Tag: current affairs

Leave the oil in the ground

Jamaica has struck oil, black gold, after many years of speculation and guessing it was confirmed earlier in the year that Jamaica does indeed have oil deposits which may be feasible enough to exploit. Normally this would be greeted by cheers of joy and delirium as we in this country continue to suffer under the yoke of exorbitant fuel costs and this oil could hypothetically be used to ease the burden on the budget. This would also be cause for celebration as the oil industry is both labour intensive, specialised and offers big bucks and would, therefore, lead to greater employment and higher incomes.

Normally this would be good news, 40 years ago this would have been excellent news unfortunately in the 21st century this news is useless and the idea of exploiting these deposits is masochistic and insane. The idea of extracting, refining and exporting of oil from Jamaica in this day and age is in my opinion and should be the opinion of the majority, not a good one when the pros and cons are weighed up especially since we see the cons so clearly.

The side of the pros is simple and easy to understand, jobs and money. This would be a windfall to the Jamaican economy and could transform us as it relates to shipping (fitting in neatly with the logistics hub). It is easy to be swayed by the promises of riches and persons showing you the current value of a barrel of oil (coupled with data that oil prices will go high and remain high) but to do that is to ignore the side of the cons which is longer and more impactful on the country.

It should not be news to anyone that the globe is heating up at alarming rates, nor should it be news that human activity is a key reason for this. Most people understand and accept that the use of oil and other fossil fuels exacerbates this global warming and as such countries have come together to try and combat this, one such way being the elimination of the use of fossil fuels. Why then would we even entertain the thought of bringing up this substance? Are we not signatories to these deals? Are we not impacted by this global warming phenomenon and therefore can go about our merry business?

This is a country which experiences droughts on a yearly basis, droughts which seem to be both longer and hotter. This is a nation which experiences storms in seasons when we never used to have them and storms when in season are more frequent and stronger. Both of these affect the nation and the economy in so many negative ways, ways oil couldn’t solve but would, in fact, be the perpetrator.

Leaving aside the impact on the climate, let us look at the impacts on the environment and the fact that everywhere oil companies have prospected and extracted has seen environmental degradation. Parts of Nigeria have been turned into virtual wastelands as oil spills happen and inept clean-up processes fail to catch all the sludge. The Gulf of Mexico and the fishermen there are still feeling the effects of the oil rig which blew out as fish stocks remain low and the underwater fauna struggles to recover from the damage. Parts of the Amazon have been totally destroyed as the search for and extraction of oil continues in that part of the world (and we haven’t even talked about the health impacts).

This is not even mentioning the facts that oil prospecting and drilling has the real potential to turn this already corrupt country into the poster boy of that dreadful art (see the oil curse). Further proof of the insanity of even thinking of this can be found in the new-fangled ways they have of extracting oil. Fracking, as is practised in parts of the US has led to the poisoning of water tables, sickness in the communities surrounding the operations and ecological damage. On top of this fracking also causes earthquakes, some minor and some major but always in the high dozens per year.

We need energy, but we don’t need it at all costs and we don’t need this type specifically, so why are we not having more of a national debate on the issue? Why have we not had serious debates about changing laws to make it easier for solar panels in houses? Why have we not had serious debates about hydro-electricity (we are after all the land of wood and water)? Why have we not looked seriously into bio-waste energy and energy derived from plants (corn or sugar)? Why are we so insistent on utilising this product which will only bring harm to us in the long run (even if we personally don’t use the oil), a harm which the little benefits will not be able to cover?

There should be no debate, the oil should stay in the ground and we should start thinking about alternative energy sources to power our country. We don’t need the drama, both short term and long term which comes along with oil, we need to focus on fixing our environment which has been damaged and preparing for the future impacts of climate change.

The fact is the exploiting of this oil will be a retrograde step especially as nations have set concrete deadlines on the elimination of gasoline. We should not think about it, pretend it is not there and actively seek alternative energy sources, to use this deadly asset will only come back to haunt us in the not too distant future.

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Don’t insult the mob, it’s the only thing that will save us

Who is the mob? This may sound like a silly question so for clarity I do not mean organised crime, what I mean is who or what is this mob people speak of and which constantly pops up throughout history? If we are to believe the illustrious historians of past and present the mob is a bad thing, the mob, this amorphous thing is made up of the dregs of society who only wish to bring ruin and destruction. This is the image of the mob, rancorous, unstable and fickle, persons such as Plato, Cicero, Gibbon and Churchill have all depicted the mob in this light and this image has stuck into the 21st century it seems.

This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth and it is my strong suspicion that those who spew this classist nonsense know this and that is why they double down with their demeaning behaviour and language. The mobs spoken of in the days of Plato were (wait for it) the Democrats, who were pushing for a democracy as opposed to an oligarchy which was then in power. The mob so ill spoken of was made up of Helots and Hoplites (slaves) who were seeking to remove the corrupt government and install a democracy in which all free men took part.

The same thing is seen with Cicero and gibbon, the mob they are so quick to condemn and make fun of were in fact made up of all the guilds in Rome. This mob again was pushing for greater inclusivity, their champion Julius Creaser empowered these people and as such he is remembered as a despot who cemented his power by bribing the easily fooled mob.

The mob Churchill writes about in his sick history of his time in govt etc were always people protesting the imperial yoke of the United Kingdom. The mob he speaks of is the people of British India, they are the bombed and gassed protesters in mandate Iraq demanding independence, they are the Mau-Mau in Kenya and they are our very own Frome protesters.

The mob in almost every recorded case is made up of the backbone of the society. It is made up of the middle class and the masses of urban and rural poor. The masses are made up of people such as OT Fairclough, St William Grant, heck at one point in time the mob consisted of Manley and Bustamante. The mob gave us the Russian revolution, the mob gave us the Haitian revolution and led the fight against apartheid. The mob in almost every case is formed in order to combat oppression or right a wrong which the state does not wish to remedy. That is the mob.

So why do we use the word as an insult? Why do persons deride these people and look to lump them as simpletons grouped together by a charismatic charlatan? The word is used in such barbed ways because persons know what the mob wants, and they are scared to death that the rest of society may listen to and agree with the mob. What does the mob want? The American founding fathers (who were as classist and elitist as it comes) called it levelling (see diggers and levellers), we in the modern days call it the destruction of class and class barriers. The mob wants self-rule, majority rule, justice and equality and that is why the mob is insulted and derided, that is why people hurl insults towards members of the mob.

Truth be told, any half-decent human being belongs to the mob or finds themselves in the mob at one point or another. Persons in power often times got there on the backs of the members of many a mob and as such know what they want and how dangerous they are to their new-found power. That is how you can then get a Hugh Shearer labour leader and mob member at times breaking up the Rodney riots and banning the man who embodied the wants of the mob.

If they label you a member of the mob or great unwashed wear it as a badge. Those who use those words as insults know where the power lies, and it does not lie with those in power. They insult and degrade us just as they did to the slaves because they are so scared that if the mob decides then those in power would very quickly find themselves with nothing but the shirts on their backs. Pay them no mind, don’t let their barbs get under your skin, remain with the mob, maintain the mob mentality which is, in the end, one single-minded determinedness to achieve a fixed goal. Be the mob which marched from Morant bay and be the mob which in 1938 won us universal adult suffrage and let them remain in their ivory towers because when they start bawling for justice, they will, in the end, turn their eyes us, the mob for help as they have always done.

USA settles in for its long ride with the far-right

The recently concluded US midterm elections were supposed to be that nations repudiation of the Trump administration. For nigh on a year the US political media has been hyping up this blue wave, and for three years (since he announced his candidature) have been heaping scorn and ridicule on president Trump. After labelling his administration as a tool of foreign agents, after his blatant racial, religious and xenophobic rhetoric and after his toadying towards the uber-rich one fully expected the Democratic party to win it all. After all the online protests, after all the marches and all of the tears, I expected to wake up on Wednesday to see the Democratic party controlling both sets of the house as well as many local seats.

Sadly, the US media has once again failed to accurately take the pulse of their people and as such the much-hyped Blue wave turned out to be more like a blue drizzle. Instead of the Democratic party cementing both houses and many states, they have been left with a decent (not super) majority in the lower house while losing seats in the upper. Things at the state and local level also mirror the federal level with Democrats and Republicans having about half of the respective seats and governorships up for grabs.

This election far from showing that the American people are sick of the racism, classism, eternal warfare and creeping fascism has shown that they are in fact comfortable in their current situation and simply don’t wish to rock the boat. That may seem a shocking statement, especially as we saw persons protesting spontaneously in defence of the fired AG, but the results of the elections prove the statement correct.

The fact is, after all of the demonising and after all of the media hype, the Democratic party won the lower house with a majority of 32. In other words, with over 400 seats up for grabs, the party representing the far-right barely lost. Put another way, the party which has seen its supporters send out mail bombs and shoot synagogues in the lead up to the elections almost won. Even accepting the fact that there was massive voter suppression, one would think that the masses of persons who oppose far-right principles would flock to the polls thus rendering voter suppression difficult (but not impossible).

Instead, with a fifty-year record turnout for midterm elections, the party representing the far-right sits safely in control of the upper house, real leverage in the lower house and in control of dozens of state capitals. This does not strike me as a people disavowing the far-right, this instead strikes me as a nation comfortable with the rightward drift only wishing to rein in its more unseemly features. The retort may be, ‘but half the electorate stayed home’ and to that, I say that is further proof that the people are simply comfortable.

France in the second round gave the people a choice, the centre-right Macron or the far-right Le Pen. With more than half the electorate staying home the centre-right candidate won, the same thing happened in the local and parliamentary elections, even as Macrons popularity rates plummeted. If given a choice between crypto-fascists and the centre-right, normal people vote in the majority (even if the majority stays home) for the non-fascist. You don’t vote for the far right or enable it by allowing it to keep the upper house etc unless you are comfortable with it and the promises it makes to you.

The levels of comfort could also be seen in the types of candidates which won on the Democratic ticket. These were not men and women who for example stood up and called for an end to the military industrial complex, foreign wars, economic imperialism, the starving in America, the un and underemployed in that nation or the millions who are shafted by the joke of a healthcare law. No, rather than do those things they called for bipartisanship, fence-building and reaching out to the Republicans in the house and the president.

These representatives, after calling the Republican party out for what it is, a bastion for the far-right are seeking to work with it. That alone tells you that the issue is not the far-right and the policies which it brings forth, rather the problem is the face which delivers those policies. Nobody batted an eyelid when Obama suspended posse comitatus (a truly far-right move) and hardly anyone chirped when GW Bush passed the Patriot Act (again something from a far-right dream), nobody cried out when HR Clinton cackled when Gadhafi was murdered so we shouldn’t be shocked that the American people have left their government basically split down the middle.

Both parties and it seems that the voting public in the US are fine and dandy with the far-right. They are comfortable living in a land of racism and anti-Semitism, they revel in the fact that they murder children in schools and patrons at bars. They hoot and holler in joy when their nation holds 25% of the world’s prison population and they find joy in the fact that they cause so much death, destruction and misery around the world.

We who live outside the land of the free must not put our hopes in either the Democratic party or the voting public in the US. Both have no interest in global justice and as has been shown over the past 30 years (and more specifically the last four election cycles) an open fascination for the far-right. Things in that county will get worse before they get better, the Democratic party is too far to the right to be any less reactionary than it already is, what we can only do is sit back, watch, prepare and hope like hell that the majority who do not vote in that nation one day soon wake up and vote in the global interest (which is also their interest too) and seeing as how the latter won’t happen any time soon, I suggest we batten down the hatches as the US gets comfortable in its long ride with the far-right.

Why the shock with Kanye-Trump summit?

Recently, the record producer/fashion designer/rapper Kanye West met with the president of the US Donald Trump. The meeting which came after Kanye infamously threw support behind him (after the election) has stirred up much controversy, confusion and even hurt amongst both his fans and persons who are close to or involved in the continued civil rights struggle in that country. The usual cries from these people range from the question ‘how can the man who called Bush a racist endorse this man?’ to petty insults along the lines of ‘the man is obviously crazy, see his many breakdowns for proof’.

Such stances, both the question and the statement, reveal to me a level of naivety in the world at large for the answer to the question ‘why is Kanye acting this way’ is hilarious in its obviousness.  Mr West gravitates towards Mr Trump and his ilk simply because they share the same basic core beliefs, they are if I may paraphrase Mr West ‘Kindred spirits’.

What could I mean by that? Simply put, these are two men of the same class, living in the same bubble, interacting with the same people and dealing with the same problems at the end of the day. Problems such as the state (particularly at the federal level) taking away money through taxes. Problems such as poor infrastructure (which rich person wants to travel in a dilapidated airport, and it is the rich, as they are the primary travellers). Problems such as copyright and patent lifespans, so that the holder can live like a rentier.

People are not shocked by Ted Nugent supporting Trump, they are disgusted but not surprised when Rosanne Barr vocally supports Trump, but they draw the line at Kanye. In this instance I have to agree with him, I agree when he says his detractors are ignorant and racist. Racist because they have for the most part bought into the fact that all minorities should vote Democratic and ignorant because they fail to realise that economics and class trumps race any day.

Herman Cain ran in 2012 on the Republican ticket on the far-right fringes, Ben Carson ran in 2016 as a mixture of Christian right and the Chicago school of economics, Nicki Minaj openly supported Mitt Romney in 2012. How many more instances does the public need to understand that just because a person is an ethnic minority does not mean that they are all of a sudden, some bleeding-heart liberal or pre-disposed to progressive revolutionary thinking? Class almost always wins out and shows itself in the end and it has done so here only with the brashness and pomposity of Kanye West.

These uncle-toms (or roast-breadfruit) know full well what they are doing, and they know why they are doing it. They know full well who they are aligning with and they have no problem as it secures their wealth and their place in the class. This can again be seen in the likes of a Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, both of whom have roots in the sub-continent, both of whom are at the top of the social, political and financial hierarchy and both of whom represented the reactionary wing of the Republican party. The same can be said for the ethnic minorities who are the elected members of the Democratic party, those at the top both socially, financially and politically and who also happen to be on the reactionary end of that party.

This incident to me proves once again that while race is important, the most important thing the most pressing issue is the class issue. Race is sexy, one can easily get agitated and behind the cause or individual because it/they are visible but as seen by the examples laid  out above, if left isolated from the issue of class then one ends up with an Obama in office, Abu-Jammal still in jail and a Bernie Sanders type candidate not getting the support of the minority congressmen and senators whose racial ilk would benefit the most from his policies.

Stop looking solely at an individuals race and start taking into consideration the class aspect as well, once that is done one finds that most actions then make sense and are less surprising. Clinging blindly to race alone, thinking that because you and your potential representative or cultural idol share the same skin tone does not automatically mean that they are on your side. Think of the famous line from Aquemini by Outkast, ‘is every nigger with dreads for the cause?’ and think of its response ‘no’ and use that as one’s mantra. Ask whose interests does this person represent, try delving deeper than the colour of the person’s skin and if I may be crass check out their bank books, that more often than not will give you the true response as it relates to that question.

Hypersexualisation and rape, two different issues which must be tackled separately

The recent rape and murder of a fourteen (14) year-old girl in Kingston has again sparked heated discussion in Jamaica and the diaspora about what can only be called our epidemic of sexual violence. The actions against the minor have elicited the same outcries as others before, we have everyone condemning the perpetrator(s), demanding better protection for our children and reinstatement of the death penalty. Unfortunately, what has also been brought to the discussion table is the supposed issue of how the child may have been dressed and the provocative outfits worn by the current generation and how they (unwittingly) invite this kind of assault.

Unfortunately, as disgusting as it is, that talking point is a very prevalent one when discussing sexual assault/abuse, especially when involving children. It is a common touchstone, oftentimes reaching the heights of victim blaming, but it has no bearing in any sexual assault case and most especially one involving a child as the two are totally separate issues and should be talked about as such.

Rape and sexual abuse/assault are illegal actions, punishable offences which carry prison sentences, a child dressing in a belly-skin and batty-rider is a parenting matter, a woman wearing a see-through crop top is a dress matter. The last two have nothing to do with the first, one is a crime and the other is a societal matter regarding hypersexualisation; The two, though they may intersect, are totally separate matters.

There is no justification or excuse for rape and sexual assault/abuse regardless of the victim’s sobriety level, location during the act, or style of dress. There is no understanding, or another side when it comes to these matters, especially when a minor is involved and making such excuses and using such talking points is as I say is a form of victim blaming.

Let us not view the two as the same coin only different sides as they are not and if we tackle them as such then this madness will continue. The rape culture we have in this country (and don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have one) is based on many things. How our young men are raised, how they are raised to view women, how they are raised to deal with rejection and many more things. What it is not caused by is a teenager ‘acting sexily’ or a woman wearing a revealing outfit, the fault, blame and cause lie squarely at the feet of those who commit acts of sexual violence.

If we are to deal with this epidemic of rape and sexual abuse, then we must address how we raise our young men. We must teach them that no means no (even if it is during a passionate consensual embrace), we must teach them that just because a woman says no to you does not diminish you as a man. We must teach them that just because a woman dresses in revealing clothes or acts provocatively does not mean it’s a green light for sex. Until those issues and others like it are dealt with we will always be experiencing this trauma.

The issues surrounding the hyper-sexualisation of children and that of broader society, that is the dress norms of the day, fall strictly in the realm of the personal and the immediate family. How a person dresses, be they man, woman or child is not the business of society at large (baring the excesses such as public nudity), rather it is an issue to be dealt with within the confines of that person’s home. These personal choices have absolutely no bearing on if a person is sexually abused and should never be used as ways to reason away, make sense or justify what is a one-sided crime.

For heaven’s sake, if the moral police have an issue with the way people (and by people, I mean women) dress then they should start petition groups and try to get laws enacted (good luck on that front). But to even think of conflating how a person, let alone a child dresses and why they have been abused is a disgusting red herring and must be called out.

If how a person dresses ‘invites’ sexual abuse if that is really the line which we are taking, then why are we not warning our men who wear saggy pants and also those who wear close fitting pants that they are potential victims of our imagined homosexual predators? We don’t do that because it is a stupid argument of victim blaming, coupled with the fact that we dislike gays whom we perceive to be molesters and rapists in the waiting. That is more proof that we don’t respect our women and have a serious problem when one thinks of rape and sexual abuse (if its gay then kill the abuser but if it is hetero you make excuses). It must stop and we all must recognise and accept that sexual abuse and rape are crimes and only the criminal can be blamed regardless of the victim’s age, how they were dressing or their sexuality and until we get that simple basic premise then this sick culture will only continue and become even more warped.

NO ART FOR ART’S SAKE

Art has a purpose. It is to act as an expression and extension of humanity and the human experience. This much is obvious, listen to any song, read any novel or view a painting and one can oftentimes feel what the artist is striving for (more so if the piece is very good).

Because art in all its forms is the ultimate expression we can all understand it has naturally been used by many for differing reasons, from religious to the selling of cereal, and as a result, many artists have decided that some form of non-alignment or neutrality in their works is best as they don’t wish to be bogged down in fights over ideology or sales-figures.
Such a stance, art for art’s sake, is understandable, but it is a wrong stance which in the long run leads to the stupification of the arts while allowing the most awful entities, be they political or corporate, to control art or, more importantly, the message in the art. For the truth is that there is no such thing as art for art’s sake as all forms of art will inevitably be used to either confirm or deny pleasure, or piss off people.

Two cases immediately spring to mind why art for art’s sake will only lead to the rise of demagogues and the rule of the stupid – the song The Snake (often quoted by Trump) and the artist Jackson Pollock…

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Cornwall Regional Hospital. It’s bigger than Chris

With the recent scandal at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH), the nation is up in arms. Persons are foaming at the mouth, rightly so, wondering why individuals -doctors and patients- were forced to occupy a hospital which was in such a bad condition. Persons are incredulous and rightfully demand to know why the information (while made public) was not broadcasted better. There is amongst all of this the demand that the relevant minister (in this case Dr Tuffton) be reprimanded, fired even for what looks like a shocking dereliction of duty.

Now it is true that as the minister of health this debacle is his remit, it is also true that as MOH he would have had first-hand information as to just how bad things were at CRH; however I feel that persons who are calling for his head are failing to see a big picture and how this crisis could benefit us (the people) if used right.

The bigger picture in all of this is that of collective responsibility, one of the few good things which we have in our governance structure. Collective responsibility, or Cabinet collective responsibility, in simple terms means that while the individual minister may personally disagree with a cabinet proposal, once it is taken they must all show collective unity on the issue. Collective responsibility is supposed to be one of the safeguards of this Westminister system and yet we see it constantly ignored as seen in this issue (and countless others).

Collective responsibility means that instead of the PM going AWOL and leaving it to the object of the peoples hate, he would speak on the issue as he is not only a part of, but heads the cabinet. It would mean that the MOF would speak on the matter, not only because everything passes through that ministry, but also because he is a part of the cabinet. The fact is that something of this nature would have been brought to the entire cabinets notice (the papers show the MOH allocating funds from last year) and nothing was done. One is left to assume that they all agreed to just sit on the matter as none of them would be going there for treatment anytime soon.

This is a matter which is much bigger than Mr Tuffton in my opinion as it strikes at the heart of one of the things so wrong in Jamaica. This is a matter quite frankly bigger than simply the JLP, as too often we have had ‘youthful exuberance’ and millions of dollars wasted on non-existent bridges from both green and orange. Each time these things happen the leaders and remainder of the cabinet vanish and the minister is left as the scapegoat, that is a scenario begging for corruption. Either the entire cabinet was privy to what was going on -in which case they all need to answer starting with the PM- or Tuffton was withholding critical news from his team members and we should be told of this gross infraction (unlikely as the AG was in the loop).

Going after the health minister alone in this scenario would lead us down a path we recently trod with the Jubilee scandal. The minister apologises, takes his licks and is moved to a dead end ministry. We saw this played out during the Patterson administration and we saw it during the Golding/Holness administration, nothing has changed for the better in those two decades. This is so, in my opinion, because the cabinet (but mainly the PM) is safe in the knowledge that regardless of whatever happens, the relevant minister will fall on their sword to save the administration from the wrath and glare of the public (akin to throwing a dog off the scent).

There is no reason why they can not or should not uphold something as crucial yet simple as this. It is, after all, not a concept alien to anyone in either of our two dominating parties both of whom practice some variant of democratic centralism. Is it a case where party rules and norms trump that of governmental/cabinet regulations?

That, in my opinion, is what we are facing in the big picture and what must be fought against. We must not let our raw emotions rule us and go solely after Dr Tuffton (though he does deserve special treatment), we must ask the administration the tough questions. Who knew what, and when did they know it? We must demand not only the health minister fall on his sword but other high flying cabinet members who must have or should have known.

To call for the fall of the administration is a bit too harsh, even for me, everyone should be given some scope to grow (or hang themselves). To insist that more than the MOH be pilloried is not, however, and much precedent has been set it all of our Commonwealth and Westminister brethren. It is high time that our governing elites realize that they have responsibilities, and one of them is that they all must be on the same page as it relates to policy and actions taken. They must also realize that failure to live up to those responsibilities have real and serious consequences, for all of them. If we fail to hold them all to account now for this then we can expect the next administration to continue along the same path, a path that is clearly leading nowhere.

Let’s deal with the IMF if we want real change in Jamaica

Let’s deal with the IMF if we want real change in Jamaica

Jamaica is falling apart, anyone who has eyes can see this. If one looks past the high-rises, BPO centres and car-marts (all shiny new things) you get to see roads in desperate need of repair, sewage mains no longer functioning and buildings in general disrepair. For example, when it rains roads flood and people have to swim in the business district of this nation, the state can’t afford to purchase cars for the police and as seen over the past few years the hospitals cant even get funding to ensure patients and medical staff aren’t exposed to dangerous conditions.

It is normal, almost reflexive in these situations to blame the government (or in our case the two incompetent parties). It is normal to cry for blood and demand that something is done about the injustice. It is normal and even correct to say that the decades of mismanagement by both parties (though one party did have a longer time at the wicket) have led to the nation being at the breaking point where even the bare basics now seem to be failing us. It is normal to feel this way and demand justice but we must understand that today, the persons who really have control over what is done is not the governing JLP, it is instead the IMF.

Let us be honest, politicians may be liars, they may be thieves and they may say asinine things, but they do enjoy being elected. So how is it that the party which was swept into office with the help of the scandal at Jubilee and all of the ills which face the nation, and still continue to do (or not do) the same things as the last administration which was embarrassed at the polls? This is so because, in spite of what the PM may want to have us believe, he does not run the country he simply takes directives from the IMF.

The facts are that since at least the last administration tax revenues have exceeded initial projections. The facts are that since the last administration we have had a budget surplus of at least 7% and sometimes higher. The fact also is that we cant spend that money, not because we don’t want to, not because we have nowhere to practically spend it, but because the IMF has stated that those monies be used to pay off our debt (a debt which almost all agree we cant hope to pay off).

This piece is not here to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the IMF or to say that Jamaica’s politicians have always been hindered by this institution. If one wishes to criticize IMF policies and where they lead one can look at the pieces written on the Philippines and Indonesia (both of which are still crippled by their IMF flirtations), and if one wishes to look at how local politicians have sold us out and raped us (financially) they can read the numerous volumes in UWI and Gleaner archives.

However, the situation today is that even if our politicians wanted to change their ways from that of rapacious highwaymen to nation builders and lay some social groundworks they couldn’t, because the IMF regulations are so stringent and limiting in their room for manoeuvre.

Social groups who are lambasting the government for underfunding institutions though well-intentioned are barking up the wrong tree. Persons and movements which demand money be put aside for housing and other areas are looking to wrong people. And the opposition which says they will do more for the people in these areas speak lies as they know that the boss won’t allow for it. The situation in which we find ourselves in today in this nation is that of two parties who do basically the same thing ( implementing austerity measures), and even if we were to get a party who wanted to invest heavily in the state couldn’t because of outside forces.

It is a Greek-like situation, where national politicians are simply enforcing rules passed on from their financial (and therefore political) masters. We simply must get rid of the IMF as a force in this nation if we truly want to advance the country. Only then will we begin to have a government truly accountable to the people and therefore (in theory anyway) able to properly invest in the nation. Then politicians will no longer have the excuse of saying ‘the surplus cant be touched’ as hospitals are evacuated for want of maintenance and upkeep. Then we will actually be able to discuss things such as what to do with the currency without the heavy hand of the IMF and its single-minded mission (that of neo-liberalism) barking in your ear.

For those who are paranoid that the state may once again go back to its old wasteful fiscal days, being rid of the IMF would actually be the test. It would show if we did, in fact, learn, because if we haven’t learned how to manage our economy do we really deserve independence (as being under IMF programs is basically signing up to be a protectorate).

Right now whenever we complain and moan about our politicians, whenever we demand that they actually use the cash they have on the nation it is akin to the burning of effigies. Nothing has ever come from burning effigies (or for my Christian friends sacrificing to idols), for a real change I say again we must start with the removal of the IMF. We must be debating on alternative forms of international finance, we must be debating on serious land reform, a housing program and the nationalising of key industries. All of those can only be successfully tackled and debated in a realistic manner, but only if we are rid of this behemoth which currently dictates just how much can be spent (thus greatly limiting the number of programs which can be implemented or institutions refurbished).

The world today is not the world in the immediate aftermath of World War II, finance and means of getting funds are no longer solely bound by the Washington consensus of the IMF and World Bank. With the BRICS Bank now up and running and with the Chinese AIDB also underway one can see where, with creative policy, we could actually fix infrastructure and implement the long overdue social policies. There are ways in which we can get out of this mess without tightening our belts to the point of disfigurement, avenues we could force our politicians down, but we cant do that with the IMF calling the shots. If we really are to stand any chance of changing this country for the better then we must begin by calling for the exit of the IMF.

Jamaica, marching to rebellion

Jamaica is in dire straits, with an economy that barely has a pulse, violent crime touching almost everyone, corruption rife and the people’s morale low, we can see where this island is looking into the eye of a hurricane. Things are made worse by the fact that we have two political parties which can ill afford to change a system which sees them directly benefit from the violent crime and the rampant corruption. Something has to give, something will give, but the question is what will take its place when the dust has settled?

Jamaica, whether we admit it or not has planted and lovingly grown a tree of anarchy, we are living in a state where rules don’t apply and those unfortunate fools who do follow the rules get buried. The people’s morale is at an all-time low and that now leaves them open and willing to accept any and everything (as seen with the JLP admin and its policies), they are desperate. They will be all the more desperate when the policies of this admin have their impact on them and then a nation that is both desperate and low on morale will be open to rebellion.

This is not wishy-washy talk, nor is this yearning for some ‘glorious and beautiful revolution’. The historical steps taken by this nation are in lock-step with others who have only wound up at revolution, the fact is that if things keep going as they are then it will happen. The odds are it probably will not be tomorrow, but the grass is dry and there are many sparks. As it relates to ‘glorious revolutions’ there is no such thing, one could fill many a tome with quotations stating things such as ‘a revolution is not a dinner-party’. They are violent, messy and pits man against man, however, it is necessary and it is where we are heading.

The evidence of us heading down this route are all around us and they have in fact intensified over the past few decades. Take for example the political and social elite of this country who are (and have been for some time) totally out of touch with the masses and their everyday realities. This is a group that has been living high on the hog for the past fifteen years while the average citizen has had to face what can only be called austere measures. This group which consists of bankers, manufacturers, large farm holders and politicians have all during the past decade and a half been getting fat at the trough while the unemployment rate in the nation gallops along. The lack of understanding is so lacking that the economy is seen to be doing well because of the opening of some BMW dealerships while the residents who live a stone’s throw away can ill afford the light bill. In a land where the most pressing issue at hand in the houses of the elite is if they will have issues going to the US on their Jamaican passports (as they are dual citizens) while the poverty rate creeps back to the 20% rate one can safely say that the seeds of rebellion have been planted.

Another harbinger of revolt is the total apathy of the people, and in Jamaica, we have a people who are bathed in apathy. This is a nation where murder no longer shakes us, it has to be dramatic, medieval for us to get talking about it. We are not surprised by corruption, it takes $200 million going astray for us to sit up. We are no longer shocked by police brutality, it now takes a pregnant woman being shot for us to talk about it. The apathy is a deadly harbinger because it shows a people with no hope, and if you have no hope its only a matter of time before you realise that you have nothing to lose and that something must change. A person in that situation who feels powerless and oppressed by a harsh system is always open to the idea of rebellion.

The spectre of rebellion is in the air, one only need look at the elections to see that the nation is in a deep state of unrest. The last two general elections have seen the PNP being elected in what could only be described as a rout on the promise of reform and then proceeded to lose in the most drastic way to the JLP who also campaigned on wholesale reform. Though the outcomes of those two elections were different (one with a supermajority and one with razor-thin lead), both were notable for their low voter turnout. The low voter turnout was made all the more interesting by the fact that in those elections some ‘die-hard’ seats, not garrisons, changed hands showing that even the dyed in the wool voters were switching allegiances. Such actions are always the sign of a restless and desperate people, and such people always rebel and revolt. If such anaemic turnouts coupled with the apathy of the people continue then that creates a situation ready for any charismatic strongman who claims that they can reform the system.

If one looks at the security forces one also sees where rebellion, again while not imminent, punctuates the air. The new NSC with Chief of Defense Staff and the proposed powers to be vested in the revamped JCF are alarm bells in a nation where a large portion of the people already feel that if the armed forces were in charge we would have some semblance of discipline. Things become even more touchy Officers (for altruistic reasons) are moved into the civil arena, they either become enamoured with the corruption and are just as bad, or become disgusted and act. This becomes a more dire situation when ex-army and policemen even in anger/jest float that possibility as an avenue out of the madness we currently find ourselves in.

The citizenry (outside of the regular voters) are also speaking in terms that are usually followed up by upheaval. Many are the individuals who have absolutely given up on the state and are going it alone, many are the individuals who, while not criminals, do react riotously to state intervention. They may be considered ‘vagabonds’, ‘squatters’ or ‘homesteaders’, whichever label you give them, these ‘poor unwashed masses’ are the perfect breeding ground for actions and activities that may very well rend the state apart. They can be seen in the small cliques and communities, some religious and some secular but these groups which have such a sceptical view of the state already should be worrying to those who fear for further instability in the land.

The clergy can also be seen as playing a crucial role in the ever-increasing rise of the rebellious fervour in the nation. The church has long been of the opinion that our leaders need to ‘come together and sing kumbayah’ so that we can right the wrongs of the nation, but in recent years we have moved past that stage as even the church is waking up to the fact that the system is inherently rotten. We hear them now no longer praying for our leaders to be divinely touched, rather they now call for full-fledged divine intervention. Divine intervention is no joke, it is a call of a desperate people who realise (or rather feel) that the prevailing system is so oppressive and strong that a mere mortal cant end the madness, only a God can stop the corruption. This is always a ringing bell for rebellion because it only then becomes a matter of time that a fanatic whips the people up into some zealous/righteous fervour a-la Iran, or the people flip the pages of the bible and see that God only helps those who help themselves. When a desperate people find knowledge such as that, that is when one knows that the barricades will be manned shortly.

Rebellions and revolutions are usually begun by some innocuous thing, an action which the heads don’t think will result in any massive sea change. Who would have thought that a man’s simple self-immolation would lead to the toppling (directly or indirectly) of four governments? Who would have thought that a relative few troublemakers on the streets of would lead to seven years of civil war? Desperate persons do desperate things and are more often than not spurred to action by a seemingly simple action. The state and powers that be have had ample time (two decades) to stem the ever-increasing tide of rebelliousness in the people and they have all failed. The people are cowed, scared and undereducated, some would say that that is a recipe for continued stagnation, but all people have a breaking point and it is clear to anyone who has eyes that our breaking point is fast being reached, what the aftermath will look like is anyone’s guess.

Beware politicians bearing ‘change’

Beware politicians bearing ‘change’

Change is a word that is always on politician’s lips, change is something that most if not all politicians promise and it is so not just because politicians enjoy hearing themselves speak or are stuck in a loop, it is because most times a serious change is visibly needed for that political system. Politicians in Jamaica are not immune from this act and we have had our fair share of politicians who have claimed to be ‘agents of change’ or are here to bring in ‘a new style of politics’, we have had numerous politicians who have promised the moon and countless have insisted that they are here to change the system and yet for some reason we seem to be stuck even further in the mire.

While it is nice to hear a politician state boldly that he/she is going to shake up the system, in our case it has always been a case of ‘beware of politicians bearing change’ as the change in most instances locally almost always results in expensive stagnation or even retardation and regression. We live in a land where every election cycle is donned with political parties who criss-cross the island that they and they alone have ruled for sixty-six years insisting that they will change the damaging policies that they have wrought. This can be seen in elections and in governance, whether the politicians and party are new in forming the government or picking up where they left off, we hear constantly of change and yet things remain the same.

If we use the last three administrations we see where much talk of change was bandied about and yet, in the end, the nation and the people, for the most part, are worse off than a decade ago. Take for example the previous PNP government and the issue of ganja; here we had a party calling for a change, stating that the laws then were totally out of step with what was (is) the reality in Jamaica. However, the ‘change’ that they implemented was to simply decriminalise, in other words, the big change was to codify what the police were already doing and end it there. No ganja industry was/has been planned, the cost of licences such as R&D and other legitimate purposes are prohibitively expensive and as such the main players in the ganja industry remains the drug lord and his cultivator. This is a party that swept to power when we were on our knees economically and the citizens were asked to tighten their belts, the PNP while in office though burnt through money for ‘official’ things like an enlarged travelling entourage and new top of the line cars. There may have been a change in how the economy was run (they did somewhat right the ship), but there was no change in their attitude towards the people bearing austere measures as they flaunted luxuries in their faces.

The previous JLP administration (2007-2011) was ushered in on the back of change, it was (even with its slim majority) touted as the panacea to the PNP poison. Change varying from political reform, electoral reform, economic reform and a systematic separation of politics and crime were peddled to the people and they bought it. In the end, the changes that actually took place were that of the state violently opening up the garrison of Tivoli, something most thought they would never see (especially by a JLP administration). And even the gains from that tragic change have been flushed away by following administrations as the gangster now look to consolidate themselves in West Kingston and the all-important port. On the economic front, we were promised a change from the stagflation that marred the PNP era, a change from living on borrowed money and a change in how we ran our finances, the change we got was, in fact, being hard hit by the financial crisis despite us having due time to prepare and the workers continuing to bear the brunt of it.

This administration has been no different in promising the moon, in trying to sell the people anything to get and remain in office. The promises of this administration have been many and all across the board, in most instances borrowing from past administrations and in all cases failing to make a change for the better. The promise of a better economic future (near term) has been shown to be a lie, it is more of the same and has meant stagnation for the workers. Promises of a change in leadership style have only seen parties acting like it was the bad 90’s in reverse, now its the PNP who repulse and turn off people by their actions and words leaving the JLP to act like the sole cock amongst hens. We see a government that promised to do right by the workers now offering what can only be called a joke as it relates to a pay increase. We have a government that after promising that they would ‘change’ dishing out contracts pre-election like its nobody’s business.

These are but a few examples of Jamaican political parties promising change or to be agents of change and we all know that there are countless more examples. The question then becomes, if we the voters and citizens want to change politics and how it works and we know that most politicians who promise change really only mean a change of party in office, what do you do? What action can the voter and the average citizen take when he/she knows that continuing down the same path will lead to ruin and yet those who not only preach change but are entrusted to be ‘agents of change’, then go and do the same thing or worse?

Finding the answer to this conundrum is simple, the implementation, however, is hard. One must elect politicians who have a record of positive change, individuals who have no linkages to the corrupted system that is Jamaican politics (there are quite a few individuals who fit the bill such as our former Contractor General). Elect persons who will and have done the hard lifting in our society, individuals from NGO’s and various charities whom we all know would ensure that a positive change takes place in the land. But as I said that is easy, we all know that is the answer, the implementation, however, will show if we really want a change. The action means writing, calling and speaking to individuals who fit the bill and pester them into entering the political arena, as many don’t want to because it entails the metaphorical selling of one’s soul.  Action means joining or forming a party so that those individuals can get on a ticket, it also means voting so that the individual can win. To see a change we need to hold our politicians accountable, vote them out when they mess up or deviate from the script the people have given them, we must ensure that they are answerable to the people in all there dealings.

Persons who want political change in this nation are a dime a dozen, everyone knows that things cant continue as they are. Everyone is grasping to or looking for something to be hopeful for, some positive change on the horizon and the politicians know this. They have had sixty plus years to make a change in the nation and if anything we have gone backwards. This current batch of politicians in both parties and youth wings are not agents of positive change, they are more of the same, that is so because the system they have designed makes them powerful and influential and changing it even in the slightest would be a major hindrance to that. If change is to come it will come outside of the two parties if a change is to come then the people of this nation will have to wise up and wise up quickly. We must learn fast that politicians bearing change are like Greeks bearing gifts, always to be viewed with suspicion and scepticism,