If wishes were horses would Opposition MPs fly first class?
Imiss John Compton! I’ve been regretting the old coot’s departure for some time, long before his final curtain on September 7, 2007. By the time he permitted himself to be persuaded to undertake his last political adventure Compton was by no means the man I had come to know and to not-so-secretly admire after a quarter of a century of good and bad times. And now, dear impatient reader, the FB geniuses in particular, please try to resist the temptation to understand me too quickly. What I am about to write has little to do with our first prime minister’s countless accomplishments in office. Let us not, at least on this occasion, recall the sins of the dearly departed, if only to spare ourselves embarrassing encounters with the man in the mirror.
But lest I digress too far, let’s return to my starting point. I miss John Compton most of all for his witticisms. I remain convinced Compton spoke his most memorable gems without much thought. Always he delivered them with the straightest face. The line about a prophet receiving no respect in his own land comes to mind; but then it also occurs to me that Compton was not to this manor born—which may explain why he was so different from the rest of the political herd. But that’s for another show, as they say.
To return to the quotable gems that seemed to fall out of his mouth so naturally: remember his unforgettable “tout Labar c’est vòlè?” (Readers less than 30 years of age will need to rely on their parents’ memory banks!) When not long before he passed away one of my reporters tried to pry out of Compton the inspiration behind his “all SLPs are thieves and rapists,” this was his response: “I have heard the statement you’re asking about but you work for the man who knows all there is to know about it. Your publisher. He invented it!”
After that what else was there to say? The reporter, who was not yet born when Compton spat out the famous line during a Vieux Fort rally of his United Workers Party, returned to work absolutely confused. Oh, but I couldn’t help wondering how long Compton had been waiting for the question from a STAR reporter and how much time it had taken to fine-tune his unforgettable response!
I was driving home from town (the city?) last Saturday evening when a certain legendary playwright and poet, not Compton, came to mind. Indeed, the thought had more to do with the long ago departed than with the more recently interred other who had famously revealed during a particular episode of TALK that he had “no political enemies, only opponents”—unlike Vaughan Lewis.
Maybe because of the state of our streets with their yawning ugly jaws just dying to break axles and ankles, my mind turned to mediocrity and trash. The garbage to which I here refer should not be confused with parliamentary speeches you may have caught with your own unprotected ears. Neither with roadside STEP residue; nor what passes for discourse over the local airwaves, aided and abetted by vacuous talking heads and sundry Unidentified Feisty Oddballs, often referred to as UFOs.
As I say, trash was on my mind. Trash, as in “he who steals my purse steals trash’ . . . only my reputation matters. Now be truthful, dear reader, can you imagine a parliamentarian crying other than crocodile tears over the theft of his good name? Can you imagine a public servant similarly accusing a commission of inquiry? (Talk-show hosts are a breed altogether apart who alone know what is more trash, their reputations or their wallets! We need not venture there!)
Can you conceive of the popular reaction? And yet the expressed Shakespearean sentiment is among the leading contributors to The Bard’s immortality, never mind it reeks of hyperbole. Fess up, fashionistas, what wouldn’t you do for a bag by Chanel or Louis Vuitton? I’m here to tell you your dream items are easily available from the sidewalks of Micoud Street for a quarter of what you’d have to pay for them from a Brooklyn shark or some barely awake sales lady at a Rodney Bay Mall. Scratch that; local Syrians don’t do Chanel and whats-his-name. And speaking of standards, let’s not even mention the caliber of rat we pay to represent us all over the place.
Consider, if you will, a public servant reporting to the police that some jumbie jumped his wife and stole her purse while she was momentarily distracted by the uplifting Christmas ambience of William Peter Boulevard. Now imagine the officer telling the public servant not to worry, go home, his wife’s purse was just trash anyway—that the only thing she has going for her is her good name. How would the public servant react to that? Would he consider the officer’s advice out-and-out mauvais
langue, typical police sarcasm and maybe report him to somebody way up in the service who just happens to owe him a favor or two?
Okay, let’s forget our imagined civil servant. Let’s pretend instead it’s your purse or your mama’s that was snatched outside the House by some guy with wings on his feet —and then to have some cop fresh out of training school describing the reported stolen item as trash. Can’t you just hear the headlines that would follow? Can’t you just hear the calls to Timmy on Newsspin?
And what if magistrates should suddenly take it into their heads to dismiss the pending scores of purse-snatching cases before the courts, on the Shakespearean premise that what really matters are our reputations, not purses?
I seem to recall John Compton holding forth one evening several years ago in William Peter Boulevard about how certain Labour Party types were hell-bent on tarnishing his reputation, sacrificing his good name on the altar of partisan politics. Did they not know his reputation was Saint Lucia’s greatest asset? he asked. Did the red devils not understand that without his widely respected good name there would be no foreign aid, no grants no nothing? Believe it or not, I still have the recording of this unforgettable meeting that was associated with a Canada-based company called Spiricor and a check that turned out to be trash after it bounced right out of a bank clerk’s freshly manicured hand.
And now, some flak catcher is on the radio carrying on about how Saint Lucia has been named one of the least corrupt regions of the world, thanks to our prime minister and his unshakable belief in transparency and accountability. Now if only our visionary leader would discover how to turn that reputation of his into a magnet for better days, I doubt very much he’d hear a single complaint from the folks about snatched purses, trashy or otherwise. We’d all be too busy getting rich, right?
Which inexplicably reminds me of the famous English proverb about wishes, horses and beggars with tickets to ride. Obviously, those magnificent Englishmen had never imagined a breed of peripatetic beggars whose favorite pastime is flying, not riding, all expenses paid. But for more on this particular tale, which I assure you is not a proverb, you’ll have to wait until next time, maybe!
The preceding was first published in 2015.
Former Prime Minister of St Lucia, Sir John Compton.