Friday, December 30, 2011

Manifestos, Book of Lies and Empty Promises

So now I am going through the new Government’s Manifestos, 63 pages of Empty Promises and Lies, trying to create a spreadsheet of each promise, date promised made and expected delivery by date. To me a due date is a commitment, like a promissory note, “I promise to pay the bearer”, I promise to have this completed by the following date if you vote for me. I realized that the manifestos of Political Parties was never design to be a commitment but a open ended promises, a carrot on a stick to gullible idiots fool enough to believe it, if they make 100 promises then they may deliver about 5 and when an election comes around that is the only thing they talk about, those 5 promises they delivered. We have reached the stage now that a manifesto should be a contract with the people, an appraisal document with expected delivery dates, signed on the day the party takes over the Government of the country. How it stands now this is a worthless piece of document, constructed by speech writers and technocrats with “Over The Top” promises intended to fool the already gullible populous into thinking that the Party does in fact have a plan.

My boss normally have me fill out my appraisal document at the start of the year, I must add a list of items I will accomplish within the year and due date for each item, at the end of the year we go over the document to add actual delivery date and if I did not do what I said I would then a reason must be given, this lack of delivery will negatively affect my bonus, promotion and continued employment. If I must go through this then why not the Political parties, why are they so special, why must I wait 5 years to judge them on performance, why can’t I grade then year by year which would give me enough time to take action, to engage them on their lack of performance and to force them to deliver on their promises. All our Governments are marginal, mediocre performers, scraping out a 1% here or a -2% there, this should directly affect their compensation, their salary increases and allowances should be base on Economic performance of the country.
I cannot stress how important the people are to the political process, the entire process was created by the people to serve the needs of the people and yet the people are more than willing to allow the Politicians to have their way with them. The process is now so twisted that it is the people who serve the political class and not the other way around. This I believe is by design, the education process was compromised just enough to create this class of people, keep them ignorant and hungry and you will have them like puppets on a string. Trying to reach out to the educated middle class is like trying to find life in outer space, in the far reaches of the galaxy, this once Nation Building class have allowed their minds to turn to putty, they are like bubble headed dolls with their bodies trapped in Jamaica but their minds now wondering the shopping Malls of Miami, London and Paris, filled with enough greed and selfishness to last a lifetime, they care about nothing and no one but themselves, they are a pretentious lot, with an inflated sense of self importance.  Instead of engaging the Political Class they try only to get in bed with them, walking around boasting about which party or wine tasting they attended and which minister was in attendance, as if proximity increase their own importance, they are totally useless in the nation Building Process.

Our Political class is the new colonial class of the home grown variety, I once saw a Junior Minister and his driver at the Inland Revenue Department, Mr. Driver was running around with briefcase in hand making a fuss over his Minister, opening doors and fetching documents, acting as go-between and Mr. Minister was looking around to make sure everyone had all eyes on him, Mr. Importance himself, look at me, look how big and large I am, before being driven away in his very big Black Range Rover Sport, talking about living large at the expense of the people, I had to laugh because it looked so low class to me.

The fact that 47.4% of the people did not bother to vote shows some sign of promise, could it be that 47.4% of the electorate now see the Parties and the Political class for who they really are and are now ready to take the next step towards the nation building process, creating Independent nonaligned Advocacy Groups design to mobilize the people and fully engage the Political class on behalf of the Nation Building Process. Could it be that we are now ready to take to the streets, to engage the political class to force them to deliver on promises made and to release the people from mental bondage?  Or am I just living in the land of make believe, gullible as the people I curse, actually believing that the Jamaican people care enough to tear themselves away from their toys and continuous merriment to engage the Nation Building Process..  

These Independent nonaligned Advocacy Groups should not be joined by people whose only intention is to disrupt the current Government simply because they want their party to become the next Government, since it is not about which party is in power but about keeping promises and improving the Standard of living, these groups should not be designed to make a Government fail but to help them to succeed purely for the countries benefit, to assist them in reaching their goals, the ones they listed in their manifestos, meet targets, even if we have to shut the country down and bring it to its knees. 

Changes to Members of Parliament (playing around with the following idea)
  • Let Everyone in a certain Parish vote for a pool of MP’s who represents that Parish, so a MP is not being voted in my a constituency but by a parish. Let’s say you have 12 MPs, 6 JLP and 6 PNP then the entire parish will select from that pool, each person selecting 6 candidates.
  • One week before the election dissolve the MP constituency connection and after the election connect an MP to a constituency.
  • No MP can serve a constituency across two consecutive terms, Rotate MP’s and constituency.
  • MPs should no longer be given money to spend in a constituency, they identify the needs of the constituency and make request to various Ministry, if roads need fixing then make request Ministry that fix roads.  It is the MP’s slush fund that is being used to finance garrison politics, vote buying and Range Rover Sport.
  • I am not too sure MP’s should be a Minister of any Ministry, I would like their sole purpose to be taking care of their constituency but I understand the need of the Government to have its members head the various ministries…   But I do not thing they are capable of managing both jobs at the same time.
  • If MP’s do not like the above Rules then implement a rule forcing all MP’s to live in their constituency for at least 265 days of the year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Christmas means to me

...........Breakboy Nrg

In the time of Julius Caesar, December 25th was the date of the winter solstice.

In the northern hemisphere, on the winter solstice the sun reaches its lowest point on the horizon, creating the shortest day and longest night.

The pagans of the time celebrated the winter solstice as the Unconquered Sun. After this day, the days begin to get longer, the weather gets warmer and spring approaches; and so it represents the Sun (light) winning the battle over darkness. There would be feasts, and all types of other celebrations to pay tribute to the Sun.

In the fourth century, the Christians shifted Christmas Day to the day of the Unconquered Sun.

In Jamaica today, as in most other parts of the world, the mention of Christmas conjures up many images for us all; the Christmas tree and the abundance of nicely wrapped presents. Christ’s birthday, Singing Christmas carols, getting off from work and school and getting together with family and friends.

But, while we as a Christian nation tend to see Christmas as the birth of Christ, we forget its true roots and which is it that it signifies a transition from darkness to light. Christ conquered the darkness, as did the Sun.

To me, this particular Christmas and the coming new year 2012 has caught me in an enthusiastic state as I wait, looking forward to that global transition from darkness to light, from ignorance to enlightenment, from hate to love, from selfishness and greed to more generosity and altruism, from separation and disconnection to unity.

Today on a global scale we see isolation, corruption in our leadership, Inflation and recession, environmental deterioration, diminishing resources, unrest and oppression and we have to ask what tha hell is going on? In addition, if you are really observant you will see that things are changing around you at an alarming rate led by scientific and technological advances, The information age is upon us.

On a global scale, we all are becoming more and more informed, we are learning things more efficiently, knowledge and technology is more accessible to more people instead of only the privileged few, we are seeing that ancient wisdom has been misrepresented to keep the masses dependent on these few, and so now things are moving much faster and getting clearer, as a result, the societal institutions; religion, medicine, education, politics, and banking that have developed and matured over the past 1000 - 2000 years are now decaying, and breaking down due to their reliance on blind obedience and brain washing.

The model of social prejudice and the byproducts of imperialism that we have been subjected to for so long is now beginning to crumble and methods that promote unification, personal and environmental health, realization of our dreams will now arise to take their place.

People are now more informed and so, the wool over their eyes is slowly being removed.

People are already beginning to look within for the answers they seek, instead of outwards to money, possessions and other people (experts/authority figures).

The unstable state of today’s world is for someone who is an optimist (like me) only a sign of a new beginning, a new dawn, a reshuffling of the deck.

These crises so to speak are really a wakeup call, one that screams a movement toward integration and unity, where our day to day activities support our environment and our physical, mental, spiritual selves, where our leaders see themselves as servants of the people supported by the people instead of modern day monarchy dictating to the people and supported by big business.

The rigid, limiting structures that existed before only benefitted a few, and now we are rejecting them, gradually changing our view so that we can no longer accept these ideologies as truth if we are to evolve, this however cannot go on without a fight.

There must be upheaval…

Through our interactions and choices, our collective human consciousness creates the world we live in. If we understand that by changing how we think and act, we can change the world for the better then all we need to know is 1) what it is that we truly want and 2) how to be positive.

Our ability to adapt and simplify our lives are qualities attributes that are going to become increasingly important.

Daily at New Phase we talk about the things can we do to live a better quality, healthier life.

Eating properly (following sound nutritional practice), getting enough exercise AND rest, spending time with our friends and family, investing in our personal development, following our dreams, having a sense of community and compassion, pursuing interests and engaging in fun recreational activities, these are all things that point the way to a life that everyone on this planet should have access to.

This is something we can all work toward collectively.

This Christmas, I recognize that I live for you all, I commit to play my part everyday to manifest the transition from darkness to light where people of this world no longer suffer because of manmade illness (i.e. caused from lifestyle factors), war, prejudice, and oppression.

My first step is to improve myself.

I thank you all for a wonderful year, of learning, of laughter, of fellowship.

Peace, love, health, prosperity and happiness
 Happy Holidays
Always Martino ...“Breakboy Nrg”

Saturday, December 3, 2011

When I am Here!

When I am here

When I am here, nothing else seems to matter, nothing else seems important when I am sitting here in this chair.
When I am here, My stress is over there, somewhere, anywhere but here. Beyond the horizon, in a land far, far away, just stories on the evening news. 
When I am here in the mornings, all I need is a nice cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, while watching the sunrise over the horizon. Listening to the sound of the sea, watching the gentle rippling motion of the waves as it slowly makes its way towards the white sandy shores. Enjoying nature as I watched birds eat a ripe mango that had fallen to the ground.
When I am here, at midday after lunch, there is nothing like a cold Red Stripe beer while sitting here, ...yes here, right here, in this chair and
When I am here, in the evenings, there is nothing like a glass of Appleton Estate 21 Year Old Rum served neat while watching the magical Caribbean Sunset. Feeling the cool tropical evening breeze as it passes through the trees.
When I am here, I am happy that I am right here and not over there because there is always trouble over there, life is hard over there, people are sick and dying other there, wars are being fought over there, people are rioting over there because there is no unity over there. Over there the color of a man's skin is of MORE significance than the color of his eyes.
When I am here, I am content, my life is perfect, my life have meaning, a sense of purpose but
When I am not here, I spend all my time wishing I was there, yes right there, sitting in that chair with my beer, watching the setting sun over there.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Biting the hands that feed you?

I was just on a messaging board and a discussion about world affairs came up and America was mentioned, everyone had their own opinions and expressed them, no malice, everyone was just trying to lay down some facts and logic. However there is a certain type of Jamaican (or Use-To-Be-Jamaican) who takes extra exception to anyone who has an open and objective opinion about America. If you are not singing their praises then you are ungrateful wretches as they proclaimed that we are biting the hands that feed us, just because people express their opinion.

Now this speaks volume to me, it defines how some Jamaicans think of themselves and their country, he declared that we get a lot of American tourist so we are being fed, in other words we are being taken care of by the goodness of their hearts and as such should not have anything critical to say.

Every other country engages in trade and business with America, they however are not being fed, they are seen as partners in Business, trading with each other. Not so for Jamaica even thou we market our tourism as a business, our agriculture as a business and engages in world trade like every other country but we are not worthy to be regarded as business partners but simpletons looking for a hand out, begging for a smalls, invertebrates, to gravel for all eternity.
Jamaica pumps US$2.1742 Billion a year into the US Economy in the form of imports.

This outlook remains me of the poem by the English poet Rudyard Kipling titled "The White Man's Burden" but instead of the white man we now have a "use-to-be Jamaicans" proclaiming that we are The American's Burden and that we are subservient in every way. Not proud men and women, but like animals on a farm, we are being fed. 

Jamaica engages in the business of borrowing just like America engages in the Business of borrowing from China and we both pay interest on loans, plus repay said loans but for us he sees it is a Hand out and for them it is business. Yes we are not the biggest country in the world, we have little or no power, we are not the movers or shakers of this planet, except when it comes to tracks, but that does not say we are not educated, proud men and women who can evaluate the planet we live on and make solid opinions and be objective and call a spade a spade.

It is how some of us see ourselves and our country that I have a problem with, small minds who are ashamed of their very existence, people who think we are and will always be bottom feeders and exist on our knees, only at the mercy of others.

Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas via speech, This right is protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Somehow I get the impression that the United States of America was not created for people who behave like automatons, robots who do what they are told, with words like home of the free it was never design to force conformity on its people. This is a country that boasts strength through diversity and tolerance.

So why is it then that American centric individual are trying to force conformity, with us or against us, if your opinion is not 100% pro-American, defending wrongs as if it was right or the same as my opinion then hand in your visas, green cards, passports, citizenship and leave the United States. I am sure none of the application forms have a section that says you must agree with everything, you must not have an opinion, you must not be objective and if you feel the need to be, then leave or don't come here.

These American centric individual who are trying to force conformity are always either, Red Necks, Use-To-Be Jamaicans or Jamaicans who don’t even live in America but idealize it from a far. Not too long ago a very opinionated, objective and outspoken Facebook friend of mine Jane, voiced her opinion and as a result she was verbally attacked by a Person who does not even live in America. However Jane is an American of British origin, living and working in America, raising her family in America and as far as I am concerned it is her American citizenship that guarantees her the right to voice her opinion and to be objective and to call a spade a spade.

She does not have to agree with everything that is happening around her, however she was attacked and told by a person who does not even live in America nor is America her birth country to leave if she does not like it. In this case liking it means she should never have an opposing view, never criticize anything about The United States and must always be a yes person and somehow I do not think this is what the American founding fathers intended, that type of opinion is very communist like, very Soviet Union. So very China like and as such it is these individuals who do not get the concept and ideals of the United States of America. The exchange was brutal and totally uncalled for, why would a person who does not live in America take such brutal exception to anyone having an opinion that does not jive with theirs, it boggles the mind.

Us Jamaicans also hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness and a Freedom of Speech.

We are more than a beach, we are a country damn it!  

Jamaica's National Heroes

Redemption Song Monument by Laura Facey

Edna Manley's Negro Aroused

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Local Body Foreign Mind

A public relation company came to Jamaica back in the late 70’s and performed an experiment, they invited some ladies to look at two sets of brassieres, one set marked made in Jamaica and the other set marked made in the United States.

All the individuals taking part came to the same unanimous decision that the Bras marked made in the United States was of better quality, hands down, they went into details, showing superior stitching work, the professional quality of the bras that was made in the United States as oppose to those made in Jamaica, which they said was poor workmanship and lower quality, not good value for money and will not last long. No matter how many time they switch the labels between the Bras, the one with the label always wins.

 At the end of the showing when all votes were cast, they were then told that the labels on the brassieres had been switched and that the ones marked made in the United States was in fact made in Jamaica and those labeled made in Jamaica were actually made in the United States, to their shock and awe.

Some years ago the Gleaner published a letter from a woman complaining about the state of Jamaica’s 911 emergency services. No wonder she was having such bad luck because at that time in Jamaica we called emergency services using the number 119 and 911 did not exist. Her body was definitely local to Jamaica but her mind was clearly in North America.

At the start of the 1980’s the new Government embarked on a process of trade liberalization, the flood gates opened to what was primarily one way traffic of imports as we embarked on the era of the three V’s, “Volvo, Video and Venereal Disease”, the latter associated with the revival of the tourist industry. Before this the previous Government had restricted imports to essential items and non- essential items using a quota system. As such Jamaicans could only imagine what certain things look like or taste like (An American apple was like gold to anyone who could sneak them through the airport), they also restricted importing foreign television programs and instead promoted local productions as well as imported education materials such as documentaries. Needless to say we became experts of history and world affairs. I remember a mass protest against the Government where a lady shouted that she wanted to see Kellogs cornflakes and Champagne on the supermarket shelves even if she could not afford it, we should still use hard earn foreign exchange to import it.

Over time Jamaicans began to equate Freedom and Democracy as well as Economic and Social development with the ability to import and consume foreign items regardless of their ability to afford them. It did not take long for the television stations, supermarkets and the use of satellite dish systems to start exposing Jamaicans to all things foreign, it was now common to sit in your home and watch adverts for 99 cent burger or the latest top of the line consumer items thus increasing the Jamaican zombie like hunger for all things foreign, their body was trapped in Third World Jamaica but now their minds was wondering the streets of New York, Miami and LA, London, Paris. It was not surprising then that even after the Government of the 1980’s delivered them from the bondage of the 70’s that migration increased from 20% to 64% by 1988, if the mountain of goods won't come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain of goods.

As I said in a previous Blog successive governments began to create budgets around imports, give the people what they want and they will vote for you, make them happy regardless of the cost, this was done under the guise of Freedom and Democracy and to tell you the truth Jamaicans do not care where the money come from to support their buying habits, they pay lip service to the mountain of debt but they really do not care how the government go about financing/securing the funds to support this habit. Our government became master illusionist as they try their very best to maintain the illusion of prosperity of "first worldliness". I remember back in 1988, I was asked to generate two reports, one showing import and the other showing export for the entire year, I remember the guys from the operation room delivering the boxes containing the reports. The export box was half full and imports required two boxes, the subtotal for consumer goods versus that of non-consumer goods was staggering. 

As soon as the 2012 Range Rover Evoque was advertised in North America it was being unveiled at the ATL Autohaus office in Bogue Montego Bay complete with showgirls. The article states ‘RACKING up sales even before it landed in the island, the Evoque is finally here in the "flesh" (make that Victoria Beckham-designed interior, coupled with rugged Land Rover pedigree).” By the time this bad boy gets to the consumer it should cost about US $120K, who need schools and healthcare?

I read with disbelief RJR reporter referring to the JDF helicopter that Prime Minister Patterson was flying in as Air Force One. I see now that it has become fashionable to refer to the wife of the Prime Minister as the first lady, when that title does not exist and if it did then it would refer to the wife of the Governor General. For a long time a certain road in Jamaica was being called I95 and I read the mayor of Kingston referring to a certain shopping area in downtown Kingston as Time Square, not Three Finger Jack square or Breda Anansi Square to give it a Jamaican flavor and part of Portmore is now called Portmore Pines to match the various Pines in Florida. At the rate we are going Jamaican culture and history will soon be forgotten. 

Historically in Jamaica we had our own holidays that represented us as a people, Labor Day, Independence Day, Emancipation Day, National Heroes Day, New Year's Day and Boxing Day however just like how we import consumer goods we now also import American holidays, sports and a host of other stuff.  It is now very common to find Jamaicans celebrating July 4th the American Independence day as they shout God Bless America and decorate their houses with the old stars and stripes while inviting people over for 4th of July dinner and party. They go all out for this as if the year 1776 represented an historical event happening in Jamaica, there are Jamaicans who have more pride in American independence than in Jamaica’s independence from the British, well by the last poll most think we should have remained a colony.

When I was growing up Halloween was not a big deal, it was not on our calendar and we just did not care for it, we had better things to do. Not so these days, Halloween celebration and trick or treating is now a yearly event as returning and traveling Jamaicans try to show other Jamaicans just how Americanized they have become. One person remarked after spending only a few years in America, “it is what I am use to”... use to!! Lets see you are 36 and you spent 4 years in America ...mmmm. So everybody plays dress up and keep parties and send their kids out to Trick or Treat, ....ohhhh how cute ... “look weh mi live fi come see, a whole bunch a neva see come see”. The least I expected is for the these people to dress as characters from Jamaica’s folklore, nothing scarier than a Junkanoo, rolling calf, anansi and obeah priest but no sah, even the characters are imported as they fly to Miami to buy them. In these hard economic times who have money fi waste carving pumpkin, a pumpkin is something we use to make our Saturday soup with cart wheel dumpling not carve face into it.

The biggest imported holiday by far is Thanksgiving, the May flower must have stopped in Kingston Habour after leaving Plymouth, England and before heading to Plymouth, Massachusetts because Jamaicans have taken to this American holiday like fish to water. As I write this several people I know are planning massive Thanksgiving dinners and parties, it is such an important part of the Jamaican holiday calendar that the daily news papers write articles on how to prepare your thanksgiving meals, complete with the picture of the Tom Turkey surrounded by American plums and garnish and I must wonder why? Could it be that the problems that we have in Jamaica are not being solved because the minds of the people are not in Jamaica, they are wondering the virtual landscape of North America. Personally I will never understand American Holidays, imagine eating and drinking Christmas day and night and then returning to work the next morning, where is the day to get over the previous day, to lounge on the beach with friends and relax. The hard build up to Christmas and then bops it just done so, you back at you desk.

Super bowl/World Series parties are now also common yearly event, Jamaicans gather to impress upon others their knowledge of this sport. They prepare for this event with commitment, as if they were in America or a Jamaican team was taking part. They go out shopping for the super bowl, buying the required treats and decorate their houses with team flags, wearing their team’s Jersey and I am still wondering why. This is Freedom and Democracy at work, at the expense of Nation Building and the Jamaican society.

Soon we will officially get rid of the Jamaican Calendar and start using the American Hallmark version, it is obvious that the people already have these pinned to their kitchen walls, only the Government is lagging behind.  

Will The Rich and Well To Do Ever Say Thank You:
The other day I was watching program where American millionaires were being interviewed about how they came to be so rich. During the program I noticed a certain trend, they all make a point in asking God to Bless America and declared that only in America and if it was not for America they would not be who they are today.

I have never heard the rich and well to do in Jamaica ever asking God to bless Jamaica or declare that if it was not for Jamaica they would not have achieved such wealth and comfort. Jamaica’s rich it seems thinks that Jamaica is not anyway shape or form responsibility for their good fortunes, that it is they who made Jamaica and that Jamaica did not make them. Where would Butch Stewart be without Jamaica, who would he be, in any other country he would just be another face in the crowd, in Jamaica he was not and so who he is today is because of the unique set of circumstances that existed in Jamaica at that time.  The last statistic I saw on income distribution showed that 46% of total income is earned by the richest 20% of the population, the richest 10% makes 30% of total income. I think the rich in Jamaica thinks that they did not become rich because of Jamaica but in spite of Jamaica but I wonder where they would be if their ancestors did not find this goldmine of an island that made them possible(you ungrateful wretch!).

I must thank Jamaica, because growing up in Jamaica I remember:
  • At the start of every school year we use to get free material to make school uniform, I remember lining up  with the rest of the school to collect my free khaki material, God Bless Jamaica, I will be forever grateful.
  • Every now and then the school would give out free products, sometimes it was flour, or cornmeal or milk powder or sugar, sometimes all three, this was given free by the tax payer to help assist parents. God Bless Jamaica, I will be forever grateful.
  • I remember when the Government introduce free school lunch, it was stated that children cannot learn on empty stomachs and needed a balance diet, this lasted from Primary school to high school and consist of free soy box milk, free veggie patty or veggie meat loaf with soy crust. God Bless Jamaica, I will be forever grateful.
  • My cousin suffers from an inherited condition that requires constant care, this he got free of cost from the University Of the West Indies Hospital, Medical Research Council, not only was the treatment and medication free but they would send a bus to pick him up from home or school and return him after they were done. God Bless Jamaica, I will be forever grateful.
  • All of my education in Jamaica was for the most part free, from Primary school to high school. God Bless Jamaica, I will be forever grateful.
For a small third world island we did not do so bad, we are able to provide free healthcare and education which enabled most of us to be the productive masters we are today, so join me in saying Thank you Jamaica, I will be forever grateful.

SO Mobile... SO Fab! ...Oh So Tacky!

There is nothing "Well-To-Do" Jamaicans like to do more than to flaunt their Over The Top wealth, to be seen above the lesser beings, the plebs, is what they live for. Take this article from the Jamaica Observer “SO Mobile... SO Fab!” where the paper interviewed some of the richest woman in Jamaica about what they drive and why. It’s like watching Rome burns while Nero fiddles. Yes they are rich, yes some of you are well educated but most of you certainly have no class, it is traditionally considered bad manners to flaunt ones wealth, especially in light of Jamaica’s economic statistic and unequal wealth distribution but even the upper class are now behaving like uneducated gangsters rappers and dancehall entertainers from the ghettos.

The educated middle class and upper class are no longer engaged in the Nation Building process, no longer have any use for it, they are too busy being selfish, greedy and self serving to care. We are a society consumed by our own self importance... We pay lip service to problems simply because it makes us feel important but it is only part of the profile process and serves the same purpose of the big SUV. Most of our organizations and NGO groups advocating this and that only exist to play dress up while keeping lunch and dinner functions, not to solve any problems but to be seen and heard, a social circle.

The more education the educated class acquire, the more they distance themselves from society because the purpose of their education is not to build a nation but to set themselves apart from the rest of society, it too is a part of the profile process and serves the same purpose as the big SUV, look at me I went to such and such school in the States or in England and these are the string of letters I can now attach to my name but it is all show and no substance.

We achieved Workers Rights, Universal Adult Suffrage and Independence because at that time the educated middle class was fully engaged in the process. They mobilized the masses and led the process, now they have achieved Colonial Master Status which may have been their only intention and care only about the collection of material things and nothing about Nation Building, in fact they prefer not to build anything, instead maintaining the status quo.

Jamaica is a country experiencing both social and economic stagnation simply because these are the bubble head people who are suppose to lead it out of bondage. So do not expect any real progress anytime soon, simply because progress for the masses is not their intention. They love the way things are at the moment, they are on the top of the food chain and the rest of the plebs are there to be used.

"With the Wealth Auto Show slated for Saturday, November 26 and Sunday, November 27, SO shares Girls' Talk from around the steering wheel. Take note Garth Walker and Leighton Davis we're a serious force to be reckoned with. You might wish to pass the word around that there's need for more female representation on the sales floor."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It is election time again In Jamaica

A time when it becomes almost impossible to reason with the Jamaican people, when logic no longer exist, election is like a fever that affects the brains of the people, turning them into political zombies, with one intention, to eliminate and consume their political opponent. Like boxers they retreat to the opposing corners while eyeballing their opponent, smacking their gloves together, waiting for the bell to engage and rain punishment down on them in the name of the party. During the Election period the Jamaican people only eat, sleep and think in two colours, Green and Orange they care nothing about the country just the party, for the glory of the party, as if they benefit when any of these parties are in power.

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend and he started talking about Bruce Golding’s Legacy and I remembered an article I wrote in 2006 when the Jamaican media was going crazy about the Legacy of former Prime Minister PJ Patterson. Nero needs to take lessons from the Jamaican people on how to fiddle while everything around them burns.

Update: Dec 27 2011
I have just been told by a friend of mine that there is a lot of money to be made during this election time he said some people he knows have been exploiting the fact that both the JLP and the PNP will pay as much as J$5000 per head for people to join their party bus. He said these boys have been trying to join as much motorcade as possible, one minute riding the JLP bus the next ride the PNP bus and if possible they will ride both the JLP and PNP bus in the same day, their only requirement is that they change shirts well before reaching the motorcade.
What About the People's Legacy: Written in 2006
The “Prime Ministers Legacy” what nonsense! What about Jamaica’s Legacy? I have been trying to ignore the debate regarding the Prime Minister’s legacy because to go on and on about it is like Nero fiddling while Rome burns. I think this Prime Minister and this Government has been a failure just like the other Prime Ministers and Government before. Our problems existed long before this Prime Minister and at the rate we are going, living our lives with blinkers on, it seems it will exist long after. 

The political Parties style of government, style of management and practice of politics is outdated and has no place in Jamaica today. For Jamaica to progress this will have to change and the power to make this change rest with the people and only with the people, by holding the Government accountable and demanding real, fundamental changes. The Prime Minister however is not the only failure the people of Jamaica are the biggest failures, when we go to the polls to elect a Government, what goes through our minds, what are our expectations?  Or do we go through this five year ritual hoping that our newly elected, “home grown colonial master” will deliver free of charge all our expectations with minimal input from the general public. In theory we elect a government to make better our society, economy and to increase our standard of living. In practice we elect a Government and must force them to make better our society, economy and to increase our standard of living. Electing is just one part of the job people involvement is the other most important part and that’s the part that is missing from Jamaican society.

What mechanism, do we have in place to ensure that our elected officials deliver what we expect from them and what actions can we take to make sure they deliver on their promises? Waiting for an election every 5 years is just not enough; we need a short term mechanism in place to legally force the government to address our concerns. We cannot depend on the opposing political party to be our advocates they do not have our interest at heart, this has been proven time and time again, they are nothing but another Government in waiting, more of the same. We have been down this path before, opposition becomes Government and Government becomes opposition and the cycle continues with no real end in sight while the people follow along like a hamster on a wheel. The public needs to organize into their own advocacy groups to create a new political, social and economic awareness, these groups need to detach themselves from the political parties and serve the public, the interest of Jamaicans and for the betterment of Jamaica. The general public needs to stand behind these groups thus removing the politicians influence over them and the public Advocacy Groups needs to demand fundamental changes to our society, by any means necessary. Just forget the trade unions they are just another wing of the political parties, from which the parties got their start, they are more of the same and just as guilty.

What is missing from Jamaica today is the real influence of the educated middle class and upper class to some extent, the latter is normally too comfortable to care about others. Throughout our history especially during the early part of the 19th century it was the educated people who organized the masses and channeled their anger to bring about much needed social and economic change, from workers rights to universal adult suffrage and independence. Our educated middle/upper classes today are too comfortable, too self centered and narrow minded to care about his fellow man or about his country, they exist with one foot in Jamaica and the other in Miami and can only see as far as their own front gate and their way to the airport.

Gone are the days of real Leaders, Patriots and Nationalists, the days when leaders would assume the responsibility, when leaders would give their lives rather than compromise on their principles, when the needs of the many far out-weighed the needs of the few and leaders would risk life and limb to ensure that the needs of the population was satisfied.

Jamaica will continue to achieve very little in terms of increase economic activity and the standard of living unless Jamaicans realizes that the real key to success lies within Jamaica. The process of turning inwards and adding value to our homeland requires a certain amount of discipline that the Jamaican people currently lacks but over time we can teach the future generation of Jamaicans how to tap into this discipline. For generations we have been telling ourselves that everything Jamaican is no good and everything imported is so much better, this perception is a recipe for disaster. We need to realize that first world countries do not have Jamaica’s interest at heart and they will never treat us fairly, for the most part they see us as an annoyance. We need to change our relationship with the rest of the world but we will never achieve a more balance relationship if we ourselves sees no value in Jamaica, we need to first respect ourselves if we want others to respect us. Our very existence is based on dependence in a world we have no control over and we continue to turn our backs on Jamaica, the one thing we own.

We sit around trying to devise a plan to make inroads into the markets of first world countries, this is a futile attempt, the system was not design for 3rd world countries to be sellers in the market place of first world countries, it was designed for us to be buyers, borrowers and providers of cheap labour, unless by selling we mean the selling of our resources to so called investors. We sit around for years trying to come up with something to sell, this Big Mystery Product that everyone in the world will want and while we plan and plot we continue to be perfect little buyers, even with borrowed money. Our problem lies with what we consider to be a good standard of living, which is self centered and materialist in nature, where profiling is everything, our desire to show others that we can afford certain material goods that are almost always imported, whether or not we can truly afford them and our ability to only focus on our wants will be our downfall, our priorities are wrong and we need to focus more on solid development as oppose to perceived development, “If you paint an old broken down building it will only be an old broken down building with a new coat of paint”.

Jamaica's trade deficit continues to widen (RJR): (Sat. Oct. 1st 2005)
New data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, STATIN, show that between January and June, the trade deficit grew by 336 million US dollars to one-point-four billion US dollars. During the first half of the year, Jamaicans spent two-point-one billion US dollars on imports nearly three times the 724 million US dollars earned from exports. The figures show imports increased by 18 percent while exports declined by five percent.

Rising imports and falling exports will lead to increase unemployment, as we turn our backs on everything Jamaican we are doing an injustice to our economy and our society. How do you expect to be gainfully employed when no one supports the local companies who provide the jobs? How can locally manufactured goods get cheaper if there is no demand to cover cost?  Is Jamaica being run according to people’s expectations, are the people not concern about providing education to our young people, are the people not concern about crime and proper health care? It seems that so long as there is entertainment and imports the people are happy, so contented with being thrown a bone.

Having a mass riot every 4 or 5 years making general demands just don’t work, this is the third such riot and we are no better for it. I believe in people power and people involvement in government, every step of the way. I believe the people should hold their government accountable for their actions but that must be done in a sensible and systematic way, not a once in a while destruction of life and property. If the people of Jamaica can spend so much money on imports while schools rot, kids go uneducated and crime runs rampant then we are all failures and that will be our Legacy.

Is this the best we can do? Is this the best we want to do? I refuse to be drawn into a debate as to who can run this country and who cannot. Both the JLP and the PNP have had their chances, both of these parties were the Government at one time or another and we are no better for it. So we the people must be doing something wrong, the buck stops with us. Do we want education for our kids or SUVs, do we want proper light, water, health care, Jobs, housing or profile with imports, supporting other peoples economy at the expense of our own. The Government is a product of the people, the people seems to be simple minded and so are the Government. The JLP and PNP cannot help you, not by themselves, we expect failure from them and failure is exactly what we get, it is the people of Jamaica that is the problem with this country, so instead of worrying about the Prime Minister’s legacy maybe we should worry about our own, the people’s legacy because after the Prime Minister is done and gone we will still be suffering.

If these three political parties with their recycled politicians are the only choices we have then, “dog nawm wi suppa”.  In the end voting seems to be a waste of time since we are just swapping “Black dog fi monkey”.  I can understand voting to make positive changes, for economic and social development. I cannot understand voting for NO change and empty promises.

Life between elections is like a distortion of the space/time continuum, a Temporal loop,  “ground hog day” if you will, we are all trapped in time, having to relive the same election-to-election events. I cannot listen to or watch these clowns perform their circus acts anymore, I have no patience for it.

Wanted! Good, Honest Patriotic, Nationalistic Jamaicans to perform a complete overhaul of the Jamaican Economy and Society. We need a real Government, a Government that will identify each and every problem and try to implement solutions without trying to please the few (Family & Friends). We want a Government that can make life better for each and every Jamaican, a Government with vision and imagination to take this country proudly into the 21st Century. A Government who can create the type of infrastructure needed for growth, a Government that can be held accountable, not one that operates above the law. We need a people who can stand up and engage the political class to demand these things, nation building this country requires each and every one of us Jamaicans, to stand up with one voice and secure a future for each and every Jamaican.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

That Oh So Special Time

I recently came across a Jamaica travel video done by called Hands-On History.  It features Bellefield Great House, Montego Bay.   Not one to pass up anything to do with great houses, one of my favourite archetypes, I settled down to watch the little 7-minute flick.  
Sepia hued Bellefield Great House coutesy of Voyage TV
To the beat of African kette drums a disembodied voice says:

“It really is a step back in time, you know, in the heyday of our sugar production.   So, you know, that’s kind of what we try to do here: take people back in time, you know, to 1805 before the abolition of slavery when Jamaica was a really special place….”


“Special  place” FOR WHOM???

Ms Rousseau, owner of the disembodied voice, takes Voyage TV’s host and the viewer on a tour of the Great House and the sugar mill whilst bringing us up-to-date on the illustrious history of the Karr-Jarrett family; all to the sounds of a Rastafarian chanting and beating his kette drum.

The Family came to Jamaica in 1655…David Kerr was posted as a physician…the Great House is thought to have been a crack cholera hospital…married Sarah Jarrett, Col Jarrett only had daughters, hence the hyphenated ‘Kerr-Jarrett’.   (Whichever) Kerr-Jarrett was a forefather of nation building in Jamaica…a philanthropists and “strong supporter of Jamaican culture and history.”

Ms Rousseau tells us that Jamaica was one of the largest sugar producing islands as she walks us over to the 100 year old cane press, the Chattanooga, where a black labourer (‘slave’?) feeds the press and guides the donkey.   Journeying over to the sugar mill, built in 1794 of ships’ ballast, we are called to admire its beautiful thatched roof “supposedly the largest in the Caribbean”.  Visibly impressed, Ms Voyage TV mentions “so this is where it really would have gone on, in here”  “Yup!” Ms Rousseau responds, “It really would have gone on in here.”

Hold that thought.

The camera pans out to show the viewer the conical structure, as a ‘slave’ lady walks past. 
We are shown how the mill worked and how the workers worked it, the mill’s points of entry and egress, and where the cane juice would be stored in barrels before being sent to the boiling house to be reduced to molasses, then sugar:

“For eight-hour shifts at a time.  So...labour intensive but well worth it.  I think all appreciate the joys of sugar.”

Labour intensive but well worth it.


As Ms Voyage TV follows Ms Rousseau and the ‘slave’ into the great house, she turns to us the audience to inform us “Michelle Rousseau is an expert in local history, specifically about this plantation, so we’re so lucky to have her to show us around.”

Someone drank the sugared Kool-Aid.

We climb up the monumental staircase and into The Great House and Kette drum gives way to the dulcet sounds of refined chamber music.  Inside, we get a brief rundown of the passive cooling/heating strategies employed building the house: the strategic siting of the house on a hill and turned to take advantage of high ground and cross ventilation, large fenestrations, thick walls (thermal mass) etc. 

We’re now ushered into the main hall where both ladies sit under the portraits of Custos Kerr-Jarrett & his wife.   Ms Rousseau proudly tells the story of Custos Kerr-Jarrett being knighted in the early 1930s and his insistence on being knighted in his home country: 

“and so the Queen came to Jamaica and um he was knighted here…”

Ms Rousseau has overlooked the obvious fact that there was no Queen of England in the early 1930s!  England’s monarch in the early 1930s was George V (1910 to 1936).  Elizabeth II’s reign began in 1952.  While she narrates the Queen knighting Custos Kerr-Jarrett, simultaneous film footage shows no Queen; just a very regal Sir Clifford Campbell, Jamaica’s first visibly black Governor-General (1962-1973) and Elizabeth ll’s representative, dubbing Custos Kerr-Jarrett Sir KnightA quick Boolean search of Sir Francis Kerr-Jarrett yields documentation of his knighthood taking place on 31 August 1965. 
Last line: Frances Moncrieff Kerr-Jarrett was
knighted for public services on 31 Aug 1965

Chamber music interlude now brings us to the formal dining room, ‘slave’ lady trailing behind.   Over the lavishly laid out dining table, Ms Rousseau tells us of Lady Nugent referring to “festivities and feasts” she would attend in such a setting where a “plush array of food including crab patties and Sangaree” would be served.   Seems like more scholarly research went into the unearthing of an 18th century cookery book with all these “plush” recipes that are now recreated at Bellefield Great House.
On to the pantry room annexed to the outdoor kitchen; ‘slave’ lady silently in tow.  We see her one active role: that of holding on to the pestle and touching the ginger jar.  She is obviously speaking to someone, but no voice is heard.  Her voice like that of her ancestors', excised.  The taster is jokingly surmised by Ms Rousseau to have been a rather large lady as her duties comprised no more than sitting on a chair and tasting food.   Boys would bring the food from the kitchen, whistling so that the Kerr-Jarretts and their guests would be assured that their food was not being eaten on its way in.

[and we wonder where this ingrained culture of treating helpers and 'yard boys' so badly comes from.]

The ‘slave’ lady stands aside as the ladies walk out to the verandah: Ms Rousseau’s favourite part of the house (no doubt for the vantage point it affords her of the vast, picturesque estate).  One gets a glimpse of the impeccable gleaming polished floors, white shutters and fretwork, wall sconces and Chippendale and Queen Anne chairs as the ‘slave’-in-waiting stands uncomfortably in the room that is as much hers as anyone else’s.   Houses need to be maintained:  floors polished, furniture and windows dusted, walls repainted, linens washed, ironed, straightened….

On the verandah the ladies clink their white wine glasses and the scene fades to black to the trill of violin and harpsichord.

That seven minutes could be so packed with anachronistic, misrepresented drivel, that belie the blatant callousness and crude baseness of the era of slavery beggars belief!  Even more shameful is that this grossly aberrant snippet serves a marketing device for tourism.  What we are seeing is a biased version of history.  A history being viewed through the eyes of the regional elite, or those who think themselves as such.  Ms Rousseau tries hard to appease the white man, shamefully and ingratiatingly, she tries to identify with the white ancestors of yore as she meanders through sugar mill and Great House with absolutely NO CLUE what it is that she aspires to be connected to.  In her ignorance she perpetuates the tyranny of the ancient inhabitants and the mores of their time by having staged ‘slaves’ and African music confined to the outdoors whilst refined chamber music plays indoors.  The sanitized era of the 21 century cannot and does not excuse the ghosts of tyranny that once existed and moved between Great House walls and roamed their estates.

Let’s take Ms Rousseau at her word and flesh out exactly what “really would have gone on” in the sugar mill, the boiler room, the estate, the country and the era of Colonialism for that matter. 
Learning from the Portuguese and the Spanish by way of their colonies in the Atlantic (Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Saõ Tomé and Princípe, etc), the British imported and forced African labour to grow sugar in their West Indian colonies.  Africans were not originally used for the labour in West Indian colonies.  Indigenous Taino, lost to European diseases (eg, smallpox, measels), the indentured poor of England and Ireland, and condemned criminals were also used, but these sources were not as strong, adaptable, or as cheap as the African slave.  One cannot dissociate sugar from slavery.  

By the turn of the 18th century sugar became big business in Europe.  In the early 1700s five pounds of sugar was consumed per capita in England, rising to 30 pounds per capita by the 1800s.  Sugar was Britain’s largest imported commodity after cotton.  Europe needed sugar to make new exotic drinks such as China tea, Arabian coffee and Central and South American xocolatl palatable.  It was prescribed as medicine, moulded into elaborate displays, used as preservative, and as status symbol (including its effect of rotting teeth, which were proudly displayed as a signifier of wealth).  Sugar is also the chief ingredient in rumbullion, via the fermentation and distillation of molasses.  Rum was a staple of plantation life.  What wasn’t drunk by the planters was exported for huge profit.

By the 1730s Jamaica was the largest single producer of sugar in the British Caribbean.  By 1800 nine out of every ten people in Jamaica were enslaved.  In 1805, Jamaica exported more tonnes of sugar than any other country.  Slaves were needed to maintain this sweet life both on the plantations and abroad.  They toiled excessively, working from dawn til dusk, and were punished severely for the slightest infraction.  They lived in crude, flung-up dwellings situated nearby the sugar works.  Man, woman and child planted, weeded and harvested under the watchful eye of the overseer (Busha) and his whip.  Mature cane was cut, loaded and dragged to the mill where it was pressed through huge rollers to extract the juice, which would then be taken to the boiling house.  This was dangerous business.  Those unfortunate enough to get a hand caught in the rollers would be caught up and pressed to death.  Axes were kept nearby to chop the hands/arms off anyone who got a hand caught in the mill-press.  Boiling houses were insufferably hot and slaves were prone to being burnt severely by boiled sugar:  “If a boyler get any part into the scalding sugar it sticks like Glew, or Birdlime, and ‘tis hard to save either Limb or Life.” [1]
Lashed and cudgelled, slaves would have salt rubbed in their wounds or molasses poured on them to attract biting flies and ants.  Firebrands were applied to their bodies; ears would be cut off, roasted then forced fed to them.   From Thom Thistlewood’s diary, author Douglas Hall narrates:

In July, Port Royal, who had run away, was taken and brought home.  ‘Gave him a moderate whipping, pickled him well, made Hector shit in his mouth, immediately put in a gag whilst his mouth was full & made him wear it 4 or 5 hours.’

Next day, the 24th, a woman slave, Phillis, caught breaking canes, was similarly treated, but spared the gag.

Friday, 30th July 1756: Punch catched at Salt River and brought home.  Flogged him and Quacoo well, and then washed and rubbed in salt pickle, lime juice & bird pepper; also whipped Hector for losing his hoe, made new Negro Joe piss in his eyes & mouth &c.

On the 4th, Derby was again caught, this time by the watchman as he attempted to take corn out of Col Barclay’s Long Pond cornpiece.  He was severely chopped with a machete, his right ear, cheek and jaw almost cut off.  On the 27th of the same month Egypt was whipped and given ‘Derby’s dose’ [that is Derby was made to shit in his mouth] for eating cane.  On Thursday, 5th October, Hector and Joe and Mr Watt’s Pomona were similarly punished for the same misdemeanor. [2]

Innumerable accounts of such unbridled atrocities committed against slaves exist.  Physical and mental. Planters discouraged slaves from suicide (a last ditch attempt by them to return to Africa via the afterlife) by chopping the heads off suicide slaves, telling the living that they would be resurrected in Africa without their heads.  The same sugar that was reduced in the boiling house also played a role as reducer:  coloniser and colonised were both reduced to something subhuman.  Whilst the former produced sweet results, the latter produced bitter; with an aftertaste lasting for generations. 
Barbarities in the West Indies
"B___t your black eyes. what you can't work because you're not well.  but i'll give you a warm bath to cure your ague & a curry-combing afterwards to put spunk into you." [3]
(nb the severed limb and ears nailed to the wall.)
I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide if, per Ms Rousseau, the production of sugar through slavery, was “labour-intensive but well worth it” for so much as a hogshead of molasses or a puncheon of rum.

The untenable situation of Plantation slavery led to many revolts, which produced more brutal, tyrannical masters.  Yet too often are we led to believe that these well-dressed, smartly depicted colonisers, landed proprietors, and their families were paragons of virtue.  An unbiased look at history reveals that more often than not plantation/colonial life seemed to socialise one to being base minded, brutal, murderous, and sexually immoral:  

British abolitionist Zachary Macaulay worked as a bookkeeper in Jamaica in the 1780s.  Observing the violence, punishments and degrading conditions of slaves he remarked,

“The air of this island must have some peculiar quality in it, for no sooner than a person set foot in it than his former ways of thinking are entirely changed.” [4] 

 Abolitionist Mary Prince often wondered

“how English people can go out into the West Indies and act in such a beastly manner.  But when they go to the West Indies, they forget God and all feelings of shame, I think, since they can see and do such things.  They tie up people like hogs – moor them up like cattle, and they lick them, so as hogs, or cattle, or horses never were flogged.” [4].

From the Journal of the aforementioned Lady Nugent:

         “There is but little Society in Spanish Town or the neighbourhood”,”…  “[General Nugent] described one member of the Assembly as “a gentlemanly Character, which is no trifling Merit in Jamaica”, and another as “decent in his Conduct but of low Origin in common with the great Majority of the Inhabitants.”  It was difficult to find suitable men to fill the position of custos*, or chief magistrate of a parish – “in some of the Parishes, the white Population is so ill composed and so trifling in Numbers.”

          But what troubled her more than the low origin of the planters was their ungodliness.  This was a commonplace, remarked by all who had written about them [5]
*Custos Rotulorum.  Part of the parochial administrative body.  There was one for every parish.  The Custos represented the governor and was chief magistrate.  

 James Stewart’s account of the goings on Jamaica:

“male licentiousness was at the root of the island’s problems, not slavery.  “every unmarried white man, and of every class, has his black or his brown mistress, with whom he lived openly; and of so little consequence is this thought, that his white female friends and relations think it no breach of decorum, to visit his house, partake of his hospitality, fondle his children and converse with his housekeeper – as if that conduct, which they regard as disgraceful in their own class, was not so in the female of colour.” [4]

Lewd, base, savage, sadistic Thom Thistlewood was legendary for his uber voracious sexual appetite. When not administering Derby’s doses and pickling his flogged slaves, he was busy rutting 138 slave women in over 3,800 encounters, documented by him in Latin: “Cum Susanah (a Congo negro) Stans, in curing house”… “Cum Phibbah supt lect…”  Thistlewood did not sleep with his white peers.  Just the slaves.   (nb – a slave did not own his/her body, therefore had no consensual rights.)  Sex was used to derive pleasure, to exert power and to administer punishment.  No stranger to the mercury pill, being well familiar with the clap, one wonders how his drippy, calcified John Thomas didn’t just dry up and drop off.  
Some sangaree for you Sar?
These characterizations of the settlers and inhabitants of Colonial Jamaica are nothing new and show a Jamaica that had not come far since the arrival of the English in 1655.
The Torrid Zone, Or Blessings of Jamaica
depicts the plantocracy resting in Death's scythe between images of death. nb the unladylike poses...whose illustrious ancestors are these???
Ned Ward, an English writer who travelled to Jamaica in 1697 had this to say of the colony:

                Jamaica, he wrote, was ‘Sweating Chaos’.  The climate was deadly: ‘As sickly as a Hospital, as Dangerous as the Plague.’  Nature itself was also ill, producing wild disorders such as hurricanes and earthquakes.  The food was bizarre and disgusting: the planters’ favourite, the spicy Africa-originated pepperpot, was like consuming brandy mixed with gunpowder, ‘an excellent breakfast for a Salamander’; the local “Cussue”* apple was ‘so great an Acid…that by the Eating of one, it drew up my mouth like a hens Fundament’.  The pork was ‘luscious’, but, Ward warned, caused scurvy and leprosy. [6]

                Most disgusting of all, though, were the people.  The men looked as if ‘they had just knock’d off their Fetters’.  The women, with nicknames such as ‘Salt Beef Peg’ and ‘Buttock-de-Clink Jenny’, were ‘such who have been Scandalous in England to the utmost degree, either Transported by the State, or led by their Vicious Inclinations; where they may be Wicked without Shame and Whore one without Punishment.’ …  [6]


“Jamaica, he wrote, had been somehow’ ‘neglected by the Omnipotence when he form’d the World in its admirable Order’.  Proper rank and degree, the bedrock of English society, appeared to be absent.  Instead, arrivals of whatever hue could be transformed by the island:  ‘A Broken Apothecary will make there a Topping Physician; a Barbers Prentice, a good Surgeon; A Ballifs Follower, a passable Lawyer; and an English Knave, a very Honest Fellow.’” [6]
*I assume he means the cashew fruit, which if not eaten when well ripened will indeed draw up one’s mouth like a hen’s arse.

Ward describes a colony peopled with the what lef of British society.  The not-first-born sons who didn’t stand to inherit and were ill suited for the clergy or scholarly pursuit, women of dubious character, failed professionals, criminals and vagabonds. 

We are also told by Ms Rousseau of 1805 Jamaica (and by extension the Colonial era) being a “special place” in time.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  1805 was a turbulent time.  War was brewing between North America and Britain.  France, Spain, Portugal and Britain were fighting the Penninsular Wars; a segue from the French Revolutionary wars.  Spain was courting rebellion from New Spain (Mexico).  The winds of abolition began blowing in 1787 with the formation of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.  Slavery was quickly being viewed as a national disgrace.  America too felt these winds of change.  In 1787 Rhode Island prohibited its citizens from engaging in the trade.  In 1791 the first of several bills was introduced in British Parliament for the end of the slave trade.  In 1804 the region’s most successful revolt occurred on the island of Saint-Domingue and gave birth to the first black republic, Haiti.  Lady Nugent (then just Mrs Nugent), who arrived in Jamaica in 1801 during the Penninsular Wars was terrified that revolting Haitian slaves’ sentiments would spread to her happy blackies in Jamaica. 

In 1805 Jamaica was under Martial Law and in imminent danger of being attacked by the French.  The Slave Trade Act was finally passed in March 1807 and enforced on 1 January 1808.  Lady Nugent didn’t arrive in Jamaica to sip sangaree at lavish parties.  Her presence in Jamaica is a result of her husband, GENERAL George Nugent being sent to the colony as Lieutenant-Governor and part of Britian’s military regiment charged with defence of the colony and suppression of slave rebellions.

These wars impacted the way of life in the Colonial Caribbean.  Eastern Caribbean colonies were being traded quickly and cavalierly like cards in a game of pass round donkey.  (St Lucia, for eg, changed hands between the French and the English seven times as result of these wars). 

We have debunked the fable of slavery being sweet and harmless, the mythos of European and British plantocracy being fine upstanding paragons of virtue and the false notion of the 18thC Fin de siècle being a “special time”.  Yet the skewed, gross, misplaced nostalgia for the Colonial Era remains extant.  Why?  What drives Ms Rousseau and many others to bubble over with it?  What fosters the misplaced pride felt by the descendants who post numerous websites peppered with half-truths regarding the lives and times of their ancestor plantation proprietors (landed and absentee)? They create Facebook pages extolling the workmanship of some bent up teaspoon etched with a family crest, or some bric-à-brac china encircled with scenes from their forefathers’ plantations. 

Retirement Estate, St James     J B Kidd
Good Hope, c 1826    J B Kidd
Europe has a long tradition of pastoral paintings, not the least of which is the Picturesque genre.  Mid 18th century saw the advent of the Age of Romanticism: a reaction to the preceded Age of Enlightenment/Reason.  Romanticism rejected the notions of the Enlightenment and its rationalism in favour of a focus on the individual, the subjective, the instinctual, the trancendental, the emotional and the visual.  There was a deeper appreciation of nature and Man's relation to his physical world.  Nature is now portrayed to dominate insignificant, dimunitive Man. 
The sublime 'Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog,' 1818 Caspar David Friedrich
Sensibility, an emotive response to something that gives one an understanding of it, replaced the logic and rationalism of the Enlightenment.  Romanticism in art and its preoccupation with nature and counter-rationalism concerned itself with the triumvirate: sublime, picturesque and beauty.  

Sublime -    in nature is an aesthetic quality referring to awesome (and even horrific; grotesque), incalculable greatness; portrayed as a natural landscape feature or architectural feature (folly).

Picturesque -     an aesthetic ideal of beauty characterised by a preoccupation with the pictorial values of architecture and landscape in combination with each other. 

Beauty -     derived from instinct and sensibility vs derived at through reason and calculations (as in the Age of Enlightenment); serene, calm, arcadian.

The picturesque, therefore, existed on the spectrum between the sublime and beauty.  Beautiful West Indian vistas immortalized by the 19c oils, line-etchings and aquatints of artists such as George Robertson, Joseph Bartholemew Kidd and architect/artist James Hakewill are powerful in their renderings of nature, but portray a sanitised version of reality that belie and neutralise the horrors of slavery and the realities of plantation life that existed within the natural environment.  

Scotsman J B Kidd, master of the picturesque, and his architect/artist counterpart James Hakewill painted similar subjects in the same style.  Though a huge admirer of their brilliant, breathtaking work, I acknowledge that these works and similar others created by artists of the time are responsible for many utopic images we have of Jamaica that are misleading.
Aquatint of Montego Bay c 1821  J Hakewill
Cocoa Nut Walk on the Coast near Ruanway Bay   J B Kidd
Much artifice was used in picturesque paintings to bring them to life. The artist began with the natural setting, which was true, then implemented common themes of the genre: the irregular, anti-classical (thus anti-Enlightenment); ruins (by way of Follies, ie, artificial ruins) & ruined people. 

Travellers at a Well, 1769 Phillipe-Jacques de Loutheburg
Seemingly wild nature was juxtaposed with tame swaths of land; large, skewed trees were drawn aside like curtains to reveal happy serfs, farmers, peasants going about their happy, contented lives, engaging in faked interrelations and tending to their pastoral flocks and crops.  Sweeping vistas with depths of field approaching infinity suggest a never-ending day.  These scenes are contrived.  A depiction of what the observer imagines must take place in such a beautiful and awesome setting.  A mash-up of disparate things used to portray an ideal (idyll??) picture of a utopia that DID NOT EXIST. 

The Romantic use of nature suggests innocence.  Tamed nature is what we are seeing.  Even the slaves in it are tamed.  Revolts are painted civilised and orderly. 
Line-Engraving of Roaring River Estate, 1778  (orig painting by George Robertson)

The Attack of the Rebels on Monpelier Old Works Estate
in the pasrish of St James's
Adolphe Duperly 1832
nb the round sugar mill (encircled) similar to that at Bellefield
Jamaica's beauty was used against her to dispel the unpleasant truth of life in the colony.  Who couldn't be entranced and enamoured of the place and lives depicted in these paintings?
Winward Fall, near Kingston   J B Kidd
The Date Tree   J B Kidd
(again, nb sugar mill to the right)
The Fern    J B Kidd
From Planter William Beckford Esqr’s Descriptive Account of the Island of Jamaica, 1790:

          The cascades, the torrents, the rivers, and the hills, are enchantingly picturesque in their different features, and exchange sublimity and repose of their scenes, according to the variations of the seasons, or the turmoils of the elements.

The docks and weeds of which the foregrounds in Jamaica are composed, are the most rich and beautiful productions of the kind I have ever seen; and the banks of the rivers are fringed with every growth that a painter would wish to introduce into this agreeable part of landscape; and those borders which Claude Lorrain, Poussin, and Salvator Rosa took apparently so much pleasure and pains to enrich, and are excelled by the hand of Nature alone. [7]
nb Beckford's use of the words "Picturesque", "sublimity" and "beautiful".

I agree with the man!  He’s saying one needed very little artifice to improve upon Jamaica’s brand of Nature.  I think Jamaica exceedingly, hauntingly, mystically, timelessly beautiful.  But I’m not blind to the evil and the profane and the injustice that occurs there at the hand of its inhabitants.   

Idealized appearances appealed to the spectator-owner.   This is how they, the plantocracy, chose to see themselves and the relationship they had with their human chattel.  Not as the indurate brutes that they were.  These picturesque scenes belie the horrors of slavery, the displacement of the Middle Passage and the realities of plantation life.
Spring Head of Roaring River, 1775    George Robertson
George Robertson's Spring Head of Roaring River, 1775 (Roaring River flowed through the property of William Beckford Esqr) depicts a bucolic, pastoral scene.  Note the human subjects foregrounded.  The woman is depicted postured with regal bearing.  She is adorned: wearing something around her neck (that almost looks like a string of pearls).  Her clothing, though plain, is neat and shows her figure off to advantage.   The male, supplicated before her, shows her his provisions in a 'rustic act of kindness' that the art historians tell us was a favoured theme amongst the English painters of the picturesque genre.   He is of a darker complexion and is much more humbly dressed, just like the cattle herder in the background.   The unspoilt, arcadian, pastoral beauty of nature that surrounds them mimics many landscape scenes popular in Britain at the time,

excepting the race and legal status of the people.    

How many observers of this painting and others similar would question the race and legal status of the human subjects?  How many observers would pick up on the fact that these humans are afforded non-status in plantation society?  How many observers did it occur to that the humans  -  slaves - are as much chattel as the livestock being driven behind them?

The above section regarding art and its interpretation merely skims the surface.  A more thorough analysis was forfeited for expediency's sake.  But one can see how such scenes, create(d) cognitive dissonance in many of their observers: There’s nothing brutal and inhumane going on here?! What are these abolitionists playing at? Why get rid of this life? What’s wrong with it? They seem happy to me?!?

This dissonance was/is so powerful; so potent, it spanned the geographic distance between Jamaica and Britain, and spans the temporal distance between slavery days and the 21st century, so that 200 years later we get:

“It really is a step back in time, you know, in the heyday of our sugar production.   So, you know, that’s kind of what we try to do here: take people back in time, you know, to 1805 before the abolition of slavery when Jamaica was a really special place….”

Where, pray tell, are the 7-minute promotional soundbites and the Facebook pages that proudly display the ancestral portraits, soup toureens, mercury phials, penis syringes, bidets and other tchotchkes of the rag-tag descendants of Thom Thistlewood, 'Salt Beef Peg' and 'Buttock-de-Clink Jenny'?



Barringer, Tim, Gillian Forrester, and Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz. Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds. New Haven and London: Yale Centre for British Art in association with Yale University Press, 2009. [3] [4] [7]

Hall, Douglas. In Miserable Slavery: Thomas Thistlewood in Jamaica 1750 - 1786. Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago: University of the West Indies Press, 1989. [2]

Parker, Matthew. The Sugar Barons: Family,Corruption, Empire and War in the West Indies.  New York: Walker & Co, 2011. [1] [3] [6]

Wright, Philip. Lady Nugent's Journal: of Her Residence in Jamaica from 1801 to 1805. Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago: University of the West Indies Press, 2002. [5]