30 September 2006

home is where we go when we have need

the nomad pulls up stakes without regret
having no reason to cherish a place
and i do likewise but cannot forget
the things occurred in each particular space
each mark each stain each sign of cleanliness
is a memory i've left one that i share
with my companions those who too process
with me through every different lair
where i have been and where i've laid my head
where i have walked and simply taken the air
and where i've loved and laughed and suffered dread
this is the toll that life seems to require
and we move on and light a different fire

The Land of Look Behind

The Land of Look Behind

John Maxwell



There are some places which should be left untouched, some wild places, some serene and tranquil places, some mountains, some forests, some lakes, woods, some ruins.
In the Treaty of Rio – Agenda 21, all the countries of the world agreed that there were, in effect, sacred places which should be preserved for the sake of the human spirit so that we can wonder at them, meditate in them, lose ourselves in their spaces and reconnect with the world of nature. of life outside of ourselves, a world from which we are so desperately trying to isolate ourselves in the name of progress.
The United Nations has a programme which designates such sites for protection. They are so special that they are part of the heritage of mankind, not simply of the people living next door. These places are places of refuge from the clamant world outside, the rat race, perhaps even the cell phone.
One such place is the Cockpit Country or more poetically, The Land of Look Behind. The story is that when the British were trying to subdue the Maroons their soldiers were mounted two to a mule, one facing forward, the other ‘riding shotgun ‘ as they used to say in the Wild West.
It is like nowhere else on Earth. The geologists say it is the ‘type’ – or paradigm , the perfect example of its kind, the ne plus ultra. It is a place of wild unearthly shrieks, strange subterranean rumbles and the most numbing silences. It is a place of purple, blue and pink rock, of rugged tortured peaks and the most placid, green and peaceful pasture at the bottom of a precipice miles below you, it seems; a place of echoes and of ghosts, of valiant struggle, of lying and treachery and death. It is a place where you might come upon a plant or animal previously unknown to science or a prehistoric rock carving. It is magic.
It is a place I’ve been in love all my life since my father told me stories of our ancestors who fought and died here and of how he, himself, had hidden out from the bailiffs up here, until he could find a way to get to Kingston to be sworn in as a member of the Legislative Council (1935) and therefore immune to the claws of the debt collector.
Nobody has ever asked me where I’d like to be buried but I believe if I had my druthers,, I ‘d rather like to have my ashes scattered on the Burnt Hill Road, over Barbecue Bottom, so my voice can join the echoes there and my spirit the ghosts of some of my forefathers.
. Apart from its magic, the Land of Look Behind is one of the wonders of the world, except that most people do not yet know of it.
The Cockpit Country/Land of Look Behind plays a starring role in Jamaican history. It was one of the last places where the few surviving Arawaks (Tainos) sought refuge from the Spaniards and where the Africans seeking freedom joined them and took shelter from the English and intermarried with them. It was the strategic base from whence they sallied out to meet and defeat the British from time to time.. Our ancestors thought they were dealing with an honourable foe when they signed treaties with the British. The army might have been honourable, but the Governor and the Jamaican elites were certainly not. The land the Maroons thought was theirs by treaty was unceremoniously recaptured by the British in the High Court somewhere about 1957.
The Cockpit Country is not only a historical treasure, it is a geological and biological treasure as well.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has for years been classifying crucial resources of the world for their intrinsic value to humanity. It considers the Land of Look Behind one such place.
Here in Jamaica, the Land of Look Behind is set for a modern makeover, if the technocrats of the Bauxite Institute have their way. They will be destroying a fifteen million year old landscape of surpassing beauty and utility so that Airbus and Boeing can build more planes to cause more global warming.
The problem is simple. Some people have a one-dimensional view of development. To them, development means bulldozers, steel, concrete and no mosquitos..

Aluminum and Jamaica

I was avery young reporter at the Gleaner in 1952 when the first shipment of Jamaican bauxite left for the United States aboard the SS Carl Schmedeman, an ore carrier built for Reynolds Jamaica Mines Since that time we have exported hundreds of millions of tons of bauxite and alumina, we have lost mountains, valleys, churches , graveyards, houses,, and schools to the inexorable bite of the bauxite draglines – and we’ve sacrificced children’s lungs and the roofs of houses to the pollution from alumina refining. We don’t have much to show for it except some suspect foreign exchange earnings figures and a small class of specially privileged people who are supported by the industry.
One would have thought that in fifty years an industry as profitable as this might have clubbed together to donate a trade school to one of the communities they ravage. Only Kaiser, under Don Tretzel, ever seemed conscious of its community responsibility. the others have simply gone their merry way rejoicing at the fools who let them have their bauxite cheap and do not insist on the proper restoration of mined out lands as specified in agreements and licences since 1944.
The Aluminum industry is one of the worst polluters on earth, and in Jamaica their record is dismal. Alcan, the Canadian twin separated from Alcoa when Alcoa became too big even for the USA, has bequeathed to us two environmental time bombs – in the form of red mud lakes at Mount Rosser and Mandeville. There is evidence that the St Catherine groundwater has for some years been polluted by Mount Rosser. In Manchester, bauxite mining has changed the course of underground water supplies and Porus now, from time to time, is the site of a brand new lake.
The problem is that Jamaica, west of the Wag Water river, is either limestone or bauxite and the character of the landscape is determined by these two substances.
I believe, without one shred of scientific backing, that Jamaica was created by the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. I think that masses of the sea-bottom were pushed up against a small volcanic island (now the Blue Mountain Range) and that over another 40 million years or so, the limestone gradually rose to the surface to become western Jamaica. The impact of the asteroid had deformed the limestone to produce a feature that puzzles geologists to this day: how come in Jamaica we find older rocks on top of younger rocks, Nothing but an enormous impact could have so distorted the geology, producing the effect of a layer cake thrown against a wall.
This limestone island was relatively level, but some parts were made of denser material than others, and the rain dissolved the softer parts, leaving the harder parts to form what we now see as the characteristic hillocks of the Cockpit Country rising out of terra rossa, red earth bauxite, to which the limestone had degraded.
Whether my fanciful speculations make sense or not, the fact is that the largely karstic landscape of western Jamaica was formed by the dissolution of limestone by rainwater, and this process took place not only above ground but also below it. The result is that Jamaica has an internal plumbing system, with underground rivers and lakes storing and distributing water in a way that is now predictable and dependable. When one of these subsurface conduits becomes blocked we get sudden lakes,such as at at Exeter and Chigwell and Newmarket in 1979 and Moneague.
But the Cockpit Country is special; it captures rain from St Ann, Trelawny and St James and this water, cubic miles of it, is stored underground and released through numberless underground caves or conduits. Some of this water goes to the west to the Queen of Spain’s Valley and provides the water for some of the rivers there, but most of it goes apparently to the Martha Brae which runs north to Falmouth, and the Black River, which runs south. Some of the water also goes to the Dunn’s River and Roaring River in St Ann
The most noticeable characteristic of all of these rivers is that their volumes are nearly constant all year round, regardless of how much rain falls during the year. The reason is that the Cockpit Country is a huge reservoir with possibly a volume of water greater than Kingston Harbour and while the level of the aquifer may vary, because of its huge size, the volume of outflow hardly varies at all.
When these conduits become blocked you get lakes such as at Moneague, Chigwell, Exeter, NewMarket and other places. And it seems that the lake in embryo at Porus may have something to do with the operations of the bauxite mining companies. They, of course, are denying all liability an they will continue to deny liability even if Porus disappears with a giant sucking sound.
Porus would be bad enough, but the aquifer underneath the Cockpit country is vital to the entire North Coast, and not least, to the tourism industry. All the experts on karstic geography agree that it is very dangerous to interfere with karstic landscapes. There are many reasons
Mining, for instance, brings with it the threat of severe pollution from the activity itself. The red earth, which has stabilised over millions of years, acts as a filter for the water. But when the red earth is disturbed, as it has been in a river in the southern cockpit country you may find the water turning blood red. If bauxite mining were to produce this result, in even one river there would be, as my grandmother used to say, “Hell to pay!’
Imagine if you will the cruise ships being told that “Our water is perfectly drinkable. It just happens to be red today” Imagine the tourists in the hotels – ‘come to Jamaica for an instant tan’ – and imagine the Jamaicans in their homes, washing their clothes in red water. This eventuality may be unlikely, but it is possible. The point is that no one can say for sure. And then of course, there is hydrogen sulphide, whioch gives rotten eggs their characteristic aroma. That’s sequestered down there too.
There is of course. much more to the karst topography. The isolated hillocks are in themselves, little islands of biodiversity where the less mobile life forms may mutate to their hearts’ content untroubled by any considerations of incest or endogamy. Much the same is true of the caves and sinkholes which are not all connected to each other. Because of this the Cockpit is a riot of biodiversity for small creatures and because of its relative inaccessibility, for larger creatures as well.
According to cockpitcountry.com the place is a “rugged, inaccessible area of inland Jamaica:
“These very characteristics have given it special importance and it is proposed that it become a World Heritage Site. It is an island-within-an-island of specially-adapted biodiversity found nowhere else in the world and is a last refuge for some species driven from the rest of Jamaica by humans.
“…Jamaica's size and diverse physical features presented a wide range of micro-habitats that facilitated within-island radiation and speciation. The present composition of species, both floral and faunal, represents some of the highest rates of endemism in the world, recognized particularly for ferns, birds, reptiles, frogs and land snails.”

cockpitcountry.com


Snails may not grab your attention or excite your admiration, but apart from those who simply cannot resist them, there are others who understand that the more diverse life is, the more likely we -humans - are to survive.
In a field with fifteen crop varieties, an epidemic may kill one or two, it won’t kill all because bacteria have their preferred hosts. Similarly in human society, diversity may actually save lives, as in 1724 when an epidemic of smallpox in Boston was defeated by the fact that African slaves understood the rudiments of vaccination – before Lister – and saved dozens of those who were” crazy enough” to trust themselves to the tender mercies of the slaves.
In this connection remember when I wrote a few years ago about an insignificant little animal known to its friends as Ectinascidia turbinata,This tunicate species produces a class of chemicals called secondary metabolites which have been shown to be effective anti-tumor agents. This squirt is likely to play a starring role in the fight against cancers, having been found to inhibit the growth and even kill certain tumours. It was seriously threatened by the dredging of KIngston Harbour. If scientists do not succeed in systhesizing the active compounds, we could probably make millions from allowing Ectinascidia turbinata some lebensraum.. And who knows if one of the 500 species of snails found in Jamaica may not have the answer to AIDS or cancer.
“Information on the plant species composition and distribution of the Cockpit Country is incomplete and many years of concentrated work will be needed to begin to approach a comprehensive evaluation of the flora. At present, 106 species of vascular plants from 43 families have been found only in the Cockpit Country. This includes 101 Cockpit Country endemics. The remaining five species are not endemic, but in Jamaica occur only in the Cockpit Country.”– cockpitcountry.com
Scientists say that the “features of a karst landscape depend on the interaction between the components of this system: water, air. soil, rock, life, energy and time. The integrity of karst systems depends on the preservation of this interaction. If the balance is upset by sudden changes in one or more components, the whole system may be disrupted” –Vermuelen and Whitten
One of the principles agreed to by the whole world at Rio in 1992 was the Precautionary Principle.. It means that in any development, nothing that appears dangerous should be done simply because there is no direct scientific evidence that it is dangerous. We know that mining the Land of Lookl Behind is dangerous. The scientific evidence exists. But the geniuses of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute and the Natural Resources Conservation Authority are going to do it anyway – if we let them.
Copyright©2006 John Maxwell
jankunnu[at]yahoo.com

by way of explanation

to write verse that can be held together
by words that keep their meaning but reflect
the many sides of thought in every weather
requires that the poet must at first reject
those words that his or her right meaning
approximate but never in fact reach
the correct attitude and proper leaning
but choose instead the words that chide or teach
what we do when we write requires a choice
between the flowery and the absolute
each of us makes decisions in our voice
and tunes our mental version of the lute
to play those tunes on immaterial strings
that speak correctly of the proper things

death of the republic

the dream was born with flaws but hope awoke
slavery inequality injustice all were there
now torture's been made sacred at a stroke

the framers were corrupt yet honest folk
they sought to build a system that was fair
the dream was born with flaws but hope awoke

the president's nose is no longer filled with coke
he looks upon the world with a long stare
now torture's been made sacred at a stroke

upon our shoulders we have laid the yoke
the monster at the core is now laid bare
the dream was born with flaws but hope awoke

the fires of hatred faded now we stoke
to terror we have turned out of dumb fear
now torture's been made sacred at a stroke

once we spoke freely now we barely croak
our rulers now for justice do not care
the dream was born with flaws but hope awoke
now torture's been made sacred at a stroke

the turtle-sense i have of where's my home

All homes are simply stations on the way,
We come, we go, we move from place to place,
The only steady one's the place we'll stay
Until our bones have disappeared from trace.
What all our lives mean, I have to say, is this
That we will simply always have to move
Unresting, ever seeking for the one
Comforting location where we can love
Those who will love us underneath the sun.
What is a home but the thing that we bear
Within our hearts, that guards what we desire
Away from all disaster and from fear,
And where we keep and watch the sacred fire.
The law that governs all the paths of earth
Is that each day marks for us another birth.

comment on an annoying globalizer

the world is flat wealth cries out to be free
tom friedman writes and claims to understand
the lexus that has crushed the olive tree

it's time to spend unleash the buying spree
let money spread itself from hand to hand
the world is flat wealth cries out to be free

in sweatshops round the world right now we see
the working people under a hard hand
the lexus that has crushed the olive tree

from ganges banks right to the banks of dee
the tyrant gold rules over every land
the world is flat wealth cries out to be free

in quarries now we see the flying scree
as precious stones are sought for golden band
the lexus that has crushed the olive tree

eat foods of comfort camenbert or brie
drink wine on beaches on the silver strand
the world is flat wealth cries out to be free
the lexus that has crushed the olive tree

29 September 2006

first response to critique

when questions come there is a little rage
how could it not be obvious what's not to see
the words have meanings are clearly on the page
have been given all the power that there could be
to say what's needed indicate the cause
provide the understanding of each choice
show that the world though complex follows laws
and that the hubbub constitutes a voice
but here and there the critics magnify
each little flaw into a giant hole
ask what is meant what do you signify
what have you hidden at the further pole?
and all of this to say in simple time
one paragraph will satisfy their rhyme

28 September 2006

thunder approaches

shadows are sharpened by the shining sun
the clouds that soften light make darkness dull
we pass from dark to brilliance at the run
but the grey clouds are coming close to full
the pots are filled with gold and purple blooms
waiting the brightness that has now withdrawn
somehow somewhere in dank and hidden rooms
the leaves are ripped and the petals are torn
all summer light is doomed to end and fade
the turning earth moves us from night to night
the daytime shadow becomes mortal shade
and dark subsumes all that was fair and bright
this is the sum and substance of all life
the joy is of a package with the strife

blue autumn sky

the light on the green leaves is summer-bright
the sky is blue the temperature is mild
winter advances as does the long night

i sit at my computer smile indite
this poem in lieu of doing something wild
the light on the green leaves is summer-bright

the pain endures though right now it is slight
i wonder at the meekness of the child
winter advances as does the long night

where time is measured by the tones of light
in stillness of this moment undefiled
the light on the green leaves is summer-bright

the warmth is rising and the breeze is slight
the moment into memory is filed
winter advances as does the long night

time now for work time later for delight
joy in a heap like fallen leaves is piled
the light on the green leaves is summer-bright
winter advances as does the long night

oglethorpe chimes

sounding chimes loudly
count off the hours and quarters
proclaiming each time

their own concreteness
even as the moments onward
pass into nothing

clearer in winter
those bells though through the summer
they chided me working

slowly too slowly
for their taste ever urgent
time goes on we stop

someday far too soon
for all that we could hope for
will halt and then we

will not be and our
memories will soon be gone
and the bells will chime

others will hear them
not thinking of those who
had listened before

the wisdom of the ancients

liberty is absent in the most ancient thought
security and order matter but not freedom
it isn't even an issue isn't thought of as worth

a second's attention instead such matters
as harmony and justice seem to be
all that philosophers care for not that freedom

is anything to despise for after all some people
(like greeks) are naturally free
but that isn't the case for barbarians and

all in all it doesn't matter much the idea that
government should maintain liberty
would have made plato laugh and han feizi

would have said that any idiot who wasted
his ruler's time with such nonsense should be
beaten and if he repeated the error hanged

those after all were simpler times when the people
kept their place in silence until their rage
overflowed and one king fell only to see another

sit in his place and the story of the good king
keep another generation of children quiet
for who would trust the wisdom of the poor?

27 September 2006

weep for the river rises

what comes beyond the moment we will know
in proper time and knowing may regret
the movement we call progress is a flow
that changes constantly and does not set
a steady course that we can chart and map
extreme reactions mark our strong desires
our wishes and our actions overlap
as simple lights turn into raging fires
we then demand as payment for our choice
the power to undo all the things we've done
silence the rival clamours with loud voice
and in the darkness call for a new sun
what we have made we hate and then we say
that those who speak out just impede the way

26 September 2006

for the turning leaves

wisecracking laddie
you are the bearer of hope
as winter comes on

what shall we make now
as the days shorten and all
the light turns mellow?

counter of numbers
limner of shadows you know
monochrome stillness

sapient at sunset
we await dark returning
carelessly patient

contrast of autumn
green becomes red yellow brown
then all is naked

which is our address?

the maps are not the places that we know
but without maps the places make no sense
armed with these guides onward we aim to go
and reading them makes simple what is dense
the routes are traced each journey and each ride
we've been there before or else it is unknown
we press along taking note how on each side
of the long road the kudzu's thriven and grown
the map shows no road the pictures show no trace
of where we go and what we hope to see
we know what's there we have a sense of place
but the camera shows no house but a tree
this is reality we know we cannot gild
we have no choice we buy we have to build

another view of orula

dark bearded cigar-smoking god with drum
has wisdom and some sadness in his face
and listens while the toiling masses thrum

above a bird circles silent as if struck dumb
obeying the imperatives of his race
dark bearded cigar-smoking god with drum

the tree behind is filled with rush and hum
as if it now no longer knows its place
and listens while the toiling masses thrum

the clouds that mass on the horizon come
with rain and hope to occupy the space
dark bearded cigar-smoking god with drum

his gaze explores you seeming to find the sum
of all your hopes and your desires to trace
and listens while the toiling masses thrum

this is the probative moment when the plum
prizes are given it cannot erase
dark bearded cigar-smoking god with drum
and listens while the toiling masses thrum

25 September 2006

in memory of john m. ford (1957-2006)

today with sorrow our good friend mike ford
has gone untimely to his final rest
the waiting dragon fallen on a sword

we feel the need for a final falling chord
to honour both the humour and the zest
today with sorrow our good friend mike ford

of swift verse master and of prose a lord
has sailed in quiet unto the utter west
the waiting dragon fallen on a sword

the movement's done the final page is scored
the sentiments appropriately expressed
today with sorrow our good friend mike ford

is gone and we can now but ill afford
the anger and the forlorn soul's unrest
the waiting dragon fallen on a sword

and now the closing now the final word
with sadness spoken and with grief oppressed
today with sorrow our good friend mike ford
the waiting dragon fallen on a sword

creed of the experienced

enterprising men
say that we need to follow
the path that they blaze

but we are sceptics
we have been sold bills of goods
before and so we

want them to prove their
declarations truth to us
or no fulfilment

24 September 2006

happy birthday truffle

the earth has now reached that same spot in space
that it was passing on your natal day
when you appeared this life to lend your grace

with happiness now it's time for me to trace
just how you make me happy in the way
the earth has now reached that same spot in space

each morning when i wake to see your face
we have to leave but still i long to stay
when you appeared this life to lend your grace

it does me honour that we share a place
to shelter from the world's continual fray
the earth has now reached that same spot in space

our hands each morning we do interlace
as marker of the words we also say
when you appeared this life to lend your grace

i send this through a modern interface
with love and joy and with the thought of play
the earth has now reached that same spot in space
when you appeared this life to lend your grace

Trust the People Every Time

Trust the People Every Time

John Maxwell






We should be grateful to the Gleaner for last week’s story on tourism development. Under the headline Too many rooms! - Hotel growth pressuring infrastructure it painted a frightening picture of what Icall ‘berserker development’.

The story was frightening, because it disclosed that what I had suspected was true – many of those who are supposedly responsible for guiding and regulating development don’t understand what they are doing, or, if they do, are not doing what they should be doing.

Winsome Townsend, director of strategic planning at NEPA, said while the agency stuck to the guidelines, it did not have the legal authority to stop development if the Parish council permits it.”

I have no iea where Miss Townsend got this idea. The local planning authoritty is and has always been subordinate to the national planning authority. The National Environmental and Planning Agency, NEPA which combines the Natural Resources Conservation Authority and the Town Planning Department has had for a very long time the authority to stop certain kinds of development if they chose to do so.

Thirty years ago when I was Chairman of the NRCA we had much less legal authority than the NEPA/NRCA now possesses. The NRCA can now issue ‘Stop Orders’ for any development and require Environmental Impact Assessment Reports on a wide range of developments which includes the building of hotels. In the case of the old NRCA, we could stop amy kind of development on any beach in Jamaica simply by withholding a licence. This meant we could prohibit wharves, dredging, land reclamation and use of the beaches for any purpose. The NRCA was an amalgamation of the Beach Control Authority, the Wildlife Protection Authority, the Watersheds Protection Authority which meant we had other recourses should we have needed to fall back on them.

We effectively stopped the mining of peat at Negril – threatening to invoke the Watersheds Protection Law, among other things, but we campaigned against it so effectively that we did not need to invoke any sanctions.

It seems to me that the new NEPA, a ‘superagency’ apparently suggested by the World Bank, has powers of which its members must be unaware. But even if it did not have the powers I think it has, the NRCA and the Town Planning Authority should have a great deal of moral weight which could be used to dissuade the more reckless of our development agencies.

The UDC managed in the 60s to gain Mr Seaga’s approval to be a local planning authority in areas over which it had sway, but this still did not allow them to do what they liked, and when we pressured them to instal sewerage works to protect Negril’s beaches, they at least pretended to obey until the government changed in 1980

What they did after that can now be seen in the depleted, muddy beaches of Negril, acres of which have been lost because of sewerage and human interference with the seafloor. The corals are dead, as well.

Part of the problem with Jamaican planning and development is that the people with power are these days, Jamaicans in name only. What they know of Jamaica is the immediate area round their houses and offices and the roads to the airports. But their hearts, minds and wallets are in Cayman, Miami and Lichtenstein

This is why Jamaican food finds such a hard time getting onto the international menu, because so many Jamaican ginnigogs either don’t know the food or think it beneath them.


Carrying Capacity

One of our major problems in Jamaica is ‘carrying capacity’. One of the Gleaner’s guests at its editor’s forum – environmental engineer Chris Burgess said the concept of carrying capacity was often misunderstood in Jamaica. “Carrying capacity is ill defined and there is no study in this country that can come forward and say that our way of determining carrying capacity is absolutely the best way or is well respected or is the way," He added: "I think that the idea that Runaway Bay can only facilitate safely 2000 (hotel room) is crazy and I believe the sustainable number is quite likely higher."

With all due respect to Mr Burgess there are several ways in which carrying capacity can be measured. For instance the availability of water is clearly a limitation on any development. If Runaway Bay can support 2,000 rooms, as Mr Burgess says, there must be a source for at least 8 million gallons of water per day. The Bahia Principe at Mammee Bay, planned to have 2,000 rooms in one place, would require a similar volume of water.

Where is it to be found?

All along the northcoast the people who actually live there are in dire straits because they cannot get enough water. In Duncans, for which my father helped secure the Dornock water sup[ply (from the Rio Bueno) about 80 years ago, there are water problems today because of overdevelopment. At Silver Sands resort there are water shortages and if the crazy new Harmony Cove development is ever built Duncans will probably have to import water from somewhere.

Already, there is severe pressure on the northcoast water supplies – from cruise ships and hotels. Some people fool themselves that cruise ships come to Jamaica for inbond shopping and other gated attractions. I have the feeling they come mainly for fairly cheap water, which is not easily available either in Florida or in the rest of the Caribbean.

Yet the National Water Authority has in its wisdom privatised the water supplies of Ocho Rios and the Runaway Bay/Discovery Bay areas, knowing that there is a huge sellers’ market for water for cruise ships, hotels and golf courses. Nut the NWA’s religious principles apparently prevent it from making money

I believe that the Prime Prime Minister should immediately take back into public ownership these water supplies. The private owners have not and will never be responsible for the maintenance of the watersheds. It is our sweat and tears which maintain them.And since that is so, it seems to me only fair that when water is to be distributed the people of Jamaica, whose forefathers died for this land, should be entitled to first dibs.

Tearing down Jamaica

The Prime Minister, Portia Simpson, is, in my view, in danger of being so surrounded by apparatchiks from the previous regime, that she will not be able to implement her own policies for some time to come..

In the meantime,, the people of Jamaica have a pretty good idea of what Portia wants; they simply want to hear her summon them to action.

For a start, in her pre-election speeches, Portia made it clear that her version of development was based on people and not on concrete. She spoke about mobilising volunteer effort and in helping people take charge of their own destinies. The berserker development now afoot in tourism is diametrically opposed to Portia’s vision.

The same is true of developments in the bauxite industry. Jamaica is approximately half bauxite and half limestone with a smattering of volcanic and other rocks to sweeten the geological pie. If the Bauxite Institute and Marc Rich have their way we will be tearing down the entire country to get at bauxite – an enterprise which has already disfigured the green face of Jamaica. AT Marlborough in Manchester, birthplace of Norman Manley, the bauxite companies have created a moonscape out of what should be a tranquil national park. The government of Mr Patterson approved plans to let these predators loose in the Cockpit Country, without any regard for the incredible beauty of that Land of Look Behind or the biological treasures contained therein.

We can’t eat bauxite and what we get from it doesn’t feed anyone. When it is gone it is gone, and when it is gone it will leave huge craters instead of land on which we could grow food and show off the beauty of our country to ourselves and our visitors for milennia to come.

The current berserker development is designed for one thing only – to make sure that the coupon clippers who own the Jamaican debt will be repaid. It will contribute nothing to the development of our people and will ravage the landscape and destroy and foreclose all sorts of prospects for real, continuing and sustainable development.

IN Anguilla, a tiny island about the size of Kingston Harbour, the government has decided to put a moratorium on development. Thee reason is that the people fear that Anguiila will become like Jamaica, an island completely surrounded by hotels, in which the locals are there only on sufferance and to provide cheap labour.

The UDC’s programme of beach stealing must be stopped im the public interest, or else there will soon be war between the people and the tourism industry.

We need to devise, with the wisdom of the ordinary people, a plan to make Jamaica at least as attractive a place for its own citizens as it is for visitors. We need to decide what we mean by development. Development cannot mean the continue exploitation of the people for the benefit of foreigners. Bauxite mining needs to be reined in before it destroys our country.

There is an island called Nauru in the South Pacific which was formed almost entirely out of the excrement of seabirds – guano – a complete fertiliser, mined profitably for more than a hundred years. The problem with once beautiful Nauru is that it has almost vanished. Most of Nauru has been exported to fertilise gardens in Europe and America and the rest will soon be consumed by the rising tide which lifts all globally warmed economic jackasses.

We have seen some of the attempts of ignoramuses to develop Jamaica. The destruction of Long Mountain is a standing reproach to our planners and politicians. We saved Hope Gardens, but it has been placed in the hands of people who didn’t give a damn about it when it was menaced by Messrs Cartade and Patterson. And of course, a few years ago we frightened off the bozos who wanted to build a facility in Jamaica to burn PCBs imported from the US. By burning their toxic waste, we would earn lots of money – so said the wise men of the Bauxite Institute that is, if any of us was alive and healthy enough to have survived this crazy experiment.

Over the last few weeks in the Ivory Coast, in West Africa, two senior French officials of a Dutch-based commodities company have been arrested and their passports confiscated in connection with a toxic waste scandal. More than 44,000 people have sought assistance at hospitals and clinics since the toxic waste was dumped from a Panamanian ship last month. Seven people have died but autopsies have not determined the cause of death.

What happened? Somebody had the bright idea that the Ivory Coast could earn some foreign exchange by accepting toxic waste from abroad for dumping. They were no doubt following the infamous reasoning of Mr Lawrence Summers, who, while a vice President of the World Bank attempted to change the Bank’s thinking on the environment. According to Summers, “since the costs of pollution depend on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality… health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. … I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”

Summers wrote “ I've always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low (sic) 4compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. Only the lamentable facts that so much pollution is generated by non-tradable industries (transport, electrical generation) and that the unit transport costs of solid waste are so high prevent world welfare-enhancing trade in air pollution and waste.

“ The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate (sic) cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostrate cancer than in a country where under 5 mortality is is 200 per thousand.

“ The problem with the arguments against all of these proposals for more pollution in LDCs (intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral reasons, social concerns, lack of adequate markets, etc.) could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalization. “

Our homegrown developers seem to think along the same lines as Dr Summers. After all, his last job was as President of Harvard where he behaved in a very Jamaican fashion; he couldn’t get along with women or with black professors.

I, being an undereducated yahoo, prefer Michael Manley’s words, “Trust the people every time”. We need to find out what we really want our country to mean to us and what we want it to represent to the world.

Copyright©2006 John Maxwell

jankunnu[at]yahoo.com

23 September 2006

ecce c├Žsar nunc triumphat

stalin and hitler would have laughed out loud
at georgie w's concentration camp
but he stands alone defiantly proud

at such obfuscations made before the crowd
saying that water torture's but a bit of damp
stalin and hitler would have laughed out loud

if anyone should ever ask just how'd
he justify evil he'd get mental cramp
but he stands alone defiantly proud

dame liberty is now beneath a shroud
dull is the burnish on her copper lamp
stalin and hitler would have laughed out loud

the trumpet of freedom once rang out aloud
is now all silent instead the boots stamp
but he stands alone defiantly proud

we all are now waiting silent with heads bowed
as tired soldiers all march down the ramp
stalin and hitler would have laughed out loud
but he stands alone defiantly proud

foucauldian (in)justice

the power to set the final civic rule
requires an energy beyond the norm
but is at bottom just another tool

we study hard at each appointed school
from first to sixth in every single form
the power to set the final civic rule

rests always with the loser or the fool
who seems to tame the power of the storm
but is at bottom just another tool

avoiding heat striving ever to be cool
we end up in the middle somehat warm
the power to set the final civic rule

requires that each of us leap from the pool
into the wider sea that will not harm
but is at bottom just another tool

our governors each seated on a stool
assert that law is not the truest norm
the power to set the final civic rule
but is at bottom just another tool

equinox passing

yellow the flowers
autumn's beginning today
still is it pleasant

aroused the avians
pass above crying aloud
winter is coming

southward wings bear them
but still the air remains warm
and skies are azure

leaf fall commencing
slow quietly one by one
the trees shed colours

we know the seasons
and feel with the cooling breeze
equinox passing

22 September 2006

A brief note on five-finger technique

An easy thing it is to make a rhyme
It takes a moment, hardly any time;
To make a sonnet is nor really hard,
Easily made, alas too easy marred.
But now, it seems, I'm being somewhat terse,
And inditing Popean heroic verse.

Formalism in its way sets free

It isn't simply that the rhythm and rhyme
Give each line motion and constrict the sense,
But that the poem, shaped in its own time,
Permits communication lacking pretence;
With rhyme and metre, shaped into a form,
The ideas and the meanings will agree,
Though this is by no means the only norm
For verse that carries meaning can be free.
Still each of us, with prosody that flies
Across the page and gives our words their wings,
Commits entirely to raise to the skies
The words that signify and voice that sings,
So that, like Shakespeare, we at last confirm
The medium is the message, in its term.

21 September 2006

Library Thing

they will not conquer forever

the dragon waiting in the dark-leaved trees
has secret messages meant only for you
to set your angered heart and mind at ease

the scent of sulphur carried by the breeze
pervades the moment gives not time to rue
the dragon waiting in the dark-leaved trees

what though the odours all your organs freeze
it's not enough to halt all that is due
to set your angered heart and mind at ease

the breath of hope the end of all disease
is in the message that at last comes through
the dragon waiting in the dark-leaved trees

i send this missive across skies and seas
its consolational import to imbue
the dragon waiting in the dark-leaved trees
to set your angered heart and mind at ease

20 September 2006

the villanelle is an addictive form

to deal with all that comes in fear or fright
we seek the light that heats us with its blaze
and keeps at bay the powers of the night

we stand together claiming it is right
to change the truth into a mere pat phrase
to deal with all that comes in fear or fright

our grasp on what makes all things real is slight
if simple light our dullest sense amaze
and keeps at bay the powers of the night

the evils that were done we will requite
when nature and the gods bring better days
to deal with all that comes in fear or fright

this is our hope it also is our plight
as actors in these long and boring plays
to deal with all that comes in fear or fright
and keeps at bay the powers of the night

class preparation

the airvents on the rooftops a minute ago
were full of dark menace guerrillas about to attack
but now they are pipes and the gathering light
has driven back the shadows that gave them
a momentary substance

i look out of the classroom window
it is early morning outside there are doubtless birds
making their usual noises and dropping their bombs
on those unwary enough to pass beneath
the roosting trees

this is another workday another celebration of continuing
life and business the empty chairs soon to be filled
by half-waking students the same lesson i taught last
semester will be repeated and the same questions asked
but the answers may differ


19 September 2006

tuesday afternoon villanelle


the form requires that we know the right words
employ them in the correct way and show
our thoughts have still more staying power than birds

do things by wholes not quarters halves or thirds
explore the metre let the flowers blow
the form requires that we know the right words

seek not to know of angles nor of surds
let algebra and geometry both go
our thoughts have still more staying power than birds

poets know action are not simply nerds
their understanding with right rhythm will flow
the form requires that we know the right words

the lowing cattle pass by in their herds
the herdsmen happy their prompt slaughter crow
our thoughts have still more staying power than birds

and now the send-off comes the final turds
that fall from out that place that all men know
the form requires that we know the right words
our thoughts have still more staying power than birds

green still predominates

summery rainfall
staining the ground deeper grey
now late september

rising dampness now
reforms the clouds announcing
yet more rain to come

green still the trees are
few signs of colour showing
autumn is coming

steady the seasons
yet in this southland we know
summer is longest

18 September 2006

robert frost got it wrong

the heat weighs down although the walls and doors
are the colours of cool water autumn seems a million
years away although already i can see leaves
beginning to turn beginning to fall but the trees still

obscure the view seduce with their cool shade on this hot day
which i long to be over but i know that i have hours yet
to work and miles to go before i eat and sleep
and the woods are not filled up with anything like snow

17 September 2006

flashing on the moment a mistake

begin the magic with a simple glance
across a room or into deepest time
it seems but random only a mere chance
but everything that came before must prime

the moment that becomes the starting point
of something different on a different shore
that puts all time out of its normal joint
and lets what comes now differ from before

what comes we know is nothing less than change
and that we fear it is already given
but we express in our complaint a range
of thoughts that are so strongly driven

that when all motion and all actions cease
we think it death when it is merely peace

16 September 2006

Elephant in Musth

Elephant in Musth
John Maxwell

'It is apparent, looking at Florida, that the most perfect system can
be subverted by determined saboteurs with enough money - as long as
good people keep quiet. ... The real George Bush, if he is appointed
President, will use his time to destroy the integrity of the country he
rules, starting with the Supreme Court. Then he can start on dealing
with the rest of us. That's his job, and as the American Press has
made plain, nothing needs to be known about him and his multifarious
incapacities because Big Brother in the giant corporations will tell
him what to do. We are all in a for a very rough ride' -
"Democracy! Enough Already!" - Commonsense, Dec 10. 2000

The good people seem at last to be coming awake.
After six years of conspicuous slumber and inexplicable silence,
influential actors in the United States are at last finding the
courage to defy the miasma threatening all of us. All over the world,
it seems, people are beginning to realise that we are being led down
the road to Armageddon by a US Administration lacking either moral
sensibilities, strategic reasoning or elementary common sense..
The Republican Party in the US Senate has at last rebelled against Mr
Bush's maleficient defiance of International Law and world opinion.
They have been joined by the onetime designated adult in the Bush
Administration, Colin Powell. They have rejected George Bush's
attempt to circumvent his own Supreme Court in order to authorise the
torture of foreigners in US custody and to backdate forgiveness for
all those who obeyed his corrupt instructions to flout the Geneva
Conventions.
This week, as Carl Hulse says in the New York Times, "On one side
are the Republican veterans of the uniformed services, arguing that the
president's proposal would effectively gut the nearly 60-year-old
Geneva Conventions, sending a dark signal to the rest of the world and
leaving United States military without adequate protection against
torture and mistreatment."
On the other side are the dinosaurs of the Republican Party and the
President and his White House cabal.
The British establishment has long been clear about what Mr Bush has
been up to.
Lord Steyn, perhaps Britains most respected judge. two years ago
described the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay as a scandalous,
"Law-free zone". A few months ago, the Lords of Appeal
unequivocally denounced the US gulag system, declaring it an
uncivilised affront to humanity and justice. And a few days ago, the
head of Britain's Judiciary, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer,
excoriated the American position in the following words:
"It is a part of the acceptance of the rule of law that the courts
will be able to exercise jurisdiction over the executive.
"Otherwise the conduct of the executive is not defined and restrained
by law.
"It is because of that principle that the USA, deliberately seeking to
put the detainees beyond the reach of the law in Guantanamo Bay, is so
shocking an affront to the principles of democracy.
"Without independent judicial control, we cannot give effect to the
essential values of our society."
It was the second time Lord Falconer had spoken out about the
controversial camp, where 450 terror suspects are thought to be
detained. In June this year the Lord Chancellor denounced Guantanamo
Bay as a "recruiting agent" for terrorism, and described the existence
of the base as "intolerable and wrong".
In Brussells, the European Parliament this week heard the Spanish
Foreign Miniister report that "[Spanish] territory may have been used
not to commit crimes as such but as a stopover on the way to commit
crime in other territories," Moratinos said, adding that 66 suspect
flights had made stops in Spain.
What is so shocking is that the President has boldly, flagrantly and
contemptuously attempted to defy and make meaningless, the decisions of
his country's Supreme Court. It is a court most of whose members
were appointed by Republican Presidents wanting to castrate the power
of the judiciary to exercise the constitutionally decreed checks and
balances which were thought to guarantee democracy in the United
States. The present Supreme Court is even more republican than the one
which sanctified George Bush in the Presidency of the United States
despite his losing the presidential election in 2000.
When I predicted that George Bush, would use his time to destroy the
integrity of his country many people told me that I was simply
prejudiced against the man; but I had observed his behaviour and came
to the conclusion that he was going to be a disaster for the United
States and a catastrophe for the rest of us.
The starving, brutalised people of Palestine, Darfur and Haiti, the
terrorised millions in Iraq and the opium growers of Afghanistan are
eloquent testimony to the accuracy of my prediction.
In addition to the attempt to subvert the law, the Bush administration
has openly attempted to samfi the world into believing all sorts of
impossible things.
This week the International Atomic Authority, IAEA, blasted the US
Administration indirectly and Congress, directly, for a brazen attempt
to sell a monumental lie as a pretext for their anticipated war against
Iran.
In an unprecedented broadside from a UN agency, the IAEA denounced a US
Congressional report as 'outrageous and dishonest" including
'serious distortions' and "erroneous, misleading and
unsubstantiated statements."
The letter from the IAEA was addressed to Peter Hoekstra, the
Republican chairman of the committee that issued the report. The IAEA
said the report contained a litany of misleading statements, and
falsely (and fantastically) suggested that the IAEA sidelined an
inspector who believed that Iran was deceiving the IAAEA about the
character of its nuclear ambitions. The IAEA suggested that Congress
should check its facts.
When the congressional report was released last month, Hoekstra said
his intent was "to help increase the American public's understanding of
Iran as a threat."
As a substantial minority still understand Saddam to have been behind
9/11.

According to the Washington Post, "Privately, several [American]
intelligence officials said the committee report included at least a
dozen claims that were either demonstrably wrong or impossible to
substantiate. Hoekstra's office said the report was reviewed by the
office of John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.

The Committee report entitled ``Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat:
An Intelligence Challenge for the United States,'' was published on
Aug. 23.
The report is a classic piece of Republican propaganda. It is
reminiscent of the Administrations attempts to con world opinion to
believe that Saddam Hussein, against the odds and all his
protestations, possessed weapons of mass destruction and was an
accessory to 9/11. The report's author author, Frederick Fleitz, was
a senior adviser to the U.S.'s UN ambassador, John Bolton, until 2005.

John Bolton in orbit

One of the most dangerous identified lying objects in the Bush
firmament is a short, self-important man named John Bolton. Like many
of the Bush neo-con brains trust, Bolton has a murky history. His most
dangerous exploit up to now was his attempt to con the world into
believing that the US would be justified in attacking Cuba. He
falsely alleged, in official documents, that Cuba possessed biological
weapons of mass destruction and was peddling them to terrorist
organisations and regimes.
This outrageous lie was finally exploded by President jimmy Carter and
a consortium of experts who visited Cuba to disprove Bolton's
fantasies.
If war is politics by other means, as Clausewitz said, the Bolton
doctrine does not admit that war is failed politics, it holds rather
that war is preferable to politics. Bolton has been the lead agitator
in attempting to blackmail the Security Council into adopting sanctions
against Iran, justifying to an American attack on that country.
Bolton has a Napoleonic complex, some would say a Superman complex,
believing that the rest of the world epitomised in the United Nations,
is utterly useless except when it acts as the servant of, and
cleaner-up for the United States.. His appointment to the United
Nations was not simply a studied insult by Bush and Cheney, it was a
deliberate provocation.
Even in the Republican dominated Congress the move was unacceptable,
and a scheduled, second hearing to confirm his nomination as Ambassador
had to be postponed because at least one republican Senator was
prepared to speak out and vote against this misguided messenger.
The hearing will now await the new Congress, and if my instincts are
accurate, it will fail ignominously in a Senate newly dominated by
Democrats with the support of disenchanted Republicans.
Subverting Democracy
The Republican Administration in the United States could easily pass as
a creation of George Orwell. Democracy is spread by invasion and war
and almost every statement of any importance conceals somewhere within
it a lie.
Right now, a galaxy of Republican Congressmen is either under lock and
key('Duke'Cunningham) under indictment ( Ney and Delay) or under
investigation for criminal misfeasance and malfeasance. The Senate
Majority leader (Frist) is himself under investigation, and if the
Democrats win in November, as I expect, boguis voting or no, even Mr
Bush may find himself impeached.
In its last two tenancies of the White House the GOP contributed an
impressive list of malefactors up to an including the National Security
Adviser McFarlane and the Secretary of Defense Weinberger who were
saved from jail only by Presidential pardon. Lesser lights, starlets
like Elliott Abrams, Otto Reich and Roger Noriega have contributed more
than their share to the brutalisation and suffering of Latin America.
Those who contributed to the stealing of the 200o election, like John
Bolton and former Ambassador to Jamaica, Sue Cobb, were handsomely
rewarded and le t loose to wreak more havoc.
The emblem of the Republicans, the Grand Old Party -GOP, is, aptly,
an elephant.
Male elephants over a certain age periodically go into a condition
known as musth, characterised by a huge excess of testosterone. .
Elephants in musth are as eager to fight as to mate, and they are so
aggressive that the normal tribe hierarchy is disrupted, because even
the most senior and biggest bulls will avoid smaller, younger bulls in
musth because they are so dangerous - like teenage gunmen. Musth is the
Hindi rendering of the Urdu word mast, meaning intoxicated, which comes
from an earlier Persian expression which means poisoned. An elephant in
musth will kill anything in its way - humans including its keepers,
other elephants or any other animal. Musth elephants are sometime known
as rogue elephants
The behaviour of the Bush administration is in my view, similar to the
behaviour of an elephant in musth. John Bolton expresses the metaphor
perfectly. He is the United States' senior diplomat though he does
not believe in diplomacy. He is US Ambassador to the UN- which he
believes is an unnecessary nuisance. He deals with problems not by
dialogue, but by threats and aggressive behaviour. He is the frontman
for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, as dangerous a group of human beings as
a whole herd of elephants in musth. They will not take "Yes" for
an answer. Nothing but total submission will do.
And in their mad career they are fortified by the support of the
American media.
Last week the giant media network ABC, broadcast what it claimed was a
documentary - entitled "The Road to 9/11"
Before the so-called documentary was broadcast there were several
complaints about the accuracy of the script and it was soon clear that
the enterprise was an assault on history and the truth; it was the
opening black propaganda broadside against the Democrats in advance of
the crucial November elections. When the Clinton administration left
office they made sure to warn the Bush administration about the nature
of Al Qaeda and the intentions of Bin Laden. Bush was asleep at the
wheel on September 11, 2001, but the documentary blames Clinton and his
crew for 9/11 and claimed that its conclusions were based on the
official 9/11 Report.
THE ABC documentary is reminiscent of the Swift Boat affair of the last
Presidential election, when the Vietnam war hero John Kerry was painted
as an unworthy coward and Bush, who spent most of the war in
'undisclosed locations' in Texas and Alabama, was painted as the
hero.
In the seventies we used to be blasted when we complained about the
malign attentions paid us by the foreign - mostly American - press.
When one sees what they will do to their own heroes and others, we must
consider ourselves fortunate to have escaped without greater damage.
The Haitians, the Halestinians, the Guatemalans and the Chileans were
not so lucky.
Of course, we also forget that September 11 was the anniversary of the
American sponsored coup which killed Allende and thousands of Chileans
and subjected Chile to two decades of terror and bloodshed. The current
President of Chile, Mme Bachelet, was herself a victim of Mr
Kissinger's surrogates.
Copyright ©2006 John Maxwell
jankunnu[at]yahoo.com