak­ing him say that, class prej­u­dice to be ex­act, he de­nied it vo­cif­er­ously.

“You think some­one like that can go around the Caribbean and the world rep­re­sent­ing ME?” he asked, his voice quiv­er­ing with out­rage. “No, sir! She’s lit­tle bet­ter than a mar­ket woman. No way she can rep­re­sent me,” he ex­claimed in­dig­nantly.

“What’s wrong with mar­ket women?” I de­manded, point­ing out that he had just proven my point about class prej­u­dice. “Noth­ing,” he snapped, “but Por­tia has no class, that’s the point ... . She’s a but­too!”


There you go, I thought. There’s noth­ing in the world more laden with class prej­u­dice than the term ‘but­too’. Rex Net­tle­ford fa­mously de­rided “the but­too in the Benz”, by which he meant a hurry-come-up with money but no taste. It never fails to amaze me how many peo­ple con­tinue to think that hav­ing what they call ‘good taste’ is an in­di­ca­tor of moral su­pe­ri­or­ity rather than a few gen­er­a­tions of up­per-class priv­i­lege, ed­u­ca­tion and so­cial train­ing.

Peo­ple like my up­per St An­drew friend, hav­ing en­joyed the ben­e­fits of first-class cit­i­zenry, the best schools, be­ing raised in English-speak­ing

house­holds, ef­fort­lessly ac­quire the so­cial graces needed to nav­i­gate Ja­maican so­ci­ety with its ex­clu­sive clubs and lodges, its en­trenched old-boy sys­tem, and its rigid so­cial hi­er­ar­chy. As a corol­lary, they en­joy im­mu­nity from hos­tile me­dia, the laws of the land, and the con­se­quences of their un­pro­duc­tive lives.


All the ad­van­tages and priv­i­leges of be­ing Ja­maican are re­served for elite groups, while the large and grow­ing un­der­classes scram­ble to se­cure the scraps oc­ca­sion­ally thrown their way. Yet it is the un­der­classes who have given Ja­maica its enor­mous cul­tural cap­i­tal, its renowned brand, which those who have hogged the State’s re­sources have yet to find creative ways to ex­ploit.

My friend and his ilk love the chil­dren of mar­ket women when they put Ja­maica on the map by run­ning faster than any­one in the world or singing bet­ter than any­one else, but when one of ‘them’ be­comes elected prime min­is­ter, how dare they pre­sume to rep­re­sent ‘us’? How dare this ver­nac­u­lar but­too imag­ine for a mo­ment that she was ac­cept­able to the Ja­maica of high art and cul­ture and faux English re­fine­ment?

Yet these harsh crit­ics of Por­tia have so lit­tle to show for all the money and re­sources tra­di­tion­ally lav­ished on them. What grand achieve­ment on their part gives them the right to look down on oth­ers? They don’t have one-tenth the ac­com­plish­ments of a Por­tia. More­over, if the ex­clu­sive schools they went to didn’t teach them enough to

know the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Ja­maican un­der­classes and Trump sup­port­ers, of what use is it?

For the as­cent of Por­tia in Ja­maica to the pin­na­cle of representational pol­i­tics rep­re­sents the rise of an un­der­class that had never held power be­fore. This is very dif­fer­ent from the rise of Trump, rep­re­sent­ing dis­af­fected whites and oth­ers who re­sent the loss of power they have suf­fered over the last few decades, their ced­ing of priv­i­lege in­dexed di­rectly to the rise of Obama (and, through him, African Amer­i­cans) and his suc­cess­ful, scan­dal-free pres­i­dency.

If a set of cir­cum­stances ap­pears to bear a star­tling re­sem­blance to an­other set of cir­cum­stances some­where else, you must ac­knowl­edge the sim­i­lar­i­ties, but im­me­di­ately try to zoom in on the dif­fer­ences. If not, you risk mak­ing mean­ing­less and su­per­fi­cial com­par­isons. White anx­i­ety is fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent from poor black pride and as­pi­ra­tion. Be­sides, Por­tia never groped any­one, man or woman, nor has she wielded of­fen­sive be­hav­iour and boor­ish­ness the way Trump has.

In fact, it’s the dis­af­fected Ja­maican up­per castes who have something in com­mon with Trump’s sup­port­ers — their loss of pri­macy and supremacy. Top-dog time done. Get used to it.


PNP Pres­i­dent Por­tia Simpson Miller has been a tar­get of prej­u­dice from those who con­sider them­selves her bet­ters.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Jamaica

© PressReader. All rights reserved.