Laugh of the Year
James Thurgood, Spearhead Online, January 2004
Did you feel in a side-splitting mood as you sat down to your Christmas dinner? If so, you couldn’t have done better than to have shared with me the hilarious experience of reading about Britain’s Rastafarian poet Benjamin Zephaniah and his contemptuous refusal of the OBE offered him by Britain’s political establishment.
For years, Britain’s liberal elite has drooled over Zepheniah, whose ‘poetry’ just consists of childish doggerel but whom they have elevated into a cultural icon. For the record, Zepheniah was in his early days a recidivist criminal. It all started in his young days in Handsworth, when he was sent to an approved school for 18 months for a mugging that he swears to this day he did not commit. Soon after being released, he got into trouble for stabbing another boy with a screwdriver. He then graduated to pick-pocketing and burglary, and was sent to Winson Green prison for some 50 cases of the latter offence.
Needless to say, with a background like this he commended himself even more to the Guardian-reading classes. At one time he was on the short list for the Poet Laureate, but was narrowly pipped by another scribbler.
Zepheniah’s ‘poetry’ has entranced our intellectual world. Here is an example of one of his earliest pieces to come to notice: —
De day dat
I met Lady
I tell a lie.
I had a pain in my belly
I would not fart near royalty.
In a Sunday Times article about Zepheniah on the 30th November, it was stated of him that: —
’Hailed as an exciting political poet, he stirred up controversy with work such as ‘Dis Policeman Keeps on Kicking Me to Death’: —
Some of us will fight dem, we fight dem,
some of us fight back,
informers will sleep wid you
den stab you ina yu back
dis régime is racist we know
dis régime is bent
dis régime is like a worthless penny
’He was embraced by the liberal intelligentsia and right-on broadcasters who savoured the whiff of dangerous street authenticity he brought to the studios. He has received the accolade of appearing on Desert Island Discs, Parkinson and Question Time.’
Hang on, though, Mr Zepheniah’s genius did not end there. He must have endeared himself even more to Islington with the following effort (it’s unclear whether he is preaching black racism or just taking the p…): —
I was whitemailed
By a white witch
Wid white magic
An white lies,
Branded by a white sheep
I slaved as a whitesmith
Near a white spot
Where I suffered whitewater fever
Whitelisted as a whiteleg
I waz in de white book
As master of white art,
It was like white death.
With such exalted background and achievement, not to say talent, it was just a matter of time before Zepheniah (not his real name by the way) was recommended for honours. But, horror of horrors! When told he was in the running for an OBE, he turned it down point-blank. Writing in The Guardian (where else?) he said: —
’Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought… Benjamin Zepheniah OBE — no way Mr Blair, no way Mrs Queen. I am profoundly anti-empire.’
Apparently, the liberal establishment regards this as ‘ingratitude’. To me, it is richly deserved. Fawn over them, and they just defecate on you. Couldn’t have happened to better people!