Friday, February 25, 2011

The Behavior of Nation Builders?

A country, any country is only as good as its people! So in order to understand the problems that exist in Jamaica today, one must first understand the people of Jamaica, the way they think and their relationship to the country of their birth. Do they see themselves as part of the nation building process?

Three hundred and fifty years of British rule helped mold the Jamaican mind into what it is today. British rule was based on the path of least resistance because it was best to have a willing and docile people to govern. If required, force was used to achieve this objective but for the most part the British regarded the use of force to be counterproductive and costly. The use of soft power was preferred.  By the early 1900s Britain was able to pacify the inhabitants of Jamaica simply by making them believe that they were British subjects like any other British Subject, a valid part and parcel of the grand Empire, even without the rights and privileges given to their Anglo Saxon counterpart. 

At the start of the 19th century present day concept of Jamaica and Jamaicans simply did not exist. The population of Jamaica did not see themselves as patriotic, nationalistic Jamaicans entrusted to build a nation state, a society future generations of Jamaicans would be proud of. Instead they saw themselves as British Subjects which is exactly how the British wanted them to feel, since they were not in the business of promoting pro Jamaica Nationalist movements, to do so would also be counterproductive as the population would start to question British rule. As such the British preferred the Borg approach to conquest and colonization “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated” and in 1948 the British Nationality Act conferred the status of British citizen on all Commonwealth subjects.

Jamaican Flag 1906-1957
The Section of the population that saw themselves as and believed themselves to be British men and women of the empire, for the empire even without the rights, wealth and privileges of their Anglo Saxon counterpart began to see Jamaica as the problem. Its distance from the source of power, the mother country was affecting their ability to achieve the rights, wealth and privilege that every true British men and women should have. This blasted rock, this island outpost, this satellite of the Empire was keeping them from their goals which was to walk hand in hand with their Anglo Saxon brothers and sisters united under the crown. England had done a proper job on the mindset of the people, brainwashing at its very best. So good was this mind job that it continues to this very day as the current generation still sees Jamaica as the problem and still tries to distance themselves from her. 

River of Blood
While the Colonial Office was busy convincing the population of the various colonies that they were British, part and parcel of a grand empire, working for queen and country. They failed to send that memo to inhabitants of the British Isles. 

One must understand that at the start of the 19th century the inhabitants of Jamaica had no idea that ignorant, poor working class Britain existed and how could they? The closest thing to a working class Britain Jamaicans saw was British soldiers and they had guns and was entrusted with the task of policing the inhabitants. So they were seen from a position of authority.  Other than that the British contingent was made up of Ladies and Gents of the colonial office, civil servants of the crown, judges, estate and business owners and upper echelon of the British society.  Working class Britain just could not afford to travel and had little or no information about the empire or how the people within it lived not did they care. As such the conflicts that followed after their arrival was bound to happen, it was inevitable.
One of the adverts used back in the 50s to entice travellers from Kingston to England.

Several of my family members who migrated in the late 50s and 60 expressed to me how shock they were with the living conditions when they first arrived in England, the Mother Country. They just did not expect to find such poor working class white Britons living in such poor conditions. Some shocked that they left better conditions at home in Jamaica and some too embarrassed and too broke to return home so they decided to stick with it, "England or Bust!!". All that coupled with the fact that they were now experiencing blatant racism the likes of which they have never experienced before in their lives, white Britain was not afraid to tell them exactly what they thought of them and their non-white skin.

If you have not read the story of Enrico Stennett, a privileged half-black Jamaican youth, and two friends, who stowed away on the SS Empire Windrush to England, where he thought he belonged because of his white British half,  well then I suggest you do, the Jamaica Gleaner published a three part excerpt from the Book titled “Buckra massa pickney”.

[Enrico Stennett: "Each day, as I sat on the harbour and gazed out to sea, I could only see England through my eyes, thinking of the land of milk and honey, the land where the streets were paved with gold ... the land my ancestors so proudly talked about ... the land I had been told I was a part of and where the people were Christian and good people. Now my only goal in life was to reach this land."
AFTER FIVE weeks of homelessness in London's East End, Enrico Stennett came to the grim realisation that stowing away to England was a big mistake. Post-war London was in disarray, so much so that even the Britons themselves were left in the cold. Racism was there to welcome him, and nobody cared about his mixed heritage and privileged upbringing in Jamaica. He was just another black man.

Enrico: "Sometimes I would burst into tears knowing that I had reduced myself to living like this. Jamaica was too far away to help me now. I could not take the next ship back, it was too late, and I had disobeyed the wishes of the people who knew best. For this, I had to pay the price."

Enrico: "The funniest incident that happened to me at that time was when I was standing in a long queue at a bus stop, when a child of about seven years old shouted to his mother, 'Momma, Momma, look there is a white man with a nigger's head'. ... At the same bus stop on another day, a child approached me and said, 'Mister, can I see your tail?' When I told the child I had no tail, the child said I was lying, because his father had said all black people have tails."] ("must be our famous, well endowed third leg..... hahahaha")..

The day the Empire Windrush first docked in Kingston harbour sealed Jamaica’s faith, we never stood a chance. These British men and women of African decedent, who lived their entire lives in Jamaica was going home to the Mother Country, to coexist with their fellow Ladies and Gents in the upper echelons of British society and to take their rightful place and position within Her Majesty’s Realm.  However when the people of Jamaica arrived in England they immediately found out to their shock and horror, that they were not British Citizens but Jamaicans, this title was not a title they wanted or wore with pride at first, the title of Jamaican was forced upon them by the Anglo Saxons of the land. 

The resistance to their presence by the native British population forced them to rally around and embrace the only thing they knew, the only thing they had in common and that was their “Jamaicanness”, they became Jamaicans not because they wanted to but because they had to in order to survive because of the great hardship they were experiencing.

Allan Wilmot who arrived in 1947 wrote “I never knew what it was like to be broke, hungry or homeless until I came to this country. I couldn't even afford a cigarette”....... So why is it then that we are prepared to go to such length, to suffer and to fight for survival in any other country but not our own?

“Almost the entire population in Britain really expect the coloured man to live in an inferior area…devoted to coloured people…Most British people would be quite unwilling for a black man to enter their homes, nor would they wish to work with one as a colleague, nor stand shoulder to shoulder with one at a factory bench.”

Lord Leary Constantine
Cricket legend, Political activist and first black peer
From the book "The Colour Bar" (1954)
Those who were left behind on the blasted rock simply decided to just sit around and bide their time, wait for their chance to escape this disgusting rock for the Mother country and when the mother country turned her back on her subjects, slam the door shut in their faces, the people of Jamaica searched high and low for her replacement this they found in the United States of America, Uncle Sam, our new colonial masters up North.
Not everyone supported Jamaica’s independence from Great Britain, large sections of the population including my own Grandmother was against it, most Jamaicans who migrated to Britain during the early 1900s hated the idea of independence as they declared that Jamaica needed Britain to take care of them, which is the exact same thing most Jamaicans today say with regards to the United States of America. Why are we so child like, why do we always need to be taken care of, a mindset that explains our current political predicament?

These Jamaican Royalist often declare with pride that Jamaica was once the pearl of the Caribbean, the pride and joy of Britain without an understanding of what it means when the British describe one of its colonies as a Pearl because Britain had many pearls most of which were underdeveloped societies but were big money earners for Queen and country. At the time when sugar was king Jamaica was a British pearl with a slave labour force,  It is this ability to extract maximum profit with minimal cost and minimal investment and at the expense of the local population that defines whether a country was a pearl or not.
Independence was an upper educated middle class concept, made up mainly of mix race Jamaicans who were not welcomed in England and had no real power at home, Middle Eastern Jewish immigrants who control the means of production and now needed the power to go with it and the British who had decided that Jamaica was now a drain on the purse of the crown, a has-been, use-to-be pearl and it was time to release her to the wild. 

After independence it quickly became apparent that we got rid of one Foreign Colonial Master only to be shackled by our own Home Grown Colonial “Muppets” and it did not take long for them to settle in the houses vacated by the old British colonials and start their own brand of oppression while paying lip service to the concept of Nation Building and “upliftment” of the masses. 

This was now easy to do because after 350 years of British rule the mindset of the population was subservient, self-hating and looking to be taken care of. 

Behavior of Nation Builders Part 2  

Colonization in Reverse - Louise Bennett
Wat a joyful news, miss Mattie, 
I feel like me heart gwine burs 
Jamaica people colonizin Englan in Reverse
By de hundred, by de tousan
From country and from town,
By de ship-load, by de plane load
Jamica is Englan boun.
Dem a pour out a Jamaica,
Everybody future plan
Is fe get a big-time job
An settle in de mother lan.
What an islan! What a people!
Man an woman, old an young
Jus a pack dem bag an baggage
An turn history upside dung!
Some people doan like travel,
But fe show dem loyalty
Dem all a open up cheap-fare-
To-England agency.
An week by week dem shippin off
Dem countryman like fire,
Fe immigrate an populate
De seat a de Empire.
Oonoo see how life is funny,
Oonoo see da turnabout?
jamaica live fe box bread
Out a English people mout'.
For wen dem ketch a Englan,
An start play dem different role,
Some will settle down to work
An some will settle fe de dole.
Jane says de dole is not too bad
Because dey payin she
Two pounds a week fe seek a job
dat suit her dignity.
me say Jane will never fine work
At de rate how she dah look,
For all day she stay popn Aunt Fan couch
An read love-story book.
Wat a devilment a Englan! 
Dem face war an brave de worse, 
But me wonderin how dem gwine stan Colonizin in reverse.
(Don't worry I have trouble reading it also) 

I am very interested in Early Jamaican migration to Britain, the reality surrounding such migration, the mindset of the people in the early 1900s and why they decided to leave. I want to know what they found when they got there and what happened... I continue to interrogate the older members of my family whenever I get the chance, about conditions in Jamaica and the UK at time... A lot of history is based on nostalgia, fantasy and perception and I am forced to dig deep in order to get to the reality of the time… 

The social and economic condition of both Britain and the Jamaica is well documented and helps to dispel the nostalgia, fantasy and perception fog, even older Jamaica living in Jamaica would tell you things was better when they were a boy but they were a boy and they see reality through a boys eyes. Migration to America was just an extension of early 1900 migration and not very interesting as the migratory mindset that most Jamaican now have was conditioned in us from early 1900s and before. During Slavery we wanted to escape the plantation, to run away and after slavery we wanted to escape Jamaica.

Watch 1 to 16

 Rural life - turn of the Century

Going to Mother Country
Men of the British West Indian Regiment - For King and Country

 Caribbean Regiment

For King and Country

Caribbean Personnel Recruited By the RAF

 Working sugar plantation

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Few of my Favourite Places

 Jacobs Beach, Silver Sands Trelawny, Jamaica

 Strawberry Hill Hotel & Spa 

 Comfort Farm, St. Mary

 The View From the Loo, Devon,UK

 Dartmouth, Devon,UK

 Wembury, Devon,UK

 San San, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Jamaican Campaign for Real Ale

The wine revolution in Jamaica is in its advance stages. It is a revolution that was started some time ago and has spread all over Jamaica with the opening of new wine bars, restaurants and wine shops. Wine tasting nights and food pairing festivals have also become a regular thing.  As a result Jamaicans have developed a taste for and are now very knowledgeable about the different types of wines from various regions around the world.

The Jamaican Beer Revolution is still nowhere to be seen. Not much have changed with regards to the local beer market. For the most part our choices are very limited between Red Stripe, Heineken and one or two other generic lager. For stouts the choice is Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and on occasion, one sometimes might find the odd Guinness draft. All-in-all the Beer selection is very predictable, very boring and as a result the Jamaican taste for beer has not progressed beyond the basic lager and stout supply.

Jamaica in my opinion Jamaica is the most boring place when it comes to beer drinking, simply because of the limited selection available to the people and how beer in general is both viewed and marketed. There was a time when our concept of wine and beer was on the same simple, low level but wine is no longer on that Wincarnis tonic wine level.

Not only is the selection of beer limited and predictable but the taste of the selected beer is also limited and predictable, a Red Stripe by design will always taste like a Red Stripe, the same can also be said for all the other lagers and stout, you know what to expect when you open a bottle or a can. The manufacturers have decided that this was how they want their product to taste and the population with its limited selection pool have no other choice but to acquire a taste for that product. For many years growing up in Jamaica this was all we had to drink, all we had to choose from and as such, old habits die hard, we have acquired the taste for a cold Red Stripe or Heineken on a hot tropical day as we convinced ourselves that there is nothing like it in the world without having experienced and explored other possibilities.

The world of Beer is as diverse as the world of wine, so why then do we limit ourselves to these basic beer supply? There are many different types of beers, many different brewing styles that have revolutionized the world of beer.

The development of the craft beer industry have brought imagination and innovation to the beer drinking world which now surpasses the diversity of the wine industry. Then we have the traditional concept of Real Ale, whether it be Cask Conditioned or Bottle Conditioned Ales. These are ales brewed using historical traditional methods and ingredients using top fermenting yeast at warmer temperatures. This beer is then allowed to mature over time like fine wine, in the container use to dispense it. This is a process known as secondary fermentation as the primary fermentation already took place in fermentation tanks at the brewery. Beer is now a living breathing entity that changes over time, live yeast carry on the process of fermentation even on the supermarket shelves in the case of Bottled Conditioned Ale or in cask located in the pub cellar.

Like wine, the beer matures because fermentation is allowed to continue which changes the taste, characteristic and sensations over time.

With this process there is no need to infuse the beer with gases as the live yeast gives off natural effervescence during fermentation. These ales like craft beer can also be flavoured, infused with the essence of fruit, herbs and spices to enhance the taste even more. 

A World Wide Beer Revolution is in full swing as pubs across Great Britain, Europe and America pride themselves on delivering locally brewed beers to their customers. As per CAMRA (Campaigning for Real Ale) there are over 2,500 different Real Ales brewed regularly in the UK. In America the supply of craft Beers from microbreweries and brew pubs have increased dramatically over the years and everywhere around the world people gather at annual beer festival events to taste the latest brew.
Jamaica is ripe for a Beer Revolution, I have seen brewers around the world using brand Jamaica to sell their products, for example Jamaica Red Ale from California, Blue Point’s Rastafa Rye a delicious Rye Beer comes even with a dreadlocks Rasta man on the bottle and Hemp Ale infused with hemp oil just to name a few. Jamaicans can also be as innovative and create our own local Real Ale.  We could also explore the idea of growing hops at higher elevations which would be one less raw ingredient to import. Unlike the wine revolution which is 100% import base, the beer revolution can be for the most part a locally driven revolution, based mainly on local production, importing only the raw material required, that is not to say that we should not explore what is out there, it would be a sin not to, we can learn from others. Beer is seasonal, winter ales are normally heavier than summer ales, I am certain that summer ales and some winter ales would do very well in Jamaica utilizing natural Jamaican fruits and spices with local spring water to add a unique Jamaican flavor and aroma to locally brewed Real Ale.

Mad River Brewing: Jamaica Brand Ale

It is my hope that a day will come when Jamaican brew masters will fill our supermarkets with locally brewed beers taking advantage of our unique resources, creating Ales with distinctive Jamaican characteristic with names like Three Finger Jack, St. Elizabeth Red, Blue Mountain Porter infused with Blue Mountain Coffee or Appleton Red Ale using old rum cask for primary fermentation. My personal dream is to create my flagship ale, Comfort Ale brewed and bottled on my own farm Comfort Farm in St. Mary using natural spring water from the guava river located on the Farm, infused with fruits and herbs from the farm to deliver a new unique flavor and served using a hand pump in my own Gastro pub, The Comfort Pub/Ale House.

Let the revolution begin!

Some of my Favorite English Ales:
  • Doom Bar – Sharp’s Brewery
  • Jail Ale – Dartmoor Brewery
  • Summer Lighting  - Hop Back Brewery  
  •  Butcombe Blond – Butcombe Brewery
  • Tribute – St. Austell Brewery
  • Fuller's 1845
  • Brakspear Triple/Bitter
  • Spitfire Premium Kentish Ale

  • One of the best I've ever had.. A+

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Review: The Dead Yard

Book of Doom and Gloom
I had the misfortune of reading The Dead Yard by Ian Thomson, a book of doom and gloom, as this author sets out to expose the dark side of Jamaica. Ian Thomson clearly sees nothing good about Jamaica and any hint of goodness is quickly dismissed as he paints a picture of hell that is my beloved country. Every successive chapter is filled with more doom and gloom than the last as Ian goes out of his way to highlight every nasty disgusting aspect of the Jamaican society. If this writer had stated that there was a Jamaican connection to the World Trade Center attack, I would not be too surprise. He seems clearly upset about Jamaica's independence from Britain, he hates the idea that Jamaica is now being influence by the United States and he may or may not love, hate or misses the British Empire.

 If someone was to compile everything that is negative about the British society and pack it into one book, then they would have achieved the same objective.  The author made several reference to the Jamaica Tourist Board adverts comparing it to life on the dark side but the tourist boards of Great Britain (Visit Britain) do not promote football hooliganism, life in impoverish council estates, English Defense League race riots, pub fights, public drunkenness and disorder, massive amount of child abuse from Britain's Pedophiles’, stabbings and murders in Britain and as such I do not see any reason why the Jamaica Tourist Board ( Visit Jamaica) should promote crime in Jamaica.

Maybe Ian’s time would be best spent documenting the experiences of victims from raciest Crimes in Great Britain:
  • 61,000 complaints of racially motivated crime were made in 2006-07, a rise of 28 per cent in just five years.
  •  Biggest surge in racist incidents was recorded last year (2007) in South Yorkshire, where the number leapt by 77 per cent, and Thames Valley, where it rose by 46 per cent.
  • Racist attacks on the rise in rural Britain Between 2000 and 2004 rose from 48,000 to 52,700.
  • Racism on the rise in Scotland, Statistics showed that 6171 incidents of racism were recorded in 2009/10 - a rise of 20.4% from the 5123 racist incidents recorded in 2008/9.
Anyone can write a book about the dark side of any country because every country have a dark side, but to make the dark side the norm is just criminal, pure evil. This writer dislikes Jamaica for some reason and understands like most of the British media outlets that negativity sells, especially when it comes to Jamaica. Does Jamaica have problems, yes, does Jamaica have a crime problem, yes, but one can ask the same about most countries, including the United Kingdom. The Author interviews several prominent, wealthy Jamaicans who are not of African descent and several none Jamaicans who lives in Jamaica; they all seem to take pleasure in their raciest description the black population. One would think he was interviewing members of the Ku Klux Klan in the deep south of America or party members of the British National Party or the English Defense league. The population of Jamaica like most other countries is diverse, it is made up of people of different races and different historical background and yet this author is shocked to find out that Jamaica suffers from normal human traits that exist in almost every country with a diverse population.

As Jamaicans we understands the problems that we face more than anyone else, we know the negative aspect of our society, we experience it day in day out and it is something we as Jamaicans are fighting to overcome every day. We also know and love the positives aspects of our society of which there are many, we see it every day and we experience it every day and it is there for all to see but people like Ian Thomson are blind to this and that is not what sells. Books like Dead Yard and writers like Ian Thomson exist to kill all hopes, dreams and aspirations of a people while making a profit. 

I see nothing positive about this book, it brings nothing new to the table, it offers no solutions and given the fact that the foreign media only reports bad, negative things about Jamaica (We all know the BBC’s attraction to a Jamaican Ghetto is like a moth to flame) it adds nothing new to the way people in other countries view Jamaica. However it reinforces my belief that what is important is how we Jamaicans think about ourselves and the future of our country. We cannot and will not let others like Ian Thomson control or define how we think or who we are. As Jamaicans we are given one of the greatest challenges a human being could face, to take one of the most fertile and the most beautiful land mass on this planet and convert it into a country where all of its inhabitants can live in peace and prosper, to build a nation state future generations of Jamaicans can be proud of. Great Britain left us with nothing but we are determined to create something. Yes we have had set backs along the way but I believe we will get it right, we are a young nation still growing but we will get there.

The author performs interviews after interviews with people who left Jamaica decades ago, with each one giving their own out of date opinion on Jamaica over the years. The very idea that people who have migrated, who turned their backs on their birth right could then turn around and make statements about the lack of growth and development in Jamaica, is to me extremely insulting, here we have a group of people, some of whom left Jamaica for over 30 and 40 years, never returned, most no longer call themselves Jamaican, having never lift a finger to build our nation state, thinking that they somehow have earned the right to make these statements about my country.

The fact is each of the events reported in the book are almost always negative but not unique to Jamaica, however this is not an issue for Ian who only wants negativity presented as if it is unique only to Jamaica. If anything positive is said during his interviews we would never know about it because Ian would never report it, that's not the purpose of The Dead Yard, Ian's Book of Doom and Gloom.

Related Blog Post:

The Behavior of Nation Builders (Part-2)