Defending the Vybz Kartel Lecture

I seriously can’t get over how snobbish and stuck-up we are as Jamaicans – particularly because we have no damn reason to be. With the exception of perhaps a 3 percentile group, we are dirt poor (poor and boasy, as one entertainer has dubbed himself), and as the saying goes “wi sh!# cyaan mek patty!”. Yet we continue with our cliquish, clannish mentality – arrogating certain “rights” to ourselves or select groups, while vehemently opposing others benefitting from what are really mere privileges.

Vybz Kartel LecturePersonally, I believe Dr. Carolyn Cooper’s invitation to Vybz Kartel to speak (or “lecture” if you will) at the UWI was aimed at raising her profile and garnering PR. Vybz Kartel’s acceptance was for much the same reasons. This does not, however, preclude the fact that he deserved the right to defend his recent actions, as indefensible as they may seem. The hypocrite would love to be able to stand on his soapbox and criticise a Vybz Kartel, or any entertainer, politician or other public officials without granting them the opportunity to speak on their own behalf. The intellect knows, as did Voltaire, that everyone has a right to speak his mind, even if we totally disagree with their opinions.

For those opposed to skin-bleaching, the best way to advance your beliefs is to allow a “bleacher” to defend their position, and astutely debunk all their arguments. For those opposed to “what Vybz Kartel represents” (those words are in quotes because I really don’t know what that statement means), there are others who were opposed to Beenie Man and other dancehall artistes being allowed to speak at UWI – they just had to deal with it! So deal!

Vybz Kartel may call himself a “teacher”, but he is by no means a professor. This was made clear by his rather weak presentation on Thursday evening. But all the more reason his detractors should be happy, and all the more fodder to be used against the man, his practices and pronouncements. Having said that, however, I was pleasantly surprised to see him come to the “lecture” with prepared notes (anaemic though they may have been), and actually speak on issues and defend his stance(s), rather than just throw his narcissistic braggadocio in our faces. What has been lost in all the cacophony is the topic he first broached – the treatment of dancehall/dancehall artistes vis-a-vis reggae, and drawing comparisons to the early days of reggae music. Who would have thought that we’d see politicians and wealthy corporate execs rubbing shoulders with the very same “bleachers” at “Passa Passa”, or striking a bad man pose on the stage of Christopher Coke’s “West Kingston Jamboree”??? (I’m looking at you Mr. Vaz!)

Vybz Kartel LectureWhy has no one sought to refute his arguments regarding the perception of males with pierced ears just a few decades ago in comparison to present day? Now body piercing is all the rage, and many of his detractors have more holes that a golf course! Are you telling me that no-one is able to pour cold water on his argument that skin bleaching has no physical or health side effects?? I’m sure I’ve heard our very own medical “experts” speak to the contrary. If Vybz Kartel is wrong, trying to muzzle him will be of NO benefit to our own arguments. If he is wrong, he should be allowed to speak and then proven wrong.

Another issue being side-stepped is that of the huge crowd that amassed to see/hear him, as well as the reaction when he arrived, and as he spoke … from university students! The man clearly has a following that represents the full spectrum of our society, and if these kids want to idolise him despite all he says and does, should we have a problem with Vybz Kartel or should we be concerned about our future thinkers and leaders?

This article, and every single other article about Addi – be they supportive or opposed – will all serve to accomplish exactly what the man desires, and has made known publicly. They will only increase the number of hits in a Google search for “Vybz Kartel” and may just get him more shows in the “small islands”. The irony is, as his stature grows, so too does his influence – something his detractors hate (and maybe envy).