28 September 2008

The Treachery of the Stewards


John Maxwell

The real function of the state is pretty simple: to protect and enhance the interests of its members -- the people; to keep them safe and allow them to be as happy as they can be by doing whatever they want to do without damaging the interests of their neighbours.

The state can never disappear in any reality, because there will always need to be a trustee whose duty it is to enforce or guarantee fair play and to defend the human rights and the property interests  of the society.

The idea of universal human rights is a comparatively recent invention and the concept is steadily being extended, to recognise for instance, the fact that the resources of the earth, from which all wealth is derived, must be apportioned equitably among people and among nations. We are, for instance, just beginning to acknowledge that clean air and water are essential human rights and that no one has any right to damage these properties in their private interest.

In Ecuador the people have recently gone so far as to award rights to ‘Nature’ meaning that any interference with the natural world must be specifically and fully justified in the Public Interest.

This stewardship is the reason the state is compelled to intervene in matters as disparate as climate change and in the threatened crash of the world financial systems.

In the United States, where the wide open spaces of the West gave birth to the idea of Manifest Destiny and in Europe, where Africa was thought to be another wide open space, nations and cultures interpreted their strength as licence to plunder rape and murder whole populations on the ground that they were not using their ’God-given’ endowment as profitably as they should be.

Plantation slavery and the Industrial Revolution it midwifed, seemed to allow the most ruthless exploitation of people and natural resources. Which is why places like the Congo, Angola, Niger, Bolivia, Brazil, and other places have been so ruthlessly exploited that their people remain miserably poor while the foreign investors and their armies so richly rewarded themselves. It is why the so-called ratings agencies in the US were able to believe that junk securities issued by mortgage consolidators were worth more than the bonds issued by starving developing countries. Not only were they worth more, they attracted much lower interest rates because of their presumed worth  Big US companies like Caterpillar are now aggrieved at having to pay ‘extortionate’ interest rates of 7% in the current credit squeeze while developing countries like Jamaica consider themselves lucky when they are asked for twice that.

Widow’s mites

And that is why several years ago, when Jamaica and Donald Trump each found themselves financially over-extended, each owing about $4 billion US – Jamaica was forced to abandon free education while Trump got to keep his yacht.

Free enterprise capitalism has been so cornered by the parasites that finance companies that produce nothing, have been able over the past few years to extract 40% of the US GDP as their reward for bringing together “willing” buyers and sellers.

And it is why at the United Nations this week, foreign nations – among them some of the United States’ closest partners, have been so angry at the American failure to regulate their business more fairly and with less prejudice to the rest of the world.

The bureaucrats have triumphed. The managers have captured the wealth of public companies, paying themselves enormous rewards, while the so called shareholder interest has been pushed aside as the managers seized more and more power, allegedly in the interest of shareholder equity. The shareholders are awarded nice little dividends while the managers and financiers take the real harvest in tax-free capital gains.

Last year Goldman Sachs paid out $16 billion to its ‘traders’ who do nothing but make educated bets on stock and commodities markets. Each trader got $600,000 for a year’s ‘work’.

Quick! What’s Jamaica’s GDP?

Bauxite was discovered in Jamaica more than a hundred years ago, contrary to official myth. And the man who discovered a way to transform it into aluminum cheaply was, I believe, born in Jamaica.

In the 1940s however, with a world war looming, the aluminum cartel decided to look for bauxite nearer home than Guyana, more easily safeguarded from German submarines. So Jamaican bauxite, though non-standard on the then world market, became attractive and ways were quickly found to fit new bauxite refineries to process it. That fact was made even more important by two other facts. One, that Jamaica was almost 50% bauxite and two, that Jamaican bauxite was strip mineable, lying on the surface of the earth, needing only to be scraped off.

For years, until Norman Manley came to office in 1955, the bauxite companies paid Jamaica the handsome reward of one shilling ( about 15 American cents) a ton for Jamaica’s only significant mineral resource. In return the companies were supposed to restore the fertility of the soil.   No one knew that this would be impossible if only the first nine inches of topsoil were retained. It didn’t matter anyway;  most of the despoiled land was never ‘restored’ and despite the fact that a fine of $25,000 an acre was to supposed to  be levied on  unrestored land, our Commissioners of Lands, for reasons known only to themselves, allowed the bauxite companies to escape penalty and to ruin the Jamaican land , to destroy its fertility, rob us of its agricultural production (worth much, much more than bauxite); to destroy communities, sending bauxite refugees fleeing to the Bronx and to Kingston ghettoes, impoverishing them and casting them aside as worthless detritus of ‘Development’.

Bauxite crimes are amplified by something else:  The waste of alumina production, red mud is a toxic stew of caustic chemicals and heavy metals like cadmium and arsenic, damaging to human brains and bodies. The fumes of the refineries destroyed the ‘zinc’ roofs of their neighbours and does unknown damage to the lungs of their children. The red mud – even more dangerous – is a long lasting poison to  the underground aquifer which supplies most of Jamaica’s water from its rivers and wells.

One would have imagined that after sixty years of bauxite mining and alumina refining that the well financed Jamaica Bauxite Institute, the Water Resources Authority and the Commissioners of Lands would by now have made definitive studies of the damage already caused by bauxite and the continuing threat to human and animal life, to agriculture and to the tourist industry from this dangerous and unsustainable version of ‘Development’.

But since the Jamaican intermediaries seem so convinced that their true mission is to protect the bauxite companies from Jamaican interests, I think we will be waiting for a very long time to find out the extent of the damage that the industry has done. And, as I have pointed out before, in sixty years, with the exception of Don Tretzel-managed Kaiser and its gift of the Puerto Seco public beach, the companies have given nothing to the exploited communities and people they have so grievously damaged. Not a single technical school! Chickenfeed.

There is one more piece of vandalism to come.

As I have written before there is what I believe is an Olmec pyramid in the region of Gibraltar/Moneague (see pic) which has not interested our official cultural stewards. If I am right this monument would rewrite the official history of the hemisphere and make it clear that ancient America was populated from Africa. But whether the African connection is provable, the pyramid is part of the cultural heritage of mankind and should be protected, examined, catalogued and preserved for its transcendental importance.

In trying to locate   the pyramid using the Google Earth programme on my computer I believe I have identified a fairly extensive set of ruins which suggest to me that the pyramid was part of a much larger settlement antedating Columbus by nearly 2,000 years.

These relics lie in the direct path of the latest plan for bauxite devastation and in the path of the bypass road  which is being built to facilitate the more  extensive and  more expeditious depraving of the landscape and culture of St Ann, the former Garden Parish. It also lies in the path of the exploitation and destruction of the Cockpit Country, the geological, biological, historical and cultural heart of Jamaica.

I am appealing to people like Butch Stewart, the proprietor of this newspaper and other patriotic Jamaicans to finance an expedition to discover exactly what is at Union Hill and its environs.

If I am right, the destruction of this unique cultural artifact would be the modern equivalent of  the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria more than 2,000 years ago and ust a little less wicked than the Rumsfeld-sanctioned  looting of 8,000 years of civilised history in Iraq.

We cannot allow this vandalism in the name of ‘Development’.

 We cannot allow any further Bauxite ‘Development’ which impoverishes us financially, culturally and  socially and destroys our communities, our precious water supplies, our history and our peace.

 We owe it to history, to civilisation, to ourselves and to humanity to find a more civilised way.

Copyright © 2008 John Maxwell


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