Kaieteur News – Mrs. Amanza Walton-Desir has complained to the police on the use of the word “mark” by Mr. Roshan Khan to describe how people should react to her statement on East Indian supporters of the PPP. I don’t know Mr. Khan. Never met with, talked to or seen him in person. All I know is what he writes in the newspapers and what others write about him. I have had complaints from employees about industrial violations at his security firm. That was years ago. I never investigated them so I have no comments one way or the other.
Since I don’t know him I cannot picture the reason why he used the word “mark.” I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt that he meant no harm to the lady. If the press should ask me pointedly if I think he meant something dangerous, harmful, disturbing, I honestly would say I do not think so.
I would advise Mr. Khan to understand the context in which words are used because words have formal meanings but over evolutionary time acquire contextual connotations different from their grammatical original straightforwardness. Over centuries, certain words leave their roots and take on diverse faces in common parlance. The perfect, impeccable example is, “gay.”
I believe a married man can win libel if a newspaper wrote, “he had a gay time in Bartica.” I don’t think the judge will ignore context even if the world’s most brilliant lawyer argues that by “gay,” the newspaper meant enjoyable. I think the plaintiff’s lawyer can argue that in the 20th and 21st century, the meaning of the use of the word has crossed over to different linguistic worlds and has taken up a life denoting homosexual choice.
Literally millions of publications could be cited across the globe to show that the common understanding of “gay” means homosexual. As for me and the use of the word, my burdensome, angst-filled, unfulfilled life has never allowed me to have gay moments and I plan to have some serious gay times as I grow older, but with Mrs. Janet Kissoon. Now that is how I use the word “gay.”
In common parlance over the centuries, “mark” means “target.” The usual reaction to the word is that you will be singled out for harm. The global popular action film, “Marked for Death” may have helped to seal the contextual meaning of “mark.” When I was growing up we all know what the use of mark meant when school friends you had a fight with would exclaim, “yuh is a mark maan bhai.”
In primary school, I used to get beat up by a big headed bully named “Wappit.” One day Wappit head-butt me and “black” me out. The next day, I waited until school was over and I dropped a “jumbie lash pon him.” His brother came outside our house on D’Urban Street, shouting, “yuh is a mark maan Kissoon.” My sister went to the police, the police went to the school and that was the end of that.
I think it would have been less contentious if Khan had used some words that are quite banal – “boycott,” “ostracise,” “shun,” etc. Right now in the US, a word that was quite popular in espionage has crossed over into cultural sociology. “Cancel” is now in vogue. In the spy business, when an order comes down to kill a certain person, the boss would order that the target be cancelled, meaning assassinated.
In the US today, they no longer say boycott but “cancel.” That means to remove the presence of that person in the profession that he/she has used to invoke thoughts of racism, gender insult, etc. Maybe the Haji could have used “cancel” since I am sure he has family connections with the US that he probably visits.
The Haji should apologise to Mrs. Walton-Desir, explaining that he should have used a less controversial word. Mrs. Walton-Desir should apologise with an attachment acknowledging that Guyanese must stop being under the spell of their ethnically based parties. I end on a personal note. When I read that Mrs. Walton-Desir went to the police I laughed. I laugh all the time when prominent people go to the police saying they were threatened. Do you know how many times, I have been threatened over the past two decades?
Not two or three times but literally countless occasions. I am dead serious – countless times. And not just a one word or two word threat but some nasty stuff. I have received them in person, over the phone and on the internet. I never thought of visiting a police station.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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