Home / View Point / Akins Vidale / Shoot, don’t talk: Vidale bemoans the low level of Parliamentary banter

Shoot, don’t talk: Vidale bemoans the low level of Parliamentary banter

Though I am not  a big fan of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, I have to admit that there are pockets of dialogue which I have never forgotten.

One such scene goes as follows:

Photo: Captain Barbossa (left) has a word with Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Photo: Captain Barbossa (left) has a word with Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Elizabeth: Captain Barbossa, I am here to negotiate the cessation of hostilities against Port Royal.

Barbossa: There are a lot of long words in there, Miss; we’re naught but humble pirates. What is it that you want?

Elizabeth: I want you to leave and never come back.

(Barbossa’s men laugh).

Barbossa: I’m disinclined to acquiesce to your request.

There is also one of the most epic exchanges in the Cowboy genre between Tuco and the one armed man in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”:

One Armed Man: I’ve been looking for you for eight months. Whenever I should have had a gun in my right hand, I thought of you. Now I find you in exactly the position that suits me. I had lots of time to learn to shoot with my left.

(Tuco shoots him with the gun he had hidden in the foamy bath)

Photo: Who have a stink mouth now?
Photo: Who have a stink mouth now?

Tuco: When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.

Locally, we have had a class of orators who have made art with words. There really is no other way to describe their linguistic prowess.

For those willing to go back a bit to “kaiso”, there is hardly a bard who could match “Zandolee” in double-entendre; whether he was throwing wood at Winnie in Grande or letting the judge inspect his iron.

The point I am making is that the English Language, for all its complexities, provides ample depth and breadth for even the greenest of debaters to throw jabs and still come out smelling like a rose.

Of course all words get their meanings in context, so no doubt one would have to be quick on the draw to match linguistic competence with linguistic performance.

In the last year, the one liners which stood out have been more crass than crafty to put it mildly. We went from quips about “rum shop logic” to “if yuh name man, come outside.”

No doubt, in the last week, we have raised the bar in our attempts to be perverse. So headlines were plastered with “we in charge” and “hush yuh stink mouth!”

Photo: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and Opposition Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal. (Courtesy Baltimore Post)
Photo: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and Opposition Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal.
(Courtesy Baltimore Post)

Then there was “princess.” Our tenacity for prejudice was borne out in the most transparent way with this senseless unforced error. There was not even an attempt to be a cunning linguist and present his argument tongue in cheek.

This was followed by a lesson in Sanskrit, which only proved that we are predisposed to speaking because we have to say something rather than us having something to say.

The contribution from the member for Princes Town was both shallow and pedantic and had we been listening rather than looking at him, maybe that would have been picked up.

It is unfortunate that we are not seeing the efficacy of finesse  in the Parliament. We are brutish and uncouth.

Your presence in the Lower House already validates that you have shown your strength of persuasion by numbers. Now that you are there, perhaps it is time to focus on persuasion by the strength of your arguments.

AboutAkins Vidale

Akins Vidale
Akins Vidale lectures at the Cipriani College of Labour and Cooperative Studies and is a UWI graduate with a B.A. in History. He has served as the president of the Trinidad Youth Council and is the General Secretary of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN). Read his blog: http://akinsvidale.wordpress.com/

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20 comments

  1. The quality of the exchanges has been poor but given the fact that we are barely over a month past the election, I am hoping things will improve.

  2. I don’t know to whom Adkins is comparing our politicians but in my opinion we have excellent debate in Parliament. And that ‘Princess’ line was punning of the highest order. The Sanskrit discussion was welcome too.

  3. “This was followed by a lesson in Sanskrit, which only proved that we are predisposed to speaking- because we have to say something rather than us having something to say.”

  4. Finesse? Wha is dat? The problem is lack of exposure. We reveal our parochialness and not surprisingly perhaps, the village ram personality seems to be the one of choice for most politicians. For some of the women, it seems to be various versions of the fish market lady. Which is not even fine in the village or the fishmarket these days. Retired village rams and fisher ladies must be cringing. Banter,. not batter, I agree.

  5. The problem is Lasana Liburd, that the devisive brand on politics, politicking snd governance of the last five years has left the nation and not least among us, our politicians seething with resentment.

    The hatred is palpable!

  6. And I am told by Melville Foster that the MP guilty of the senseless “Princess” unforced error may not be a cunning linguist but he certainly does not go easy on debtors so he may not be a fellah to owe.

  7. Akins, it’s hard to fault the essential argument but I take issue with the conclusion. Since there are several “safe” seats among the 41, is it accurate to say to the MP’s representing those seats that “Your presence in the Lower House already validates that you have shown your strength of persuasion by numbers? Isn’t a “safe” seat precisely one where the winning party’s voters do not have to be persuaded?