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Curse of the mummery


Tony Deyal

Curse of the mummery

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The boss told the youthful employee: “Rob, you’ve been with the company for a year. You started off in the post room, one week later you were promoted to a sales position, and one month after that you were promoted to district manager of the sales department. Just four short months later, you were promoted to vice-chairman. Now it’s time for me to retire, and I want you to take over the company. What do you say to that?” 
“Thanks,” said the employee. 
“Thanks?” the boss replied. “Is that all you can say?”
“I suppose not,” the employee said. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Nepotism”, which comes from the Latin word for nephew (nepotis), is favouritism granted to family members regardless of merit. In the Middle Ages the word came into vogue to describe the behaviour of the popes of the Catholic church who supposedly had no children but had many “nephews”, both real and ascribed, who were preferred for the most prestigious and lucrative posts.
Recently I read an article in the New York Times about nepotism as a way of life in India. It described as well the role that mothers play: “The Indian cricket star Yuvraj Singh is more often photographed with his mother than with pretty girls. In any other country it would be unusual to see a young sports star photographed so often with his mama. Rahul Dravid, one of the most revered cricketers, once dated a top actress but he married the girl his mother picked. The great chess player Viswanathan Anand also married a girl his parents chose.”
We know that the Caribbean is a matriarchal society and many a man got into trouble, some into jail, because somebody “cuss” their mother. However, if you look at the headlines in many newspapers, not only in the region but internationally, it seems that mothers are increasingly getting deeply involved in politics and government.
Trinidad is the worst. A look at recent headlines clearly illustrates the extent to which the mothers of politicians, even some who are no longer with us, have got involved in almost every aspect of the most sensitive matters.
The speaker of the house (Speaker Mum On De Lima ‘Blank’), the head of the Police Service Commission (PSC Head Mum On Jack Conflict), the prime minister (T&T PM Mum On Jack Warner FBI Probe), and there was the predicament in which the former prime minister found himself (Manning Mum On Church). In Manning’s case it got even more confusing when his son got involved (Brian Manning Mum On New Year Party) since Brian Manning’s mum, or Patrick Manning’s wife, was also a minister of government! 
Trinidad and Tobago is not alone. In Jamaica, the prime minister also seems to be involved (Portia Mum On IMF ‘Plan B’). Clearly, Plan A having failed, it was time to call in the heavy artillery which, of course, means mum. Public defender Earl Witter has no excuse (Witter Mum On Tivoli Report). In Barbados, the Prime Minister seems to have the best solution for the CLICO mess (PM Mum On CLICO). In Israel, there was the anomalous claim that a male leader, Israel’s former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, “stays mum”. 
Actually, the word “mum” meaning to be silent outdates “mum” as mother but even so, and even though corporations are persons under the law, my imagination boggled but not my credulity when I saw the headline CAL Mum On Alleged Bankruptcy.
Worse, when I read the officialese (language characteristic of official documents or statements, especially when obscure, pretentiously wordy, or excessively formal) from the corporate communications manager of Caribbean Airlines (CAL), the normally unpretentious Clint Williams, I knew that the situation was serious enough to warrant the bigwigs trying to hedge. Hear this: “CAL is currently in a stabilization and transformation initiative and our short- and medium-term goals will see us rationalizing cost and driving revenues towards more self-sustaining and profitable operation,” Williams said.
This is not just beating around the bush but is more like the intact and uncastrated male of the Taurus species (pure bull). Poor Clint! Perhaps the corporation should not have responded (mum’s the word) or have some director’s plain-speaking mum speak the truth.
But in the politics of the region, especiallyin Trinidad, the land of blackouts, there seems to be a blackout on that commodity as well.
Australians would consider it as scarce as a rocking horse’s faecal matter. There is a word for all of this. It is “mummery” or “a pretentious or hypocritical show or ceremony”. Whenever “mum” shows up in the news headlines it is all “mummery” which, like all other mummeries, lingers on. In fact, the recalcitrant and callous CAL is the worst airline in living mummery.
 
• Tony Deyal was last seen saying that Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in trouble (PM Mum On Possible Chinese Hackers) but maybe he just had a bad cough.

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