Bill Cotton and the cotton fields of Freudianism
Freddie Kissoon column
April 2, 2007
Mr. John Mair, who writes as Bill Cotton, the soi disant columnist with the Stabroek News (despite my difference with Stabroek, I continue to tell them to get serious columnists, it is an essential part of a newspaper) sought to defend a typical condescending dismissal of the Third World that you find from western journalism. The item in question was the blog of Mr. Martin Gough, BBC's sports correspondent in Guyana for CWC for Monday, March 26
Mr. Mair in the SN of Saturday, March 31, took umbrage at my confrontation with Mr. Gough for his nasty description of Guyana just one day after his arrival, typical of the Freudian dislike for Third World societies that you find among western journalists.
The first feature that you notice in Bill Cotton's correspondence (I wonder why Mr. Mair chose Cotton as his pen name given cotton's association with the racist Southern states of the US and the whiteness of the fabric) is his hypocrisy.
He chastises me for dishing it out on Mr. Gough. He said one should respect dissenting views and in my case I refused to recognise Mr. Gough's right to describe how he sees Guyana. But the cotton man found nothing wrong in his derogatory description of me.
It is bad when I attack Mr. Gough but it is right for cotton man to attack me. It didn't cross the mind of SN's editor to say to cotton man that, “Hey, you are accusing Freddie of attacking Mr. Gough but look you are doing the very thing.”
I don't mind Mr. John Mair lashing out at me but one would have liked the criticism to come from an intellectual approach to journalism and not emotional attachment to his BBC roots. I suspect Mr. Mair was doing just that or perhaps he did not read what Mr. Gough wrote.
Before we list the inherent flaws of Mr. Gough's impression, I hope Mr. Mair concedes that western journalism on the Third World does not entail a debate.
There is no need for any description of what has gone by even before the pre-independence days. Western journalists and travel writers display a deep Freudian superiority complex when describing the Third World. There is the definite instinct that “we are more civilised, developed and modern than them and they are the poor and wretched of the earth.”
This Freudian motive drives them from the time they step off the plane. Every inconsequential error of the bureaucracy of Third World governments and behaviour of the people of the developing country are disdainfully and contemptuously highlighted, Mr. Gough being no exception.
This congenital Freudianism is exposed when one studies world culture and world politics. The people of the world –taxi drivers, businessmen, housewives, labourers, bureaucrats, youths, scientists – are all alike. The difference with the developed world is that the economy allows for a faster level of modernisation and a greater leveling out of income differences.
So when a journalist comes to the Third World and sees a city hospital without the ultra-technology machines, the small shopping malls, the uncarpeted offices of teachers, the Freudian mind goes into over-drive.
It is not that we are dismissed as poor, which is the heart of the problem. The western journalist evaluates our human condition by the state of our economy. We are thus classified as flawed human beings, not because we have character faults but because our economy is not developed.
You read the assessments of people and places of the developing world by western journalists and you would think that the globe is a sharp split between one set of superior folks in Europe and North America and the Third World.
This is not so. The very perversions, aberrations, uncouthness, incivility, incompetence, and corruption you find in developing counties exist in the metropolitan cities. My wife's purse, left in her room, was rifled at one of the most prestigious hotels in the world, staffed not by poor Third World migrants but by white people.
I left the Bascom Palmer Eye Hospital in Miami with bandage around my eyes, waved to a taxi driven by a white American and was charged three times the cost of a regular fare. I saw a white woman in a car that refused to stop at the pedestrian crossing outside the Marian Academy at Carifesta Avenue and almost struck a parent and kid.
The vehicle had a diplomatic license plate, belonging to one of the friendly western countries.
You can imagine what would have happened to Guyana, Jamaica, Egypt, Botswana, and Guatemala if those incidents I just described were encountered by western journalists and travel writers visiting the underdeveloped states.
One senses that a Freudian, racist mind, too, is at work in western journalism that looks down even on the non-Anglo-Saxon world. American, French, British and German reporters do not see Greeks and Northern Italians, Singaporeans and Japanese in the same way they perceive Irish and Anglo-Saxon, and Teutonic societies.
Now let us return to Bill Cotton. What is he defending in Mr. Gough's evaluation of Guyana? If someone lives on the Caribbean islands and did not know Guyana was on the South American mainland, it would be impossible to tell the difference between Guyana and any other Caribbean country. Guyana is a quintessential West Indian land. Its architecture, its culture, its people's way of doing things are all West Indian oriented.
Mr. Gough found Guyana to have a South American feel after arriving at Timehri and being driven to Georgetown. What did he see along the way, assuming he came out of his car, that gave him the impression that he was in a South American ambience.
In Belize, it is hard to tell that you are in Central America and not in a West Indian environment.
Next, Mr. Gough recalled an incident in which his colleague's livery was pulled at. What interpretation did he put to that? He thought it was an attempted kidnapping. Now, if Bill Cotton cannot see the Freudian mind at work there, then he is not being honest.
Next, Mr. Gough wrote that after the sunny stay in St. Lucia, he arrived in Guyana to a culture shock. What was this culture shock? It was raining in Guyana. Does that constitute a culture shock from St. Lucia to Guyana? Or is it Mr. Gough's Freudian mind at work. One wonders if Mr. Mair is guilty of the same Freudian underpinnings.