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Himself Sold Himself

Heself told heself, “You are charged for speeding”/ Heself start to shout, “The policeman lie”/ Heself told heself, “This ain’t no sport!”/ And he charge himself for contempt of court” – The Mighty Spoiler, from “Magistrate Try Himself”

IN 1958, WHEN Spoiler satirized privilege in his calypso about the country magistrate forced to hear his own speeding case, could anyone have imagined that the Chief Justice would be going to court this morning to attempt to prevent the Law Association from investigating him? Could the most perspicacious soothsayer, then, have predicted that the Law Association would be seeking, not to protect its titular head from executive interference, but to do some executive interference with him of its own?

Trinidad’s all-time leading intellectual, Lloyd Best, must be turning in his grave; with laugh.

Which reminds me of a joke Lloyd loved, about the man walking in Carenage who sees a hand-lettered sign in front of a seaside house reading, “Jamaica Round Trip: $100”. He is shown through a door, where a giant bodybuilder beats him savagely and chucks him out a window into a rickety old dinghy floating in the sea outside. “Jamaica is 2,000 kilometres that way: start rowing!” The hapless mook rows away from the house but, out in the Gulf of Paria, he shelves his oars and sits, thinking. Eventually, another battered rowboat approaches. As the other bruised and bleeding oarsman draws alongside, he asks, “You took the Jamaica round trip, $100?” The other man nods. “What bothering me,” says the first guy, “is the “round trip”. Does that mean that, when we reach Jamaica, another man will beat us and make us row back?” The second oarsman cracks up laughing and asks, “Wait, nuh, this is the first time you making this trip?”

Was it just two firetrucking governments ago that we were trying to chuck out the Chief Justice?

This is not the first time we’re making this trip.

But at least we can say we’re not racist about it, since both an Indian and an African CJ have been tarred by much the same brush.

When you look at the mess we’re in, as exemplified by the CJ being a litigant against the body he leads and, unavoidably, a judge in his own cause, you have to ask yourself why, after 56 years of independence and 42 years as a republic, we still recognise only “maximum leadership.” Ask yourself, too, why we have saddled ourselves with what seems, to us, in our own eyes, to be a general election choice between UNC corruption and PNM incompetence? Ask yourself why we’ve so often sought change but ended up with only what former Prime Minister – and, more often, Leader of the Opposition – Basdeo Panday called “exchange”. Try to figure out why, for nearly 60 years, apart from five years of the National Alliance for Reconstruction and five days of the coup, our “governance” has amounted to one set of neo-slaves or the other looting the Great House to spite the other side.

More than anything else, ask yourself how the firetruck the best legal minds in the place – lawyers and judges – could have allowed this live and nationally humiliating self-parody this morning, when lawyers so long ago mastered the art of settling a case, at least to the satisfaction of themselves, if not their clients.

Was there no way for heself to tell heself that this could only end in tears? And not those of laughter?

But then you might recall the last lines of Spoiler’s song: The magistrate then call his lawyer/ To defend the defendant, who is Your Honour/ And all the time that the lawyer talking/ The magistrate serious, sometime he laughing/… Yes I nearly drop/ When the man take out he pen and start to sum up/ I start to study if he go put he own self in custody/ I was wrong because he took out a mirror/ And tell heself to pay 20 dollar/ He turn ‘round and say, “I want a little time to pay”/… Heself told heself, “All right, I’ll be kind”/ And he give himself five years to pay the fine”.

And then ask yourself if the reason we’re all in this sinking boat, beaten to a pulp, is not because you firetrucking well signed up for it.

And if you didn’t know it was a round trip when you chose to pay your money in sly.

BC Pires is the Chief Just Ice: he does drink his rum on the rocks. Read more of his writing at www.BCPires.com

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