In response Mr Warner has lambasted his accusers for their “foolishness.” Stating, “I have no interest in joining in the foolishness that is now passing as news on Qatar and Jack Warner.”
As the UK Guardian points out, over the years Warner has been a regular victim of “foolishness”. In 2010 it was “BBC foolishness,” and in 2012 local footballers with allegations against him in hand were advised, “This foolishness must stop.”
Later in the year Warner described as “Damn foolishness” rumours of an FBI investigation into his affairs. While in response to questions on his political future he replied that the question itself “is foolishness.”
Clearly, and perhaps more than most, Mr Warner is preyed on by foolishness. But what is this thing called “foolishness” and why does it attack some more than others?
Professor of English Literature, Vicki Janick in her book ‘Fools and Jesters in Literature, Art and History’ points out that, “defining foolishness is notoriously difficult, almost an illustration of itself.”
Even with Janick’s caution the foolish anthropologist cannot help their curiosity; so a good place to start might be with the word “fool” itself. “Fool” has many different synonyms: buffoon, clown, jester, joker, harlequin, ardent enthusiast, trickster, idiot, devil, “playin the ass” and more.
The meaning of many of these terms, in general, can overlap. For example in the 21st century we might define jesters as witty jokers, buffoons as thoughtless clowns, clowns as circus performers, and tricksters as persons who play the ass. This suggests a common, cross-cultural idea of what a fool is and does might be possible.
Writing in the late 1920s about his studies amongst Native American tribes the anthropologist Julian Steward agreed and provided a less-than-perfect way to get at a universal definition of a fool with his “four comic themes of universal occurrence.” These were, 1) Ridicule of the sacred, 2) Ridicule of foreigners or strangers, 3) Themes of Sex and Obscenity, and 4) Burlesque of physical or psychological harm, tragedy, illness or need.
In thinking about foolishness the first theme is most relevant. Some might think the sacred is only concerned with the sphere of religion, but the sacred covers more than that. In all cultures and societies many other things aside from religion are held to be sacred. Think power, social status, traditions, money, property, and political membership as examples.
The thing about sacredness is that anything or one societies hold in high regard can and is likely at some point to be subject to scrutiny. Most especially in demands by those without access to such sacred things or by those officially sanctioned by the society to carry out oversight roles like lawyers and journalists.
This reality has a direct link to the role of court jester from European medieval times where it was the job of the professional fool not just to entertain the court but also to be the one who reminded leaders about the hubris of power.
Of course in medieval times this was best achieved with the King laughing with you. Should the King end up the butt of the joke, and endure ridicule, the court jester was often imprisoned, exiled or worse killed.
From this it might be said the fool, and by extension foolishness itself, emerged in a political context as a check on power and also through laughter a way to relieve some of its pressures
Now no-one is saying Warner is the King of T&T but it is interesting to note that just as Kings got rid of fools whose words revealed uncomfortable truths behind their power, Warner has been accused of a similar impulse with journalists’ careers whose allegations suggest truths about his power.
Whether you’re Lasana Liburd, Peter Jennings, Asha Javeed or someone new, in the Warner world it might be said yesterday’s fool is today’s journalist. Seen in this historical and anecdotal light Warner’s experience of foolishness then becomes an interesting anthropological object.
1) “Foolishness” is a way to dismiss as folly any interests about how one achieved and maintains power; and 2) Dismissing evidence-based allegations as folly suggests ones’ own power is beyond scrutiny or discussion.
Or put another way, to be a self-identified and consistent victim of press foolishness is much like a being a King at the head of his court. You don’t need to answer to anyone because you believe yourself sacred.