Nuff Rass: A father’s note to his daughter
Ravi Dev once wrote that he was planning to reply to me, but after attending a school function with his daughter when he heard the teacher quote a certain line from Desiderata, he decided against writing. Here is the passage; “Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit.” Any moron can understand that Dev was saying he would avoid me because I am loud and aggressive.
No need to tell you; I replied. And I quoted a passage from Desiderata to highlight the hypocrisy of Dev. Since Dev was influenced by Desiderata, I wondered why he ignored this section of the poem; “Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.”
During the 2006 election campaign, Donald Ramotar pointed to an aesthetic process that Dev underwent that you can say demonstrated Dev’s refusal to accept that we have to move on from our youthful days.
I cannot quote what Ramotar said because I don’t want to get into legal trouble. When Ramotar spoke those words, Dev sued him for libel, a case he has since dropped. I don’t want Dev to resurrect the libel and direct his law suit to me this time. So it is wise to avoid loud people. What about vain people? Should we not eschew their company? In fact, Desiderata warns us about vanity, saying it can make us bitter humans.
I know people have said that I am loud and aggressive, but I have never attempted to hold back the years with youthful pursuits. I have taught for 26 years at UG, tutoring all kinds of fancy students and being part of an academic community where vanity is quite conspicuous. I never went to the hair dresser. I just take up a pair of scissors and cut the damn hair whenever it gets too long.
The only brand name shaving lotion and cologne I have used was when my wife and daughter offered them as gifts. I do not buy brand name items. I haven’t changed my car since 2000. Khurshid Sattaur, the head of the Guyana Revenue Authority, outside the Survival Supermarket one Sunday morning, after my car broke down with my wife inside, shouted to me; “Freddie you got to buy a new car.” I don’t have money for another car and I am not vain. I am comfortable with my “cork ball”.
Life is funny though. People won’t recognize your other qualities. They just pick on your noisy way of arguing and your aggressive nature. I didn’t want my daughter to grow up internalizing that nonsense about quiet people. Being quiet has no connection with the inner qualities of a human being. I drilled it into my daughter’s head that she must not succumb to the pitfall that loud people are of lesser quality than those who are soft spoken.
I gave my daughter millions of examples. A guy can get up in the room and loudly accuse you of being biased or not knowing what you are talking about. But that very person would get up in the same way using untold decibels and defend your rights while the quiet person couldn’t give a damn what happens to you.
Of course she saw manifestations of that after she became a university student. She came home and told me how the reticent, modest ones would lie and say they don’t have a book you asked to borrow, but the friend who made the nosiest arguments would quickly help you with what you want.
I have warned my daughter not to judge quiet people as necessarily good human beings and to be careful when big names come into her world. A big name does not necessarily mean that the eminent person has any finer qualities, and in fact, can be crude and unprincipled.
I will always remember the Compton Bourne syndrome. It will stay with me forever. I did not know who Compton Bourne was when he became Chancellor of UG. Then I became elated at what I heard. He was the holder of the Order of Excellence, was Vice Chancellor of one of the UWI campuses, was Head of the Caribbean Development Bank, and was a radical economist in the seventies who kept the company of Clive Thomas.
Then as news spread that he was the Chancellor, this diminutive lady with John Lennon granny glasses came up to me and said; :”Freddie do you know he used to write a column in Ratoon called “Nuff Rass.”
There and then I knew UG had found a good man because Ratoon was the publication of the radical anti-dictatorship academics at UG led by Clive Thomas, Maurice Odle and others in the seventies. The group had the same name. As a UG student, I helped to share out Ratoon but can’t recall the Nuff Rass column.
In 1974, the Ratoon entity became part of the WPA.
Then I got to know Compton Bourne. He became the Chairman of the Council of the University in his capacity as Chancellor and I sat on the Council as the trade union representative. For three years I functioned with Bourne in the Council. Bourne resigned as Chancellor last Wednesday and it was one of the best pieces of news I received since 2012 began.
Compton Bourne couldn’t recognize right from wrong, even if they appeared like Jaws or King Kong in front of him. UG and Guyana are better off without this gentleman.