Category Archives: Politics

Of assaulting alarms and “MacMillan Morons”

WAKE UP, ALLEGIANCE!!!

Yes, man – get up. Kind of rude I know, but so is your alarm clock and you still get up. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s just me, a slave to the stupid thing, rising early even when I finally have a chance to sleep in! But anyway 🙂 I’m finally on vacation, so the blog’s slumber is officially interrupted. The most stressful term of my teaching year is over, and I can have a life again.

Venturing into a new writing project, so I’m doing all kinds of research on writing in the Caribbean. Came across this gem today – The (Civilizing) Missionary Position: A Manifesto (Published in the Trinidadian Guardian, April 13, 2011). Raymond Ramcharitar accuses a MacMillan-published compilation of racialising, exoticising and imperialising (yes, it’s a word) the Caribbean. My cup of tea. Maybe I’m an mc* cynic, and that’s why I find his article so refreshing and delightful without having actually read the compilation he shreds like coconut to make sugar cake, but that’s ok for today – I’ll own that. Don’t let my blind acceptance stop you from forming your own opinion, though – long live critical thought! Hurrah!!

*mc stands for “multicultural”…ew…I don’t like the word.


Wha gwan, ras’ mouse!

On my way home from work today, caught a BBC news blurb on the controversy their Rastamouse series is causing. First I’d heard of the show and just the thought tickled me. Apparently, parents are concerned about their children picking up poor English – Jamaican Patois is Ras’ mouse’s verbage of choice – and about racist overtones. I looked up some episodes, but haven’t seen enough to tell about the racist bit. My instincts tell me, though, that we can all be a bit oversensitive sometimes,  leading to detrimental silencing of cultural and ethnic differences in our bid to avoid inadvertent offense. Whatever. All Ras’ mouse tryin tuh do anyhow is tuh “mek a bad ting good”!


Mirror on the Wall

Walked into the staff room at a certain tertiary-level educational institution in Barbados and was interestingly surprised to find four posters of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, posted at various points around the room. I could not leave without inquiring why there were four posters of President Obama, and only one of a Barbadian leader – our deceased Prime Minister, the Right Honourable David Thompson. And I didn’t even see Thompson until I searched, his photo being quite diminutive in comparison. They had started with 2 Obama posters, I was told. A US Embassy official visited the institution and upon seeing the posters was impressed by the obvious “respect”. His response was to mail back two framed photos of President Obama, autographed by his own hand. I got the impression the gifts quite delighted the division’s head.

Impressed by the respect? I was saddened by the genuflection. I certainly don’t mean to belittle any aspect of Obama’s presidency – I myself skipped work, drove 5 hours and froze my giblets off for the opportunity to be on the Washington Mall in DC when he was inaugurated. But sometimes we all are challenged to keep things in perspective. As monumental as his presidency is for the United States, I have to ask – what has Obama done for me lately? Not nearly as much as The Right Honourable MichaĂ«lle Jean, for random example, and I don’t see her picture up anywhere. Perhaps I should put it up…hmm…

Make sure you take a good read of the often-mentioned “Mirror Image” speech by good old Errol, the Right and Honourable. We’ve taken but only one step towards his vision. Education is the vehicle not the destination. We so love to boast about ‘free education’ and few of us can say anything about continuing to move towards true transformation. Therein is our lack of enlightenment evident. Take Errol’s words to heart: “I want to know what kind of mirror image do you have of yourself? That is what I am concerned about. What kind of mirror image do you have of yourself?” Let’s look inward for our heroes. ‘Cause trust me – Obama’s a cool dude and all, but he ain’t transforming Barbados or the international power hierarchy anytime soon.

Love & light.


Do YOU Know…?

 

When people hear of Errol Barrow their free reign of thought usually flows directly to education, unless they were fortunate enough to remember some of the political jokes he left behind. Remember when he referred to then president of America, Ronald Regan, as “that cow boy in the White House”? Or when he told the world that Barbados is a friend to many but a satellite of none? But it is true that because of him Bajans have enjoyed a sweet life in terms of education.  Good education by some standards is hard to come by in this world, further more free education. But because of Barrow we have always had education at a “free” rate.  But what has it taught us and what have we learned? It is not my role here to criticize or publicize what I feel in my opinion we as Bajans or West Indians as a whole are lacking. Instead, I have just a few points that I want us to note. God made us to be rational beings, so pick sense out of my nonsense and what you weren’t taught seek and you will find.

We come along knowing free education but what do we know about our struggle, the struggle of others and the struggle that has made us who we are today?  Remember Inkle and Yarico or that one went over your head? Let me come more recent. In Haiti for example, even public schools come at a price. Wunna thought that only private schools make you pay? Look how our brothers and sisters have been struggling for decades, study it. What has your free education taught you in terms of how to help others? Stop taking what we have for granted and realize that their struggle could have very well been yours.

When the idea came about to pen my thoughts on Errol Barrow day one song came to mind. Red Plastic Bag’s “Issues of the Day” I couldn’t remember the verses but for days I sang this part of the chorus “…we must know who our heroes are, and we must hail them from near and from far. We must know famous from notorious. That is a must here in Barbados. This nation was not built by our leaders alone, so many heroes but they are unknown…” We go through the motions of life almost in robotic simulation. We celebrate days on the calendar with no deeper understanding of the significance or lack thereof in regards to why we should be celebrating. We need to remember how Barbados became what it is today. So while wunna on de excursions picnicking and eating and drinking, reflect on how the West Indies came to be and how some of our brothers and sisters are still in the midst of their own struggles. Yarico still getting fool by Inkle. Remember de “small” people who never got a day, but made significant contributions to the state of the country. We should be striving to learn from the struggles many of these unsung heroes fought and continue to fight today to fix. Maybe we can become better countries or maybe even a WHOLE.

The circle of life for many of us has a beginning and end. No middle because we have learned little and taught even less.


Window Seat.

“You’re so demanding. Tell me what you want from me…I just want a ticket outta town.”

I tried to think of a more creative, poetic title. I considered writing this post deep from my belly, aiming to reach deep into yours. But the artist speaks for herself.

From today’s Dallas Morning News, by Hunter Hauk. Full interview here

” …It was filmed Saturday (March 13) before St. Patrick’s Day. It was a pretty spontaneous thing. The song “Window Seat” is about liberating yourself from layers and layers of skin or demons that are a hindrance to your growth or freedom, or evolution. I wanted to do something that said just that, so I started to think about shedding, nudity, taking things off in a very artful way. I am from the theater, and this is just a part of expression to us, a part of art. And I saw a video by a group called Matt and Kim, and it was filmed in Times Square. And I thought it was the bravest, most liberating thing I’ve ever seen two people do. And I wanted to dedicate this contagious act of liberation and freedom to them. I hoped it would become something contagious that people would want to do in some way or another.

…I tied it in a way that compared that assassination to the character assassination one would go through after showing his or her self completely. That’s exactly the action that I wanted to display.

…Yes. I was petrified, period. The whole thing was frightening. The whole idea was frightening. Not being in love with my body, not being secure about being vulnerable, the police coming to take me to jail. I’m breastfeeding right now. Anything I could think of, I did. But those little things diminished as I thought about the big picture. And, as I started to walk, I confronted a lot of fears, and I hoped that it would encourage others to do the same thing in their own way.

…It’s human nature for a person to be afraid to express his or her self in fear of being ostracized by the group or general consensus. A lot of times people are judged unfairly because of that. I think about the Salem witch trials; I think about the assassination of Christ, I think about the character assassination of artists and celebrities on blog sites. I think about all of these things as groupthink. And when I fall to the ground in the video, the word groupthink spills out of my head, because I was assassinated by groupthink. ”


Bully me to death??

Victor Cadogan, father of Ian Gibson. From www.nationnews.com

Victor Cadogan, father of Ian Gibson. From http://www.nationnews.com

A few months ago when the suicides of prepubescent boys in America due to bullying seemed to be catching on as some type of epidemic, I wanted to write about it. But life got the best of me and so the blog entry sat on my hard drive, half way done, saved and quite useless not having met the light of day. When the 11 year old boy from St. Croix committed suicide after being bullied by classmates in the states I felt compelled to write about it. I felt really sad when I heard his story because for me it represented the innocence and security of childhood being lost. At 11 we are care free and enjoying life. Even on the most difficult days at school life is a breeze, right? Think back to when you were 11 and as bad as you thought things were, did you ever feel like life would never be better, or that things would only get worse? Imagine how bad it is when a child sees absolutely no way out. When he thinks that life is not worth living anymore. When he is so unhappy that he believes death is the only escape! When other children have made his world, his life, such a discomfort that he rather not exist in it any longer. If by now you haven’t grasped the severity of what I am saying then I don’t know if you ever will.

Some bajans would probably say, ” I ain know wha bran uh parts dese childrun nowadays got in, but dum bad anuff!”  Honestly, I don’t know either, but what I do know is that things have gone too far for too long.

See, I was supposed to write this blog entry months ago, but tonight I had to because I just read an article in the Nation Newspaper online describing how a first form boy, running away from bullies, was hit by a car and died two days later. I had to write this article tonight because in the past I have been guilty of making excuses like “children can be mean sometimes” or “everybody gets bullied at some point” or ” it does only make you stronger”. I decided to write this article  because what we have for so long deemed as a culturally adept right of passage, or just part of the growing  pains process is exactly the opposite and absolutely NOT OK. The similarity between Ian Gibson and Jaheem Herrera from St. Croix is that neither of them chose death. They were each trying to escape the torture and the torment. Both were trying to escape the only way they knew how at that time.

Maybe it is time that educators in the Caribbean start having a discussion as educators in the US and other countries are having. We can no longer sit on the sidelines and ignore a child’s cries for help (whether the bully or the bullied) or overlook interactions between children as typical. We can’t because as you see the results aren’t quite so typical anymore – suicides, Columbines, Ian Gibson – these are not typical results of childhood interactions. Parents need to be held accountable. Bullies don’t just wake up one day and decide to make Jamar’s life a living hell… they may learn their behavior is effective and right from what they see at home, OR they may be acting out to gain someone’s attention since home is not where they can get any,  OR they need a hug, Or they need love, the list goes on and on. Clearly this isn’t the most put together blog entry (since I not too long got in from bday celebrations), but the point that I am trying to make is that no where in the Caribbean, No where on my little rock of bim are we ready to deal with a Columbine. That’s not something that you ever want to reach the stage of having to be prepared for.

SO my question is what are we going to do. What are we going to do now that a father will no longer be able to behold his son except in memory. What are we going to do now that what has been for so long considered to be an understood, unwritten, natural and expected occurrence has turned into the unnatural of child meeting death before parent. I hope that this Ian Gibson’s death will not be in vain. I hope that justice will be served. I hope that the tragedies America has seen will never beget the C’bean. I hope that students speak up for each other. I hope that teachers speak up for students. I hope that parents speak up for and reprimand children accordingly.

I hope….

P.S. in a  more coherent state, I will definitely be writing more about this topic


Let Us Craft Our Fate!

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“…Is there a possibility for the creation of an alternative “development” trajectory for less developed countries in light of their position in the “periphery” of global affairs?”

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Things got a little tense in class today. The topic of discussion was ‘Colonialism, Independence, and the Rise of Mass Schooling’   …colonial exploitation…neo-colonialism…imperialism…dependency theories…elite formation…social disorganization…paradoxical empowerment…I’ll skip the technical jargon…Let me just say, the more we talked about it, the more it was clear: Babylon System is a Fraud.

In the ‘development’ debate, people were getting passionate. It got to the point where the professor, a Palestine-raised refugee of Lebanon, asked that those of us from former colonies identify ourselves. Turned out we almost out-numbered the others. Then, she asked that those of us from so-called ‘Third World’ countries identify ourselves. I struggled, audibly so, with the label of ‘Third World’, so my hand never quite made it up. But the tension in the room was now thick: it was as though the lines had been drawn. This was no longer an academic debate, about abstract ideas and concepts – we had in effect declared our personal stake in the matters. Don’t mean to sound cliche, but the silence was loud.

And then it came out. Before I knew it, my hand was up, and the prof gave me the nod, and I was speaking. For myself, because no one else can. For my country, because no one else would. I said that I don’t know what this “alternative development trajectory” would be, but my answer to the question is YES. There is an alternative. Simply because I am determined that there is. I will not accept no. I will not accept that my nation’s Sovereignty is a farce, that we in fact only possess as much power to handle our own affairs as some International body gives us – if I accept that, then I accept that my people are somehow inferior, and are not also due the right to the freedom to choose, to determine who we are and what we stand for without fear of sanction. I am determined that the answer is YES, because if it isn’t, we might as well have stick figures as our leaders – it matters not what we decide, because at the end of the day, we are no more than pawns within the global economy.  *and then I started to choke on tears from out of nowhere! and had to take a second to breathe, fan my eyes, and collect myself* I am determined that the answer is YES, because if it isn’t, the life that I want, the life that my family wants, that my people deserve, is impossible to attain…

Doan lewwe fool weself in de Carbean, hear?…lines done get draw in de sand, an I ain talkin bout Pebbles beach hay. We ain draw dem, we ain got nuh say in where dum start, nor wha part dum en’. Some ah we livin pretty, some ah we not suh hot. But best believe, ALL ah we in potta de day we get uppity an decide to cross de line pun de ‘wrong’ side. Next ting ya know, Uncle Sam gine be launchin military coups pun we brudders & sisters next door, from one ah WE own soil, all because dey had de guts to conceive something other than the approved socio-politico-economico mdoel. Oh wait…they did that already… Well de next ting dey gine come up wid is cuttin we off completely from trade an travel just because we decide we waan do tings different. Darn. They did that too! Ok, well at least they would never think to run off our leader to another country,  claiming they care about the corruption, and put their own, just-as-corrupt, puppet in place.  Aw shit! They been there, done that!! I know I’m not the only one seeing the pattern. I for one am not up for toeing the line. I’m not content to rest on anybody else’s laurels – I grew up singing that my people are “strict guardians of our heritage, firm craftsmen of our fate”. And I am crazy enough to believe it.

Now the way some see it, I am a success story of the systems I sometimes rant against. I went to the right schools, know some of the right people, go the right places, and I’m writing this blog from the States as I attend an Ivy League graduate school. However you want to look at it, one thing is true: duh shoulda neva leh dis lil poor girl get nuh sense.

Til Shiloh.