09 February 2008

A Sense that the World is Mad

A Sense that the World is Mad
John Maxwell
I am beginning to feel more and more like Scaramouche, who if I remember correctly, was born with a smile on his lips and a sense that the world was mad. The problem is that it is getting harder and harder to smile when confronted by the pipe dreams of ‘Developers’ who seem intent on piling carastrophe on top of disaster on top of débåcle.. What can they be smoking?Two weeks ago, having conceded that the Port Antonio Marina was a misconceived white elephant, the developers unleashed their brand new plan to add to that disaster by building another – an airport on farmland in St Thomas. And then, to add catastrophic lunacy to that inanity, Mr Darryl Vaz, a self-confessed American of Jamaican parentage who claims to be a Member of the Jamaican parliament, unburdened himself of what must be the craziest idea of the century – so far.Deep inside last Sunday’s Observer Business section, Mr Vaz is reported to have uncorked plans to steal for ‘development’ the coastline of Portland to indulge the recherche tastes of other people with more money than sense.The story was headlined “Portland Roads to be reclaimed for development” and said, inter alia “SOME major roads running along the East Portland coastline will soon be reclaimed to allow for development of waterfront properties by both government and private investors, as part of the big tourism plan for that parish.This was disclosed by state minister in the office of the Prime Minister Daryl Vaz, who said a meeting will be held shortly with the National Works Agency (NWA) to finetune the plans.”I cannot imagine why these momentous lunacies have yet not managed to hit the front pages of our newspapers. Perhaps the intention is, as Patterson did with the Doomsday Highway, to spring this idiocy on the population when our minds are occupied with other things, to produce a fait accompli, putting facts on the ground befoire we poor Philistines have woken up to the fact that we have been defrauded, honswoggled and bound hand, foot and pension fund..Roads to be ‘reclaimed’! Reclaimed from what? or reclaimed from whom?
No, Woman! No Cry!
The ancestors of most Jamaicans shed gallons of blood, sweat and tears to arrive at a halfway decent, if somewhat ramshackle democracy. While some of us died or otherwise suffered for the freedom to control our affairs, we were warned by no less a National Hero than Bustamante that ‘Independence is worse than slavery”For the Haitians, Bustamante’s apothegm is clearly relevant. The Americans, aided and abetted by the oh-so-civilised French and the Canadians, among others, are busy making sure that if the Haitians won’t eat excrement, they can at least be forced to eat dirt. Our turn seems to be fast approaching with enormous help from such as Percival James Patterson – the last – who declared that the law is not a shackle.And if the law is not a shackle, why, public opniion and human rights must be equally dispensable!Development is not for the poor, as the United Nations and its nearly 200 members declared in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Redefined by Thatcher, Reagan and their disciples, ‘Development’ is for the rich. They have the right to impose – in the sacred name of ‘Development’ – any gimmick they can dream up (or find in Architectural Digest) to make as much ‘wealth’ as they can mismanage in the stated hope that some of the crumbs will – in due time – trickle down to the rest of us.I want to tell them a secret: Privilege and wealth are even better served in Dubai. Go Deh!
Rebel Music
As we celebrate Bob Marley’s sixtieth birthday and his music is the obbligato to all Jamaica’s tourism publicity, the culture from which Marley sprang is increasingly sequestered behind high walls protecting us from our landscapes, our sea, our beaches and our dreams.Increasingly, development is a gimmick – aka ‘attraction’ – built on land captured from the people and gated off from them – as in Cartade’s Long Mountain favelas for the rich. The beaches on which I sported as a child, in Duncans, Montego Bay Ocho Rios and Portland are increasingly being captured, illegally and without compensation much less consent, and barred to any who does not possess US dollars or a credit card denominated in a foreign currency.Last week the Gleaner and its radio outlet, Power 106, regaled us with happy stories of the architectural and environmental delights of that kitcshy excrescence known as Bahia Principe – a concrete statement of the contempt in which developers hold the people of Jamaica.There, at a captured officially designated Public Beach called Pear Tree Bottom, the tourists disport themselves on sand illegally imported from ‘God Knows Where’ underlain by concrete . Meanwhile what’s left of the old beach receives the full complement of the bowels of the European bourgeoisie who fondly imagine that they are in Jamaica. Their excrement is all they leave behind. The regulations and demands of Jamaican Law are ignoredJournalism is a public trust they say – and the Gleaner is more fond of saying it than most. .As I understand it, that means that journalists and the people who own them are expected to respect the Public Interest, that curious abstraction in the name of which public amenity is destroyed in order to save it from the negligent multitude. One would have imagined that a respect for the public trust would have impelled the Gleaner and its minions to go further than the PR tour and cocktails, down to the beach, behind the unsightly and illegal black plastic fence and into the wetlands beside the hotel. At least they could ask about the noxious odours emanating from the western side of the hotel. The beauty about the trade winds is that on Jamaica’s north coast one does not smell the sewage if one is to the east (windward) of it. at least during the day. And at night you are protected by air-conditioning. When the wind changes during the day, the foreign guests are, no doubt, informed that the smell comes from the natives next door. Soon enough however, if the developers have their way, no one can be windward of the stench of one-eyed, harebrained, self-aggrandizing and unsustainable development. Then, they will not only be able to smell the fruits of their labours but they will also be able to understand the culture of Bob Marley.Bon Appetit.COPYRIGHT©2008 JOHN MAXWELLjankunnu@gmail.com

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