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The impatience of Job

Published: 
Wednesday, May 9, 2018

We will discover in the days to come, essential differences between résumé and eulogy when we come to remember public intellectual/pamphleteer, Dr Morgan Job. For one, he would have resisted any attempt at label, summary or evaluation except perhaps in qualitative terms to describe engagement of ideas that possessed and haunted him for at least the latter part of his adult life.

Those ideas, in my view, were intrinsically linked by a notion of liberation which lesser, more limited minds mistook for the opposite. Through his irascible, cantankerous impatience with everyone else, glimmered a belief - pursued as virtual creed - that had to do with free thought and expression and, through it, enlightened engagement of social and political challenge.

For all this, he sometimes paid with frequent, agonisingly enforced public silence – attended to, toward the end, through gratuitous engagement of new channels we all, who wanted to keep in touch, did well to studiously manage. When he realised what you’d done to his Whatsapp messages or Facebook Messenger posts, he would seek recompense on the street, at the airport or wherever he spotted you through the top half of his heavy bifocals.

My own story began around 1988/89 and heavy rainfall at the front door of Radio 610, an offer of coffee and shelter and an eventually fortuitous introduction to NBS chairman, Ken Ablack. This may well have been an entry point for future regular radio and television gigs that spanned close to three decades.

We would again cross paths through the Prime 106 FM experiment under the supervision of the incomparable broadcaster, Dik Henderson around 1991/92. As head of News and Current Affairs, I would find myself occasionally sharing uncomfortable studio space with him. I recall the times the smell of sulphur would linger following on-air delivery of what I now acknowledge to be the toughest possible love—Tobago style.

It must have been that after any passion-filled and insult-laced tirade (some of which he could have delivered in about half a dozen different languages) he would retire to a quiet place and blow the smoke from the barrel of his rhetorical gun. Then he would render Chopin’s So Deep is the Night on his acoustic guitar and all would be well with the world.

With a flair for the painfully and embarrassingly obvious, he won few new friends (there was a handful of lifelong comrades), save for those who tried to understand him. There were also others who thought his verdict on the black condition consolidated their own assertion of a failed or condemned race. He must have known that space and time, offered in lieu of imposed silence elsewhere, was not always out of an appreciation for his view that the downward spiral of T&T society had always been a joint enterprise involving all.

I remember one time his on-air presence was the subject of a sustained campaign launched by people who ought to have known better.

I recall my own timidity in referencing a need for free expression and the pain that accompanied his eventual departure from the frequency. Who, from among us, truly felt that at the core of such a freedom was an ability by all to understand that the penalty for crudely-espoused views and intemperate rebukes cannot and should not be silence?

Who from among us dared to carefully calibrate the coordinates of what were thought to be his polarising campaigns? All we knew was that we either loved to hate his positions on things or hated that we sometimes loved them.

I remember an op-ed written by veteran journalist, Owen Baptiste, upon the death of pioneering media boss, Patrick Chookolingo. In it, Baptiste openly undertook to shed no crocodile tears. Some from among us should heed such advice and resist open hypocrisy.

If, in fact, his résumé elicits intense dislike or loathing, a suitable eulogy cannot but capture the essence of a tortured soul torn by love for the space it occupied and an intense disdain, if not hatred, for what it was becoming.

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