Month: July 2017

Doing right by the ‘gully queens’ will make us a better society

Doing right by the ‘gully queens’ will make us a better society

For almost a decade Jamaica in general and New Kingston, in particular, has been wrestling with what exactly should happen to the homosexual men who frequent the area and live in the Shoemaker gully, giving them the epitaph ‘gully queens’ as some of them engage in cross-dressing. There has been much debate publicly about what should be done with them and how they interact with the persons who both live, go to school and work in the vicinity of the Shoemaker gully as they have for some time now taken to crime to support themselves. Most have suggested just abandoning them to the gods and fate while others state that they should all be scraped up and sent to prison, both stances I feel are horribly wrong.

Instead of condemning these men who have been through and continue to live in a hell, not of their choosing we should look to help them and ensure that such a horrid situation is never repeated. These gay men are persons who are the equivalent of the ‘untouchable’ caste in India and they do not deserve the extra oppression meted out to them by living in conditions that most couldn’t even fathom let alone live in.

It is true that they haven’t helped themselves, they were at a J-FLAG house and because of their boisterous (see butu) behaviour they were forced to leave the premises, but that is no reason as to why the state or civil society couldn’t provide them with decent housing and accommodations. A recent article in the Jamaica Star has highlighted the fact that the ‘gully queens’ have started a GoFundMe page in order to either find a place to rent/lease or buy and live in, however, the project hit a roadblock as they have only managed to raise $9,014 of a $100,000 (USD) or $1,151,993 of $12,780,042 JMD. I feel that the Jamaican government in conjunction with some civil society groups should front these desperate men the rest of the cash and or provide them with the required housing, but they shouldn’t stop there. A big reason why they were kicked out of the J-Flag accommodations was that they were both butu and utterly destructive of the place and had no real regard for their surroundings. This place of refuge or sanctuary that you would be providing these runaway homosexual men could teach them the social skills needed to interact and operate in a society that sees them as abnormal and the threat of violence against them is constantly bubbling.

This is not a matter of whether or not you are in the pro or anti gay, this is about basic human dignity and decency. Yes they are not all that to look at, yes they are butu and yes they have committed crimes (some as serious as armed robbery) but just how are they any different from the MP who even after blatant shady actions is welcomed back with chimes of ‘second chances’ or the businessman who avoids jail because he is ‘contrite’ and shows his ‘remorse’ publicly? Let us put personal taste and do the right thing, because as Jesus showed in the parable tables turn and one day we may be the Judean laying dying on the ground only to be saved by the ‘unclean’ Samaritan.

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Modern day feudalism and Jamaica

Modern day feudalism and Jamaica

The world is always changing nothing remains the same. We see this in technology medicine however one thing remains the same, the way we humans interact with each other. We see this from all stratas of society, human beings have seldom changed and the more one looks at it the more the situation reads like an awful novel.

Feudalism is alive and well in this society, though we all seldom speak on it for fear of losing secure jobs and possibly one’s life. We see this played out throughout the society but one example that I feel cements us in the mode of politics is the relationship between the area don and the girl children. The don (since he protects the area) gets ‘jus primae noctis‘ providing the masters with the right of being the first one to sleep with a womanThis phenomenon is not new to Jamaica, it has been going on since the inception of the garrison and yet we as a society, for the most part, remain silent as that type of madness, barbarity and utter backwardness continues unabated.

This feudalism in the nation can be found some more in the garrison where persons live the lives of twelfth-century serfs, beholden to the Lord of the land. We see this in the way that the don of the area is able to (usually by coercion) get the loyalty of the persons living in his ‘city-state’ and they go off to war merrily to fight for him, for the spoils that will be divided and for the indulgences from the don, in the same manner as the Popes of old led the world to Crusade after Crusade. We see this neo-feudalism in the city centres and parish capitals as a crude ‘tax’, ‘protection’ or if you will just plain extortion is played out on a daily basis. Much like the feudal lords of the past who would take their share of the harvest (the best of course!) because the serf was unlucky enough to have been living under ‘patronage’ so we have the modern don taking the hard earned money of business persons and higglers who are unlucky enough to be in their zone of influence.

The political system while not explicitly built around the feudal line is clearly operated along the line that would make any feudal lord pleased that the trend continues. The political system that we currently have in breeds patronage and the creating and holding of fiefdoms (or garrisons in Jamaican parlance) and the handing over of that fiefdom to the chosen heir. Nowhere was this more open and blatant than the recent election to replace Dr Omar Davies in his ‘Jungle’ garrison constituency when he openly called for and endorsed Mr Mark Golding to be his eventual successor (and we see the tradition continuing with Portia Simpson-Miller openly endorsing Dr.Angela Brown-Burke).

Again much like their feudal spiritual ancestors, the politicians practice a serious form of nepotism that would be hilarious if the results weren’t so harmful to the nation. Just look at the current parliament and one is shocked at the blatant nepotism, Andrew and Juliet Holness (husband and wife), Peter and Mikael Phillips (father and son), Pearnel Charles and Pearnel Charles Jr (again father and son), and that is just those who have immediate blood connections and are currently serving. If we were to add the second and sometimes third generations that are in our parliament and Senate (such as Minister Johnson-Smith and Mr McNeill then most people would agree that nepotism is the order of the day when it comes to politics, I mean for heavens sake (and I admit this is a slight stretch), Bustamante, Manley and Shearer were all from the same family branch and all three took turns (Alexander, Norman, Hugh then Michael) running the country consecutively from ’44-92 with a brief interlude of 48 days during the tenure of Sir Donald Sangster and the premiership of Edward Seaga which lasted from 80-89, does that not strike you as some feudal politics?

It is not just the political system and the dons that function or are run in a feudal or neo-feudal way, society, in general, seems to operate in a way that is shockingly reminiscent of feudalism. The way that businesses operate and treat their employees (just take a look at any wholesale and you will see individuals working in conditions that can only be described as modern-day feudalism), they are tied to the companies just as the feudal serf was tied to the land. Be it the cash advance that the company forwards to you, the loan with the unseemly interest rate that your job offers you (some call centers offer this treat) or the fact that you owe them for things such as travel and education (all of which sound reasonable until you see the unreasonable interest rates) one sees where this type of thinking and operating runs like a river throughout our society.

This just seems to be the runnings of things in this nation, we the citizens have allowed it to be so but it can change. The change won’t be easy but it can be done and is being done slowly, be it groups like NIA that are (trying at least to) calling out corruption or CAPRI, JFJ and the active social and political groups which in their own way seek to liberate peoples minds which is the beginning of the end of feudalism. This oppression in the nation will end, whether it is replaced by a totally new form of oppression or a system that is more just, fair and equitable is to be seen but it will end.

Why i’m glad Trump won, upset Le Pen lost and hope that Merkel wins

Why i’m glad Trump won, upset Le Pen lost and hope that Merkel wins

Donald Trump is in the White House, Le Pen almost secured power in France and Merkel looks like she should take the German federal elections, all in all, things are looking pretty crappy and that has me extremely happy. Now please don’t get it twisted, it’s not that I  have woken up and suddenly said “Hark, I love the far right”, nor is it that I have drunk the neoliberal kool-aid of Mrs Merkel and her ilk, so what then would bring on such an odd statement from me, a person who has written from a position of the left?

The answer is simple though I’m sure many will find it both upsetting, sad and disgusting all at the same time. Again it’s not that I have become a new Mussolini, instead, I am chuffed that these people are doing well because it will and more importantly IS both undermining and showing what the neoliberal system is and hasten its downfall. In a nutshell, the electoral success of these people will bring the whole feculent and oppressive house of cards down. But it is more than that, it is quickly opening up peoples eyes to the fact that they system is rigged firmly against them and they are fighting back for a more just system.

This can be found all over the place, take for example France and their recent elections. In the end, the centrist Macron beat out the far right Le Pen, but that is not the whole story. While Macron was pushing for more of the same (the decimation of the French welfare state, increasing military adventures abroad, further integration of the EU and opening up the nation to neo-liberal regulations), Le Pen and her policies looked like they came from the left wing. She promised nationalisation of industries and the keeping of jobs that Macron wanted to get rid of. Needless to say she lost, but just barely (showing just how disgusted people are with the system), and now that we Mr Macron doing just as he promised (starting with the cutting of housing subsidies that will mainly affect the poor and students) we are seeing the push back from the poor and students who are demanding not just the safeguarding of the current system but also the creation of a whole new and more just France.

Germany is also a nation where the neoliberals have gone a bridge too far. Germany under the neoliberal model has done well only in a superficial way post-Berlin wall, but more so since the great international recession during the tenure of Mrs Merkel(which is still haunting the Eurozone). For while Germany has a great employment rate and a ‘robust’ financial sector, when one looks closer at the data we see wages that have been stagnant for over a decade and we see where the biggest and most important German financial institution Deutsche Bank has more debt than they can ever hope to repay in a thousand lifetimes. We have a nation that talks about multiculturalism but fails to integrate people while keeping old prejudices that then gives rise to parties such as the AFD (Alternative für Deutschland), we have a nation that pumps money into governments with actual neo-Nazi members as is the case with Ukraine while also supporting and funding groups that lead to the rise of ISIS (the very threat they now fear). The German people are waking up to the realities that the neo-liberal system is failing as seen in Mrs Merkel’s low (at least for her) approval ratings, hopefully, one more term of the abject CDU/CSU-SPD coalition will hasten the collapse of the failed neoliberal experience in that nation.

Finally, we come to the United States and Mr Donald Trump. What can one say but thank you for showing the world the true unabashed face and the end result of neoliberalism and all that it carries? Imagine if it had been Mrs Clinton in office who had announced the massive tax giveaway to the rich, would MSNBC, CNN et all be up in arms and calling out the oppressive administration and policy? How would the American citizenry have reacted if a hypothetical president Clinton met Field Marshal President Al-Sisi and the members of the house of Saud, would the media have its panties in a bunch or would they praise her on her ‘many air miles racked up’? How exactly would American society have reacted if say President Clinton was to have basically ok’d the sideswiping and blockade of Qatar by the Gulf Arab nations because of (and please don’t laugh) their support of terrorists (who amongst the Gulf monarchies doesn’t support terrorists), would they be roundly condemning her as a ‘dictator’ or would they praise her as they did in her inglorious Libyan adventure? No let us not condemn Trump but thank him for showing what the system is all about, the expansion of fossil fuels (as done under Obama who wanted oil independence), the cementing of the super rich and their companies (as seen with the Democratic bailout of Wall Street) the beating up of the poor and marginalized (like homosexuals who Democrats only took seriously when they realized that it was a great vote winner) for no one would dare raise a protest if it were a Democrat in office doing it (as we saw with Mr Obama). Mr Trump has awoken people to the fact that the American system is failed and that a change is needed, a change on both sides and a change that is more equitable and bereft of the twisted neo-liberal ideology.

The neoliberal system is a sick one and this is its end result the rise of the far right. The far right thrives in situations like this because they despise liberalism and in scenarios like this can point to the hard evidence of the failures of liberal (neoliberal) variety. When a government is more concerned with exploiting persons for the profits of the super rich rather than the welfare of their starving society (almost half Americans live near or below the official American poverty level) then that is a breeding ground for the rise of the far right. The sooner the neoliberal experiment fails then the faster the far right can both fail and be tackled, that is the reality of things, so again disgusting as it may sound let us have a drink in the name of the trinity who may very well cause the system to implode.

Jamaica: Shirking its role as a voice against global injustice

Jamaica has never been a shrinking violet on the international scene. Far from it, we have historically punched above our weight and even led campaigns against the injustices that were taking place. Even when our nation was going through great turmoils like the 70’s and the 90’s we were always leading the charge or in full support in calling out the global injustices, be it Southern Africa, Greneda or Cuba we have always had a strong voice and compelling opinions on these issues.

All that seems to have changed however, as over the past thirteen years (when we helped Aristide escape the US backed coup) we have been silent on the pressing issues facing us all. We have shirked our responsibility and forgone our history in order to remain silent and try to suck at the teet of high finance and political power.

Examples of our deafening silence are many and would put persons who left the nation in the 70’s-80’s and those who remember our vocal attitude to shame. We have done nothing for almost twenty years as the world burns around us and as injustices continue to be meted out. A prime example of this and one that we as a nation should be profoundly disappointed with can be found in how we deal with Africa and more to the point Congo (the DRC). This is a nation that has been at constant internal conflict since independence but which has seen the conflict become more heated and brutal in the past few decades. With wanton raping, destruction of villages, the virtual (and sometimes literal) slavery that is the norm in the precious metals and stones mines and the (now common) use of child soldiers we see where we have foreign ministers (from both parties) who are silent on this issue, yet they like to speak of black solidarity, how sickening.

Taking a look a little closer to home and we see the same thing being done by the Jamaican government. The coup of 2009 in Honduras which was condemned by almost all of the world (and admittedly the OAS) was met with a tepid reply of support for the recently ousted president by the Jamaican government and opposition. The political and social situation in Guyana is devolving at a frightening pace (although their economy is doing ok) to the point where we now have a political party, centered around race openly calling for the abandonment of CARICOM among some other radical reforms. The same thing plays out in the nation that should have been a beacon of anti-imperialism but which instead was and still is being destroyed by imperialist and neo-colonial powers, Haiti. As the nation endured (and still does endure) economic devastation persons crossed the border to the Dominican Republic to find economic refuge. To cut a long story short, the descendants of those immigrants are now being (and have been historically) systematically oppressed, arrested and deported. These persons are being held in squalid conditions in detention centers and daily face racist abuse and physical abuse until they are ‘deported to their country of origin’ all for the crime of being black, poor and therefore not having ‘proper’ identification of citizenship. Again we got the same tired and lame condemnations from the opposition and government,but no concrete steps were taken to shame let  alone sanction the Dom Rep government. Again we were silent and are silent as we do business with them as they continue to carry out those atrocities, we have become whores for a few cents and sold our soul in the process.

In Asia the same thing plays out, we readily accept money from the Chinese and never once have we called them out on some of their practices that are nothing short of reprehensible (and incidentally sometimes totally against the ‘orthodoxy’ the CPC preaches). We are silent as Myanmar cum Burma is still embroiled in civil war and ethnic cleansing and instead of calling them out or at least making vocal our displeasure we say nothing at all. Even in the ‘conflict of our times’ the war against ISIS and Islamic militancy our government and opposition only come out of the woodwork’s when a bombing happens as in London (but strangely never when it happens in Nigeria) showing just how much of our once proud heritage of being vocal and active on the international scene has been withered like a grape on the vine.

Nothing though shows the Jamaican government (and opposition’s) total lack of morals and humanity than the recent visit of our Prime Minster to Israel, an act I will always and forever decry and oppose. During this trip, never once did he the head of the Jamaican  government come out publicly and denounce and condemn what Israel has done and continues to do, instead we got a photo-op and cushy smiles while Palestinians were being oppressed. No, we didn’t condemn them or tell them off as we did their spiritual predecessor apartheid South Africa, instead we fawned over their (albeit impressive) technological systems and irrigation systems, ignoring the fact that it was literally built on and watering stolen Palestinian land. And while that oppression continues unabated (and still ratcheting up) we have a government and opposition say nothing, while Palestinian men and women are being killed protesting access to their religions third most holy site we have a government putting machinery in gear to welcome the war criminal, war hawk and Zionist expansionist Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Jamaican government has lost its soul, it has been that way for some time that much is clear. They will do anything for a buck and will stay silent when the most oppressive things take place even in their own backyard and that is sad. We have lost our voice, have shirked our responsibility as a vocal proponent of international justice and human rights and that needs to change. The people of Jamaica are very knowledgeable of foreign affairs and for the most part are disgusted by what is happening, so why isn’t our government speaking on our behalf as our representatives instead of having disgusting public brawls over garrison seats? We must demand a change, we must insist that our representatives call out international crimes and oppression and uphold our proud heritage, and not just because we used to do it but because it is the right thing to do and history will rebuke us if they don’t.

We need to talk about A.I

Artificial Intelligence (or AI as it is more commonly known as) is fast improving as are robots. They are improving at such a rapid pace that it is very realistic that in the next ten to twenty years we will be witnessing AI and robots taking over jobs that humans have once held. That is not new nor is it headline news, for since the dawn of man using tools and technology we have witnessed where people have been replaced by machines (be it people thousands of years ago who went from manual tilling of the earth to the ox driven tiller, or the spinning jenny that decimated the British textile cottage industry).

What needs to be done and what hasn’t really been touched on by local politicians, industrialists and unions is just how robotics and AI will affect the already precarious labour market. AI and robotic ‘theft’ of jobs are not just going to be a first world problem and is one that we must tackle now or we will definitely be left playing catch up in an age where things, technology and events are transforming at a pace never seen before.

Take for example the recent Jamaican economic ‘saviour’ the call centre or Business processing outsourcing (BPO). Yes, it is true that call centre jobs in the US and other developed nations have fallen off a cliff due in no small part to the cheap labour that is offered in nations like Jamaica, but what has also hit the call centre worker is technology. We see where persons have been laid off en masse in the U.S and replaced by technology (AI), call PayPal for example and see if you can and just how long it takes to speak to a human, one has to interact with what is really pretty decent AI. This is because it is massively cheaper to have AI (that requires no pay, insurance or benefits) and hire a few technicians to maintain the system. Will these companies who moved to Jamaica exclusively to maximise profits really continue to employ the projected 30,000 (that is the number we are aiming for) when the AI in the next five to ten years makes human interaction unprofitable?

This is not just in the ‘tech’ areas that we will be hit but also in areas that are now seen as the real domain of persons such as farming. Jamaican farming has not come all that far a way and in many ways is stuck in the mid twentieth century, all that though will change. If the government and those with vested interests are to be believed then in the next couple of years (again that ten to twenty year range comes up) farming in this country will be unrecognisable as we aim to bypass methods of both the mid twentieth century (which we use in abundance) and the late twentieth century and dive head first into the methods and technologies of the twenty-first century. This will mean the introduction of drones to replace the humans who currently manually check crops, smart irrigation and pest control eliminating the need for humans to either water their crops or apply a pesticide. Imagine the cane workers unemployed because of the smart thrasher/reaper that WILL be coming in in the next few years? Even the act of actually planting the seed will be done by smart technology shortly, saying nothing of the obvious introduction of twenty-first-century earth tilling technology, all of which will mean a loss of jobs.

Many other white collar jobs that we take for granted in this nation will also vanish as the rapid march of progress that technology is making continues. Take for example the job of a legal clerk. This profession mainly entails going to NLA, Tax Offices, RGD, the Companies Office and of course the courts to deal with the stamping, registering, signing and filing of documents. Anyone who does that job can tell you that while the backlog of cases won’t (or may never) be dealt with anytime soon, the modernisation of the courts is taking place at a rather quick (not speedy or Usain Bolt fast) pace. With the introduction of many more computers, and a better internet system we are already seeing where documents that used to be sent over from the registry to the printing department (human interaction) is being eliminated with these documents now being transferred electronically (from the registry computer to the legal clerks USB stick or by simply taking a picture of the document). With the NLA and RGD also pushing hard to go fully online we are seeing where searches, payments and requests that would usually in the past would have required one to go to the physical institution and interact with a person is being eliminated as these go online. All of this clearly poses a threat to the white collar jobs of not only those who are legal clerks (as less will be needed to do this work) but also those in the aforementioned institutions as the need to keep costly humans becomes less and less as the technology improves.

We already have been seeing this happening in our banking and finance sector where these workers (and us the consumer) have been bearing the brunt of the rapid increase of the sophistication in the technology and AI. We see this in banks now asking, nay, forcing one to use technology to bypass humans in instances such as the paying off credit cards, the paying of overdrafts, the depositing of cheques and the simple withdrawal and depositing of cash. Try going in a bank, not only will you be charged to actually withdraw and deposit your own money, it is also scant of people (employees) when compared to ten years ago and this is because people cost more money than the technology that is rapidly advancing. Even as Jamaica seeks to become a hub of high finance we are seeing where even those jobs are fast being decimated, the persons who once worked in those positions and commanding high salaries being replaced by computers with algorithms that can do in seconds what would have taken those person days. How exactly is a person to hold a job when a robot/machine can do your work both faster and cheaper?

These are just the realities of what is going on, this is both what is currently taking place and what will be taking place shortly. We should really have a serious sit down as a nation, hold forums and serious dialogues with the stakeholders and those who will be affected so that we can both prepare ourselves and evolve accordingly. This sitting down and doing nothing is akin to seeing the train barreling down towards you and you decide to stay on the tracks, it’s just silly. Politicians, Unions and the private sector must have a public discussion on just how the advance of technology will affect us all as workers, if not then we all could be in for a rude awakening.

Stop playing games with sports

Jamaicans have  mad passion for sports, be it the man who plays community football every Sunday, or the woman who goes all out in our local netball leagues, we indulge in sports. Even if they have never played on an actual team or ever kicked a ball they watch with baited breath Manning Cup matches and Jamaica Trials. Put in a nutshell Jamaica is a sports happy nation that is also home to some of the worlds best athletes and coaches.

Yet here we are, some thirteen years since the start of our prolonged athletic dominance (see VCB at the ’04 Athens Games) and some twenty years since our qualification for the World Cup and we are still yet to realize that sports is so much more than a game.

Sports is both an industry and entertainment, it is a multi-billion dollar entity which we as a nation are failing to tap into. Staying with the obvious (track and field) Jamaica has been at the top of the pack for over a decade, yet we do not tap into that for monetary purposes. We do not for example have a world class training camp where foreign athletes can come down for some r&r or intensive training, nor do we have in place a training program for foreign coaches so that they can tap into our methods (and we can tap into their wallets). If we are to not only retain our position as kings of the track but also leave a lasting mark on the sport then we need to seriously monetize track and mimic what they have in Eugene, Oregon (a hub of track and field where international athletes and coaches are hosted).

Football isn’t spared from this insanity, in fact it is the poster child for Jamaica’s failure to adjust to the realities and potentials of the modern sports industry. Now football has been drunk on  money since the 90’s, more so in the past five years, and Jamaica is a nation where football is king, yet we for some reason refuse to tap into that rich vein. We refuse to professionalize our league (we have only recently become semi-pro) and we (as individual clubs) refuse to become feeder clubs to European clubs in Belgium and the Netherlands (where work permits are easier to come by), thereby seriously limiting the potential finances that the clubs could make. More to the point in this day and age where clubs like Manchester United and Real Madrid travel the world on summer tours and pre-season tournaments, Jamaica with its tourist pedigree and its passion for sports cant seem to organize even a one off tournament with these teams that are both available and actively looking to expand there market base (plus it would both boost our tourism product while improving our standard of local football).

We see the same in netball where we continue to rest on our laurels while failing to realize that we are sitting on a potential goldmine. With a national team that averages a global ranking of between third to fifth in the world (while still having no professional league) we refuse to take advantage of the fact that we possess some of the best athletes and coaches. We could (just like track and field) share our knowledge and nous of the game. We should be creating a league that seeks to attract the best players in the region and then televise it through Sportsmax for example (which is highly under-supplied). In one felt swoop we would have cemented the regional viewership, expanded your product (the Jamaican netball league) to foreign shores  while ensuring that we remain as one of the hubs of the game globally.

Sports could and should be placed on the front burner by both parties and especially any person who wishes to be a tourist minister. With so much money just sloshing around, literally begging to be pocketed, we refuse to monetize sports. We have a perfectly good Multi-purpose stadium on the north coast that we have allowed to become a white elephant rather than expanding into the sports tourism market. We don’t use it to host cricket (we could host the subcontinental teams and tap into their massive diaspora in the states) and we don’t use it to host football matches (where we could integrate our football product with our tourism product). Instead of doing these obvious movements towards getting involved in the international sports market we continue to dither and laud the fact that we have gotten some third rate IAAF sanctioned meet while the Bahamas hosts the premiere world relay meet.

We need to wise up and realize that sports is about more than running up and down, more than having fun and winning, it is an industry, one that we are apart of but not taking advantage of and that is insane.A change must be made in how we view sports and how we integrate it into our economy. Too much chatting has been done and not enough action when it comes to monetizing sports and that has to change, the private sector along with the state must realize that there is a massive amount of money that we are not sharing in, an industry tailor-made for us. Let us push our politicians to promote and push sports, let us see the private sector realize that the sporting industry can be and is profitable and let us finally harness the sporting potential that this nation has, to not do so would be criminal.

The new dark age

History does not repeat itself, that is one of the first things drilled into anyone who has studied history, and  that statement holds true almost always. History cant repeat itself as the conditions that man faced during the 1700’s is totally different than the conditions facing mankind today in the twenty-first century. I repeat, history cant repeat itself, but as we know, current events almost always look, smell and sound very similar to past historical moments in time.

It is  my theory that the world is experiencing, and currently living through what seriously mimics the ‘Dark ages’.We are witnessing the birth pangs of a new era and history sows that it will be very messy before some order is restored. Examples of the world slipping into the darkness is all around us and is happening at a frightful speed. Take for example the collapse of the empire that is happening right now. We are seeing the great American empire disintegrate before our very eyes if only we care to take a cursory look at the situation.

America, much like ancient Rome has reached its zenith. Just as the Romans were the masters of the then known world, we have the Americans being the master of our world today. Much like Rome the american empire survives and is feared/respected because of its awesome military might. Much like Rome the Americans are the masters of soft power, so that foreigners look and hope with baited breath to become a citizen of the empire. And much like Rome then, the american empire dominates economically as well.

However much like its Roman predecessor america is entering a period of terminal decline, the kind of decline that precipitated the ‘dark ages’. We see the once great and vibrant american economy now on its knees and they are now a country where half of its working population is hovering precariously above or live in poverty (earning $30,000 or less a year is the benchmark for American poverty). It is a nation that produces nothing and it is a nation of many disgruntled persons who are unsure as to why their standard of living has plummeted off a cliff.

Along with a tanking economy we witness how person a social breakdown.The societal breakdown that we are witnessing today is a clear indicator of us slipping into the darkness.

Staying with America, it remains the preeminent military might, and that is the key reason for it still remaining a powerhouse. The American military is strong, probably the strongest in the world, but again like its predecessor Rome, the army is also eating away at the American empire even while they project their might. Like the Romans the American army is massive, however that fact alone is not killing it. The fact that it is an all volunteer army is however destroying it. It is destroying it because the army firstly eats up over half of the budget (and discretionary spending) of the American budget and quite frankly no one wants to join, except persons from the ‘redneck’ states or as is increasingly the case immigrants. Now i do not believe that the american army will go the way of the roman army and have troops loyal to a general and not to the nation, however much like the Roman army the volunteers are mainly from the poorer parts of the world and as such will think twice before going to war and collaborating with the enemy (as seen with the Romans found out with the Germanic legion that they implemented).

The fall of America is not however the only harbinger of our new ‘dark age’, a look at technology and how we use it also spells doom. The internet is the modern day printing press, and it going through all of the birthing pains that the printing press went through. When the printing press was invented it saw an initial explosion of knowledge as books became more available to the general populace, we see this in the internet that has also ushered in age of mass knowledge. However the internet, much like the printing press, is about to meet some hard times. Persons with vested interests will, are and already have in some instances but the brake on internet expansion and freedom.

These persons with vested interests much like there middle age predecessors do not like, want or desire the populace being informed and are working hard to stop it. Be it the ‘Great Firewall of China’ or the simple blocking of Twitter and Facebook by the Turkish authorities we are seeing where the explosion of information has been tamed. Those actions mimic those of when the monarchs and clergy of the day put a brake on the expansion of knowledge by regulating the printing press.

Just like the middle ages (dark age) we are witnessing a mass movement of people as persons flee nations failing, escape war, to just make a better life or (as is increasingly the case) to escape a land with no more vital resources (such as water). This mass migration during the middle ages caused much distress and played no small part in keeping the world ‘dark’. In the middle ages this mass migration resulted in both new nations and the re-configuring of others. While we are yet to see the birth of a new nation due to migration, we have witnessed the destabilizing and re-configuring of existing nations.

A casual glance at west Europe confirms this view. We have nations like France, Germany and the BENELUX countries all experiencing serious demographic shifts as members of the old colonies displacing the native population. They experience this when the native populace continues to have a low birth rate while the migrants retain the high birth rate along with them coming in en mass. Just as the middle ages saw the Magyars enter the Hungarian plains we see the Congolese enter Belgium or the man from Ivory Coast lands at Marseilles, and just like in the past we see where the newly arrived rapidly change the face of the nation in ways that are violent or through the gradual wearing down of the existing status quo (as seen in the UK where sharia law is used in some legal cases).

One way we are also entering some ‘dark age’ is the retrenching from globalization. Just as in the middle ages we are witnessing a world with countries looking more inwards rather than outwards. We see this in action with the demagogues who are either in power (Donald Trump) or through the labour unions that demand some isolationism as they seek to rebuild a manufacturing sector.

This retreat from each other was also a hallmark of the middle ages and played no small part in the conflicts that erupted during those times. We are seeing nations retreat from each other and starting to be more insular and as a result we are seeing nations act in ways that could inevitably lead to a conflict that would dwarf any past conflict we have witnessed as a species.

Finally another harbinger of the age we are approaching is the war and thirst for conflict. The west led by the Empire has been at war for sixteen years and it doesn’t seem like it will end anytime soon. The nations are bleeding their coffers to remain at war (against an idea) at the expense of their populations well being and we are witnessing the fruit of that blossoming. The nations are spending billions yearly to conduct these wars and they are fast becoming bankrupt as a result. The wars that the west is waging is playing a large part in the ‘dark age’that we are witnessing. As the military becomes the be all and end all of a nation it does so at the expense of the citizens in that country. Just as no one during the time realized they were living through the one hundred year war which broke Europe in terms of manpower and expense so too are we are living in our own hundred year war, and we will not know it until decades later when we have long been broken and poor.

Socialism is our only hope for a brighter tomorrow

The word socialism is a loaded one, especially in a country like Jamaica that went through a mini civil war because of it, but it has its usefulness, especially in these interesting times in which we live. Socialism throughout the majority of the population conjures up ideas of Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s PRC and the mass suffering that the people of those nations under ‘socialist rule’ had to endure. Yes socialism is a loaded term it has several uses especially as Jamaica faces such a critical time.

Socialism comes in many forms and it doesn’t have to entail people going to the gulag as seen in the cold war. A cursory look about Western Europe and to some extent Asia will show us that creating a quasi socialist nation can be done without rivers of blood  flowing in the streets. Fabian socialism (named after the roman general Fabius Maximus) has won in Europe and everyone knows and understands this (though admittedly it is apparent that vested interests are trying to change that). A look at the map shows France (who’s social contract is very Fabian in its outlook) and Germany (who first introduced the welfare state) shows us a welfare state in action. In those countries they all have strong social democratic parties (who admittedly lean more to the right in these modern times) that have been in power for an extended period and implemented real reform.

Socialism doesn’t necessarily mean the gulags or everyone standing in line for a loaf of bread. Staying in Europe we see where the welfare state is a cornerstone according to citizens, and even in Asia we have a Singapore where many socialist policies were enacted (in order to neuter the burgeoning left).  It can also be seen in the Nordic nations where all the major parties agree to maintaining the status-quo (the welfare state) which has always been a chief objective of socialist party.

The jamacan society is seriously skewed with the haves getting more while everyone else suffers silently. The social contract has been broken by both politicians (who have no vision for the future) and civil society (who just don’t care about the lower class) and a new one must be drawn up, one that is both fair and equal.

Socialism can work, and it can be twinned (at times) with democracy, one only needs to look at Latin America for proof of that. The Latin America of today is a far cry from the banana republics that they once were, instead of chronic malnutrition they have healthy citizens, and instead of having a massive literacy problem we now see them doing excellently in all matters academic. We see this also in the economy where socialist led nations have been able to dag their citizens from poverty to being members of a booming economy. Democratic rights were and still are guaranteed under the constitutions drawn up by these groups and as a result we are seeing a rebirth of Latin America.

Jamaica needs that kind of thinking, it needs parties that are willing to rewrite the social contract in this nation and i believe that only a socialist party can do that. A socialist party would have better sense of what the majority of the population needs as they would be a party for not only electioneering but also one that has (as a leading plank in is platform) the true will of the people and is willing to make the political sacrifices to get things done.

Yes, socialism is a loaded term in Jamaica but it can and does work as seen by other nations implementing socialist policies. It can work with democracy and it doesn’t have to be a politburo deciding the fate of the nation, they. The world is filled with examples of socialist parties unleashing the potential of its people and there is no reason why Jamaica should be any different. We could seriously do with a proper socialist party in Jamaica, one that creates an equal and just social contract and it can be done. The only thing that is stopping us from doing that is in the mind, and until we reassess how we view socialism in this country then nothing really concrete will change, we must either break those mental shackles or be forever trapped in the vice like grip of inequality and despair.

American saber rattling may cost South Korea deeply.

North Korea is a renegade state, a state run by madmen and where poverty and desperation are the daily realities of life, it is a nation that on the face of it will collapse at any time once enough pressure is applied to them. That is the opinion of the average American pundit as they openly call for a conflict that hardly anyone in Asia wants. We see American rhetoric spouted about how poor the DPRK is and how the nation would collapse within a few months or weeks of invasion.

The persons pushing for a war (or rather the resumption of the Korean war) have no ties to Asia and have no empathy as it relates to looking at a potential enemy. Any amount of empathetic thinking would lead us to stop this mad rush to war.

Time for some empathy. Imagine if you can, a nation (North Korea) totally leveled during the Korean war. Bombers were ordered to destroy any and everything and they followd through on those orders, bombing houses to rubble, destroying road networks and even (to top it all off) destroyed the waterworks such as dams and leveys. Imagine living through that hell as the entire nation turns to dust and ash, then imagine that the military that caused your nation much suffering is located just south of your border, with all sorts of fancy arms to boot.

Imagine living in a country where your neighbor holds yearly military exercises doing mock invasions of your country, and finally imagine that again, right on your border, the enemy that caused so much destruction had, and may have again, nuclear weapons pointed directly at you. How would you react? Would you not seek to defend yourself, regardless of it is real or imagined?

That is the reality of the North Korean situation, hemmed in on all sides by forces that really wish to make a radical change as to how the nation operates. With all of this in mind, it is pretty easy to empathize with the DPRK. They are a nation that is terrified of the outside and the US in particular (and with serious grounds for that fear) and it is easy to understand then why they have for so long pushed for a nuclear arsenal, to act as a deterrent against potential invaders.

However we do not have that empathy and instead state boldly and loudly that the DPRK must stop missile testing in the face of mock invasions. We have no empathy and are being lead to  a conflict that i fear we haven’t even thought through the serious consequences that we would face.

The DPRK as things stand, if invaded or bombed, would immediately use the missiles pointed at Seoul, in short, after the opening salvo the South Koreans would already be the losers. As things stand, if any force (external) directly invades the North, then we can almost certainly bank on China giving them reluctant support, because the Chinese would never entertain, and are fearful of having a US client state right on its border, which is what is already being planed for and prepared by these annual military exercises.

To go around making bellicose statements about how the US can and is considering ‘decapitating’ the regime of the DPRK is sheer madness if one wishes to see a peaceful and stable East Asia. To not realize that the DPRK is a garrison nation on watch 24/7 for the potential (or resumption of) conflicts is insane from any point of view, if as suspected the DPRK successfully tested an ICBM that would leave Juno Alaska in ruins it would be a total disservice to the people of South Korea and Japan who would bear the brunt of any North Korean retaliation.

Now these are just facts, hard and cold, but facts nonetheless and these are facts that seem to be lost in the ether as the world lurches towards yet another conflict (or total calamity). The North Koreans are not looking for a conflict, it is accepted as a fact that the nuclear and missile programs are for defensive purposes. Whether the threat is real or perceived (and the US has a proven track record in the regime changing game) it is clear that the North Koreans are ready to respond to the threat.

We in the west must see the world from the point of view of the DPRK leadership. They are paranoid (and who wouldn’t be if one day the nation that sponsors you collapses) and right now only seeks self preservation through the propaganda that they release to the North Korean public and the army that they lavishly spend on (to ensure that the generals dont mutiny) we see where self preservation is key to the state.

Now one doesn’t have to like how the DPRK government acts as it relates to human rights and the treatment of its citizens to see that a conflict with them is pointless and may actually cost us more in ways we cant imagine. We as a global community must ensure that no war happens on the Korean peninsula, as i fear that the carnage that this probable conflict would cause will make the Korean war look like a cake walk. We as such must ensure that even while we chastise them for their failure to live up to human rights conventions etc. that they are not totally shut out and ostracized because that will only lead to the regime doubling down on its military capabilities.

Instead we should both kill them with soft power and be patient. Patient for the day that the average North Korean citizen wakes up and realizes that the world is bigger than what the state run media houses say. We must wait for the day that the average North Korean decides to take their destiny in there own hands, in short we must leave them alone and allow that nation to grow at its own pace. The thirst for conflict in the Pacific is real and the situation in the DPRK has a lot of people on tenterhooks, but if we allow the persons living there to decide their own path then we can see the change in government that the west so often calls for. To do anything otherwise up to and including attacking them is pointless and selfish, if we really care about the plight of the North Koreans and want to see them live a better life then the threats must be removed, if not we may as well kiss the Koreas goodbye because any conflict there will end in the total destruction of both nations.

Giving away our birthright for a bowl of pottage

As the government looks to seriously push through on the idea of privatizing the NWC one cant help but remember the story in the Old Testament of Esau and Jacob. I am sure that we all know the story, but for those who don’t remember Esau was the eldest son so he would be entitled to a greater share of the family wealth when his father died.Esau was hungry and in a pique of desperation forfeited his birthright to the younger Jacob in exchange for a bowl of pottage. To cut a long story short, after eating the meal Esau wished to renege on the deal but circumstances and members of his family were against the idea of reneging on the deal.

This story i feel aptly represents how our politicians and members of civil society operate and deal with the national question. Jamaica for the past two decades (but stem picked up in the past fifteen) has been selling off bits and pieces of the nation because like Esau in the story, they are hungry and only wish to address the immediate problem without thinking of the long term consequences.

Actual examples can be found with these land transfers and business deals. Think about the fact that we as citizens through our government are set to lose our last reaming shares in JPS thus fully leaving us to the wolves of capitalism. We face constant woes with JPS and yet they are still able to ride roughshod over reality by demanding price increases. We also in selling off that birthright enshrined in that deal that should the nation go fully renewable then the JPS should be compensated. Now i don’t know about you, but that sounds like the actions and behavings of a utility company (one that the entire state depends on) that not only fails to understand the economic psyche of their customers but also has no real incentive to change because we the Jamaican people (through the government and policy makers own nothing of it as we see the profits of this company skyrocket.

As it relates to the water and its impending privatization one only needs to look at Ireland to see where that road would lead. After the Irish entered into a PPI deal for the operating of their water company the citizens saw their water rate skyrocket by double digit percentages, leaving the average Irish man paying more for the same life sustaining utility. It is clear that the privatization of key utilities leads to companies looking to make the most profit while keeping the same or providing a worse degree of service.

A look at the bauxite scene conjures up even more horrors when one really examines it. Imagine, we have workers who are  constantly living on edge because they know that if the foreign company that owns the plant is facing a hard time financially then they as the worker will bear the brunt of it when costs are cut. We have a levy on the bauxite mined from our shores that is so pitifully small that in the end the state in actuality ends up being the loser financially speaking, as all the profits vacate the island.

We see this in almost all sectors of our economy. Sugar has been sold off to the Chinese (along with mining rights), the oil that may be below us is already in foreign hands along with the former pride of Jamaica, Air Jamaica. This fire-sale of our land, resources and heritage seems to be unrelenting as even now we debate on just where the Cockpit Country borders are so that the rapacious foreign companies may destroy our environment.

‘Jamaicans need to hold our government to account and ensure that not only give away the house for a few trinkets. We must demand that our birthright not be played with and instead demand decent representation when it comes to retaining it. People must wake up quickly to that fact that we own nothing or very little in this island as we quickly become a nation of beggars. We must take heed of the tale of Esau and Jacob and think about the long term ramifications rather than find a quick fix solution that in the end leaves you in a much worse position than you started at.