Month: June 2017

Break the chains of classism and racism in our minds

Jamaica has a lovely motto ‘out of many one people’ which implies that despite our racial differences we have come together in a large melting pot creating the Jamaican culture. This mixed culture provided us with many things such as food, music and dance but this in many ways hid the outright racism that was inflicted on people not white at the time. Jamaica in many ways has gone past our early post-colonial state, we see where black and white persons are married and have children. So by all accounts Jamaica should be a perfect paradise where everyone is in one with nature.

Unfortunately that is not the case, for while outright  racism is less than before (though persons still harbour the racist thoughts) we see where classism has taken root deep in the heart of society. Classism interspersed with some good old fashioned racism is now the new norm in Jamaica, we have become a nation so blinded by the race to get at the top of the class (pun intended) that we treat our workers and those in the lower class like chattel.

We can see the racism cum classism in how we dress and carry ourselves. Persons are constantly bombarded with images of “true beauty’and images that the majority of the viewers cant hope to attain. We then cuss these same persons in the lower class when they aim to be like their ‘social superiors’ and purchase the weave and fancy outfits, all while praising the rich for using (more expensive) weaves and wearing outfits whose cost would make those who we chastise blush with embarrassment. How can we chastise persons who only wish to emulate those who appear in the social pages of the local papers who just happen to be of a fairer skin complexion?

we see the classism again raising its head when it comes to domestic workers (helpers). Very often helpers are treated like lepers, forced to shy away from people if company, forced to uses the ‘wuttless’ utensils and given only the worst handmedowns. This is just another form of classism that has taken a deep root in our society. We hear horror stories of helpers being abused and molested and no one believes them simply because the alleged is a society big wig while the helper is viewed as a nobody.

The classism is rife in this nation, it is so rife in the nation that we don’t realize that that s the way the society operates. It can be found to be most prevalent in our language and how we speak to each other. The local dialect (patois) is shunned and relegated to that of second-class status, even though there is a vast swath of persons who only speak patios. That in my opinion is where the classism meets our subconscious  racism. The vast majority that speak patois are black (hardly a coincidence, and they are relegated to the status of higgglers and handymen while those who speak the queens English cam be found to inhabit the upper  echelons of society and are of a light complexion.

The specter of classism also rears its ugly head when it comes to education. We see this with the tuition free education that  is now the law of the land. Now as decent, noble  as this, this will only help widen the divide between the haves and have-nots. The have nots will be left to wander the school system while the school crumbles around them because the increased  government is still not enough to fulfill the needs of the school and parents have been led to believe that they don’t need to partake financially in the school and curriculum development. All while those who attend the traditional high-schools will go on to greater things as the child in the traditional school will have access to not only government aid but also a healthy alumni cache that will only lead to them (the schools) being even more successful in terms of academia (the one thing that is truly the great equalizer .

The insidious classism rises up and shows itself even when it comes to health and healthcare. One only needs to look at the ‘free medical service’ that is on offer in this country. While those who are at the top of society can afford the care that is offered at UHWI, that is normally as far as they would go to being in a public hospital. While the monied class aims to stay away from places like KPH and Jubilee, places that would have them interact with their ‘lower class’brethren even though KPH has one of the best trauma wards in this hemisphere.

The legal system finally is the most raw and open wound of classism in this nation. The class divide in the legal system is so abhorrent that one cant believe that we wish to rise up as a nation out of the mire. In this legal system we see kids being dragged off to jail over some petty crime while the child who has the silver spoon in their mouths will never be accosted by the security forces. The police (who are the vanguard of the upper class) constantly arrest the poor for some trivial matter like a spliff or over two ounces of weed and as seen in the Mario Dean case where the mentally impaired man was left with violent criminals and subsequently died. The short fact is that the class you were born into really decides who succeeds and who does not when we look at the Jamaica case. The rich can go gun-toting as seen at the recent carnival and yet they are still allowed to go on living an uninterrupted life while those on the lower end of the social scale are forced to look over their shoulders as society has a target on their back.

Classism in Jamaica can become a thing of the past, however it will require some hard work. Let us hope that we break the chains of classism and instead embrace our rich culture and start living up to what our national motto says because the only way that this country will get better is if we all acknowledge that in spite of our racial and class differences we are out of many one people.

And it’s Germany at the death

The world is a funny old place, one hundred years ago a war was fought primarily in Western Europe to stop an imperial upstart (Germany) from becoming too powerful in Europe. Some seventy odd years ago yet another war was fought (in almost exactly the same places) to stop the resurgent Germany from being the sole power in the European hemisphere. Much blood was shed in order to stop German hegemony in Europe and many a leader were secretly happy that the once powerful Germany had been split, made a useless rump, but things and times change.

Germany as things stand IS the dominant force in Western Europe and has been, this fact was hammered home when yet again right after an election the French president immediately went to Berlin to pay homage to the German president. During this trip they discussed a strengthening of the economic union, something the Bundesbank has long championed as it would mean cementing Frankfurt as the economic heart of Europe. The fact that Germany is the sole power in Western Europe was also made evident when the UK, the only other nation comparable to Germany chose to go it alone and abandon the continent, thus leaving the continents western hemisphere to the mercies of Germany.

Why should one be worried or even take interest in the fact that Germany is turning the European Union into its own personal play thing where it alone is the dominant player and everyone else must tow the line, and is this even happening? Well one can take Greece and its ongoing economic crisis for a bit of evidence of this. Now let us ignore that fact that everyone knew that the debt was un-payable and that a haircut was needed, and let us discount the fact that the economy was burning and they wanted them to cut more social services to service the un-serviceable debt. The Greek people were given an option by their government, a simple yes or no to yet another u-payable bailout. They chose no and instead of honoring that the Troika led by Germany held the Greek banks to hostage and demanded that the Greek government ignore the express wishes of the people as reflected in the referendum.

We are also seeing Germany, the most populous (and strongest in terms of arms manufacturing) actively pushing for the formation of a European army to take the place of NATO. The Germans have long wished for a European army as they know that realistically only two nations would dominate it (Germany and France), and in reality only one because the other EU ‘superpower’ is quickly becoming a basket case. This European army thus will be led by the Germans, and just as EU foreign policy is dictated from Berlin, so to Paris.

However they (the Germans) will not be in such a strong position as it is now. The central and eastern members of this union will not and are not taking this situation laying down. Nations like Hungary and Poland  are quickly becoming upset with the mutterings from Berlin and and Brussels and have united because of a sense of culture disappearing. The central and eastern nations also will not stand idly by as the EU becomes more like a session of the German Bundestag. These nations, barely off the leash that was soviet oppression will not being talked down to lightly, this could lead to the breakup of the EU as we know it and in its place we would be left with two continental powers sharing a border.

The EU as is is dead, it has little to no authority over the member states who continually ride roughshod through the ‘sanctions’. Germany is in a precarious position and it is one that they certainly entertain as serious.. They are being asked to be the king maker of the EU and this could spell badly for the rest of Europe. Will Germany with its new found leadership role play the part of good cop, or will they isolate the issue and badger on and on until fixed.

The world must surely be awake now, but as the years go by Germany accrues more power and that should give everyone pause for thought. These actions are the type of things that lead to the death and of whatever the Germans have done. Still the captain said ‘you can do it or get out’ and i fear that most of us will get out rather than doing the labour, I hope i’m wrong but as things stand the world is looking a bit darker than before

Stand with Venezuela or be torn apart alone

Venezuela is in flames, with almost daily protests both for and against the government, severe food shortages and an economy in free fall we see a once proud and strong nation now on its knees. We see where a democratically elected president is being called a dictator (with one year in office left) and we see where both sides are getting rather testy and irritated with the apparent status quo that has emerged (with the failing and the government at a deadlock), we also see where the OAS has roundly condemned the Venezuelan government for their ‘excesses’ against the protesters and demand that president Maduro be removed. To some it may seem like an internal matter that should be left alone to the Venezuelans, while others believe that Maduro should go and that he is nothing short of a dictator as the OAS head likes to say, that however would spell doom for the rest of the region and the Caribbean in particular.

What we are seeing play out in Venezuela is not a new phenomenon, we have seen this drama played out in Latin America and the Caribbean before. One only needs to look at Chile in the 70’s to see the parallels between then and now. Then as now we had a socialist leader (democratically elected) who was intent on nationalizing key industries and spreading the nations wealth in a more equitable way. Then as now we see where the vested interests in those nations protest, then as now we see the influence of that insidious group USAID as it feed/s the opposition parties. Then as now we see where the same USAID holds workshops with the opposition on how best to attack the government and then as now we see where that same USAID has close links to the opposition protesters on the streets.

It can’t be stressed enough that what we are seeing in Venezuela now is an attempted coup. We are witnessing the opposition in that country at its highest ebb in years trying to roll back the hard won changes and social reforms that were won during the Bolivarin revolution. Now that president Maduro is not Chavez is obvious, he lacks the charm of Chavez and tends to be more blunt in his pronouncements, but a dictator he is not. How many dictators are democratically elected, with the eyes of the world on your nations elections which were called free and fair? How many dictators when faced with an obvious external push to oust them along with concerted violent opposition protest in the streets would tell the forces to use as little force as possible? How many dictators would use the constitution to call a peoples assembly to write a new constitution to put an end to the political impasse that the nation faces? These are not the actions of a dictator, but since we take our orders from Washington we are coming down hard on the rough around the edges Maduro, the man who just looks like a tele-novella villain, but we must get over looks and get to the substance.

The US has been looking to kill before birth the idea of a united Latin America and key to this has always been the downfall of socialists Venezuela, the nation that has been the beacon of social justice and a vocal proponent of integration in the region. Looking about Latin America one cant help but being  depressed as one sees progressive governments fall to the wayside of US interest. But take heart for while the left-wing may be under threat (as seen in Venezuela) many persons are beginning to wake up and realize that this system is not for us and that we cant go it alone. Love him or loathe him, Maduro is the democratically elected president and if they (the people who dislike his policies) and we especially in the Caribbean must stand firm and together with Venezuela as it goes through a tumultuous time.

Sometimes the hair is necessary

 

Recently more and more people are becoming ‘concerned’ about the poor and how they live. Those who reside in upper St. Andrew sit around their dining tables while preaching and pontificating that those dastardly poor refuse to spend wisely and that is why they are in the predicament that they are in. In short according to those in their ivory towers it is a simple matter of prioritizing and those in the lower classes just can’t seem to get that they say. Things get even more degrading and sexist when you have statements like the one said by the reverend last year who lambasted some women for putting ‘$5000  hair on a $5 head’, now that statement is both repugnant and totally missing two key facts.

The first fact that is seldom spoken aloud in Jamaica anymore is that of beauty and what beauty looks like. We in Jamaica have a very eurocentric way of viewing beauty, a legacy that slavery has left for us. One must ask oneself how often have you heard people commenting on ‘nappy’ hair or ‘bad’ hair? the simple fact of the matter is that in Jamaica beauty is defined in a European context, is it any wonder then why these women wear those weaves> they are doing it conform to our national beauty standard which states that anything negro is bad while the negro must try and elevate themselves to that status of the ‘browning’

Women all throughout this nation put costly weaves in their hair, when UPT does it no one says a negative thing and the ladies are praised as paragons of beauty. However when a poor person does it then we all kick up a stink and then they are called names on top of it, thus  we see the subtle classism and racism that is entrenched in the Jamaican society and psyche.

Then we come to the main debating point, priorities and how they are listed, or economics if you will. Now many persons who see a poor woman in expensive clothes, weave etc believe that they have blown their money on these fancy trappings, but again I think they are missing something crucial and that is the economics. Yes many women (rich and poor) have no business being parents, and yes many a woman goes to a dance leaving the children at home alone.

The sad reality is that a lot of these women dress up and go dance in order to support their kids in any way possible. And while it may sound disgusting, but that is what is being done a lot of times at these dances. And if i may put it so bluntly, the woman in the ghetto with the ‘nice’ hair is far more likely to get a man unlike her natural haired sisters. The sad fact is that rather than have a debate on the issue and see why these mothers put themselves in harms way and feel like they have no way out, however they do and their kids do too which is why so many persons both rich and poor wear these things.

In conclusion, while many mothers are bums (uptown and downtown) it is clear to see that some form of change is happening, but it must be done at a faster pace. We are the nation that birthed Garvey and yet to this day we have persons bleaching their face and other things that are only done when it is sacrifice. We must ensure that we are proud of our, where we came from or how we got here, It will be a long slog but in the end we as a nation need to do this

American liberals, be careful what you wish for

That Donald Trump is an ignoramus is nothing new, and that he is a total embarrassment to all who wish to lead and enter politics is also not news. Donald Trump represents all that is wrong with politics, sheer opportunism, willing to say anything to get power, willing to lie and maintain the lie to retain power and he holds grudges. All in all he is a horrid piece of work, and it is totally understandable why the American liberal class wants him out. But i fear that in all of this rush to have the Donald ousted from office the American liberal class has missed a few crucial things that could well mean a long and gloomy night for the liberal class.

Donald Trump is an opportunist yes, but that is his only saving grace. That’s right, that vile opportunism that he used to stir up the hornets nest of white rage is the one thing that separates him from the rest of the Republican party. Trump has no core political ideology, his m.o is to do and say anything to remain relevant, in the conversation and more importantly (to him anyway) popular. That is why his message and platform (if we can call it that) was so scattershot, less taxes but more investment, repeal OBAMACARE while providing a better healthcare system for all, these are but a few examples of a man who has no ideology and will say anything to remain in power, for want of a better word he is a rube. A rube with his finger on the button of nuclear annihilation, but a rube none the less and one that should be opposed but not feared.

But that hasn’t stopped American liberals from hollering that Trump will drag America back into the bad ol’ days (the rest of the world wants to know just when were the good ol’ days as we didn’t feel it) and as such doing everything in their power to ensure that if he is given a rough time and possibly make him a one term president. But that is not what they really want, they want him out of office now and as seen with the Comey hearings and ‘Russia-gate’ they will stop at nothing, even if it means empowering the far-right.

The man set to succeed Mr. Trump should he be impeached and convicted is VP Mike Pence. Now while Mr Trump has no ideology and is only beholden to whatever will make him popular, Mr Pence is a true believer and that alone should give American liberals pause for thought as they continue to rail against Trump.

While Trump really doesn’t care if you are gay or straight (he just wants your money and your adulation) Pence really cares and if made president would look to immediately roll back the hard won rights that the gay community has won. Mr Trump while on the campaign trail stated that he was not opposed to socialized health care (yet more evidence of him willing to say and do anything to get power and his lack of ideology) and while we may not believe that he may ever look to have any meaningful healthcare law passed (unless it is supremely beneficial to him), do we really believe that a president Pence would even entertain those thoughts in his wildest nightmares?

Mike Pence is a true believer in Republican politics and that should terrify anyone who is looking to have Trump replaced. Pence is a firm pro-lifer and (unlike Trump) would be looking to roll back the tide on Roe v. Wade and advances made in women’s reproductive rights. His tenure as Governor of Indiana should also give the homosexual community some pause for thought as, lest we forget, he signed into law the draconian Religious Freedom Restoration Act that sought to give cover to bigots who didn’t want to server openly gay persons. Mr Pence is also a huge proponent of privatizing Social Security (something Mr Trump also wishes to do), but unlike Trump a President Pence would be able to muster up the votes in both houses to pass that bill as he is as establishment as one comes

Mr Trump is an idiot and the furthest thing from perfect, but to kick him out without being aware of what and who will take his place is utter madness. The Republican party are looking desperately for a way to rid themselves of Trump and have a true believer in office and the Democratic party are playing willing accomplices as they fight against the Donald.

The Democratic party is also missing yet another key point, and one that could cost them dearly if they do not wise up and change. Yes Trump is an idiot and the populace on a whole dislikes him, but that does not automatically equate to a Democratic win as seen in the recent election. The 2016 Presidential election should be an eye opener to the Democratic party, they thought that they could win by simply not being Trump and by constantly reminding people that they were not Trump. Needless to say that they lost, because while they were not Trump they had no ideas, they had no agenda and they had no message, and whatever one thinks of Mr Trump, he has a message (garbled, nonsensical and doomed to being stillborn but a message none the less) and the people wanted new and innovative ideas.

The solution to this conundrum is simple, though it is not as sexy as what the liberal class in America are doing now. The Democratic party must find its roots and go back to the left wing and embrace the downtrodden as they once did. A big reason as to why the Democratic party lost in 2016 is that they are (rightfully) viewed as Republican lite. While the two parties differ majorly when it comes to social issues (or the culture wars if you will), they are exactly the same when it comes to the economy and foreign policy, two areas that directly affect the American public. Both parties agree on the neo-liberal experiment that has led to America hemorrhaging jobs at a shocking pace and both parties are in lock step when it comes to foreign policy as seen in Obama continuing (and expanding) Bush’s wars and Trump busily picking up where Obama left off in the wholesale slaughter of Yemen.

The Democratic party must change if it is to regain power in any meaningful way (see them also getting decimated at the state level) as they will never see prolonged success as the Republican lite party. They must aim to get big money out of politics and look to make that society a more equitable one where ones lot in life isn’t decided by who your parents are but instead by how hard you work. They must in short return to the party that they were before they were co-opted by Bill Clinton and his ilk because, as seen by the UK election, people are tired of austerity and tired of living in constant fear of the future and if given the chance will elect someone who has a ‘progressive’ social and economic agenda.

But beware for if you as a party continue down the same path that you are on now of fighting the ‘progressive’ candidates while propping up the establishment Democrats then you guys can kiss any chance of the White House goodbye. Yes the populace hates Trump by and large, but they also deeply despise the business as usual politics and politicians which is why they were willing to give Donald Trump a chance. Make the change, fight Trump where he needs to be fought and aim to have the public petition him constantly (for he is a man who loathes to be unpopular and unloved) and ensure that you have a real left wing candidate to run in 2020, if not you may as well hand they keys of the White House over to the Republicans as they will dominate for the foreseeable future.

A letter to Dr. Phillilips

Mr Phillips, congratulations on your becoming president of the PNP. This i know has been your ambition for quite a while and it is always good to see a person get something that they have so long craved so again kudos. In many ways the presidency of the party couldn’t have been delivered to a better person. You are known as a hard worker, someone not afraid to make tough policy decisions and whose name has never been called in any corruption or pork barrel allegations (something that is a rarity in Jamaican politics). However that alone will not be enough to propel you to the heights of Vale Royal, in fact the hard work has only just begun.

The Jamaican people have been taken for a ride and we know it all too well. Even if we gloss over the ideological war of the 70’s aside (no country could function properly in those conditions) we have been poorly run for the past twenty nine years, twenty three of which your party the PNP was in almost unchecked power. And while it is true that you as party president have apologised for the part that your party has played in reducing our  drainage system to that of a joke a more serious effort is needed if you or party wish to see long term power as you enjoyed in the 90’s.

Firstly an actual mea culpa over the FINSAC debacle is needed. Yes there were circumstances beyond your control (people borrowing money that they had no hope of repaying for example), but the handling of the situation was atrocious and made what should have been a slightly painful set of circumstances become a full blown catastrophe. Those who lost families, those who lost a living, those made homeless and left to wonder the street and the nation that went through a decade of anemic growth as a direct result deserve nothing less.

Land reform is something that has been bandied about by both sides, but mainly the (so called) socialist PNP since their inception,  yet still we live in a nation where the majority of our people live in informal settlements ( or are squatters). The papers and the TV are awash with you having conferences speaking on the topic of land reform but more than lip service needs to be done now. There are ways and means through which everyone in the nation can if not own a home then at the very least live in conditions befitting a human being. Building council houses along the line of the UK where they allow the occupant to purchase and rent control as seen in the US are but only two options that could go a long way towards regularizing housing in Jamaica, but beware for anymore lip service will result in your downfall.

When it comes to corruption you have pledged to not tolerate it, well sir the middle class and youth that you wish to win over are watching with a keen eye to see what you will do. It is clear that the PNP is, to put it mildly home to some bad apples and Mr Phillips I can say safely that until certain MP’s, councilors and members of the party apparatus are thrown out then you for all your nice words will never see office. The people (primarily the youth) to varying degrees are waking up to the fact that corruption is eating away at any chance that the nation has of a prosperous future and as such will not be voting for a party that they perceive to be soft (especially internally) on corruption.

Crime is the obvious monster in the room that must be addressed and again this is an issue that can not be tackled until a mea culpa is done. What both parties did starting in the 40’s, but escalating in the 70’s was unjustifiable and is at the root as to why we are where we are in terms of crime. With your party (and the governing JLP) having intimate links to criminals and  with many garrisons under your parties sway some real introspection and apologizing must be done before anyone will take your plans on tackling crime seriously.

The social issue must be addressed by yourself and the party that you lead. With the society seemingly tearing apart at the seams it is clear that the way that society has operated over the past twenty years with its self-centered ideology has failed. Addressing this will be hard as it entails that people be told uncomfortable truths about themselves and will be (hopefully) held to higher expectations, but it can be done. Just as we went from a society where everyone looked out for one another to one where we all eye each other suspiciously so we can go back to one where we all look out for our fellow man.

Finally what must be addressed by you and urgently is the pressing economic issues of the day. The people need jobs but the service sector alone will not drag us out of poverty. The people need banks and financial institutions that allow for business to be done freely in the nation without the exorbitant interest rates. The people need infrastructure to be built urgently, but not at the expense of our rights and not by giving our birth-rites to foreigners as your party has continually done in the past.

Dr Phillips you are  decent man who has been tasked to lead an organisation that means a lot to the nation and one that has impacted the nation in many positive (and negative) ways and it is going to be  heck of a job to get them back in fighting shape. But be warned, the party needs more than fighters and strategists who will only win elections. Until the people see a humble and contrite PNP, one that is willing to come with ideas of hope and is seen to be clean as a whistle (or as close as possible) then your party will not see power and you sir, the man who is known as Mr get it done will instead be seen as an abject failure.

 

Jamaica, the land of piracy

Jamaica is the wild-west , the home of pirates make no bones about it. This is a land where anything goes so long as one has the money and the influence and it has been this way for eons. One is hard-pressed to find another nation in the Commonwealth that short of having military dictatorship is as wild, riddled with corruption and with a judicial system that is currently on life support to put it mildly. Here is a nation that in so many ways is a hearken back to our days piracy that one has to truly wonder if anything in or about our ruling class has changed?

Here is a country where men of power and influence, persons who are movers and shakers in society who have made their initial riches through drugs. This is no secret, some of the best ganja comes from the acreage of some very prominent families and that the cash that they make from exporting the stuff is used to keep our economy afloat. It is also no secret that some of the nations top financiers of crime do not live in the bowels of the inner city but instead reside in luxurious houses on the hills of Jamaica. These pushers of poison and murder are persons of influence hold sway over our politicians who either routinely accept the dirty money with open hands, or they simply become politicians themselves so that they become more untouchable. How exactly have we moved on from the days of Henry Morgan?

In this country murderers can roam the streets freely because they have the cash or the connections. Here in this country we have a sitting MP who left parliament to go to the aid of a known criminal, one accused of murder among other things. In here we accept the fact that killers rule us because they are either paid by or are paying the piper, they cavort with the politicians who use them as protection still and are unafraid of any police officer because ‘squaddie’ knows where his bread is buttered. Does this not sound like a land of pirates still?

In this land justice is a game and we see that on a daily basis. Persons wait ten years to have their date in court for a fraud case only to have it thrown out after two days of sitting, leaving the victims to wonder if justice is real. We have persons who even after being accused of murder refusing to hand their firearm in for processing and they are yet to see a jailhouse. Could it be that some in our justice system have been bought off? While those involved in the justice system will continue to say that it is not corrupted and only slow, the eye test tells us otherwise, it looks rotten from the inside out.

Jamaica hasn’t changed that much since the days of Port Royal being our greatest city. We are still run by a corrupt elite, we still live in a society where justice is a game and rights are non-existent if you don’t have the cash to bribe or the influence to force persons to turn a blind eye.

But things and times will change, and change they already are. Jamaica, in its current state is on the edge of a precipice with one of two ways, continue down our lawless path till the point that we become ungovernable and make Haiti look like a cake walk, or we the people take matters and our destiny into our own hands. With civil society groups springing up and established ones getting a stronger voice (see groups like Tambourine army,  WROC and JFJ) one can see where the citizenry has started to not only take notice of the rottenness of the  society but to also take action and demand change.

However pirates will be pirates and hardly ever relinquish power without a fight and the backlash has already begun. We the public must be wary at this point in time, the politicians who themselves act like or are in cahoots with the pirates are not idiots. They will sing the song of reform while continuing to hold us over the barrel as seen in the laughable saga of the Mombasa grass, so lets keep an eye out and keep pushing for a change, if not i fear we may always be a haven for the pirates and criminally inclined.