Tag: current affairs

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.

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.

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.

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 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 a 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 is 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 doesnt have to like what 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 that 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 treats 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