30 November 2008

boundary of time

a single moment and we see the shade
vanish abruptly as the sun appears
night seems to caution but the new day cheers

towards the west late birds head in parade
nobody with their movement interferes
a single moment and we see the shade

some other meaning must have been conveyed
in all the gathering of daily cares
just as we note the changing of the airs
a single moment and we see the shade

wet sunday morning

once past the dark the bronze and gold hold sway
in this half-light the kingdom of the rain
what we name silver is a brighter grey

no one is certain on this sort of day
but would not venture to speak nor complain
once past the dark the bronze and gold hold sway

there are no shadows that is what we say
in the damp woods the leaf-mould leaves its stain
what we name silver is a brighter grey

with its cold hand the passing storm will slay
dry heat of summer and tie winter's chain
once past the dark the bronze and gold h old sway

beneath loose dirt is nothing but hard clay
red as the rust that wants to claim its reign
what we name silver is a brighter grey

it is no use to shout or disobey
the dull commands of human body's pain
once past the dark the bronze and gold hold sway
what we name silver is a brighter grey

The Human Zoo

John Maxwell

There is an ancient joke about an American tourist being shepherded round Europe on a package tour, collecting places without ever experiencing them. One morning his wife asked him: “Where are we? His bemused answer:  ‘If this is Tuesday this must be Paris.’

The cruise ship business is even more soulless than the land based package tour. Cruise ships are floating amusement parks designed to delude you into believing that you are taking part  in  a mind expanding experience – travelling to foreign countries to partake of the local culture. In fact the stops in the various islands of convenience are basically to buy cheap water and to allow the crew a day to clean the ship and make it ready for the next day of cruising and boozing and goofing off at great expense.


Ginnigogs Rule

Aeons ago, shortly after returning from my exile in the UK, I attended a press conference called by the entity called the Urban Development Corporation and featuring the UDC’s Chairman  Moses Matalon and the Minister under whose portfolio the UDC then fell –Mining and Natural Resources. The Minister was Allan Isaacs and I will never forget his astonishment and then rage when in answer to one of my questions, Mr  Matalon admitted that the UDC, then five years old, had never published an annual report, as it was supposedly bound to do.

The Minister publicly exacted an undertaking from Mr Matalon to publish annual reports covering the UDC’s first five years.

And that may have been the reason that Mr Matalon later described me as an over-educated Rasta – wrong on both counts. His five annual reports were combined in one short lavishly illustrated brochure, in which it was revealed that the Universal Devastation Conglomerate had incurred a significant proportion of Jamaica's public debt, without the authorisation of parliament. The UDC had simply issued IOUs to American banks, to finance its destruction of downtown Kingston preliminary to reconstructing the city as a modern Miami in the Caribbean. We are still waiting, 35 years later, for the reconstruction. What astonished me then was the fact that Mr Matalon, on his own, could mortgage Jamaica to American banks without the knowledge of Parliament. It did not appear that his former Minister, the famously oversightful Edward Seaga, either knew or cared what was happening.

This week, in a statement to the Gleaner, the head of the Port Authority sounded as if he had inherited Matalon's powers. According to the Financial Gleaner of November 21:

‘The US$102 million that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Limited (RCCL) is fronting on the Falmouth cruise pier project will not give the American company an equity stake in the port, the Port Authority of Jamaica has said.

‘The funds representing 45.5 per cent of the total project cost of US$224 million is, according to PAJ president and chairman Noel Hylton, a loan to be repaid on a negotiated schedule.’


"The matter of repayment is well under consideration; it is expected to take place over an extended period.

The Prime Minister, Mr Golding is clearly au fait with this arrangement. On November 10 the press published a release from the PM’s office to the effect that three days earlier, Mr Golding “ was met by Adam Goldstein, CEO of Royal Caribbean International (RCI) in Kingston, ahead of signing a US$224 M contract to develop the Falmouth Pier to accommodate the world's largest cruise ship in May 2010. Under the contract, the government will invest US$122M to dredge the harbour and construct the pier. RCI will develop the land-based facilities, including shops and attractions.

 According to Mr Hylton, however, there is no joint venture. The Jamaican taxpayer will foot every penny of this extravagant and in my view, mad scheme. The PM’s release hinted otherwise:

‘Under the contract, US$122M will be utilised for harbour dredging and to build the facilities for ships to dock. The other US$102M will be used by RCCL to lease land from the Government, for the construction of all infrastructural development. The facility is due to receive the largest ship in the world come May 2010.’


Crazier and crazier

The world is now in the toils of the worst economic crisis in history. Even on CNN, the journalist-millionaire anchors are publicly worrying about their 401(k) nest eggs, rotting away with the stock market. All over the world credit is acutely short. Jamaica owing 137% of its GDP to usurers of various stripes has had its sovereign bonds downgraded to little more than junk. The only source of funds is going to be the IMF, and they will compel us to fire more people and strip our cupboard even barer than it is already. The world’s tourism industries are bawling about the crunch coming from the contraction in disposable incomes. And yet, with our Jamaican hotels on the bones of their balance sheets, we are going to borrow money to destroy the integrity of Jamaica’s loveliest town,, dilapidated though it may be now, in the interest of a foreign corporation. We are prostituting ourselves for a foreign entity with no obligation or loyalty to Jamaica.

It is instructive to learn how the decision was made.

The Custos of Trelawny, speaking at what was alleged to have been a consultation about an Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed cruise shipping port, said, inter alia “Now, the Port Authority has taken upon itself to make this bold move, and that is to reincarnate as it were, not only the ports of Falmouth but the attendance and glory and historical heritage of the town of Falmouth”

Mr Hylton explained why he was doing all that he was doing for Falmouth. Having developed the ports of Kingston, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio it was Falmouth’s turn to be blessed by the attentions of the Authority.

 Mr Hylton explained what provoked him to build the new port:

“There is a new ship that is being built, which is called 'The Genesis of the Sea', and this ship is capable of taking ten thousand (10, 000) passengers and crew, and we would like to host that ship in Jamaica.”

That is clearly good and sufficient reason to undertake a quarter of a billion US dollar debt. It will allow a foreign corporation to show off the largest and most vulgar expression of  capitalist excess in existence.

The process of site selection, was as one would expect, painstaking and thorough, although Mr Hylton did provoke laughter at one point:

“So, one Sunday morning I drove along the North coast and on arriving in Falmouth I went over the wharf area – actually I had to jump the wall.”


“And I looked at the place and I thought this is such a beautiful place that we should develop [it] Looking at the historical charm of the place and so on, I thought here it is.”

From the horse’s mouth, as it were, you get confirmation of something I have been saying for years. Nothing so satisfies our developers as the prospect of obliterating natural beauty and charm with concrete and asphalt.

“So, we invited one of the major shipping lines down and we walked this whole town on foot. We walked the whole town, and we thought that there was sufficient materials here to reconstruct the waterfront of this city to bring it back to its original glory. [APPLAUSE] And that morning when the shipping line and myself walked this place, we sat down and we said, let's do it.”

And that was how the decision to brutify Falmouth was taken, with care, deliberation and extensive research.

After more careful deliberation the Port Authority decided to hire a firm to redesign Falmouth

The artist selected for this job was, surprisingly and purely coincidentally no doubt, a firm called Idea Inc. which Mr Hylton described as “an International Design and Entertainment Company. It has developed story lines and thematic approaches for destinations all over the world, and is currently developing port projects in four other Caribbean Islands and Mexico, also a consultant to the world's two major cruise lines, Royal Caribbean and the Carnival Cruise Lines. Its president is with us today, Mr. Hugh Darley, he is the Projects Vision Planner. He is a past Walt Disney Imagineer and has experience in developing projects in over 70 countries. He has developed concepts for the Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios and Paramount.”

 Mr Darley, being a man of great imagination will no doubt bring an entirely new vision to Falmouth, unsullied by his past affiliations and visions. We are going to pay him to mess up Jamaica to the specifications of a foreign corporation

Although the new cruise liners will dominate the landscape and obliterate the view of  Falmouth from the sea, Mr Darley promises to make it so that the two cruise ships with their fifteen or twenty thousand passengers do not ‘overpower’ the seven and a half thousand who live in Falmouth.

As he described it, whatever is architecturally valuable in Falmouth will be incorporated into the new development which will become in effect, a gated community stretching the entire waterfront of Falmouth. There will be a facility to allow nearly two hundred large buses and an unknown number of taxis, to transport the fifteen thousand or so guests to approved attractions, and after their labours, return them to a segregated Market Square and a Merchant Square where nearly half a million square feet of shopping mall will be built and which will incorporate the historic Falmouth Courthouse as a museum including a ‘Rum Bar’


Chaos to be built-in

“The idea is that the courthouse could be a living museum; it would be restored and developed to represent what was originally there” according to Mr Darley. This fidelity to history will probably include people playing the parts of the slaves who were originally there. I am not being malicious. In several of the North American examples of historic recreations, blacks are hired to play the parts of slaves to make the experience as true to history as possible. Maybe the one thousand jobs promised for Jamaicans as part of the development will include these, or perhaps they will be part of the fruit and vegetable stalls and the fish stalls and curio stalls which will be among Mr Darley’s “ opportunities for locals to participate in sales within the development through these types of chaos opportunities  all along the waterfront.”[sic]

Wendy Lee, the tireless engine of the Northern Jamaica Conservation Association, was, as usual, a voice crying in the wilderness. “"If this is the complete EIA, it means the terms of reference have not been met because there is no adequate archaeological assessment of the town which is the heritage gem of the north coast,"

She, and many others deplore the extensive, mindless destruction of the phosphorescent lagoon, the wetlands and the other characteristics that make Falmouth uniquely Falmouth.

Trelawny’s famous black crabs will get even shorter shrift than the human inhabitants of Jamaica and Falmouth.

Jamaica is a small country and every development affects all of us. Developers get away with EIAs that treat the immediate neighbours of any development as the ‘interested public’ – as in the Doomsday Highway, where the EIA was debated in a small restaurant in Spanish Town. Projects which should be discussed in Parliament are explained to small audiences in hurriedly arranged meetings in obscure places.

The fallout from these brazen assaults on the Jamaican physical – natural and built – environment is not important; twenty vigorous claqueurs in some church  hall are thought adequate to give Jamaica’s assent to some of the most monumentally destructive and environmentally unsustainable enterprises on earth.

Pretty soon, our people will find themselves cut off from their ocean, with their biodiversity destroyed, their natural heritage and culture debased and their national patrimony owned by others. We won’t be able to swim in our beaches, see our coastline, or explore the intellectually stimulating casinos which will provide the prism and prison bars through which we can view twenty-first century reality where courthouses become museums and justice becomes a rum bar joke.

Copyright ©2008 John Maxwell


29 November 2008

from the first echo

from the first echo of the shout of doom
there was a sense that time itself would lend
the means by which those who could best attend
would start by emptying each cluttered room
in the clear daylight no dull weight of gloom
would keep us back nor hold us from that end
which in our hearts we have to comprehend
the universe is not truly a womb
name what we suffer and it does not die
there are no magics here nor ever were
faith cannot work to save us from our fate
it always seems that we desire the lie
want one more moment simply to confer
upon ourselves the burden of deep hate

when mosquitoes come

at sunset when mosquitoes come to play
their urgent buzzing games of sucking blood
the darkness comes upon us like a flood
we long for cleansing light of the next day
behind the net there is not much to say
outside the frogs are croaking in the mud
a misplaced word falls now with heavy thud
this is the season when thought goes astray
smoke blends with fog in the short humid night
as all our measures pause within the heat
not one is certain and they all seem wrong
in their slow circle all the clouds move right
over the mountains to a steady beat
and deep within each heart there is a song

time for a change

your duty is to serve without a pause
those who are worse than you and who must hurt
your heart and soul and give you justest cause
to overturn them and cast into dirt
all of their forces you must disconcert
those who expect that you are just a pawn
who do not think that you get your desert
night lasts its time but the earth turns to dawn

the ones who always get loudest applause
are those who in their way have to assert
entitlement both to tears and guffaws
it takes you little effort to exert
your claim to justice that is not covert
against a force that is not soon withdrawn
it is no easy matter to assert
night lasts its time but the earth turns to dawn

we find it written in a complex clause
that scholars have no reason to pervert
reason is subject to no human laws
we must to basic principles revert
and from its course the evil power divert
by dint of honesty as well as brawn
until the force of terror lies inert
night lasts its time but the earth turns to dawn

prince we are flattered you have not been curt
and have not chosen our hopes to subvert
these are the times when hopes are not yet gone
we might with many choices have to flirt
night lasts its time but the earth turns to dawn

ballade of doubt

no one will think an error self-corrects
blind folk see better than those who have led
our startled crew and learned from the effects
that it were better if they all had bled
completely flat and nothing more were said
it being time now to express true rage
and letting no kind words the mood assuage
we will not let the hero get the blame
it is our duty now to set the stage
before we pass into the final flame

the kind of man who his own thought collects
might think that there was time to prevent dread
but he who speaks knows best what he expects
when facing those who he with lies has fed
at the right moment when the world turns red
he has learned swiftly their weak minds to gauge
and shows himself to them as king and sage
while not revealing the whole thing is a game
there's no defence monocyte macrophage
before we pass into the final flame

you might have thought of these human defects
as bringing matters to a stirring head
but not a one here fact with fact connects
or sorts the clearly living from the dead
all are just here to earn a little bread
make some small money collect daily wage
for that alone they would their time engage
you might think that a kind of mortal shame
it's not their task to answer your hard gage
before we pass into the final flame

prince you might wonder at these things backstage
but they're the matter of our dying age
we say the words and give the facts a frame
but that's no more than simple persiflage
before we pass into the final flame

royal command

to mete out magics is no complex task
a sterner duty comes to try the heart
we leave the hangman to his gentle art
and do not hear the hungry when they ask
for dryest crumbs nor grant drops from the flask
compassion is not what we would call smart
just fling the bodies on the diggers' cart
and do not seek to look behind the mask
so many lies and all upon the page
that  hide plain fact behind a scrim of glare
we would not have you see the world entire
as simple subject for your honest rage
nor yet as calling forth a word of rage
respectful silence now until the fire

28 November 2008

its tribute of wild tears

at the last end naught's left but a bare name
there is no straight account of loss or gain
you can't expect loud hatred or acclaim

this is the price each pays to avoid shame
to keep things hidden and stave off the stain
at the last end naught's left but a bare name

this siren blast will serve to point the blame
right where you want it where you won't complain
you can't expect loud hatred or acclaim

instead some mention of the sort of game
that you would play so you could ascertain
at the last end naught's left but a bare name

no one has set the picture in its frame
the proper sequence is not yet in train
you can't expect loud hatred or acclaim

after this run no wonder you turn lame
there's no escape you must accept the pain
at the last end naught's left but a bare name
you can't expect loud hatred or acclaim

so much for balance

narrow the vision and a world's unseen
withhold the names and much is left unsaid
a simple thing but so easy to dread
you learn the facts and then you are not keen
to face what is to come the things that mean
not merely change but that you were misled
by a false light and too soon will be dead
to all that mattered and will leave the scene
this altered light suffices to inform
our surging hearts of the firm pace of time
just as our eyes catch sight of the grim bird
that circles slowly just before the storm
clear testament to what had been a crime
that speaks as loudly as a human word

26 November 2008

night-walker's song

so now this clarity in unflawed glass
allows a truth that we must never bend
these are the days that far too swiftly pass

you'd challenge what is said just for its brass
words that would hurt but had no warmth to mend
so now this clarity in unflawed glass

not clear to us the road through the morass
nor what to do to change the downward trend
these are the days that far too swiftly pass

leaving us with no grace but drying grass
and sullen folk who will not comprehend
so now this clarity in unflawed glass

the wisest one looks foolish on his ass
nor will the servile bother to pretend
these are the days that far too swiftly pass

into the memory of the tardy class
as one more message that we cannot send
so now this clarity in unflawed glass
these are the days that far too swiftly pass

what has been seen

fractions and fragments broken on the head
of tiny knowledge things that have been turned
between swift signals when the court adjourned
throwing us out into the wider dread
of rotting time and weeds in the rose-bed
such were the wages which our fear had earned
in the dry season while the forest burned
you spoke and no one heard a thing you said
justice requires a citizen must pay
for all the pleasures and the sins of state
since honour's lash is straightforward and harsh
this rule is clear there are no shades of grey
nor compromises on the road to fate
just noisy birds that call out on the marsh

25 November 2008

human veins

knowing the hour must mean we know the place
where justice meets with anger and they ride
the horse of pain this is where heroes stride
in open season none would fear disgrace
since not a one would dare bow or abase
his own deep need before the other side
there is a proper setting for true pride
where understanding gives each monster space
between the echoes we might hear a word
conveyed with clarity and given due force
by those whose task it is simply to speak
of matters complex and of the absurd
conditions under which we chide the weak
obliging them to step out of the course

a simple matrix

those who mean well end up not knowing much
our very reason in the end rebels
at what are simple but resounding yells

we cannot reach and so we have to clutch
before calm force absorbs or else impels
those who mean well end up not knowing much

we watch the ball bounce hard right out of touch
our ears are deafened by the warning bells
nothing remains but what we hope excels
those who mean well end up not knowing much

24 November 2008

so now change

the autumn flower's not delicate of kind
but sturdy growth is what we most desire
a stunning smile then winter's stern attire
we must take on these are the goods we find
as times grow stern to our hard tasks we bind
so many wishes and we hope the choir
sings just as clearly as the days require
for all our visions now have left us blind
so much that's good has passed out of plain sight
into the dust where we cannot recall
just how to make what should matter suffice
but now fresh day has come out of the night
and there's no reason for a soul to stall
while double sixes come up on the dice