LOVE BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

Well happy bloody Valentine’s to you too.

It’s that greeting card, red rose and restaurant revenue-boosting day again. Don’t misunderstand - I’m all for romance. I just don’t understand how a typical Valentine verse like this, gleaned from the Internet, could ever speak to my darkest desires:
Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
Do Mice really like Rice?
Or even ice?
I don't know,
But I know that
I Love You!

However, to prove I am not immune to the impact of millions of advertising dollars spent on promoting the hearts and roses industry, this entire blog is devoted to luuve.

Big city love bears little relation to love on the rock. Urban life is still very much a throw away culture. This applies as much to plastic bags as to lovers. In London, for example, once you ditch Mr. Duplicity, you need never see him again. At least I have never bumped into the bastard since my request that he shoot himself as an act of kindness to the rest of humanity.

On this rock, by contrast, lovers cannot be discarded with any realistic hope that you have seen the last of them. Throw a lover away and they boomerang right back to you while waiting in the checkout line at Supercentre or when relaxing on Accra beach. There are good odds that before long you will be attending the same christening, wedding or funeral. So, love on the rock is guided by the best principles of sustainability. Old lovers are discarded with due care and attention.

A popular practice on island, if you don’t need a full time Mr. or Ms. Lover, and, ever mindful of waste, is to have a share in one that is currently in active use. This usually lasts until a new or recycled lover becomes available. Sometimes the arrangement is prematurely terminated because the main interest holder finds out about it and demands that you cease and desist yuh shameful watlessness or dey gine come by yuh yard and make bare trouble. Admittedly this aspect of the love waste management programme has come in for severe public criticism from both pulpit and polite society. But in private many seem to have adopted the more tolerant, “don’t ask, don’t tell” stance. A popular calypso even urges that if yuh come home and find a bare back man cleaning yuh house, and yuh wife real tired, don’t call it horn, call it assistance.

Do not for a moment think that recycling love is something confined to a particular class or race in Bim. The love footprint in Bim is the same for an Ecky Becky (a particular group of poor whites in Bim) from Martin’s Bay or a resident of Sandy Lane. This rock is so small that even as an outsider, prodding along alone in my studio, I have heard a few tales of the complex shenanigans of former ministers, prominent business people, as well as the nocturnal antics of villagers near Mike’s Bar in Christ Church.

But there is at least one love that dares not speak its name in Bim. Yes, on this rock you are free to love as long as that excludes the same sex. And before you get the wrong idea - I am a vanilla heterosexual with the statistically appropriate number of kids and a picket fence. (Okay, okay – I like a little chocolate but you get the picture). My interest is simply the human rights of us all. Surely paradise has room for me and my gay brothers and sisters. But if you read the blogs, newspapers, listen to radio or talk to my man eating lunch by Chop’s in “de Pine”, there is visceral fear and pure hate of homosexuals. For a society that gives Christianity such importance it shows moral bankruptcy in terms of tolerance of otherness. The church equates homosexuality with evil. Evil? The people who committed genocide in Rwanda are evil. Consenting adults who make love in private, that causes no harm to others, are not. But they continue to be criminalized on this rock. Has decriminalization of homosexuality all over the world, and in other parts of the Caribbean like the former Spanish, French, Dutch colonies, US and British territories, made these places where evil homosexuals have ruined the moral fabric of society?

This Valentine I hope you love freely, responsibly and sustainably. Forget all those red hearts. Green is the colour of modern love man. I must confess however to not really being any closer to truly understanding this thing called love. The poets say we can’t and never will. But for a concept we consistently fail to fully comprehend, I like Auden’s kick-ass failure best. This one’s for you dear readers.

Law Like Love

Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Law is the one
All gardeners obey
To-morrow, yesterday, to-day.

Law is the wisdom of the old,
The impotent grandfathers feebly scold;
The grandchildren put out a treble tongue,
Law is the senses of the young.

Law, says the priest with a priestly look,
Expounding to an unpriestly people,
Law is the word in my priestly book,
Law is my pulpit and my steeple.
Law says the judge as he looks down his nose,
Speaking clearly and most severely,
Law is as I have told you before,
Law is as you know I suppose,
Law is but let me explain it once more,
Law is The Law.

Yet law-abiding scholars write:
Law is neither wrong nor right,
Law is only crimes
Punished by places and by times,
Law is the clothes men wear
Anytime, anywhere,
Law is Good-morning and Good-night.

Others say, Law is our Fate;
Others say, Law is our State;
Others say, others say,
Law is no more,
Law has gone away.

And always the loud angry crowd,
Very angry and very loud,
Law is We,
And always the soft idiot softly Me.

If we, dear, know we know no more
Than they about the Law,
If I no more than you
Know what we should and should not do
Except that all agree
Gladly or miserably
That the Law is
And all know this,
If therefore thinking it absurd
To identify Law with some other word,
Unlike so many men
I cannot say Law is again,

No more than they can we suppress
The universal wish to guess
Or slip out of our own position
Into an unconcerned condition.

Although I can at least confine
Your vanity and mine
To stating timidly
A timid similarity,
We shall boast anyway:
Like love I say.

Like Love we don’t know where or why,
Like Love we can’t compel or fly,
Like Love we often weep,
Like Love we seldom keep.


W.H. Auden

7 comments:

Gio said...

I agree with you on the exploitation of Valentine's day, fortunately I can do the "romantic dinner at home" on occasion.

Barbados apparently has become more intolerant of homosexual than it used to be in the 60s, so I am told, influenced by the Jamaican dance hall culture, but it seems to be getting more tolerated again, or at least with the people I talk to, might be that I'm just getting pickier about who I talk to.

Anonymous said...

testing comment settings

cathal said...

Yay Ingrid!...
love, as the mind, sits everywhere. The heart is to love as lungs are to air and the brain is to mind. Love therefore does not require opposites nor more than one. So on the rock, worry not, love is for everyone. Love's 'footprint' is a tight fit in the universe's slippers.

Gio said...

Yeah .. valentine's has gone far too commercial, like xmas. I try to avoid getting sucked into either too much.

As for love of the Wilde variety... you are right, it causes an irrational response from many Bajans. A response that I can't really understand. There are two responses to homosexuality in Barbados; the religious and the "that's just wrong/unnatural" arguments, but the root cause I think is misogyny... or at least a belief that male identity is superior to female identity... after all a woman acting like a man is not nearly so bad as a man acting as a woman, or so lots of people would have us believe.

I am told that Barbados is know more intolerant of homosexuals then it used to be in the 60s and that the rise in intolerance ties in nicely with the increasing popularity of Jamaican culture

Anonymous said...

I would hate to have been here when it was LESS tolerant of homosexuality...

Gio said...

Correction -
Should have said "Barbados is now* more intolerant..."

I think that the Barbados is more tolerant now that it was say 10 years ago, but still not as tolerant as it was in the 60s (or so I am told).

Or it could be that I now associate with a more tolerant crowd.. hard to say. But I am sure that homosexuals particularly male homosexual will not be accepted in Barbados for many years, and even longer till its decriminalized.

jax said...

if law like love, slips into its own space - then love like law can shift the very rock you where you stand.

keep shakin' ass girl - you know what we dun learned - ain't no such thing as failure, so ain't nothin' to go kickin'!