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Maxie, Raymond, Kevin, Dylan & Achilles

Friday, January 22, 2016

The lines separating T&T Guardian columns have been getting a bit like palings in backyards recently. My pardner Raymond Ramcharitar has been slicing-and-dicing our own erstwhile Guardian colleague, the former journalist and current Minister of (Extremely Limited and Even More Grudgingly Released) Information, Maxie Cuffie; indeed, the old Double-R had the old Maxie C in his crosshairs even before he took up his current portfolio: like a WWI sniper, our little Ray of Light has, for a couple o’ years, swept the political trenches across No Man’s Land and, if Maxie/Fritz only lifted his head above the sandbags, he got it between the eyes.

But, even if these particular protagonists knew one another personally previously—an amalgam of alliteration Keith Smith would have adored—a newspaper columnist taking anything from potshots to painstaking aim at a government minister is at least understandable and, often, the actual job description; the feuding between other Guardian columnists has been a little harder to justify.

For months, Kevin Baldeosingh, another pardner (at least of mine) has been involved in the newspaper equivalent of pelting stone, as if she were a heavily-bearing Julie tree, at the Guardian’s “mothering worker,” Professor Gabrielle Hosein. Perhaps it is part of what the old Kev may see as his duty in what he considers the ongoing good fight against what he seems to think is the threat to the world order of feminism but, last year, on my own offhand recollection, he wrote at least two columns aimed directly at the good professor. 

Unless I misremember—and, admittedly, my memory is less trustworthy than a three-day-old chicken roti left on the car dashboard—Kevin also attacked at least one other female Guardian contributor over what he saw as a feminist misstatement.

I know the good Gab is capable of swift response, since she made one to me, when I challenged a statement she made on Facebook, but I don’t think she responded to Kevin in her column; which cuts her from this particular pack; which I really hope won’t turn out to be all knaves or jokers, since I’ve now dealt a couple o’ cards face-down to myself.

It is good if newspaper columnists disagree: it may help stoke intelligent public discourse; when columnists brawl, though, the greatest social value is that of entertainment. (I speak from personal experience, as the most lightweight, and most reluctant, of several contenders who went up—or found themselves brought up—against the late Wayne Brown for the title of Heavyweight Columnist. The old Kev, Wayne’s first protégé and the most literal pugilist of all Wayne’s challengers, was the only one to receive more than a figurative knockout.)

Last Sunday, Guardian columnist and UWI anthropologist, Dylan Kerrigan, whom I know only from his newspaper writing, got into the ring. In his fortnightly column, young Dylan flew out of his corner, fists swinging like the teenaged Mike Tyson, laying down such a barrage of blows that the only conceivable response for Kevin would be to hit the mat; and stay there. (The only consolation, for readers, of the Guardian’s recent, inexplicable firing of the now-ex-fortnightly columnist, Colin Robinson, might be Dylan’s column going weekly.)

“Maybe I’m a prude, but is it okay for a national newspaper to publish a column whose language, imagery and content is denigrating towards women?” were Dylan’s first words; the next 900 continued in similar vein, but attacked the argument, not the arguer.

If I know Kevin, his column yesterday (which appeared after I wrote this), would have retaliated, if only because, on the face of their column pix, Dylan appears to have more naturally curly hair.

And it is a certainty, not a likelihood, that the gap between Maxie and Raymond will widen, and, though it must be either beneficial or burdensome to the country, that neither will be able to persuade the other that he may be mistaken (assuming, perhaps erroneously, that either may even listen to the other).

But what intrigues me, as someone in the game himself (even if there may be no difference, in this particular match, between sitting on the bench and on the fence), is that all the players, in their attacks on one another, have revealed what seems to me to be their own Achilles’ Heel.

Old people say that, when you point your finger at someone, three point back at you. Raymond, the columnist I am myself most unhappy to miss reading, when he attacks Maxie, often reveals a “personal” tell that, not just gives, but throws his hand away; even if he holds a royal flush. Maxie, who may honestly believe the business of the government is paramount, in dismissing valid questions, shows the thin end of the totalitarian PNM wedge anyone with a little sense or any memory at all worries about; Kevin, in his determination to save our species from feminism (or, if a male, not a female, is involved, the demon socialism, which he appears to think is some kind of fraternal evil twin of feminism) displays an attitude to women that Hugh Hefner might find anachronistic; and even the cavalry of Dylan rides in only to shoot himself in the foot with his own opening salvo: because someone – or even everyone – finds something someone else says offensive is not sufficient reason to silence them.

Particularly when simple good taste trumps potential bad law, and it is as easy to dismiss such arguments as Kevin raises by observing that he treats as a feminist any woman with an IQ he would prefer to see in a G-string.

BC Pires was dipped in the River Styx but was clearly held him by his head. Email your berating of Dr David Bratt to him at


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