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Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Keeping your hair on

As I was focused on spreading the love on Valentine's Day, I missed out on taking a swipe at an article on February 14 in The Nation, by Matthew Farley. This discussed whether the hairstyle of Barbados' youngest senator, Damien Griffith, was appropriate for the traditions of the "august" chambers of Parliament. (Parliament's website is being updated so it does not include a picture of the new members.) This is no fringe politician being criticized, but a member of government.

I won't get too deep in discussion on this subject except to note a few things, and I will say that I suspect the roots of the argument. The writer uses a well-known device ("straw man"--based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position) and puts up extreme situations in parallel (e.g., women possibly baring their breasts, other young men wearing trousers that expose their underwear), or alludes to other fears (like with homosexuality, "once you accept it then the sky will fall in" argument), to try to justify an argument that is nothing more than a lightly tinted, prejudiced opinion, with little or no substance at its roots. Imagine his reactions if he had to visit the Parliamentarians in Afghanistan. What's a person's hair got to do with it? And would Mr. Farley make similar remarks about a woman politician? If Mr. Griffiths had decided to shave his head would Mr. Farley be asking him to grow hair to an appropriate length?

If there is a real problem then we would hope that the rules and procedures for Parliament would be invoked and the President of the Senate would deal with the errant member. When I looked at the Barbados Parliament website I could not find a reference to hair. Hear, hear!

My mind goes quickly to Parliamentarians in the British tradition who regard all the buffonery that goes on there as part of the tradition of healthy political processes. I read on the UK Parlaiment website that when a new Speaker of the House of Commons is elected in the UK Parliament, the successful candidate is physically dragged to the Chair by other MPs! What would Mr. Farley say about all those Law Lords and their wigs? Was this a tradition introduced by the Whigs or the Tories?

Does hair matter to the quality of political representation and the decisions that this new politician will make on the people's behalf? Here today, gone tomorrow if we don't like you? The poor Senator is living on a knife's edge and is just a hair's breadth away from expulsion into cultural oblivion. But some of this concern for how he is seen by the electorate may be a moot as Mr. Griffith was not elected but nominated by the Prime Minister. (I presume that the PM, Mr. Thompson, has not told Mr. Griffiths to straighten out his hair before dealing with the issues of state.) I don't see the problem. If he took out his cornrows he may end up looking like Mohamed Ali's boxing promoter, Don King, and we may have another furore.

As any true lover of Parliament will realise, hair can be all it's about (see George Clinton's website). So, if some are in a funk about Mr. Griffith's hair then I feel a bit sorry for them.

We should all be looking carefully at Mr. Griffith's term in Parliament for what he can do substantively to fulfill the commitments of the government of which he is part. If he is involved in any hair-raising developments I am sure we will soon hear of them. If hea has a gambling habit and his activities with high rollers start to get high, then I will get concerned. I do not know the man but I hope that he is not kinky; he is honest and does not start to drift towards telling some of those bald-faced lies that one sometimes associate with politicians.

Was this sort of opprobrium also meeted out to someone who gets elected by supporters of one party then changes sides once elected to Parliament? That to me warrants outrage.

If Mr. Griffiths wore a white or yellow suit instead of a drab grey, black or blue what would be said? If he sported Kente cloth and celebrated some African heritage traditions what would be said?

I hope that the new government gets more scrutiny for what it does rather than how it looks. Those of you who live in Barbados will know the "Market Vendor", and that his "party" was to wear pink. Now imagine if this party had had real candidates and had won the election.

You all have a blessed and wonderful day.

3 comments:

zanne said...

Thanks to Google, I was able to find out that young Damien Griffith is a "university student," presumably at UWI, and President of the young Democrats who happens to have corn rows. He should have worn an afro and a striped pants suit...Mr. Farley should take a step back and look at the young man's achievements and forgo the comments regarding outward appearance.

Pudding and Souse said...

I see that in the local newspapers Mr. Farley has come under a lot of heat the last few days for his unenlightened views, including this Sunday from one of his former teachers. Remember that Mr. Farley is the Principal of the Garrison School, who put children out onto the road for not having uniforms that conformed, especially girls with skirts too short, an action that angered many parents and was regarded as irresponsible by many parents (the children could have been told to only return to school once their uniforms were in order). Perhaps Mr. Farley thinks that Mr. Griffiths is one of his school children.

Interesting that he is seen as not being much in touch with what young people may be seeing, not at all in touch with what black people may be thinking, and not much in touch with reality.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery Mr. Farley!

Pudding and souse said...

I wonder if you saw the article in Sunday's Advocate by Jeff Cumberbatch (here is the link http://www.barbadosadvocate.com/NewViewNewsleft.cfm?Record=34743). The piece seems to have taken a few leaves from your blog, when you commented on the newspapers' recent howlers, such as "knight" of the long knives. He also has a nice take on the Matthew Farley hair "storm in a tea cup". Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?