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SATURDAY’S CHILD: Going for a troll


TONY DEYAL

SATURDAY’S CHILD: Going for a troll

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THE CLAY SOILS where we lived in Central Trinidad were perfect for rice, and so my family, continuing an Indian lifestyle and tradition, spent a lot of time and energy planting rice (and “minding” cattle), especially during the period between World War I and World War II. Rationing continued after 1945 when the war ended. 

The fields remained the same, year after year, hoofmarked in the dusty, dry season but filling rapidly with water and fish in the wet. This was my introduction to fishing, particularly for the big “guabines” (pronounced “wah-beans”, aka wolf fish or Hoplias malabaricus) with their dog-like teeth. I imitated the adults by trying to catch them with a long bamboo pole. 

Then I went to the nearby Orange Valley Bay and saw one of my father’s friends in a boat going round and round very slowly with a long piece of wire in one hand and the tiller of the boat engine in the other. 

“What he doing?” I asked my Uncle Jacket. 

“He trolling,” my uncle said tersely. 

“What is that, Uncle?” I pestered him. 

“He trying to ketch fish,” Uncle Jacket responded sharply. 

“Guabine?” I wondered. 

My uncle laughed loudly, something I was not used to, and then said with a smirk: “Dey don’t have guabines here. He trying to ketch kovali [crevalle jackfish].”  

I found out later why my uncle had laughed so loudly.  First of all, the guabine is a freshwater fish, and secondly, ladies of the night or prostitutes were also called “guabines”. Lord Inventor had a calypso about “Dem guabine women they have so low/If a razor blade fall dey could pass below”. 

That was also the first time I saw a catfish (pronounced kyat-fish). It was huge and, apart from its large whiskers, had no resemblance to a cat at all. When I said that to my uncle he laughed even harder. “Cat” is also a local term for the female sex organ.

This was my introduction to the word “troll”. It was initially confusing when I read about trolls in fairy tales and fantasies. Tolkein’s Lord Of The Rings and its prehistory took trolls to a new level. They were among Sauron’s most dangerous and feared warriors.

The term “troll” has since been applied to a variety of people and activities, including lawyers searching for legal documents, gay men wandering around seeking companionship and Internet pests attempting to disrupt a community or garner attention and controversy through provocative messages. Catfish too have reached the Internet and, like the one I saw, also hide in the deep mud and can infect you if you come into contact with them.

There are also “personas” or personalities people create for themselves on the Internet that generally differ from what they are like face to face, or those you can rent and then use for political purposes – sort of cyberspace guabines. Catfishing and personas are forms of trolling, with the difference that a catfish is a person who creates a false online identity in the hopes of luring people into romantic relationships.

I had my own trolling experience last Saturday night, and am still not sure if it was a guabine, catfish, perv or a troll like the one described in the Memidex Dictionary/Thesaurus as “an ugly cave-dwelling creature depicted as either a giant or a dwarf”. 

This one used the persona Antonio Barrera; and even if it thought it was a giant when it started trolling us, it definitely ended up a dwarf with much less than a Snow White reputation. Hear what happened.

I wrote an article about an ancient sea creature which seemed to me to be the progenitor of all politicians, since it was able to excrete with its mouth. In the article, I referred to all politicians, not any particular party in Trinidad or elsewhere. I lined up a lot of examples, including Jay Dickey Jr who was running for the US Congress and said: “I think incest can be handled as a family matter within the family.” 

There are many from George W. Bush, including: “They misunderstimate me.”

“Is our children learning?”

“Will the highways of the Internet become more few?”

“I know that the human being and fish can coexist peacefully . . . .” 

Even catfish and guabine, I suppose. However, because of limited space, I used the most recent example featuring Trinidad’s Minister of Finance Colm Imbert, who wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper, saying a particular columnist should not be heeded because he lacked qualifications in finance or engineering. I pointed out that Imbert also lacked qualifications in those fields; and what made it worse is he is the country’s Minister of Finance.

So up pops an insulting message from the troll about me and my research, adding for my edification that Imbert had done his Master’s degree thesis on a financially-related subject. This made me very suspicious, because it is not something that is in Imbert’s online biographical data.

I was then joined by another colleague, journalist Raynier Maharaj, an award-winning editor of a Canadian online paper; and we pushed the troll, forcing him to reveal information no ordinary troll would have. It was exciting because it was like cornering an animal and cutting off the escape route. 

In a previous incident, poor Imbert’s Facebook page was hacked, and I might end up blaming him wrongfully again. What I would say is that the moral of this story is not the immorality of trolling, but the fact than when you catch a troll it might also turn out to be a guabine or catfish.

Tony Deyal was last seen asking: “What’s the difference between a catfish and a political troll?” One’s a slimy, scum-sucking, bottom-dwelling scavenger; the other is a fish.

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