I'VE BEEN ASKED why I don't write about politics like other commentators do. For one, I have not qualified for a place among the pundits for whom partisan politics is like air to the lungs. The divisive side of politics deters me.
Until recently, I would have said that we are among the most divided people anywhere. Now, others are claiming the record. Witness the rift between neighbour and neighbour in the many arenas of war around the globe. Republican against Democrat, Palestinian against Israeli, African against African and more.
Ugliest of all is when the race card is played. It is hard to be reconciled to the idea that years after the monster of segregation was defanged in the USA, reports are that it is gearing up to stalk the land once more, especially in those states where old Jim Crow habits die hard. With our diaspora family to be found in every corner of the American landscape, the post-election events should be of particular interest.
Few may remember that there was a time when some Caribbean people tried to dissociate themselves from the race label in America by claiming that we were different. After all, we spoke English-English, even if it was convenient to break into the "twang" when it was to our advantage. We were not like "them", especially those from the South. Soon we came to realise that it was THEIR efforts in the Civil Rights years which made America a liveable place for all who looked like the majority of us. If the racism monster rises again, I would hope we have the sense not to retreat into bigotry and foolishness. We shouldn't, but who knows what politics can lead us to do?
As to where we are today, I've been advised by a leading scholar that Caribbean studies is one of the most sought-after courses, from Ivy League to other levels in education. People want to know about us. What do we acknowledge about ourselves? If the President of the USA can make a quip about running like Usain Bolt, we're in the action. Another compliment comes with the news that the English hand-bell choir of the Church of the Good Shepherd in the Bronx, where many Jamaicans are members, will sing at the White House on December 7 in the annual programme of Christmas music. Yes... we're more than we think.
OUR POLITICS. Last weekend the JLP began the task of re-inventing itself. The plan seems to be to place emphasis on re-creating the leader, to erase the memory of the inglorious defeat in the first general election in which he led the troops into battle. Despite heavy hype and expenditure, alas, he was taken down. Nice guys finish last, and Mr Holness did. Now he is being encouraged by his team and himself at the same time, to go for media hard sell.
The makeover goes from wardrobe to media attractability; for example, kissing one's wife in public or submitting to hugs from buxom beauties from the party's base, while letting it be heard that the campaign has begun. Whether everyone is completely comfortable with this persona or not, what matters is whether it will bring in those who have wandered from the fold. The challenge is to get nearer to the people, to come on strong. Spread the love and let them decide, and if they don't? There's always "try again".
WITH ALL DUE RESPECT to Mr Holness and his handlers, is it brain or brawn, a soft centre in a tough skin, a one-size fits all, for which the electorate is yearning? The Obama style is being copied here, but will it suffice between now and the next election, whenever that is? And what of the next generation of voters... will they go for the "roughest and toughest" image from the bad old days? It would be interesting to know if voters still get excited to hear, "I am the leader, hear me roar! When I talk, no dawg bark!" Some people say those days are over. Others seem to think that it can be made to work again. The answer is blowing in the wind. Lest we forget, old-time tough politics used to mean gunshot and drop dead in the cause of party loyalty, but the passion has cooled. Crime statistics show that we not so fool-fool anymore as to waste lives to feed politicians' egos. It was because of those days that the now-controversial political ombudsman's office was established, to help mediate political violence. It seems the time for new strategy is here.
AFTER SANDY: A tally of the environmental damage which we suffered from the wind and rain would be most instructive. Last week, going through the Junction en route to Annotto Bay, I was stunned by the sight of large trees in Castleton Gardens pushed over on their sides, like toys flung aside by a frustrated toddler. The Wag Water River was a mosaic of stones from pebble size to boulders. I doubt if many people from outside the area knew how that side had been affected.
All along the way there were beaten, broken bamboos snapped like pencils, lying on the hillsides and valleys. Other species, unknown to my ignorant eyes, had been battered. The road, which wasn't very good to begin with, was deeply gouged in many spots. One had to wonder what makes the Junction dwellers survive in the permanently damp environment, clinging to the hillsides or holding on deep down in the valleys. "No building zone", proclaimed roadside signs, in front and behind which were houses and shops.
How long will we delude ourselves into believing that we can avoid legislation to relocate people in perilous areas? Left alone, they become refugees every time there is heavy rainfall, but it doesn't seem to bother them, even if it costs the rest of us.
FLOOD AND MORE FLOOD: Thanks to a friend (hey, Conliffe) who shared the findings of some research which he did on the history of flooding in Port Maria.The records show flood devastation from as far back as 1869... 1909...1924...1937...1940. More than likely, there were other years too when it is a miracle that Port Maria was not washed away completely.
My friend concludes: "Port Maria has a flood-prone history, so why not wake up to the fact that no amount of finger-pointing, now or in the future, will change that? So, why not cut the chat and get on with the engineering studies?" to which I add, "Or build an ark for the next time."
COME ON: Support the RJR Communications Group drive to re-build the Annotto Bay hospital's paediatrics ward damaged by rotten old Sandy. Your speedy response will enable the replacement of facilities to re-house the children in surroundings appropriate to their health needs. Start at Scotiabank, Cross Roads, if you will... account number 822-317. Other branches islandwide will gladly take your offering. Help the children!