Sound clash with Daniel Th­waites?

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY -

EVEN THOSE snobs who pre­tend to have noth­ing but con­tempt for dance­hall cul­ture ac­tu­ally en­joy a bois­ter­ous sound clash. Like an en­ter­pris­ing pro­moter, The Gleaner’s opin­ion ed­i­tor tried to set up a clash be­tween Daniel Th­waites and me. Two Fri­days ago, he emailed this warn­ing, “Look out for Daniel’s response.”

The pre­vi­ous week, The Gleaner had pub­lished an in­flam­ma­tory col­umn by Th­waites with the provoca­tive head­line, ‘Pa­tois ac­tivism and ul­te­rior mo­tives’. He per­versely de­clared that the “endgame” of “Pa­tois ac­tivists” was to stop Ja­maican chil­dren from learn­ing English. Af­ter a fair bit of ram­bling, he fi­nally came to his senses:

“I think the more Pa­tois ac­tivists con­vince us that the goal re­ally is English pro­fi­ciency and not some romantic and na­tion­al­is­tic in­vest­ment in an iso­lat­ing Cre­ole, peo­ple will get on board. If it works to teach English as a sec­ond lan­guage, let’s do that. The ob­jec­tive, though, taught.”

But the ob­jec­tive of bilin­gual ed­u­ca­tion is not just to teach English. It’s also to help stu­dents un­der­stand the value of Ja­maican, their heart/head lan­guage. And the two ob­jec­tives are not in­com­pat­i­ble. Th­waites dis­misses ed­u­ca­tion in, and about, “Pa­tois” as “romantic” and “na­tion­al­is­tic”. He doesn’t seem to ap­pre­ci­ate the global reach of Ja­maican cul­ture. Our lan­guage is not “an iso­lat­ing Cre­ole”. Peo­ple all over the world are learn­ing Ja­maican to con­nect with our cul­ture. is to get English


In this sound clash, Th­waites draw di first dub plate. Mi lick back wid a next chune, ‘Daniel Th­waites chan­nelling Mor­ris Cargill’. And that was the end of that as far as I was con­cerned. But no self-re­spect­ing pro­moter could be sat­is­fied with a sound clash that goes for only one round. The crowd would bockle him. So the opin­ion ed­i­tor wanted me to look out for Daniel’s response, ‘Patwa Queen too long on the throne’. And, pre­sum­ably, to an­swer it!

I re­gally told the ed­i­tor I couldn’t be both­ered. Sound clash flop! But there was a suc­ces­sion of let­ters to the ed­i­tor last week pro­mot­ing the clash. On Wed­nes­day, the ed­i­tor made what he must have thought was a killer ar­gu­ment. If I didn’t an­swer, peo­ple would say I was afraid of Th­waites. I had a good laugh. Mi never fraid fi Mor­ris Cargill, the high priest of English­ness. Is him acolyte Daniel Th­waites mi a go fraid fa?

On Thurs­day, the pro­moter got very lucky. There was a let­ter from Kevin D’Arcy with this head­line: ‘Bat­tle royal – Cooper vs Th­waites’. And D’Arcy made an in­sight­ful point, “Thank you, Gleaner, you are the ul­ti­mate win­ner in this match. Awe­some!”


In­stead of set­ting up a sound clash be­tween colum­nists to ex­cite read­ers, The Gleaner should con­tinue re­vamp­ing its im­age. Chang­ing the for­mat of the pa­per was an ex­cel­lent de­ci­sion. But there’s more to be done. Young peo­ple should be­come top man­agers. In the dig­i­tal age, the first thing that would go is that old-fash­ioned G logo. It was prob­a­bly de­signed in 1834 when The Gleaner was founded.

Then the lit­eral mean­ing of the name ‘Gleaner’ doesn’t cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion of most read­ers these days. A gleaner is a farm worker who picks up grain af­ter the har­vest. It also means some­one who col­lects bits and pieces of in­for­ma­tion. To­day’s so­phis­ti­cated mil­len­ni­als don’t glean their news in the same old way.

For­tu­nately for The Gleaner, af­ter al­most two cen­turies, the com­pany has ben­e­fited from brand name iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, just like kleenex, as­pirin, vel­cro and band-aid. Gleaner is the generic name for a news­pa­per. Even the Ob­server is some­times called a gleaner!

Then since I do ap­pre­ci­ate the fi­nan­cial ad­van­tages of a suc­cess­ful sound clash, I de­cided to fling a next lickle chune pon Daniel Th­waites this week. And the “ul­ti­mate win­ner” can’t be only the pro­moter. The two se­lec­tors, “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” and “Su­per Cooper” have to get their share. Nuff! So see fi mi dub plate ya so!


Rather than re­spond­ing to my ar­gu­ment, Th­waites re­sorted to child­ish name-call­ing: Patwa Queen, el­derly, un­hinged and har­ri­dan. He seems to re­gard the top spot on The Sun­day Gleaner’s Page 9 as an English throne, for­merly oc­cu­pied by his idol, Mor­ris Cargill, and Dawn Ritch. I sup­pose I’m a ‘Patwa’ usurper. But I’m not a throne-sit­ter. I’m more a stan­dard-bearer for the Ja­maican lan­guage, like Ju­nior Gong’s tire­less flag­man.

I am an el­derly woman. So what? Old age usu­ally elic­its re­spect. And un­hinged is the kind of la­bel in­se­cure men use to de­mean pow­er­ful women who are not hinged to/in their proper, sub­servient place. The same goes for har­ri­dan. An an­gry old woman! Both young and old women of­ten have a lot to be an­gry about – in­clud­ing abu­sive men who try to give them bitch licks.

Har­ri­dan is prob­a­bly of French ori­gin – haridelle – mean­ing old horse. In Daniel Th­waites’ rel­a­tively ju­ve­nile eyes, I may look like a pop­down nag. Lit­tle does he know I’m hot to trot! And no mat­ter what else Th­waites writes about me, I’m not an­swer­ing. No more sound clash! The ‘Patwa Queen’ knows how to care­fully choose her sub­jects.

Carolyn Cooper, PhD, is a spe­cial­ist on cul­ture and de­vel­op­ment. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­ and


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