The Patwa versus English debate has flared up again, this time, not in Jamaica but in good Olde England, the home of the English Language. It threatens to burn to black ashes the linguistic purity of the Mother Country. And the fire with which it blazes is part of the ‘… flames lambent, wrapped around Tottenham, wrapped around Clapham …’ which is how the British historian, David Starkey, described the past week’s rioting across London and other English cities. This he does in a controversial BBC Newsnight TV programme on 12th August (see video below). He goes on to say, ‘The whites have become black. A particular brand of destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion. And black and white, boy and girl operate in this language together. This language which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican Patois that has been intruded in England. Which is why so many of us have this sense of literally a foreign country.’ This is indeed the end of civilisation as we know it, or at least as David Starkey knows it.
The riots have been satirically described in at least one publication as the Rastamouse Riots. The reference here is to a BBC Children’s cartoon series featuring Rastamouse, an animated dreadlocked, reggae-singing mouse. Rastamouse fights crime and spreads the gospel of peace and love. He, his crew and other characters, speak mainly using the Jamaican Language, albeit heavily anglicised. This anglicisation, one suspects, is in order to ensure understanding across the wider, non-Caribbean population in the UK. The series has been a huge hit for the BBC amongst children across all communities in England. The BBC has, however, been bombarded with complaints about the series on two counts. The first is that of racial stereotyping. The second,interestingly enough given the heavy anglicisation of the Jamaican spoken by the characters, the use of ‘slang’, read ‘Jamaican Language’. According to one source, up to March this year, the BBC had received over 100 complaints about the series, 6 about racism and 95 about language. The language of this Jamaican language speaking mouse gnaw out the heart of linguistic rectitude in the land of Milton, Shakespeare, Chaucer and the King James Version of the Bible.
It seems that the Jamaican Language has as many enemies in England as it has in Jamaica. In England, it has come be viewed as the source of riot, of fire and the flames. The English-speaking whites of Olde England are in the process of becoming linguistically and culturally black, if we are to believe David Starkey. This is happening through the infiltration of Jamaican language and culture via a Patwa-speaking Rasta mouse, children’s cartoon character who undermines the citadel of the English language at its centre. This he does by contaminating the speech of children and young people in Olde England. Rastamouse is an honest, crime fighting, peace and love rodent. However, a desire to imitate the Jamaican language he speaks, however heavily overlaid with English, is, if we are to believe David Starkey and his ilk, sufficient to inspire thousands of otherwise good, peace loving, law abiding white, English young people to rise up, loot and torch huge portions of the great English industrial cities of London, Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham.
This then is the power of the Jamaican language! The Empire has struck back or, in the famous words of Miss Lou, the Hon. Louise Bennett Coverly uttered early at the start of the Jamaican migration to England in the 50s and 60s, ‘Jamaica colonising England in reverse’ / Jamieka kalanizin Ingglan in rivors. The heat generated by the Jamaican language has turned white people black and burnt the shining buildings of English cities to black ash. There are those back home here in Jamaica who argue that the Jamaican language should not be given any official recognition in Jamaica nor used in the education system. The reason they give is that Jamaican is not an international language and not used outside Jamaica. Well, perhaps, they should ask Rastamouse or, better yet, David Starkey.