Jamaica is celebrating its 50th year of Independence… an important milestone no doubt, but one which despite the celebrations, is fraught with self-doubt regarding our development. We aren’t where we should be and not sure what to expect in an uncertain future. If there is a time Jamaicans really need a pick me up, then it is now. And the Jamaican Olympic team led by Usain Bolt is providing it.
Despite whatever is happening in most Jamaicans lives in Jamaica or abroad, every athletic event involving a Jamaican is highly anticipated. If that event has Usain Bolt, then the anticipation is at unprecedented levels not only in Jamaica, and not only by Jamaicans, but worldwide. But there are never heroes without haters, and in Jamaica a surprising one turned out to be none other than well-respected father Ho Lung.
On a July 12 piece in the Gleaner, Ho Lung took to berating Usain Bolt. Now, I’m not ever gonna say that Bolt shouldn’t be criticized, but when one is criticizing, one should have foundation. Unfortunately for Ho Lung, most of his criticism is founded on quicksand.
Let me take an aside here. Most people who disagree with Ho Lung think that he should get a pass because he is a religious person. Fine with them but not with me. Any fool can wear a collar. We know many. What Ho Lung said belittled him and in the way that Americans say, “you are your last action”, I say Ho Lung’s criticism is that of a fool. “Judge not, or ye will be judged”. As Ho Lung judged Bolt and Blake, thus should he be judged.
First is the timing. Just before the biggest athletic stage on earth is not the time to be making such a criticism, not only because of Bolt, but the team’s leader, and the people of Jamaica as well. This must be a kick to the guts of many. Good thing Bolt, even if he sees it, will realize it is the criticism of a small-minded, condescending little man. And with his victories, Bolt has sent the requisite response, “Shut your mouth”.
Ho Lung talks as if Bolt is a child. He isn’t. He is responsible for himself and his actions. Do I like everything that Bolt does? Of course not. But as long as he is not hurting anyone, or breaking a law, then I can shake my head and leave it at that.
Ho Lung criticizes Bolt on ‘humility’. Ho Lung needs to understand that his perhaps quiet demeanor serves him well, just as how Bolt’s exuberance serves him well. Daley Thompson, one time Olympic decathlon athletic, says that athletics would probably be dead without Bolt. Bolt draws billions to him and its not just for his running… but for the combination of that and his lively personality. And if people know anything about athletes, his type of personality drives him to succeed.
But its also part of his branding. His popularity and earnings skyrocket because of his personality. What Ho Lung hates, billions love. Tell me the truth. If Bolt was a toothpaste, how many of us would buy if the ad says, “I am not better than any other toothpaste, but I have lots more humility”?
Bolt is also part of Jamaica’s brand, as is reggae music and Marley. When you put down Bolt you are putting down Jamaica. Bolt, like Marley, like reggae, like Toots, like our beauty, our arts, spelling bee champion Jody Anne Maxwell, are all part of the Jamaican tapestry and what makes us feel good about ourselves. An attack on our icons is an attack on ourselves. And that’s exactly what Ho Lung has done… trimming the Jamaican self-esteem. And that is unforgivable.
By the way, since we are talking about humility. Ho Lung should look at his own church and its leader. Don’t see much humility there. And perhaps Ho Lung should look at himself. He signs his letter as ‘superior general’, and ‘father general’. What pompous titles! It’s like something from a Borat movie.
Ho Lung certainly stepped out of his level in criticing Bolt for coming 2nd in both the 100 and 200m at the Jamaican trials. Idiot. Bolt lost because he wasn’t in peak condition and Yohan Blake ran better. Would it have been better to win the trials but lose the Olympics? Certainly a ‘woohoo’ moment for Ho Lung.
Then Ho Lung references Ali, Houston, and Michael Jackson. Nothing like raising the dead to make someone feel bad, right superior general?
Here’s the thing, shit did happen to those 3, but guess what? Shit happens to good, bad and indifferent people. Good and bad people die young, good and bad people die old. Is Ho Lung implying that those who die in pain are bad people? Is he saying that craps gonna happen to Bolt if he doesn’t ‘humble up’. Wow, you bitter, bitter misguided man.
“God chastiseth those whom He loves”. Hmm. Perhaps he doesn’t love the pope then, ‘cause the pope seems to be above chastisement… and father general, considering child abuse, its treatment of women, birth control, women’s rights to take charge of their own bodies, the holy church working with good ol’ adolphus hitler, the worst brutality in european history, I don’t see you critiquing your church. Father general, whats up with that?
The superior general then turned his sights on Yohan Blake, questioning why Blake has chosen the nickname, ‘Beast’, and asking if Blake has read the book of revelations. Here is the thing father superior, Blake didn’t choose the nickname which was given to him by Bolt. Its simply a nickname and has nothing to do with revelations. And ‘beast’ is a generic word meaning many things, from lamb to lion.
Ho Lung’s piece reminded me of another roman catholic’s condescending criticism of Bolt (Michael Burke, Gleaner 2009) made in the same manner. If I remember correctly Burke told Bolt he was worshipping the wrong god as if he Burke knew who or what the correct god was. But that’s another story, well, perhaps not really.
One presumes that Ho Lung is a thoughtful man, but a thoughtful man thinks. A bitter man doesn’t. A thoughtful man would have understood what both athletes go through. Bolt doesn’t just drive around in a bimmer, partying, partying, having fun every day.. and then go out and win the Olympics. Where Bolt is takes years of pain and sacrifice. When others are living for the weekend, Bolt and Blake are living for a greater goal.
And they have the scars to prove it. Bolt knows victory… but he also knows failure. He knows celebration… but he also knows pain, way beyond what either Burke or Ho Lung appreciates.
Bolt said that he failed to break the 200m record because of back pain. Can Ho Lung understand a young man of 25 with severe back pain? Can he even begin to understand the life of an athlete. Ho Lung claims that all that Bolt has comes from god. Really? father superior, its not that easy. Bolt has talent but he worked for it. Through agony and tears and fears. He deserves a little lack of humility, a little time off. If you think you are even remotely capable of judging Bolt or Blake, then at least have the decency to judge their small indiscretions against the larger body of their accomplishments.
Ho Lung’s rant against both Blake a Bolt represents the idea that both have stepped out of place. But it is Ho Lung who has done so. It would behoove him to apologize for his untimely and undermining rant, to Bolt, Blake, the Olympic team for whom Bolt is leader, and the entire population of Jamaica.
A Jamaican in Ft Lauderdale, Florida told that right after the 4×100, she felt free of all her troubles, even temporarily. Many Jamaicans can echo that feeling. And that is exactly what Ho Lung sought to undermine, and that’s why I cannot grant him a pass.