Posts from — May 2009
The Pentagon recently released a report stating that 1 in 7 Guantanamo ex-detainees are now involved in ‘terrorism’. The Pentagon offered no specific reason for this.
Perhaps I can help. When you detain someone innocent (they were released because there was no evidence) behind bars, far not only from their home but their hemisphere, treat them with high disregard, house them with other angry people, release them into places they don’t know or return them to their home where they remain suspected and harassed, or where they return to find many things changed, their families and friends uprooted or killed… then yeah, I can understand why they become recruits for al qaeda.
President Obama seems as if he has outflanked the republicans by providing a Hispanic, female nominee. The republicans who were poised to create hell irrespective of who Obama nominated are caught between a rock and a very hard place.
It would be difficult to root against a female, what with their supposed newly championing of woman power (Sarah Palin), but worse still they would face one heck of a backlash from the Hispanic community which has been slowly drifting away from the republicans.
Still, they are trying by using the so-called religious community to front for them. Should be fun.
But talking of Gauntanamo. Many people have missed the political theatre over closing the prison camps. Democrats who had once supported Obama on the issue, suddenly backpedaled and started being more repugnant than the repuglicans.
It’s the kind of theatre that makes for good tv, but it’s the kind of crap that Americans are becoming fed-up with. Americans just want the country’s business be done without the drama, the games, the hysterics.
I guarantee that the democrats played this one in a way that will make Obama look good in the end but it belittles them to even be involved.
The worse of it is to hear those who defied Obama talking about the dangers presented by housing ‘terrorists’ in American high security camps. Firstly, many so-called ‘terrorists’ are already being held in American prisons but it goes against the undisputed fact that the United States with about 5% of the world’s population, has more than 24% of the world’s total prisoners.
I guess to those behind bars, democracy sucks.
On May 8, I commented on a column written by Michael Burke in the Jamaica Observer. Apparently a reader linked the column to Burke. Below is the ensuing communication between the reader and Burke. The reader was good enough to pass this on to me. I’m afraid it’s rather lengthy, but telling as to the kind of people who continue to peddle influence in Jamaica.
I urge you to note particularly, Burke’s arrogance and his comment about Bolt’s intelligence. Also that having read my blog, he chose instead to take on the reader.
Should you have the time, I urge you to read Burke’s original column http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/html/20090422T200000-0500_149952_OBS_HONESTY_YES__STUPIDITY_NO.asp. and tell me whether you think Bolt bested him or not, and the quality of Burke’s counseling.
Reader DM: I noted this blog… http://blogs.jamaicans.com/hearirant/2009/05/08/talking-about-faith/#comments… which was the first to alert me to your column. I agree with this blogger. I don’t think you put up a very good argument with Bolt and think that you used the column after as revenge. I note that several times you have an issue with Bolt but for what I don’t know. You don’t seem to be counselling him, but chastising him.
I’m also a little disturbed by your convenient attitude to lying and can quite understand instances where a lie might be easier than the truth. But it is still a lie, and I don’t remember any biblical injunction making a separation between lies.
And I myself would ask the same question, On what other commandment do you choose as a matter of convenience?”
Bolt was not wrong to answer the question saying that he once smoked
ganja. Sooner or later if he had lied, it would have caught up with him, and then he would have been both a ganja smoker and a liar. How would you have counseled him then?
Michael Burke: You need a course in logic. I neither know how you could have deduced “revenge” or “convenient attitude to lying” form either article “honesty yes, stupidity no” (April 23 2009) or “The truth and its protection (May 7, 2009). It is either that you need such a course or your email is malicious.
Revenge? I am a Jamaican with a background in social work who has Usain’s interest at heart whether he knows it or not. I am also aware of our tourist industry which is made up in part of tourists looking for ganja and other tourist who want a drug-fee vacation in Jamaica and will cancel a trip at the slightest hint that “everyone smokes ganja” which Usain says he did not say at all and i believe him because i know how the media can exaggerate things.
As to “convenient attitude to lying”, I know that I ma far more honest than most who criticise me and perhaps more honest than you.
Incidentally most of my feed back, perhaps 95 percent, on my article son Bolt have been positive. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and I am Roman catholic, addresses concrete situations. Please google Catechism of the Catholic
Church paragraphs 2479-2492 to understand where I am coming form even if you disagree.
Lies come from Satan but a discreet answer in certain situations is not a lie. That is the Roman Catholic position, but Bolt “aint no Catholic” despite the fact that he makes the sign of the cross on the field. I have to communicate to him on his terms. I was trying in a few words, and Bolt is not too bright, to give him a crash course on using his discretion as I would only be with him a few minutes and he
was being defensive. he w1as taking away food so he was simply waiting on his food parcel to be handed to him. I had to do my best in the circumstances.
Jesus Christ did tell his disciples that they were to be as cunning as serpents though harmless as doves. And Jesus Christ did say “woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees who abide by the letter of the law and not the spirit of the
law. And he did call the Pharisees hypocrites when they criticized him for healing n the sabbath “Which of you having your donkey fall into the well on the sabbath day will not get him out? I do not know how to google references while writing an email but you can google the bible references yourself.
And for the record, I hate dishonesty. But I insist that the media had no right to know that Usain smoked ganja as a child especially when all the current tests say that he is clean. I do not have the right to know that either, but it was “In my face”. And if you write again, you should tell me what you would expect me to tell a gunman if you were in my house hiding from him and if i should tell him the “truth”. Some people can be such self righteous hypocrites!
DM: Whoa there cowboy! I guess I should have asked you not to shoot the messenger… which is exactly what you have gone ahead and done. Bredrin, I was only pointing out what someone had blogged even though I did editorialise a bit. But if you went to the site, you could easily have addressed the blogger himself.
But since you did shoot the messenger. I might need a course in logic but certainly not from you. You have shown that you are in no way, shape or form, qualified to give a course in logic, ethics, or moral values.
I didn’t ‘deduce’ revenge. I was only offering what I thought indicated by ‘I think…”. To deduce means that I came to a conclusion and I didn’t. If I did ‘deduce’, I would have clearly stated that you wrote the column as an act of revenge. I didn’t.
The reason I put forward ‘revenge’ is because it was quite clear that Bolt bested you intellectually (ouch… that must have left a scar) and you in retort went to your column.
But hey! You might very well have thought that you got the better of the exchange. That’s only your ego speaking. You didn’t.
I don’t know what your background in social work has to do with anything, and while you might think that you have Bolt’s interest at heart, your offering is so terribly bad.
I didn’t mention anything about tourism, the blogger did. Address that with him. But since you know that Usain didn’t say that, why do a column in the first place? Since the internet gives ‘tourists’ access to your column, you are abetting the dissemination of misinformation.
As to ‘far more honest..’, what a holier than thou attitude to take. You don’t know me and you can’t know how honest I am (illogical comment, perhaps). You however, have publicly put your honesty up for the test. You know nothing about me, but I know you have varying degrees of honesty.
Whether or not ‘95%’ of your feedback agrees with you or not, is irrelevant. This is not about a popularity contest. Fools often congregate. 55% of the American people voted for Bush twice. Does that mean they are smart?
What is a lie? … to say something that is not true, to give a false impression. Should Bolt have stated the truth or should he have passed on the question? And if he did the latter, wouldn’t the omission be glaring and wouldn’t the questioner come back to it?
Aaah. Here is the crux of the matter. By your words, “Bolt is not too bright…”. That says a lot about arrogance and self-importance. But it must hurt that he still bested you intellectually.
Biblical references… the refuge of the ignorant and pompous. I take it this is your justification for lying. I know many preachers who do the same, while carrying out the same sins that they exhort their parishioners not to. Hmmm. I think we have a winner here.
To me a lie whether in necessity or not is still a lie. One might have a good reason to lie, but it is still a lie. If you hooked up to lie detector, it would still record as a lie.
You hate dishonesty. Is there some self-hatred, some conflict going on inside of you? Are you say, schizophrenic, or bi-polar by chance. Which reminds me of Ferdie Mahfood of Food for the Poor. You remember him, don’t you? Another fervent catholic? Here is a link to refresh your memory … http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1141/is_44_36/ai_66888038/ Wasn’t he also against dishonesty?
As to your question… I perhaps would hope that you would lie. But that doesn’t change the fact that it would still be a lie. So let me ask you this question this we are into this type of game. If you had a choice in the same situation, wherein your ‘soul’ would be immediately condemned to eternal damnation should you lie, what would be your final answer when the gunman said, “Yes or no. Is he (me) hiding in your house?”. Would you tell him “Yes” or “No”?
Or if he said, “If you lie and I find him, both of you will die. If you tell me where he is, I will spare your life”. What would be your answer ‘Mr Extremes to prove a point?
Self-righteous and a hypocrite… guess you were looking in a mirror as you wrote that.
By the way… ‘Spelchek’, it’s a feature on your computer… familiarize yourself with it. If your English teacher read your reply, he/she would be appalled.
MB: Whether you wanted to believe it or not, I am in a position to give you a course in logic, although you might not be humble enough to admit it. However I did not say I was offering the course but now that you mention it, perhaps I should. Usain did not best me in logic, but perhaps he bested you.
God alone is my judge. I still say that I am far more honest than many of those who criticise me. And if my offering to Bolt is terribly bad, who don’t you best it by helping him? Why write the column if he did not say that every Jamaican smokes ganja, you ask. I did write that Usain needs counseling a point you seem to be skirting.
And who is being conceited if you think that you are more intelligent than the rest? True, fools often congregate. I do not know about you and you know little about me. You say I have varying degrees of honesty because i told Usain that not every lie is a sin. This reminds me of the Pharisees who complained about Jesus healing on the sabbath’ You hypocrites he said which one of you having your donkey drop in a well on the sabbath will not pick him out? My question was similar to Bolt re the hypothetical man being hidden.
A lot of what you say about me might best describe yourself.
May 27, 2009 3 Comments
Recent posturing by Israeli pm Netanyahu might appear to be an aggressive response to Barack Obama’s wish for peace in the mid-east. According to news reports, Netanyahu is signaling that he may resist Obama’s call for Palestinian statehood, and that he may authorize military strikes against Iran if the United States doesn’t act first.
In addition, there is an announcement of a go-ahead on new settlement construction in the West Bank, despite the US administration lack of support.
Hmmm. Netanyahu is regarded as a hardline rightwing neo-con and one least likely to accept peace initiatives with the Palestinians. Surely this ‘news’ will send discomfort amongst middle east watchers. But what we need to understand is that real action rarely takes place in the public arena. Both administrations most likely have already worked out a plan and the recent ‘news’ is simply for public consumption. The question is ‘which public’?
Could it be Iran, the US, or the Israeli’s? Or another.
Iran certainly won’t fear such posturing. They have already measured the dimensions of the other players and what they can do and won’t do. An Israeli or American strike against Iran is not likely. That would too much ignite a new level of turmoil in the region and in the US itself.
Is it a signal to the Palestinians? Possibly. America is short of credibility and Obama’s acting in feigned support of the Palestinian cause would do wonders for him. Is it for the American public? Possibly. Again it would work to Obama’s advantage because anti-Israel support is growing. More and more Americans are justifiably pissed at the tail wagging the dog.
There is a lot of play-acting here. The real truths are buried way beneath the surface of superficial news releases. Hmmm. I wonder what is going on?
I have been criticized when I have written that as far as foreign policy is concerned, Barack Obama is as George Bush and George Bush himself… very little separates them.
Obama’s turnaround on military tribunals and on releasing to the public more Abu Ghraib photos are just more examples him endorsing Bush policies. How then can he be expected to support any venture to indict the Bush regime for war crimes?
When apartheid fell, the Nelson Mandela-led government instituted a ‘truth and reconciliation’ commission. Though it had its shortcomings, the commission was more about accountability and closure than about retaliation. Some perpetuators of human right abuses under this most uncivil period, were even granted amnesty.
At the end of the day, the commission released the steam of hatred and bigotry and moved ahead in nation building.
Obama like those before him, are more content to try to hide the crimes of his predecessors, as if everyone doesn’t already know. To talk about releasing the photos will ‘endanger’ the troops is pure crap. No one is going to say, “I’m going to join al qaeda because of American-led prisoner abuse photos”. Too many photos are already out there, the crimes and lack of punishment are already out there, other abuses are already out there.
Obama is protecting the fragile American psyche, which would like to have a war without deaths, kill people without any sign of bloodshed. People who want success without having their hands or consciences sullied. Do it in our name but don’t let us know about it.
And oh yes, he is protecting his new mentors, George Bush and Dick Cheney. Releasing those photos would reignite debates on war crime trials. And Obama doesn’t want that.
Have you ever been on a plane which hit an airpocket and dropped like what seemed seems to be a hundred miles? Your head stays up there but your stomach is nowhere to be seen. That’s how I felt when I learned that many co-pilots of passenger airplanes earn as little as $16,000. year.
I don’t want to dwell on the relative worth of salaries but I would feel better if my pilot was paid better than the dude who cut lumber at Home Depot. After all, how likely am I likely to die of an operator error at Home Depot?
The issues of low salaries and long hours were brought to the fore during the enquiry regarding the Continental plane crash in Buffalo earlier this year, killing 49 people (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/nyregion/17pilot.html?em). At this moment, pilot error has been determined to be the reason for the Buffalo crash.
Though the flight was a Continental commute, the flight was apparently subcontracted to a Coglan Air (anyone familiar with that name? No? Me neither). It appears that it’s not unusual for larger airlines to subcontract regional flights to small companies where standards are not as high.
Some years ago, I took an Air Jamaica plane that was to have stopped over in Barbados then on to St Lucia. Instead we were transferred to a small commuter late at night. Believe me when I tell you I thought that I was gonna die that night.
And while in the Windies, I believe the West Indies Cricket Board continues on an abysmal path for WI cricket. After recently beating England in the West Indies for the Wisden Trophy, the Indies immediately went to England to lose the trophy a few weeks later.
The loss is not the issue. In the England series, the WI was filling in for the Zimbabweans who were banned last year from playing cricket in England. The problem is that the Board never foresaw that they could have won the local series (which they did) and as such put the trophy up for grabs even before a little dust could gather on it in our trophy case.
As it turned out, the team was ill-prepared for England and are being trounced as I write.
Jamaica has been in preliminary talks with the IMF. Hmm. What to make of that? Well sometime ago, in this forum, I wrote that the IMF, World Bank and other international lending agencies have finally come to realize the raw deal that they gave countries like Jamaica over the years, including deregulation, liberalisation and globalisation strategies of the 80’s and onward.
So according to a Jamaican finance spokesmen, these agencies would not likely take the same hardline, nonsensical approach. Of which I agree. However here is the thing… and thing. These agencies should be re-imbursing us instead of giving new loans. And secondly, the IMF still works on behalf of the larger countries and even if they ‘ease up’, the loan conditions are never gonna favour us.
To paraphrase Malcolm X, it would be like stabbing us in the back and then taking the knife half-way out.
The other day I bucked up this video on Facebook and Youtube. Watch it to the end. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Phe3_EfYRJU The only question is why didn’t we do it. As much as I love the original setting, I am a little tired of the same ol’ renditions of Jamaica Folk songs and think that many should be brought into this century. After all, the youth will more likely accept our folk songs if it is more relevant to them.
By the way, ‘it mek mi proud yuh si, fi kno seh Miss Lou sang-dem so widely ‘preciated abroad’.
And from high culture to the vulture. When in Jamaica a few weeks back, I bucked up on a set of 21 ads in one of the larger newspapers, promoting ‘adult services’, some even offereing specials. Names like X-quisit, Classique, Tempted, Hot and Sexy massage services, Candy Cane more or less promised massages and escort services, but surely meant more.
The hot luscious looking ‘semi-nude ‘babes’ suggested even more than massages. I doubt if most of these ‘ladies’ ever went to massage schools.
The point is that Jamaica is heading in a direction that I cannot like. As the economy plunges downward, our women and eventually our young men, will be exploited in the sex trade.
One ad offered a Hot and Spicey mature woman who does ‘private service and massage’… both for the grand price of J$1,500.00.
Next time I will look at how minorities were targeted for sub-prime loans.
May 18, 2009 1 Comment
I really don’t want to s spend too much time on Jamaica’s budget but I note that in prime minister Golding’s presentation, he is supposed to be putting emphasis on the youth, initiating a programme called Youth Entrepreneurship Programme (YEP), aimed at helping high school leavers get employed. More like setting them up for business, and a fall.
Basically the programme is to provide small business loans for youths. I sense only a small minority will be able to take up this micro-credit. I’m not aware of any extensive educational process that will allow the HIGH school leaving youth to jump straight into managing a business. Without such a process, most businesses are bound to fail. Budgeted… $250m.
I prefer that the money and energy be put into a revived National Youth Service. Sure it has been tried and failed, but the failure is based on the limited thinking of the implementers.
Under the PNP in the ‘70s, the programme was highly politicized but its eventual failure came from the fact that the emphasis was on soft-hand jobs (no pun intended), like clerical duties. There was also a bit of class warfare going on with uptown parents adamant that their ‘sweet little things’ should not be put to work below Half Way Tree.
But the NYS did help many youth, who eventually ended up making a career where they were placed. Barry Gordon of radio was one, and I was another. My first dip into communications media was via the youth service… so you have that to blame.
The NYS was a brief respite between leaving school and being forced to swim with the sharks in the job market. Even in those days, many of us were aimless and confused… so it prepared us for the future… a waystation so to speak.
The NYS also provided a little subsistence, taking some of the burden from parents, and also allowing the youth to understand concepts of self-sufficiency.
The problem I had with that period and all subsequent similar programmes, is that there was little or no emphasis on nation building. That is, it was useful and nice for the youth to help clear up the clerical backlog in government offices, but that only shaped many of us into pencil pushers.
Yet the needs of the country then and now, remains the much maligned (in our society as in the US) physical labour. We then as now, should be building houses for the indigent, cleaning up territory after hurricanes and fires, gully cleaning, beach cleaning, painting of house and buildings, demolishing burnt-out and abandoned buildings, army training, mechanics, river training. Hard physical labour in the hot sun, something that builds character, make us appreciate hard work.
Now all our youth wants is something soft, where they won’t sweat or get their nikes dirty, and where they can talk on their cellphones forever. We have lost the appreciation for community and country, turning instead into selfish, self-centred little brats. Our youth have no centre, no purpose, no focus.
The Golding YEP won’t help the central problems of inactivity, unemployment and idleness. The youth don’t want to work, you say. That’s because of how we are bringing them up, with a mixed up set of priorities.
“I have faith in the young people of this country. I believe that if we invest that faith in them, they will pay big dividends; they will not let us down”, the prime minister said.
If you really had faith, sir, you would not be feeding them illusions.
Jamaicans frequently describe their fellow citizens as those with a ‘crab inna barrel’ mentality. In other words, our tendency to pull down those who are progressing. A prime example of this is Jamaica Observer’s columnist Michael Burke’s attack on Usain Bolt in his column on April 23 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/html/20090422T200000-0500_149952_OBS_HONESTY_YES__STUPIDITY_NO.asp.
The column’s headline is Burke’s response to Bolt having admitted in an interview abroad that as a youth, he had smoked ganja. That’s the honesty part. This honesty according to Burke, was stupid.
Let me first put in context that Usain Bolt has done far more for Jamaica than Michael Burke has ever done or likely to do, given most measurements. And while I respect Burke’s opinion, it points out that he is both arrogant and dishonest.
Burke relates a chat he had with Bolt after the interview, when he introduced himself to Bolt and where Bolt was gracious enough to listen and reply to a man who not only instructed him to lie, but who would shortly publicly question his intelligence.
Burke starts out his inquisition of Bolt by asking him if he listens to anyone apart from his coach. When asked why, Burke said he had assessed Bolt from tv as someone who doesn’t listen. Bolt’s brilliant answer was how can anyone make that assessment based on watching tv?
Burke’s weak retort was that he was ‘in the church’ and had the holy spirit’s gift of discernment. Riiiiiight. Clearly round one goes to Bolt.
This was followed by Burke asking if Bolt was ever counseled how to deal with the media. Bolt told Burke that he has merely spoke the truth and asked if Burke (a man of the church by his own admittance) expected him to lie.
“MB: It is not every lie that is a sin.
Usain: (Laughing) It’s the first I am hearing that.
MB: Jesus Christ did not ask us to be stupid.
Usain: So are you saying I am stupid then?”
At this pace, Burke is certainly getting an intellectual beatdown. Round two to Bolt.
Burke tried to explain the importance of tourism to Bolt, with Bolt countering that he had had done loads of work for the JTB. Round 3, Bolt.
Just those excerpts, written by Burke, tells me that Bolt is not an idiot. But losing the debate caused Burke to take his revenge in the newspaper, his bully pulpit, where he quotes the catholic church that lying is not always sinful.
Burke then decides to make this atrocious statement, “Usain Bolt is obviously influenced by the strong Protestant tradition in Jamaica that inflexibly declares sin to be sin, regardless of the circumstances… With a mindset like that, Usain Bolt is like a loose cannon in international diplomacy which means that he could misspeak again.”.
Now, I have no problem when there is internecine warfare in the church. I wish they would go at it more and eventually exterminate themselves. But as is usual, the religious right have no problem with collateral damage, in this case Usain Bolt.
Now I have many obvious problems with Burke’s reasoning throughout, mainly his convenient approach to the breaking of one of the commandments, “Thou shalt not bear false witness”. Which other commandment does he also choose to be flexible with? When for example, is adultery not adultery? What about theft, murder, idolatry? What are those grey areas?
Burke is someone I call ‘a menu christian’… someone who picks and chooses according to current taste. Apparently he believes that he can interpret laws according to his convenience.
What message is Burke sending to children and young adults? What are his boundaries for lying and other ‘near’ sins? Who decides on flexible sins? Since when is truth bad? Does Bolt ore anyone have a moral obligation not to be truthful?
Prime minister Golding said on BBC that he won’t have any battyman in his Cabinet. Did Burke write a column titled “Honesty yes, Stupidity No”? After all, that comment did trigger an attempted gay boycott of Jamaica’s tourism product. Did Burke chastise the pm for his protestant inflexibility?
Burke doesn’t realize that the association of Jamaica with ganja is very well known and isn’t going to go away. This reputation hasn’t really damaged Jamaica, particularly when the main source of our tourist dollars love the local weed.
There is a great difference between what Bolt said, and the guy on the street harassing every ‘touris’ to buy some weed.
Burke seems to forget that the current president of the United States admitted not only to weed, but to cocaine. A former president admitted to some weed use, though he didn’t ‘inhale’, and a third admitted to ‘lusting in his heart’. All before they were elected. And the country survived, only to be made worse by the religious bigoted and the ex-drunk christian.
I have never met anyone who says they won’t come to Jamaica because of ganja.
Jamaica’s tourism will survive Bolt’s admission, it might even start a new regime for early childhood athletes. Ok, that’s just a bit of levity.
But there is nothing joking about Burke’s condescending and hypocritical attack on Usain Bolt. Jamaica’s problems doesn’t lie with the likes of Usain Bolt, but with the Michael Burkes.
I doubt if Bolt expects an apology… Burke couldn’t catch up to him, mentally or morally.
Barack Obama is scheduled to address Notre Dame commencement class on May 17, but his invitation to this so-called prestigious catholic school is causing a flap, based supposedly on Obama’s pro-choice stance on abortion.
Reading many of the blogs, postings and newspaper articles, I wasn’t in the least bit amazed at the level of bigotry outputted on behalf of the catholic nation. Many speakers say that Obama’s position is incompatible with catholicism, which might be true. But how does their position mesh with the pope’s congratulation when Obama was elected president?
I mean, as head of the catholic church, the pope’s example should be followed. Isn’t he the elect of god? Or is the pope… aaah, flexible, Mr Burke?
What hypocrisy by some of those from the school. I’m sure if the star quarterback knocked-up some cheerleader and they decided on an abortion, it would be hush-hush as long as the tv revenues are rolling in. I wonder, do they quiz the footballers for catholic eligibility? Or is this the kind of flexibility that Michael Burke says the catholic faith teaches.
Regarding Obama’s right to speak, there doesn’t seem to be much flexibility at all.
By the way, where in the hell is Notre Dame?
May 8, 2009 2 Comments
In the 1970’s, Ernie Smith did a song called ‘Jah Kingdom goes to waste’. Visiting Jamaica recently, I can’t help but recall the hauntingly familiar song.
I was there during the beginning of the budget presentation and wondered what bizarre world some people were living in. As I form this blog, protests had taken place over the gas cess. But let me take a step back.
I arrived in Jamaica the weekend before finance minister Audley Shaw did his presentation, on the weekend of ‘carnival/bacchanal’, and as usual whenever I go to my island home, I try to assess the pulse of the nation. I was only there for 10 days and didn’t go many places. So admittedly, this isn’t scientific and is just my personal observations, honed by years of experience as a social eyewitness of my country.
The first thing I felt, perhaps even before landing, is that there were now stricter racial and class lines of demarcation at play in the society. I felt there was a widening gap between rich and poor, and that ‘white was again, the new black’. Read into that what you wish.
The one thing that struck me almost immediately was that many Jamaicans, the black ones mainly, were far less complaining… as if they were resigned to their fate, deciding every day that whatever happened, they would make the most of their situation. This bothers me because I felt that there is a volcanic frustration welling up.
Interestingly, the complainers were often those who were ‘privileged’ by benefit of class and race. They were the ones it appeared, eager to flee the island, venting against the backwardness of this ‘third world country’ (a designation I absolutely abhor).
It appeared to me, that every time Jamaica dropped a notch, they took the rise in price of every little bauble as a personal affront, while the poor were being forced that much closer to extermination.
I noticed the tremendous rise in electronic gates and house alarms. The fear of crime I suppose, has to enrich someone.
I also noticed that every man is a hustler, a vendor, a dvd or cd seller (pirated music and movies), a guide (Ocho Rios), a taxi-man, a bus/taxi- loader, higgler of cheap foreign goods, crown and anchor man. I figured that it was the underground economy that was keeping the country afloat while at the top end, Digicel and Cable and Wireless (now Lime) are the current reigning corporate giants. Well, let’s not leave out NCB and Scotia, but it was the first 2 whose presence are felt everywhere. It’s not unusual to hear a cell phone conversation punctuated with the reference to ‘minutes running out’… life hanging by the thin threads of telephone credits.
It is woeful that the top corporations in Jamaica are not producers of tangible goods, but services, most are not net foreign exchange earners but net consumers. We have become a nation of shopkeepers to quote Margaret Thatcher.
The deterioration of the roads have really exploded since I was last there. Fern Fully and road into Ocho Rios from Kingston, should be a call for criminal negligence.
Downtown Kingston has gotten shabbier. The burnt-out buildings that I last saw in 2001 are still standing, seeming everlasting monuments to Kingston’s inability to throw off its mental poverty. Gutters in side streets were still reservoirs for garbage, creating a dark, stagnant, primordial soup suited to creating new but frightening life forms.
The old post office downtown was home to masses of indigent… apparently the replacement for Bellevue. Fresh paint was a scarce commodity with shopkeepers knowing that how the place looked didn’t affect people coming inside or not. You went there because you had to.
Cross Roads was much the same and Half Way Tree and New Kingston have taken on the decaying tone of downtown. What was in decay then remained so now or deteriorated even further. Buildings were shuttered, padlocked, abandoned with little hope of seeing better times. What development I saw was not an improvement. It was like development with destruction.
All three areas have lost their character, looking now as if town planning was never a concept. Jamaicans would say’ chaka, chaka’. It is felt worse in New Kingston, which had a pristine and modern look to being the financial center. Now it just looked like a design nightmare. Vendors and all the previously mentioned occupations were in full flow.
But in this bleak and gloomy overview, the sense of the people’s will to accept their plight and survive was both sad and affirming. Sad, because the fight has apparently been drained out of a once proud people and I couldn’t help but wonder how much more insane leadership they can take. Affirming, because it illustrates their underlying strength and resourcefulness… something the civic leaders all praise but fail to take into consideration in their economic planning.
The core of the Golding-led budget was the imposition of a J$8.75 cess per litre on petrol. It was frightening to hear a tv economist describe the budget as ‘great’, and others as the most ‘equitable’ way of sharing the burden.
But the budget is far from equitable. The rich will only make minimal changes to their standard of living mainly because they will pass on the burden to their workers and customers. The poorer class will always bare the larger burden because they have limited flexibility.
The cess on petrol is going to drive everything skywards as transportation of goods and service will be affected. Thus food stuff, like every other goods whether imported or not will rise, and it is the underclass that will be further marginalized. When fuel goes up as it most certainly will, then the ‘sufferation’ of the Jamaican people will increase exponentially.
Worse still, the government has seen fit to add GCT to items previously spared, including salt, noodle soup, syrup, most books and computers. The first 3 items are used extensively by the poor, and it is incomprehensible that it is going to cost Jamaicans more to read and learn, which is exactly what will happen by increasing the cost of books and computers.
Though the government has taken some of the burden from PAYE taxpayers, those gains will be more than completely eroded. And while there is a minimum wage increase, this won’t affect the thousands of people in the underground economy who really have no jobs to speak of, but little ‘hustlings’.
Those who could enjoy the benefit of a minimum wage increase might have to trade-in that for the ability to keep a job.
In speaking with many people, I got the impression that the upper echelons of the Jamaican society were greatly in favor of Bruce Golding, while dissatisfaction with him and his administration’s performance resonated loudly amongst black people.
The budget so far seems to underscore which side Golding is set to satisfy.
The budget in my mind, failed to address many issues including how the certain rise in unemployment will be addressed.
The problem is that the continued devaluation of the Jdollar will not make things any better as the so-called theory that it will ‘make our goods cheaper’ has long been disproved as an economic myth. The dollar devalued some 20% last year, mostly between December and March.
With some 60% of the island’s revenue going back into paying debts, it’s hard to see how this budget will set Jamaica on a path to economic recovery. It is fair to say that this administration, like all previous administrations, is trying the same old failed policies, offering the same weakened medication while the sick patient is getting sicker.
Usain Bolt became the topic of conversation recently for more than one reason. One was the car crash, where thankfully, it doesn’t appear that he was too badly hurt. But previous to that, it appears that his admission in an overseas to having smoked ganja as a youth, set off some furor and had some people questioning his intelligence.
For my next blog, I will address the that issue, by examining a noted columnist who criticized Bolt.
May 2, 2009 2 Comments