How come

One of the things I’ve noticed about people in the arts field – writers, painters, architects, etc – is that they are unconventional thinkers so that although they are people who obviously operate vertically, they are also observers, in an almost horizontal manner, of mankind.  An example of this is that I have noticed that often completely engrossed in some creative project, I will suddenly be caught by a completely extraneous thought that has no relation to my project.  Most of these wanderings are usually brief but I will often find myself left with the “how come” question still nagging me. (I may have gone down this road before, but new “how come” examples keep popping up.)

I watch television a lot (sports, Charlie Rose, Bill Maher, HBO documentaries) and some of the commercials are in that “how come” category.  Rolex, for example, has a series of ads with the tag line asserting that their watches “don’t simply tell time; they tell history.” Given that Rolex is a very reputable company, obviously with a host of exceptionally astute people at the various helms, that is simply an asinine statement for them (a) to have come up with and (b) to then further put huge advertising dollars into relaying world-wide.

That’s a perfect example of “how come”; the notion of a watch that tells history is truly nonsense, but a group of intelligent successful people at Rolex heard the concept and clearly said, “Great – let’s go with that.”

That’s a definite how come?

Similarly last week, I saw a Samsung ad promoting a new phone, outlining all the features, including a strong emphasis on “reliability” and safety in the product.  This, mind you, comes short weeks after Samsung had to recall millions of one model of their phones because the batteries kept exploding.

To cite reliability in your product only weeks after it proved unreliable, doesn’t sound like good timing in advertising approach. Were all those million-dollar brains on Madison Avenue out the day that commercial was suggested?  Nobody interjected, “Hold on a minute, people”?   How come?

A Trinidadian gentleman named Nasser Khan, has put together a book covering all the calypsos ever written about cricket which is being used as an education project (NAGICO sponsored) with the books being donated to schools and libraries, and eventually public sale. I sent a note about this (six of my songs are in the book) to a friend of mine who pointed out something that hadn’t occurred to me: there are actually very few popular songs written about sports.

Indeed, the only one I can think of is ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’, and that’s American.  But here in the relatively smaller and economically strapped Caribbean, we have over 200 calypsos on cricket.  How come?  My friend, who is himself a Trini, has no explanation either but says that situation tells us a lot about cricket.  Whether so or not, however, my question remains.

A week doesn’t go by in Guyana without our hearing this well-worn canard that the ethnic divisions here were created by the British, under divide and rule.  If that is so, how come, after some 50 years on our own we continue to keep the divisions alive?  It is the worst indictment of Caribbean people that after 50 years on our own we adhere to this tangent upon which the Englishman set us.

The fact is that the Englishman didn’t set us on it at all; he saw its existence and exploited it, perhaps, but neither he nor our politicians created it.  If you doubt the division is nature-based, examine the behaviour of these two groups when they migrate; finding themselves in a country where they can choose to do as they please, they continue the separation, just as it was in their homeland, based on ethnicity.  All of this is before us, staring us in the face, but we continue to say “was the British”…how come?

“How come” examples abound. There is even a local bank offering a credit card with one of the bonuses being a “cash back” feature where you are reimbursed a portion of your monthly payments.

However, the way it works, if I have it right, is that while you must make your payments monthly, or face a penalty, the “cash back” payments come in a once-a-year lump sum.  So, I must pay the bank every month, but they pay me only once a year.  How come?

Another instance is a recent El Dorado/Sandals ad running on TV that started off badly enough showing a lady being shown around the El Dorado distillery in a very skimpy bikini (who goes on a distillery tour in a bikini?), but got worse when the foreign gentleman conducting the tour told us that the flavour of the DDL rum is owing to the Demerara River water, “full of nutrients (close-up of the river) used in planting the sugar cane.” It could be that Butch Stewart was busy that day with the new Grenada Sandals, but one has to wonder how come Mister Samaroo let that one pass?  River water?

A classic “how come” example is the tempestuous parking-meter plan for Georgetown recently suspended for three months by the government.  How could City hall have looked at the original proposal and not immediately seen that the rates were too high for Guyana, the penalties far too severe, no public survey had been done, no awareness campaign, and that the contract, for 98 years, was too long?

If you had shown such a plan to a group of 16-year-olds in Corriverton they would have looked at it and said, “Hold on a minute.”  How come City Hall happily signed on the dotted line?

Finally, the matter of people being killed or maimed by reckless driving continues in Guyana. Someone in my family was travelling as a passenger in a car last week that was written off in precisely that kind of lunatic driving from another vehicle.

Fortunately, he was unharmed, but the “what if” questions pertain.

In choosing to run a red light or to drive through a stop-sign from a side street at high speed, we are risking possible death or dismemberment to innocent people in our path and, indeed, to ourselves.  How come we still do it?

Comments  

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