Sunday, September 30, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Portia vs. The Rest
On our political landscape, I imagine that it is going to be difficult to replace Portia Simpson-Miller as President of the PNP if she is reluctant to step down.
It looks to me as if her support is more than just a matter for party-line support, and instead is about Portia (and her followers) vs. The Rest.
Who are "The Rest?" Well, that changes from situation to situation. The Rest has so far been defined as:
-- the highly educated
-- the brown skinned
-- Peter Phillips, and Omar Davis
-- the non-working class members of the PNP
-- the wealthy
-- the JLP
-- K.D. Knight
-- P.J. Patterson
As some have put it, "Portia is one a we." In other words, "they" are not.
From the outside it seems that the PNP is at the mercy of Portia and her supporters. The agenda for last week's National Conference was changed becaue her supporters showed up at the National Stadium in their numbers uninvited. Did they do so because they feared that she was about to be ousted?
If so, it would be a mistake for the party of Michael Manley and other fine intellectuals to contine to cater to the lowest common denominator in our society. Unfortunately, our politics has gotten to the point where politicians sincerely believe that they cannot win votes without giving prospective voters T-shirts, box-lunches, Digicel credit or raw cash.
To put it more crudely, they think they cannot win without catering to the most hungry, the least educated and most easily "bought" among us. Replace the word "bought" with the word "bribed" and it probably paints a truer picture. The loyalty to Portia is a complex phenomena, and in this election "Vote for Portia and the PNP" was not a successful slogan, and did not represent a winning strategy.
Loyalty to Portia seems to mean... loyalty to Portia against everyone else who might be against her. And it seems to be the kind of unthinking loyalty that people have to politicians, football teams, armed factions, religions, the flag, pop artists and high schools.
I wonder if top PNP politicians are wondering what will happen if they do vote in a new President. Will there be demonstrations? Roadblocks? A Riot? Will they be able to placate the supporters of Portia with dress shirts, plate lunches, etc.?
It cannot be the case that the thought hasn't crossed anyone's mind that the party would do better with a different leader. Hopefully, the PNP will not lose itself in its efforts to remain popular, and decide the question of its leadership on more lofty terms.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Why are We So Poor in Jamaica
These two articles by Keit hCollister had me really thinking.
What has gone wrong with our country, that puts us at among the poorest countries in the region?
He gives the example of Ireland, and what they did to kcik-start their economy, including removing the red tape and tax structure that made it hard to do business.
And make no bones about it, doing business here is hard. I am in the process of setting up my first Jamaican company and it appears that I must visit at least five offices in order to get the requisite registrations done. This, after first applying to set up the company in December of 2006.
If the process were faster, I could be well on my way to earning and income in this business and paying taxes. Others might just have given up and decided to underground, or even to try another country altogether.
While the British left us some fine traditions, the bureaucratic mindset they left with us is something that they are eagerly shedding, and we are only just considering to be an impediment.
The first article is here.
The second article is here.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
The British Migration
I don't know much about the migration of Caribbean people to the U.K., but this book seems to be a powerful resources for explaining the experience. It is called "Tracing Jamaica's Migration Process."
From the outside it seems to be very different from the American experience, in ways that I can't quite distinguish at the moment.
Interestingly, I am yet to find a novel that relates to the experience of Jamaicans in the U.S. -- if it exists, please let me know. Andrea Levy is the definitive author when it comes to the British-Jamaican migration experience and I long for an author who will do the same for the North American migration of the 1970's onwards.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Links for Moving to Jamaica
I found the following link of resources for someone Moving to Jamaica.
It's a pretty good source for one-stop shopping.
Click here to be taken to The Escape Artist website.
Also, here is a link to the Consul General's website in New York. It offers specific help to the returning resident.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
House for who? Car to go where?
When I lived in the U.S. I accomplished the "American Dream" at a young age.
As a 25 year-old I co-owned a four bedroom house, owned a car and had a secure job.
One of the things I learned is that these possessions were not all they were cracked up to be, as I was living at the time in New Jerey, affectionately known as "the Armpit of America" due in no small part to the vicious smell that greets New Yorkers and others coming over from Staten Island or through one of the tunnels.
The car was nice -- it could take me anywhere in New Jersey that I wanted. The house was good -- I could have over anyone I wanted.
Except that I could never drive to Ocho Rios for even five minutes. I also could not visit anything I would call a beach without reaching South Florida on a 24 hour drive on I-95.
Sure there were other places to visit, but that had to happen in the summer months when it wasn't so cold.
Also, I could never invite my closest family and friends to enjoy my place -- they were in Jamaica after all. I could not pop over to my parents for even a fifteen minutes to spend some time checking up on them.
Sure, there were other people to invite over, but strangely enough, i have lost touch with almost all of them, while I retain friendships with people here in Jamaica from when I was 2 years old until today.
I remember when I would come home to Jamaica and would tell people that I lived in New Jersey. They would ask -- "where is that?" I would say, "Near to New York." They would go, "Oh yes, New York." Living in New Jersey felt a little like living nowhere... it was a strange feeling, but I realize that I also think that a relative of mine living in Cleveland gets the same treatmant from me, now.
"Cleveland? Where is that again? What is it close to?"
My point is this: Moving Back to Jamaica has restored for me a link to what is most important in life, and also to the most important people. While I could have a lot of good "stuff" while living in the US, it felt to me like "farrin." Deep, far away "farrin."
I could not share my life with those who really mattered, or do many of the things that really mattered.
Somehow, going to Atlantic City is not the same as going to Negril.
Talking to my neighbour (whose name I only learned after several years) is not the same as talking to my neighbours here.
Being able to exercise during the summer months is not the same as being able to live the outdoor lifestyle that I love 365 days a year (outside or hurricanes, riots and elections, of course.)
Speaking American English in order to be understood, is not the same as relaxing into speaking patois.
Voting in the U.S. is not the same as voting in Jamaica.
Talking about race in America is not the same as taking about race in Jamaica.
When I realized that I could never call anywhere in the U.S. "home" was when I knew I would be back home... to my real home. I doubt that this will ever change about me, even if I do live abroad again.
Now, this may not apply to a single person other than myself, but my life became easier when I realized that I was Jamaican, first and foremost. The fact that I kept my accent after all of 20 years abroad, probably meant that I never, ever accepted that I was going to stay a "farrin."
Monday, September 24, 2007
A Brilliant Way out of Political Trouble
The following article is simply brilliant, and provides a clean pathway through a mess that I think neither party wants. It could be crafted in a way that neither party comes out the loser, and Jamaica comes out the winner.
It can be found on the Gleaner website at http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20070923/letters/letters1.html
This is truly a solution for statesmen.
LETTER OF THE DAY: How to avert an impeding political crisis
published: Sunday | September 23, 2007
The Editor, Sir:
The action brought by Mr. Abe Dabdoub against Mr. Daryl Vaz to determine whether Mr. Vaz has been disqualified from taking his seat in Parliament has
been fixed before the Chief Justice for the 16th day of October 2007. At the conclusion of those hearings, it will be open to the learned Chief Justice to
rule in favour of Mr. Dabdoub. The implications of such a ruling are mind-boggling.
It would appear that the situation in which Mr. Vaz finds himself may very well have been replicated by other candidates on both sides of the political
divide, and if so, represents a recipe for a political crisis.
Now, there are two developments that this country does not need at this precise governance in time: neither a stalemate in Parliament, nor another election.
renounce foreign allegiance
In an effort to avert any such daunting prospect, I humbly and respectfully wish to make the following proposal: that an agreement be signed by all the
candidates who contested the election in such affected constituencies, that the winning candidate (from whichever party), who has sworn allegiance to a foreign country, be required to publicly renounce such allegiance, whereupon the opposing candidate or candidates would either withdraw or discontinue any existing or
After all, these winning candidates would have been the people's choice of those constituencies, and for the 'loser at the polls' to be awarded the seat by default is doomed to generate extreme resentment and even hostility; whereas such a lofty approach by the petitioners could be a most magnanimous gesture on their part, as they would have proved their point without exacting their pound of flesh.
This could represent the first step toward the 'inclusiveness', which, as I understand it, is the dream, which both Mr. Golding and Mrs. Simpson Miller share.
For my part, I can envision no greater start down the pathway towards the ultimate unification of our Jamaica, which the electorate has indicated, by their votes, is their unequivocal and uncompromising demand.
Finally, a word to the wise: The worst compromise is better than the best lawsuit; to the victor, not always, goes the spoils.
I am, etc.,
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Up to Fifty Votes on Sunday night
In a nearlier post, I mentioned that I had a proposal for a revolutionary way of doing time management posted up on ChangeThis.com.
So far, it has garnered 50 votes and not doing too badly-- coming in second place among 11 proposals.
Once again, you can check the page out here and vote (but only a singel vote is allowed per computer.)
Barbados Blogs Make a Huge Step
There is a huge shift underway in Barbados -- two of the most outspoken blogs are being printed and distributed on paper.
In my travels across the region I hav found the Barbados newspapers to be the absolute worst -- insipid, uninspiring and devoid of any of the passion that one normally associates with journalism. Reading them brings on feelings of suffocation, suppression and suspicion.
I remember when a Bajan sitting next to me on the plane to Bridgetown was arrested and hauled off by Jamaican police. He was in the news the next couple of days in Jamaica, as he was arrested and later convicted of trying to export ganja.
There was no mention of the incident in the Bajan press.
Frankly, they are just not worth reading.
However, as bad as they are, they have spawned what might be the hardest-hitting journalists in the region in the form of Barbados Free Press and Barbados Underground. They are anonymous, and ever since they decided to distribute a print version they have been under attack.
While there are no comparable blogs in Jamaica or Trinidad, the newspapers in both countries are much more truthful, even if they lack in high quality, investigative reporting. There is more of a feeling in both places that the papers are not trying to present a nice picture to either tourists or the government
Amazingly, neither of the two major Bajan newspapers has ever acknowledged the existence of either blog, in spite of the fact that they sometimes take their lead and follow their stories. If they aren't careful, they might find themselves obsolete before very long, bearing in mind that over 60%of Bajan households have access to the internet, and that the numbers are only climbing.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Jamaican vs. US Prices
Comparing prices is not an easy thing to do here in Jamaica, especially as the prices I remember in Hollywood, Florida have changed as a result of several hurricanes, and huge increase in gas prices, and the effects of a housing collapse.
Two years has made a big difference.
Yet, now and again I try to make a direct comparison.
This week, I bought a box of labels for CD's, and when confronted with the J$1800 price I cussed to myself thinking that "dem was a set of tief."
Well, to my shock, the package was cheaper to get from the local store than it would be to order it in the US.
J$1569 + 15% tax = J$1827.88
From OfficeDepot.com, ordering by mail but payng no sales tax:
US$20.98 + US$7.95 = $28.93
At the current exchange rate of 70:1, it is cheaper to buy the product in Jamaica.
Prices are difficult to track, because the exchange rate is always changing, and also it's easy to forget the 15% VAT.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Voting for a New Way to Manage Your Time
When I am not writing about Moving Back to Jamaica, I spend some time writing and thinking about why people have such a difficulty in developing sound time management techniques.
In fact, being here in Jamaica is really what has forced me to think about this, as we have a very different concept of time here than those living in "First World" countries. Some of it is better, but a lot of it is worse.
It made me wonder, and forced me to ask much more probing questions. The result was a website of new ideas, http://2time.wordpress.com.
Then I remembered a website that accepts new ideas in the form of "radical" manifestos -- ChangeThis.com.
I took the first step and submitted a "proposal" and lo and behold, it was accepted.
I proposed that the old methods of thinking about time management as a bunch of little tips is bankrupt, and that a new paradigm is needed.
The cool thing is that if you are impressed by the proposal (reproduced below), you can vote on it. If the proposal gets enough votes, then I will be asked to "Write a Manifesto" which they will post on the site. (There is no cost or payment involved.)
So, should I "Write this Manifesto?" -- let the world know and follow these steps, if you'd like:
1. Read the "Proposal" below
3. If you LOVE it, visit the blog that outlines the 11 Fundamentals of 2Time Management
4. If you go beyond loving it, let me know by sending me an email -- email@example.com
I'll post up the results sometime after October 19th, when the polls close!
Here is "The Proposal"
On Time Management: Toss Away the Tips, Find the Fundamentals
Author(s): Francis Wade
There is a stew of tips floating around on how to improve one's time management skills, confusing the professional who is trying to become more productive.
However, neither a professional basketball player nor a concert pianist becomes great by learning a bunch of tips. Instead, their expertise comes through practice, learning, coaching and reflecting on the fundamental techniques they learned at the very beginning.
To witness Michael Jordan sinking free-throws, or Leonard Bernstein practising scales, is to know that their public triumphs were won long before the bright lights were turned on. Working professionals have never been taught the fundamentals of time management, and are stuck chasing after the latest tips and coolest gadgets.
Imagine MJ chasing after the latest sneakers...
What are the unalterable, fundamental elements of time management? How can they be learned? How can they be practiced? How can they be coached? How can they be perfected?
The Answer Is...
Remember, if you like it, vote for it by clicking here, and then on "Write this Manifesto" and pass on the link to others so that they can vote on it also
Interview with a Jamaican returnee
Here is a video interview with a Jamaican who returned, sharing about some of the reasons she has come back to live.
Video -- click here if you cannot see the vide below
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Response to "Stuck in America"
This letter was published in the Gleaner ins response to the letter "Stuck in America."
(Click on the headline to be taken to the original page.)
LETTER OF THE DAY - A Jamaica success story about living in America
published: Thursday | September 13, 2007
The Editor, Sir:
You have printed the 'Diary of a Jamaican-born US Citizen' which contends that '1 out of the 7' Jamaican migrants is having it rough succeeding in America. How about hearing from one of the three that has succeeded. Frankly, I think there are more than three out of 10 of us who have succeeded.
In my opinion the ones who have not succeeded are those who when they lived in Jamaica considered themselves the 'haves'. They had the helpers, the big house, the cars and went to the posh schools. Most likely, they left Jamaica out of fear. America has a way of humbling you and those who refuse to, find out the hard way.
In 1988 I migrated at age 34. I had nothing but a few dollars. Less than 10 years later I purchased my own house and completed a master's degree. I did not get further than a junior secondary school in Jamaica. I was not fortunate enough to get a Common Entrance placement. Today, I own my own business (a counselling agency) with government contracts and I am completing a doctoral degree.
Assistance from wonderful people
All of this was done without the assistance of family (blood family that is). God placed some wonderful Americans and transplanted Jamaicans in my path. I was not a snob when I lived in Jamaica and will never become one. I am grateful every day for the many blessings that have come my way with the hard work I have put in.
Having an air of entitlement was never who I am, but that has been the problem for some of those who find it hard to adjust. America is not Jamaica and you cannot bring the same mindset and attitude you had there to this country. I have seen those who have made it and I have seen those who would have been better off staying in Jamaica.
More discrimination in Jamaica
I have heard the horror stories of others who complained about the injustice and discrimination they have faced. I cannot say I have never faced any, but I have always used such occasions as a challenge - when life throws you a lemon, make lemonade. To be honest, I faced more discrimination (not because I was black, but because I was poor) when I lived in Jamaica thanI ever have in the U.S. The Biblical saying "A prophet is not without honour save in his own country" is applicable here.
It is amazing. Now that I have maximised my potential in life, those who did not see me as worth associating with in Jamaica, now want to talk with me. I am sorry to hear that 'Stuck in America' is having a hard time, but I suggest she examines herself to see how she could make things better for herself.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Stuck in America
This letter was published in the Gleaner recently:
(Click below to see it in the original form.)
I remember them asking us if we wanted to see snow. We were all excited about seeing it for the first time. After we came here and experienced winter, and subsequently snow, we said to our parents "okay we are ready to go back now". That's when we found out that there was no going back. We were told that life would be better here. We wondered 'for who'?
In Jamaica, we had a big back and front yard and trees to climb. Our toes never got so cold that they burned when they were warming back up. Don't forget we also had a nice big apartment filled with relatives to try and run around in.
I decided as a teenager that I would move back to JA once I finished college. Well, by the time I finished college, I was a divorced, single mom making $30,000 a year teaching kindergarten. Time to move back now, right? Wrong! I had no money, student loans to pay back, and only very distant relatives with whom I could not live. Many of them wouldn't even know me if my parents weren't standing next to me.
So I moved to Florida where at least the pace is slower and there is no real winter. I found out the hard way that the cost of living in Fort Lauderdale is almost identical to NYC, but the pay was only half of what you would make in NYC doing the same job. After they outsourced my job to people in India, I decided that I could get a higher paying job in NYC and moved back. Six months after moving back, I got a job paying just $4000 more per year than what I was making in Florida. Now one might think that you can easily live on your own while raising a child on $30,000 (I came back to the same salary two years later) is easy, but I struggle to make ends meet every month.
Bed of roses
After 27 years of living in the U.S. and going through the school system, I have no money saved and own no property. What I do have is bad credit and student loans to repay. You might think that my story happens to 1 out of 10 people, but sadly, the statistics are more like 7 out of 10. All those who might think that life is a bed of roses here and money is easy to come by, please think twice about packing up and moving here especially with children.
If you have a good job in JA and own your home, send your kids here to school or just come here to stay with a family member, work and go back home. Don't take for granted your beautiful beaches where you can de-stress, and the fruit you can pick off the trees so you never have to go hungry. Consider the concrete jungle, fast-paced life, and winter that we have here waiting for you.
I am, etc.,
Stuck in America
Monday, September 17, 2007
Cranberry Juice Like Mad
I think that I missed something, but Jamaica is now the number one consumer of cranberry per capita.
Where did this come from? How did it happen?
After all, cranberry is not known to have backative powers, is it?
Here .. read this... and make up your own mind as to why this is now the case.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Scamps or Statesmen
In a recent post, I made the point that our politicians had the choice of being statesmen, or scamps.
A couple of recent events looked to me to be particularly scamp-like.
One was the recent move by the JLP to block the count of 2 un-counted boxes in the constituency in which their candidate was declared the winner. The article can be accessed here.
To observers it seems that the only reason the count is being blocked is to prevent the magisterial count from being overturned.
While they have every legal right to go to court and to take the action they took, I believe it was a grave mistake, and defies the spirit of the law. It was an opportunity that was lost to take the morale high ground, and to put country over party at a time when a clear demonstration was needed.
Today, the PNP had its national conference, and I noticed that Portia ignored the clear overtures that Bruce had made to join together in some creative way to lead the country.
It would have been better for Jamaica to have said "I hear you but, I don't believe you." To ignore his words altogether, and instead to promise only that "this isn't finished" (in reference to the last election) strikes me as more of the scamp-like behaviour that puts party over country.
I believe the country yearned for her to at least acknowledges that he reached out, and that his slim majority means that he MUST do so for the sake of Jamaica's peace and prosperity.
While these look to me like lost opportunities, I think these are early days, and that the situation is not lost, it's just that we are off to a rocky start.
I get the feeling that people of principle have abandoned our political process, and that we (including myself) have turned into a nation of talk-show hosts.
When people of principle withdraw themselves, the scamps run the roost. The results are disastrous, and the burden of failure comes down the most heavily on the poor, the uneducated and the unemployed.
They are largely the ones wearing the T-shirts, hanging out the buses to travel to party meetings hoping to get a free lunch and a little money, and who will vote for anyone in the right colour T-shirt. Scampish behaviour appeals to the lowest common denominator and breeds a dependence that relies on appetite (for food, money, excitement, thrill, love) over intelligence.
Unfortunately, you can't run a country on by feeding people's appetites, and now it looks like the camp-like behaviour that we have tolerated during "election-time" might well be running the show for a very, very long time.
I just ran into an interesing site that offers to deliver food from some top Kingston retaurants, and also just added a grocery-buying option.
The blog is fascinating as well, including a post on the WiFi spots in Kingston!
Saturday, September 15, 2007
VMBS Give Financial Advice for Returning Residents
Friday, September 14, 2007
Doing The Work
In prior posts I have written about a Move Back to Jamaica being an inner journey, in addition to a physical one, and that I have been using a variety of helpful tools to make my transition.
Recently, I talked about attending Byron Katie's School for the Work, and have been using the techniques she taught at the School.
Interestingly, I have noticed that as I work with one stressful or painful thought each day, I am getting more and more confident that I can deal with any thought or situation that arises.
This has lead to an interesting concidence.
As a student of the Course in Miracles, I happen to be studying a chapter that deals with "The Obstacles to Peace." One of the obstacles happens to be our willingness to identify ourselves as our bodies, and therefore to limit ourselves, thinking that by doing so, we somehow gain something.
It all reminds me of a monopoly game in which you choose a piece at the start of the game -- either the Hat, the Car or the Thimble, for example. I like choosing the Dog. In the game of monopoly, the chosen piece goes through many dramas -- it goes to jail, it draws from the Community Chest, it lands on Boardwalk, it pays rent on Atlantic, it buys a Railroad, it sells a utility, it gets rich, it goes bankrupt, and sometimes it wins and sometimes it loses.
Now, if you have ever played Monopoly with someone who takes the game too seriously, you'll know what it looks like to see someone get stressed over what looks to others like nothing at all. They might get angry, upset, fearful, demanding, and even cheat in order to get their way... as fully-grown adults...
They simply forget that they are not the Hat, and that this is a mere game, with virtually inifinitesimal consequences in the larger scheme of things. Those who forget are very difficult to play with, and people often say that they will never play with them gain.
It is as if, for the duration of the game and long after, they extend the definition of themselves in their mind to include the piece they are playing with. Of course, this happens in real life also, with, for example, people who are devastated when their shiny, new car gets hit by a dirty old taxi from behind. They also forget that the car is just a "piece" they are playing with.
Closer to home, a woman who loses all her hair to old age or chemotherapy also forgets that hair is just... well, hair. I am bald (by choice) so losing my hair every 3 days to the razor is a relief.
A soldier who loses a limb in a war can also forget that a foot is... just a foot, although this is much harder to swallow for most.
To take it to a most ridiculous extreme, have you ever had the thought that when you are cutting your finger-nails, that the cut nail is a partof you that is being lost? I have, and it's more of the same kind of stressful thinking. Am I my fingernail?
To make matters worse, I read somewhere that the cells in our body, and the molecules that make them up are all exchanged for new ones every five years or so (if I remember correctly.) Most people don't know this, but I sense that this information is no big deal to most people, as they don't consider themselves to be their molecules.
So, if I am not my molecules, and not my fingernails, and not my hair, am I even my body?
Or, is my body just another "piece" like "the Hat" in Monopoly?
I am amazed at what happens to my piece when I play Monopoly. It goes through all these ups and downs, and dramas, until I close up the game and place it all in a box and put it on a shelf.
I am also (barely) learning to be amazed at my body in the same way. Based on something I read, I did an exercise a few years ago in which I changed the way I spoke about my body for a few days.
Instead of "my body" it became "the body." (Men who have been married know what it's like to see "my car" become "the car" in a similar transition.) Now ,the exercise has turtned into more than just a mental game.
Recently I have noticed that the body likes to be well fed, exercised and rested. It also likes sex. Today, the body is recovering from a 5:00am run this morning, and it enjoyed the cool breeze it felt. It fed itself cereal, while it read the newspaper.
Then it got in front of the computer, and started typing away. It still needs to bathe itself, however. it smells a bit...
It's amusing to see what happens to it from moment to moment.
Funnily enough, ever since I started thinking this way, I have noticed that the body has started to feel a bit heavy, not quite a burden, but I have experienced a slightly growing separation between "me" and it.
And with this experience has come more of a detached amusement, and less fear. i can't wait to see what it decides to do next!
Why is this important to Moving Back to Jamaica?
Being here in the last month through the dangers of a hurricane and a violent election have pushed up the fear quotient quite a bit for the bodies living here in Jamaica. They have been doing all these different and new activities to prevent themselves from being hurt.
Most seem to have forgotten that they are not the Hat, Car or Dog and instead are much grander. Perhaps this is what the Course in Miracles is talking about.
I hope so, because anything that helps someone moving to Jamaica to deal with the heightened fear their body is likely to experience must be useful.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Radio Interview on Election Day Work
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Letter from Someone Moving Back
This very nice letter came in from a reader of the blog:
I am not sure that you will remember me from ... Florida. I wrote earlier about the difficulties of living here and how much I wanted to return to Jamaica. Both you and your wife were kind enough to respond to my questions and comments which proved very useful. I want to thank you for being a "sane" link to Jamaica(smile!).
Francis thank you for your blog because it has helped to guide me on what is happening in our country and I hope you will continue to fight to stay in Jamaica. The best part of your blog, for me, is that you write on both sides. You attempt to show the good, bad and the beautiful sides of Jamaica. I agree that someone with ADD would do rather well there... I guess that's me.(lol!)
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The Intent of the Law
What happens if the PNP is successful in its attempts to have 2 elected candidates disqualified because they are U.S. citizens? What if they are able to find 3 more candidates to disqualify because they did not declare a financial interest they had with the government of Jamaica?
What if it were to be successful in this way and were then able to form a majority in parliament, forcing Prime Minister Golding to resign?
Is this what the PNP really wants? As they say, be careful of what you ask for, because you might get it. They would be the first party to gain office in Jamaica through the courts, rather than through the ballot box.
It is obvious to them, and to all Jamaicans who are fair-minded, that the will of the people is that the JLP form the next government. Only the most die-hard PNP supporters would deny that this is the case. Even when the party made clear threats to challenge JLP candidates that they alleged to be US citizens, it made no difference to the vote. Each of the accused won by over a thousand votes.
Clearly the people have spoken.
Does the PNP, the party of Norman Washington Manley, really want to gain power in Jamaica in defiance of the people's wishes? Does it really want to enter the next election being famous for wanting to gain power, while overriding the people's voice?
Once the legal can of worms is fully opened, would it then make sense for the JLP to challenge as many successful PNP candidates as it can with disqualification by one means or another, in order to try to retain a
majority? Should they also go hunting for passports, declarations and the like?
What is not being talked about in all this is the obvious fact that the intent of the law, written into the Constitution in 1962, is not being violated.
If it is true that the JLP and PNP candidates who have (or had) US citizenship are indeed the beneficiaries of what most Jamaicans will agree is good fortune, then it is to their benefit and to their credit that they choose to even live in Jamaica, let alone run for office. After all, they could be living in Flatbush, Scarborough,
Pembroke Pines or Tottenham, safe from crime, violence and presumably with greater creature comforts.
But as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.
The truth is that the law was written to prevent split commitments. No-one dare argue that these Jamaicans don't care deeply about their country. Their very presence here speaks volumes about their commitment. We are in absolutely no danger of them choosing to favour the US people over the Jamaican people in a crunch. They have already chosen.
The bitter feelings in the U.S. over the Bush vs. Gore election debacle show us what happens when the courts are used as a place to make decisions.
Is this what Jamaica wants?
This is not to say that the law shouldn't be changed, or that the candidates should not revoke their US citizenships, if they exist. It doesn't say that Prime Minister Golding should not demand that the JLP come clean, and admit that a major error was made.
It does say that he shouldn't use the glacial nature of the our court system, multiple appeals at all levels, and a bevy of lawyers and legal tricks to delay the inevitable, and to stay in power.
It does say that the PNP, and Jamaica should all be careful about the course of action we are taking.
The situation, which should not be ignored by Prime Minister Golding, cries out for a peaceful and amicable solution. The government and opposition can both act like a bunch of scamps trying to hold on to power in whatever way they can, or it can impress us all with a statesman-like solution, by putting country over party.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Random Election 2007 Radio Ads
Sunday, September 09, 2007
The Portia Factor -article
In the aftermath of the Eelction, I read the following article by Peter Espeut that I think is brilliant.
He says: The strategists in the PNP completely misread the situation; they thought her popularity was personal, and pushed her to the front: "Vote for Portia and the PNP". Portia was politically popular not because she is a nice lady (which apparently she genuinely is), but because like other political messiahs in our history (e.g. Marcus Garvey and Michael Manley) she promised a new day.
I think that he is absolutely right.
I read study that showed that US Presidential candidates that emphasized a brighter future were far more likely to win than others who merely criticized what their opponents had not done well.
Very late in the day (maybe 3 days before the elections) there was a brilliant ad from the PNP that came from what I heard was their "new" advertising agency.
It showed Portia's rise to leadership in the party, from her young days in the 1970's until today.
It perfectly captured the Portia Factor.
However, it got lost in the talk of "Trusting Portia" -- I was riding in the country yesterday and saw several billboards with Portia's picture and the line "You can Trust Portia." At the bottom it said "Vote for Porta and the PNP."
What a mistake, if Espeut's line of reasoning is anything to go by.
Early last year when I was a big supporter of Portia, I surely wasn't enchanted by her personality (which I knew little about.) What she represent is so much bigger than that.
Her life is a living symbol of what most Jamaicans want. Maybe all.
Everyone wants to have the opportunity to move ahead and become much more than our society would predict.
In that context, even her tirade on stage could have been explained with some candor, and once again remind people of how far she has come, yet she still makes mistakes.
Somehow, the message that her life demonstrates, got mixed up with her persona.
And we are all worse off as a result.
Friday, September 07, 2007
No Gmail in Jamaica
From my small sample of three, it seems that Gmail is not accessible here in Kingston.
What happened? Anyone else seeing this?
Thursday, September 06, 2007
A Superb Election Day
There is a great site with pictures from Election Day 2007 at the Gleaner website. Trinidad has Carnival, and we in Jamaica have Elections... not the same thing, of course, but we take it just as seriously. Here is a sample:
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Election Day Work
Yesterday, election day (Monday,) I spent the day from 4 am until 7 pm
employed as a Presiding Officer in Polling Station number 62 of the
Kingston Central constituency.
This, after spending all day Sunday in a 10am until 8pm meeting being
re-trained, and briefed on the day we were about to spend at Kingston
Technical High School managing a portion of the voting process.
Jamaican elections are hard to describe.
They bring out the absolute best and the absolute worst in people.
They are nothing like elections in the U.S., which are pretty sterile, quiet affairs that could easily be missed by anyone not paying close attention.
Voting is quite an optional affair.
Here in Jamaica, we are never in any danger of forgetting. Elections are an all-encompassing affair, and election day itself at our polling station was filled with event after event of near-disasters, incompetence, street disturbances, fights, jokes, boredom and frightening moments. Nothing else I have ever done compares.
Thankfully, none of the big problems happened at P.S. 62.
By that I mean there were no gunshots, no injuries, no attempted bogus voting, no attempted ballot box stealing and enough food and drink to keep us alive, but always just a little bit hungry.
One of the funniest moments happened when a large magazine of bullets fell out of the M16 one of the soldiers guarding the facility was carrying. The loud clatter was enough to stop us all in our tracks and produced a quiet hush. He looked as guilty and as clumsy as a 16 year old dropping his bag of books.
It set off a round of head-shaking and tut-tutting, with some mutters here and there.
At the end of the day, however, it was free and fair. Someone brought to the station at gunpoint and forced to vote could still vote in secret for whoever they wanted, or for no-one at all by merely leaving the ballot blank. It is now a crime to show anyone a marked ballot, and if it is disclosed, the ballot is immediately spoiled.
This is a far cry from the good old days when certain constituencies would have a turnout of over 100% of the voters on the roll.
I recall the elections of 2000 when a friend of mine voting in West Palm Beach became a player in the drama that got George Bush elected.
She left the polling station thinking that something went wrong, because she was not quite sure which candidate received her vote. This became the basis of a national drama when some 3000+ votes for Al
Gore ended up going for Pat Buchanan. The result of that design was enough to make gore lose that precinct, the state, the electoral college votes, and the presidency.
Our elections in Jamaica in 2007 are much better run than that, better executed and are staffed by people who are willing to take personal risks in order to ensure a democratic process. Our votes remain
more passionate and far more engaged in the process of selecting leaders than I ever saw in the U.S.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Dis Also Happen a Foreign
This interesting letter to the editor is from the online Jamaica Gleaner.
'Dis also happen a foreign'
published: Saturday | September 1, 2007
The Editor, Sir:
Now that my travels have taught me better, I'll be ready, with a well-oiled tongue and a bank of experience, to take on the next ignoramus who, in a criticism of happenings in Jamaica, utters the wretched words: 'dis would never happen a foreign!' Whether it be the occasional tendency to bundle rather than queue, the instances of violence on public transport, or barely literate youngsters graduating from some schools, our 'humble homeland' is certainly not unique!
Having taught outside of the Jamaican school system for the past three years, I have certainly had a rude awakening. I have seen many a pupil place an apostrophe in every word that ends with an 's' and numerous others who think there is actually a word spelt 'somefink'. Yet, we are all ready to apply the label 'dialect interference' willy-nilly to every relatively minor error that our pupils make, thinking this is a phenomenon that affects only our own.
Similarly, we seem to think moments of inefficiency lie only with our public service officials and local employees who interface with the public. Having faced so many instances of even worse treatment abroad, I realise now how far this concept is from the truth. The experiences of having blatant errors made on official documents, waiting lengthy time spans on the phone to have business matters sorted, or occasions of downright rudeness, while inexcusable in any country, do not only exist in Jamaica.
The first time I witnessed a fight take place on a bus, so much so that the police had to intervene, was while in lovely Paris. Likewise, the most undignified instances of drunken disorderliness that have blessed these eyes have been at 3:00 a.m. in the streets of London and this could be any weeknight!
Again, I emphasise that none of the issues I have raised are ever acceptable in any country. While we should seek to stamp out mediocrity and indiscipline wherever it exists on our shores, we must avoid the self-denigrating view: 'only in Jamaica!' The idea 'dis would never happen a foreign' is a total fallacy. It can and it does!
I am, etc.,
DENNZ St. CLAIRVia Go-Jamaica
Saturday, September 01, 2007
The Impediment of Being a US Citizen
There is a controversy brewing that overseas Jamaicans should be paying close attention to.
Apparently, it is alleged, there are a number of candidates for the JLP and PNP (and maybe others) that have US citizenship in addition to their Jamaican citizenship.
The problem arises because the Jamaican constitution, written as it was in 1962, is quite clear.
What the law says: (from an article in the Gleaner)
Section 41 (2) of the Constitution: No person shall be qualified to be appointed as a senator or elected as a member of the House of Representatives who "is, by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign Power or State."
If election officials fail to ensure that the nominated candidate is "qualified to be a member of the House of Representatives," the issue may be taken to Court as a Constitutional motion or as an election petition.
The effect of challenging the nomination in the Supreme Court or Constitutional Court before the election, if successful, would be to render the nomination unconstitutional and void and thereafter, the next candidate would by default win the election.
If challenged in the Election Court successfully after the election, "the poll shall be retaken on such day within a period of twenty-eight days from the date of the declaration".
If dual citizenship were to be renounced after nomination, it would still mean that the candidate would, at the time of nomination, not have been qualified to be a member of the House and therefore that person's nomination would not have been legal.
While I think it is unlikely that an election will be overturned on this basis (as both parties are affected,) the PNP has been trying to introduce it as an "important" issue on this, the eve, of the elections. A case has been presented in the courts asking them to disqualify Darryl Vaz, a JLP candidate.
I think the letter below makes an important point.
LETTER OF THE DAY - Dual citizenship an international trend
published: Friday | August 31, 2007
The Editor, Sir:
LIKE SO many other countries in the global village, Jamaica recognises and accepts the concept of dual nationality for its citizens. In our case, the benefits are significant, not least of which are the huge remittances coming from those living abroad; and when it comes to the dual citizen taking part in parliamentary elections, the trend today is for greater liberalism and flexibility in this arrangement. In fact, any country seeking to deliberately deprive its dual citizens of electoral rights would appear to be stepping in the wrong direction.
Canada's John Turner, who in 1984 succeeded Pierre Trudeau as Prime Minister, retained his United Kingdom citizenship while in office, and still does. Likewise, Stephane Dion, the present head of the Liberal Party of Canada and Leader of the Opposition, has retained his French citizenship without being put under pressure. He has said that he will renounce the French connection if it tends to hamper his party's prospects in future elections; but so far there is no big outcry.
The United States (U.S.), often accused of being ultra-nationalistic, appears to be taking a much more liberal view than the People's National Party in Jamaica. While Americans seldom seek dual citizenship in other countries, there is no law in the U.S. that prevents an American citizen from having a passport from another country. Nor was there any uproar when Arnold Schwarzenegger became Governor of California without renouncing his Austrian citizenship. The U.S. made no fuss when one of its citizens became President of Lithuania in 1997, and it seemed routine when Madeline Albright, the former foreign secretary, was invited to run for the presidency of her native Czechoslovakia. She declined, but not because of any conflict of nationality.
When Michaëlle Jean was appointed Governor-General of Canada she had already given up her Haitian nationality. However, she remained French by being married to a Frenchman an French civil code forbids citizens holding government positions in a foreign country, France announced that it would not enforce the law against her. Nevertheless, to avoid possible controversy, she voluntarily renounced French citizenship two days before taking office as head of state and commander-in-chief of the Canadian forces.
The British who supervised the writing of the Jamaican Constitution are equally accommodating. The Leader of their House of Lords is Baroness Amos, a Guyanese. Jamaican Lord Morris also sits in the British Upper House. I haven't heard of anyone demanding that they relinquish citizenship in the land of their birth. This I regard as enlightened governance, more to be accepted than covered-up corruption.
Several other countries are following this path and moving away from the old emphasis on insularity. They are, of course, mindful of the threat of terrorism, but fully aware of the advantages to be gained in identifying with progressive globalisation and international cooperation. It would be a pity if Jamaica as a country should announce to the world that its head is firmly planted in the self-centred sands of times past.
I am, etc.,
While this all may be election talk, I cannot imagine that it is in the long-term interest of either party to try to win the election by overturning seats in this manner. In other words, is it a good idea to use the courts to change the government, when what is at issue is US citizenship? I remember past surveys showing that over 80% of Jamaicans wished they could migrate to a developed country -- US citizenship remains for many (maybe too many) a lifelong goal. Ae we going to penalize the "lucky few" and in so doing perhaps overturn an election?
I also can't see that it's a good idea to to send the message to overseas Jamaicans who gain citizenship in another country that they are unwelcome to join the political process here in Jamaica. The truth is, we need more involvement by Jamaicans abroad, not less. We should be looking for ways to expand their participation, not limit it. As Ken Jones mentions above, the fact that the law is on the books is one thing, but I think everyone would agree that we would all benefit from it being set aside, or at least not enforced.
If we recognize dual citizenship, shouldn't we allow the same rights to the dual citizen that we do to a single-country citizen?
And, shouldn't we be encouraging Jamaicans in the diaspora to seek citizenship in their adopted countries, and not penalize them?
So far, I have not heard anything out of overseas Jamaicans on this matter, and seeing as they are, as a group, responsible for keeping the Jamaican economy afloat with their remittances, I am a bit surprised.
Forward Thinking Cultures
In the July-August issue of Harvard Business Review, I found an interesting article on "Forward Thinking Cultures."
The author's main point is that some cultures are more "forward thinking" than others, and that this feature is positively correlated with GDP/Capita, levels of innovativeness, happiness, confidence and competitiveness.
Being "forward thinking" is defined as the extent to which a culture encourages and rewards such behavior as delaying gratification, planning, and investing in the future.
While neither Jamaica nor any Caribbean country was mentioned it made me start to wonder about our behaviour.
In an early post, I mentioned that we have often demonstrate a regrettable lack of self-reflection. For exampl, thieves have recently taken to stealing phone lines in order to get at the copper, so that it can be resold. I imagine these same thieves complaining in the next breath that the phone service in Jamaica sucks.
As another example, people who have left Jamaica for a better life abroad often complain that things in Jamaica are bad, without connecting the fact that they have contributed to the continued brain-drain that many think is a major problem (I'm not so sure myself.)
This lack of self-reflection leads us to do things that benefit ourselves in the short term, at the cost of success in the long-term.
I started to wonder: what would it be like if we (this generation) were to basically sacrifice our current comfort for the next generation? What would it be like to say that Jamaica won't make it to first world status in the next 20 years, but maybe if we put our heads together it might make it in the next 50. Perhaps that might be inspiring enough for us the make the necessary sacrifices today.
Trinidad seems to have made these kinds of sacrifices in the early 1990's and today they seem to be reaping the benefits. Should we be following their example on a grander scale?