27 February 2009


out of the primal light a sort of lie

to comfort hearts and eyes that can't see plain

that healing fire comes swiftly from the sky


no time to count the words that have gone by

or say the ocean will return as rain

out of the primal light a sort of lie


to take our minds away from the long sigh

of every child at the departing wain

that healing fire comes swiftly from the sky


is what we're told though not shown to the eye

it is no matter for our thought's disdain

out of the primal light a sort of lie


to ease the soul and make each spirit spy

with passing time and each losing campaign

that healing fire comes swiftly from the sky


to seal each bond and sanctify each tie

made in our despite and to ease our pain

out of the primal light a sort of lie

that healing fire comes swiftly from the sky

26 February 2009

soul brotherhood

you think the missile is a final threat

a portent of the fire that cannot clean

nor ever leave behind one normal scene


since what will happen can't sustain regret

it is the weight of less than a small bean

you think the missile is a final threat


to what we are but you won't take the bet

and there's no indication that you're keen

to face the facts you want us to forget

you think the missile is a final threat

24 February 2009

last man standing

now we awaken into one more fear

with weight of darkness and the endless sound

of frogs and insects as they still expound

their nightly messages no doubt sincere

at three o'clock though we could never care

about such matters for unholy ground

and chilly water their secrets propound

and somber mysteries move through the air

sleep is no shelter from the stalking ghost

of duty that observes no waiting time

but must alarm us at an early hour

so we discover there is no sure post

on which to rest no guard against the crime

that brought us waking here in fullest power

22 February 2009


no need to warn away from the cold rocks

those who believe no purpose can be pure

except our kind those chosen to endure

unlovely meetings of the darker flocks

facing the one who out of anger mocks

informing each that they cannot be sure

but must discover for themselves a cure

with force of tiger and cunning of fox

not in the night but when the sun is low

do the flies gather to consume your heart

just when you need it now you may require

some sort of impulse as a means to show

all who may follow that the form of art

is what survives even the hottest fire

a corner of a field

no hidden meaning in old cannonball

nor in silver quattie lying under grass

i find them and i pick up or i pass

they do not yield their story that is all

any may know today our scope is small

and history is not set under glass

for our perusal life is not a class

since each must fail as the old tree must fall

no wisdom here on this low mountain ridge

just a hard light as we wait for the rain

in patience but without that deeper hope

our fathers taught us we have passed that bridge

and on the other side found just more pain

with endless time longer than any rope

emerging from the earth

all of the colours make a muddy hue

this river flows with little force to sea

just so we find a moment that is true


in which each sense will seem so proud and new

that every thought will at one point agree

all of the colours make a muddy hue


yet no uncleanness clings nor could accrue

where each of us has shaken ourselves free

just so we find a moment that is true


wherein we move from hiding into view

changing the matter by a large degree

all of the colours make a muddy hue


obscuring valour but what each one knew

was learnt already upon parents' knee

just so we find a moment that is true


between the darkness and the morning blue

and we are happy so we let things be

all of the colours make a muddy hue

just so we find a moment that is true

But, Can They Read?

John Maxwell

Some of the most amazing things happened within the last two weeks. Hundreds of miles above the earth, an obsolete Russian satellite collided over Siberia with an American communication satellite, and the odds against that happening are so astronomic that nobody had bothered to calculate them.
So, many of us were more than surprised when we heard a few days later that two nuclear submarines, one British, the other French, had collided deep under the Atlantic That was scary, each sub was armed with enough nuclear warheads to destroy a couple of continents. They were patrolling in stealth mode, trying t ensure that the evil Russians didn't steal a march on the rest of us by destroying Switzerland or the Cayman Islands and thus throwing the world financial system into so much more confusion.
Some says the likelihood of these sub colliding was about as great as someone winning the top prize in the same lottery four times in succession.
Natural and unnatural phenomena keep defying the odds. The global financial system has vaporised, destroyed by its own greed, criminality and selfishness. Capitalist journalists, conservative politicians and people once considered Gods in Jamaica, like Professor Jeffrey Sachs are busy calling for socialist or proto-socialist solutions to get the world out of the mess we're in.
Only in the Caribbean are people unaware of what's happening in the rest of the world. Our politicians, central planners and central bankers, immobilised by the super-glue of globalisation, are still speaking the language of the IMF and World Bank, still calling for the poor to be disciplined so that the rich can generate the kind of profits which once pleased Sandy Weill, David Rockefeller and Richard Fuld. The people who paid a million dollars fora tin of an Italian 'artist's excrement ten years ago may still e in the markets in Jamaica.

Deep in the DooDoo

For one thing, the Jamaican Port Authority is still fixated on destroying Falmouth to create the world's largest and most expensive excrement disposal facility– the so-called homeport for the world's single largest floating generator of human waste –the cruise liner called the Oasis of the Seas.
The essential thinking behind the Port Authority's planned destruction of Falmouth is very simply to provide a sewage disposal facility for the 15,000 passengers and crew of this ship after a few week's cruising and then, once ever so often, to allow the Oasis time to release its captive audience to molest dolphins and other innocent denizens of Jamaica. In addition to the enormous amount of faecal matter to be deposited in the sewage disposal plant the new Falmouth will require hundreds of 'comfort stations' to deal with the tourists ashore
That, is of course,, if the ship ever manages to make it to Falmouth. Our ginnigogs do not appear o have heard of the great capitalist meltdown, with Goldman Sachs and other investment banks laying off hundreds of thousand of workers. These are the people whose droppings fertilise the markets for cruise ships and, when they are gone, the cruise ships and their patrons also disappear.
But our ginnigogs apparently cannot read and so, they are investing for the ultimate rainy day, building on sand for an economic hurricane.
When our Caribbean knights like Allen Sandford go up in smoke, when the Union Bank of Switzerland agrees to tell the US about the criminal activity formerly protected in its numbered accounts, when the Germans, the French and the British take off after the money laundering industries of the Bahamas, Cayman, Bermuda, Antigua, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Zurich to name a few, the bottom is likely to drop out of the Caribbean sewage disposal market.

In the meantime, Mr Sandford has created some really hairy problems for West Indies cricket. If his activities are as shady as the SEC and FBI allege, all the money he caused the WI Board to distribute to Chris Gayle, for instance, will have to be repaid. The WICB is going to end us owing an enormous amount to the criminal estate, and they won't be able to get it back from Gayle and Co.

Perhaps the Port Authority might be able to help?

The secret to this crazy investment is quite simple. Our ginnigogs believe the globalisation myths and truisms of four and five years ago, such as: Water is the new oil which means that anything to do with sewage and the sale of water in large quantities, such as cruise shipping, is sure to make a few millionaires. The Contractor General and the Public Defender should have a look.
Additionally, the PAJ does not appear to realise that super cruise ships like the Oasis are aimed directly at the destruction of the Jamaican hotel industry, providing the modern 'tourist' with no excuse to go ashore and mingle with the natives.


Bankers a go go

The world is beginning to recognise that there is no function that bankers perform that entitles them to live at such gargantuan removes from the rest of us. Basically, Bankers are supposed to be bookkeepers and custodians of our savings. Over the last few decades, the bookkeepers and finance managers of this world have carried out a wave of coups, taking control of our savings; and under the guise of 'improving shareholder value' – i.e. our prospects) have employed our wealth to criminally enrich themselves, oppress workers, reduce the workers levels of skill and job satisfaction, destroy productive diversity in the interest of more raw profit.
The market has turned out – as Marx and others forecast, to be an antihuman machine, creating misery, promoting conflict and destroying the conditions for happy and sustainable futures.
As we gaze at the ruins of the Enrons, the Lehman Brothers, the Allen Sandford and Madoff houses of cards, many of us will be tempted to seek qualitative difference between them, to try and find something good that distinguishes them from the generically criminal and elevates them into something that advances the public interest.
I should like to be informed when you make those discoveries.
Long ago the state – that is us in corporate guise – was the trustee for the public interest, that is, us in plain clothes.
In every country, for instance, there were laws against usury, imposing limits n the levels of interest a lender could charge a borrower.
In the seventies the IMF and World bank persuaded many of us to abolish the laws on usury, and the result was what the IMF and World Bank called growth. Usury, which used not only to be a crime, but a sin, became the hobby of perfectly respectable folk who went to church every week and did not commit adultery.
Then, the more adventurous set off on their piratical excursions into globalised capitalism. What is most strange is that this Gadarene adventure was led by, of all people, the sober, starchy accountants and bookkeepers who in losing their inhibitions have also lost their own souls and destroyed an enormous quantum of human savings and satisfaction. The World Bank and the IMF are even now embroiled in huge financial scandals going to the very top of these organisations, but they are still pretending that it is the poor who are dishonest, that it is the mendicants who are corrupt.
All over the world there are people trying to assemble hanging parties for the financiers. In New York a few months ago, remember that placard on Wall Street – 'JUMP, YOU F**KERS!"
In the present context it is going to take a great deal of persuasion to convince voters around the word that they should put their trust in anything resembling the old financial systems.
When Jeffrey Sachs and people of his ilk begin calling for nationalising the banks, even our Jamaican ginnigogs should take notice.
Of course, some of them may be waiting to hear from the once celebrated Professor Grassl.
I wish the Port Authority and the political parties the best of luck. I am old enough to remember, however, walking into the JBC newsroom more than half a century ago, to be confronted by an AP story which said inter alia, that the citizens of Istanbul had awakened that morning to find their entire cabinet hanging from lampposts in the centre of the city. The prime Minister, Mr Menderes, and his ministers with charming names like Cayalangil and Menemencioglu were all among those pendent. No one was spared.
The army apparently, had had enough.
Copyright© 2009 John Maxwell

19 February 2009

left off the map

thought moved to act but we were not well set

in those divisions of a high career

where much that we may want does not appear

in open form instead we have to fret

about the gifts that no good child could get

no options then except the most austere

will be allowed that's all we have to hear

the rest is silence or else is regret

you move your feet in quite another time

to music that no longer speaks of joy

in what we are but of historic pain

recorded as the annals of long crime

the means we find that foulest thieves employ

to loose the goods held on the silver chain

15 February 2009

pirate tale

all force of hurricane can do is kill

the life out of your soul remains entire

but what is lacking is the human will


from when we started we have run downhill

and every sweet-tongue seems to be a liar

all force of hurricane can do is kill


your aching heart and make your anger still

while all around sing loud songs of desire

but what is lacking is the human will


to take us up and let us soon fulfill

the many visions to which we aspire

all force of hurricane can do is kill


yet all have feared to pay the butcher's bill

though each of us knows no one will enquire

but what is lacking is the human will


so we survive the horror and the thrill

by casting innocents into the fire

all force of hurricane can do is kill

but what is lacking is the human will

old man’s game

no need for answers when we know the name

of present monsters that with hunger wait

to seize and rend us swift without debate


youths laugh and call this just an old man's game

knowing how easily the jest will grate

no need for answers when we know the name


that frightens young and old and soon will tame

the brash to silence now the fool is bait

since he alone steps out and would tempt fate

no need for answers when we know the name

Reading the Papers

John Maxwell

Journalists are taught to read everything. Other people's unvalued facts may make important stories.

In 1962 just before Independence I was not in very good odour with the Government. One Monday in June, I think, the Minister in charge of Broadcasting, one Edward Seaga, appeared at the [Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation] JBC towing behind him the Prime Minister Sir Alexander Bustamante. Both dressed in funereal black, they had come to demand my head.

In a radio commentary on Saturday night, rebroadcast on Sunday morning, I had mocked the British for announcing an Independence birthday farewell present to Jamaica after 300 years of exploitation. In their gracious benevolence they would give us Up Park Camp, which I pointed out they could hardly take away with them, and one million pounds, enough to pay Jamaica's administrative costs for 11 days and rather less than Jamaicans had voluntarily raised for Britain when they were on the bones of their exchequer in the Battle of Britain.

To make a long story less boring, the Chairman of JBC's board agreed that I should be fired. When the Board heard what he had done they forced him to resign and declared that I had not been sacked. Later, Mr Seaga fired the entire JBC Board, and after some months and a post-dated letter of dismissal signed by JBC's general manager, then in London, I was finally, successfully fired, the second of four sackings from the JBC, the only place I've ever been fired from in my life.

All this is simply to entertain you and to explain my interest in the Royal visit attending the Independence celebrations.

Anyway, having survived my first encounter with the politicians I was still the de facto head of the newsroom. When I received the first printed agenda for the Royal visit I was struck by one curious set of entries.

Whenever the Prime Minister was mentioned the style was "Sir Alexander Bustamante and Another"

I took the thing to Hector Bernard, then head of News and Public Affairs. I pointed out to him that in the past, in these agendas, it had always been "Sir Alexander Bustamante and his Private Secretary" We thought about it and, like the good detectives we were, decided that a fundamental change was afoot – the Prime Minister and his Private Secretary were about to be married. A little more work and phone-calls and we were sure. As a result I was the only reporter at the wedding, and despite Busta's hard words about me a few weeks earlier he invited me to the reception at Tucker Avenue where I had a long talk with Donald Sangster about the unruliness of his ministers and was commanded by the Prime Minister to kiss his bride – against her will, though she later forgave me. Neither Seaga nor D.C. Tavares was present either at the ceremony or the champagne breakfast.

Arrogant ignorance

Reading the world's papers this week has been something of a chore. Reading the Gleaner provoked uncharitable thoughts about ignoramuses showing off their ignorance. I cannot imagine what could have provoked any editor to publish a letter which began:

'Believe it or not, there is more than a spurious link between the existence of a Minimum Wage Act and the recent calls from some quarters to validate, constitutionally, the 'right to strike'. Neither is of benefit to the Jamaican worker in the context of a globalised economic system characterised by the free movement of capital and labour.'

Where in this globalised world is there the free movement of labour?
What on earth is a spurious link?

It would seem to me that any editor, faced with such an outrageous fantasy would have sent the letter to the religious editor or the guy who gives tips on the lottery.

The letter enraged me anyway, by its immoderate oxymoronic pretensions and because of my personal involvement in the creation of a National Minimum Wage and my connection to the right of Jamaicans to be represented by trade unions and to strike.

In 1956 a few of us came together to found the Jamaica Union of Journalists and begin a one sided struggle against the Gleaner. After proclaiming the duties its 'solus' position imposed in relation to the Public Interest, the company decreed that no union such as ours, affiliated no matter how tenuously to a 'politically affiliated union'(the NWU) should be allowed to represent its editorial workers.

The company's chairman, Neville Ashenheim, saw nothing wrong being leader of Opposition business in the legislative council and chairman of the JLP. It was this piece of imperialist impertinence which drove NW Manley to pledge, and Michael Manley to implement two decades later a law for the compulsory recognition of trade unions – among other things. That law is called the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act.

I agree with Dwight Nelson of the BITU that the right to strike should be constitutionally protected. Reagan and Thatcher in their first faltering steps to globalised fascism were strategically correct in striking at the unions, in pauperising them preliminary to pauperising the working classes they represented.

The Songs of the Shirtless

In 1973 I had been back in Jamaica for a couple of years after five years of involuntary exile in Britain. Hector Bernard asked me to design a public affairs programme for the middle of the day. At that time of the day JBC's audience ranged between undetectable and negligible.

The station had nothing to lose

I designed a programme which for idiosyncratic reasons, I named Public Eye. I would be the eyes, ears and voice of the poor although I didnt tell anyone that that was my intention . It soon became obvious. I'd met Rosalind Wiltshire and Gillian Monroe who had been doing some university research about domestic helpers and persuaded them to come on the show and discuss their work.

Their interview revealed some real horror stories about the treatment of the largest single segment of Jamaica's labour force. I asked helpers to phone me and either confirm or contradict the stories.

For the next year and more Public Eye was deluged by some of the most wrenching tales of injustice, oppression and brutality done to the women of Jamaica.

The programme took off and in about three months became the single most popular programme on the air, although RJR sniffily objected that the local soap, Dulcimina, had at one time been more popular.

Public Eye at midday was pulling in the sort of audiences editors only dream of. It became so popular and so subversive that a brand new phenomenon blossomed. In those days of dial phones there were locks available to disable dialing. Public Eye created a hot-cakes business out of telephone locks.

A woman in a Mercedes spat at me as I walked on South Odeon Avenue one day and some middle-class elements began to suggest that I was planning to lead some helpers' insurrection. The entire society was caught up in the argument and Public Eye became the arena for the new revolution of conscience which threatened to sweep Jamaica.

Public Eye transformed 'servants' and 'maids' into helpers and transformed the way working women saw themselves and how they were treated.

With the momentum built by the helpers other women's issues took the headlines, equal pay, maternity leave for all workers . One day, when I was off the air, Michael Manley called me to Jamaica House. He was desperate, almost miserable.

What could we do about the helpers? No union could represent them but their need was great. I suggested a National Minimum wage, first suggested by Marcus Garvey half a century before.

But they say it won't work, said Michael.

But on the programme, women had already given me the answer. It was simple. Regulate wage and hours and set up an office to which people could turn for enforcement and redress.

There were all sorts of objections, some of them regurgitated last week by my friend Pearnell Charles.

Michael knew that the idea would be fought down by experts of every kind, including those in the party executive and the Cabinet. so he told no one but Beverly and me what he intended to do and one fine day in his next budget speech he informed Parliament of his intentions, for the first time, at last!

Pandemonium. Even Opposition MPs congratulated and thanked him.

A few months later I was fired from the JBC for the third time.

Falmouth and Roselle.

We keep on doing the same crazy things we have always done and call it development.

We are living in a dreamworld. Outside of Jamaica interest rates have almost disappeared. In Jamaica we believe that increasing rates can defend the Jamaican dollar against the selfishness of those with great wealth and the urge to use it purely for their own purposes. As one British lawmaker said recently, around the world people are looking forward to some public hangings and leading bankers obliged to a certain extent a few days ago with abject public apologies for the havoc their behaviour has caused to the public interest. Many still expect to get away with their misfeasances and malfeasances.

The Gleaner produced an extraordinary editorial on Tuesday, endorsing Hernando de Soto's idea of collaterising the poor. The Gleaner got hold of the wrong end of the stick, however, apparently seeing the idea as a way of justifying the squandering of public property (a la PJ) with the excuse that it was all done in good faith.

If the poor are to be given property, clearly the property they deserve should be the lands they have sweated and died on for five hundred years, not the government owned forests and portfolio property that will soon find its way into the hands of speculators.

In reinventing Jamaica we need to realise that Jamaica is our property, not the property of whoever asserts the first claim. Whoever's name is on the title the purpose should be production and use in the public interest. The World Bank reported 50 years ago that 'in Jamaica, absolute ownership of land, meant in principle the absolute right of the owner to ruin the land in his own way.'

In Falmouth we are seeing some of the result of the attitude spotlighted by the World bank. Now that the UDC is 'into the environment' the Port Authority has picked up the universal destruction baton and is ready to destroy Falmouth in the interest of cruise shipping.

What these geniuses don't understand is that cruise shipping is busy positioning itself to destroy conventional tourism and that the Oasis of the Seas, for which we are destroying Falmouth, is the pilot in this enterprise.

When Falmouth becomes the excremental or PortaPottie capital of the world, one hopes that some of the PAJ and NRCA geniuses will still be around to experience at first hand, the glories of foreign defecation.

At Roselle in St Thomas, we are repeating our mistakes. Half a century ago, Roselle was protected from erosion by permeable groynes, piers of concrete in the sea which slowed down the littoral (longshore) drift of the local currents to get the water to deposit a few grains of sand on its way westward.

These days the destruction of the river training works in the watersheds of the Yallahs, Johnson and other rivers in St Thomas means millions of acres of 'free sand' to be mined by so called private enttrepreneurs.

The problem of course is that the Water Commission in diverting most of the water from St Thomas left no incentive for protecing the farmland which now ends up in the hoppers of gigantic tipper trucks which destroy the road at Roselle and destroys the Palisadoes peninsula, since the sand which formerly nourished the strip is now shipped all over Jamaica to support 'development'

Nobody seems to believe that it is worth finding sustainable solutions to any of these problems. So, no matter what we do, we will lose Falmouth, we will lose Roselle and most of the St Thomas road and we certainly will lose the Norman Manley International Airport.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell


14 February 2009


look down on misty clouds close to the shore

where mystery proclaims that nothing's clear

though past the age where monsters might appear

you aren't yet sure you truly know the score

what might crawl out and scare you to the core

or fall quite quickly from the cloudy air

and steal your heart before you are aware

you cannot tell you have not passed the door

now in this region there are laughing folk

whose task has been to load your head with words

apotropaic and triumphant both

enough to tell the horror from the joke

or scare the rats and the small hungry birds

away from plants that need their urgent growth

no more secrets

this has been done we thought and took our rest

but did not know that the river still rose

that much occurred our peace to discompose

as angry birds moved through the sky with zest

proclaiming loudly in voices unblessed

so much we did not want then to disclose

we could not blink so then we came to blows

having no choice but lie and jape and jest

into the air smoky and dull with grief

the many dead proclaim how we have failed

their silent word enough to mark our end

for even though this time we claim relief

will soon arrive all see the ship has sailed

even a fool plain death can comprehend

no more secrets

this has been done we thought and took our rest

but did not know that the river still rose

that much occurred our peace to discompose

as angry birds moved through the sky with zest

proclaiming loudly in voices unblessed

so much we did not want then to disclose

we could not blink so then we came to blows

having no choice but lie and jape and jest

into the air smoky and dull with grief

the many dead proclaim how we have failed

their silent word enough to mark our end

for even though this time we claim relief

will soon arrive all see the ship has sailed

even a fool plain death can comprehend

13 February 2009

not going the right way

those who would listen to the tricky sun

expecting that its laughter portends good

are certain that they have not understood

when they look up and see the staring gun

truth does not liberate this fact will stun

the childish mind that thinks in terms of should

and sees the living man as saint in wood

finds now that something different has been spun

into the shadow no one seeks to go

but those deep voices and their angry tone

have more to say and seem today more true

about those matters that not one could know

before the knife had cut through to the bone

exposing so much sorrow to the view

all duty never leisure

this is the way all duty never leisure

you think of life as one long noble strain

to take this path and from all hope abstain


your only wish to banish every pleasure

into a future lacking human pain

this is the way all duty never leisure


to think of what should be your honest treasure

rather you hoard each little worthless grain

as if it sent a signal to your brain

this is the way all duty never leisure

11 February 2009

pausing for breath

pieces of broken light on a dull day

my task is messenger and so i speak

tone bland although i utter a critique

the universe has turned entirely grey

just from my mood so there's a little play

on what is meant that things are not so bleak

we have a paddle and can clear the creek

around each dam we have to find a way

if there's a symbol written on the wall

i clear it off and do not make much fuss

truth has to be left there white as fresh bone

after the slaughter while the mourners bawl

just so we chalk things up as one more plus

and no one says that we have the wrong tone

08 February 2009

Re-inventing Jamaica

John Maxwell

Dr Wesley Hughes, head of Jamaica's economic unit, says the country must brace for more economic storms – several years of economic decline " heightened by the onslaught of the global financial crisis."
Dr Hughes says Jamaica is now experiencing the outer bands of the global financial storm and he warned Jamaicans to batten down for the gale-force winds.
I believe we should be battening down for extreme hurricane force winds, forces so extreme and severe that most of us will not recognise Jamaica in five years.
Lots of people ignored the warnings for hurricane Charlie in 1951. One week later, with 200 people dead and thousands of houses and farms destroyed, another storm was rumoured to be gathering strength somewhere off Antigua. That time Jamaica was a cacophony of hammering and sawing as Jamaicans did what they should have done for "Charlie." Fortunately, Hurricane 'Dog' was never a threat and disintegrated a few days later about 400 miles southwest of Jamaica.
Some of us have been warning of the approach of the Globalisation hurricane for a long time.
In a column just a year ago (Trouble Don't Set Like Rain") I suggested that we had finally run out of time to fix or to start fixing Jamaica
"If we didn't know it before, we are now at the time when our development must be sustainable in the protection of everything we value and all of the people of this once and future blessed isle. We need to understand the need to begin eradicating poverty and developing a survival Agenda – fifteen years late – for the 21st century. Even so, better late than total catastrophe."
I believe Jamaicans should be more than a little alarmed by the government's announced reactions to the worldwide crisis. Alone in the world we seem to believe that nothing needs to be changed. When I say 'alone in the world', I am forgetting the Republican party of the United States who seem to believe that there s nothing a tax cut can't cure. The problem, as our government is on the point of finding out, is that tax cuts don't matter to those who don't pay taxes and those are
a– The poor
b–The rich
All those in between will see their taxable incomes evaporate anyway.
In Jamaica we are staring at disaster.
Sugar is dead.
Bauxite and Alumina are dead
Air Jamaica is on its last legs.
We can't outsource our miseries any more.
No one wants to buy depleted sugar land.
No one wants to buy Air Jamaica at any reasonable price.
What to we do next?

Regaining our sovereignty

The government is clearly averse to doing anything that might even appear to discommode the rich. Our public debt is the single most dangerous millstone around our necks and since most of it is owned by rich Jamaicans it is inevitable that they must be at least, somewhat incommoded.
While our production is sinking fast, three quarters of whatever we produce in the way of government revenue is headed straight into the pockets of our creditors. According to Nouriel Roubini's Global Economic Monitor, things are different in some places. In Argentina, where the whole society has already had a dress rehearsal for economic disaster, "the government has announced that 97% of the domestic investors, holding $4.3 billion in "guaranteed loan" bonds maturing over the next two years, have agreed to swap these instruments for new debt (Bonar bonds with a maturity date of 2014). The swap will save Argentina around $1 billion in the short term, making it easier for Buenos Aires to finance the roughly $20 billion in debt repayments due in 2009."
The Argentines understand that while they may not be as rich as they once were, it may be a good idea to have a country they can call home. Our Jamaican plutocrats need to learn this.
Of course, some Jamaicans believe that real life is possible in the Cayman Islands – where their bank accounts are. They may not yet be aware that the British government in concert with the Germans and other Europeans, are going looking for tax havens and the other places where national revenues and other ill gotten gains find discreet houses of accommodation.
The essentially criminal mismanagement of the international capitalist financial system is being exposed around the world, as journalists and others find their tongues and their courage.

Gangsta Capitalism

There are other who have spoken out before but have not been heeded. One such is the Professor of Accounting at Essex University, Prem Sikka, who has been taking his profession to task in a series of hard hitting, no-holds-barred articles in the Guardian.
He asks the kinds of questions big name journalists should be asking about the conduct of the world's expensive and multinational audit firms.
In a column last October Sikka said:
"The deepening financial crisis brings daily news of corporate collapses and bailouts that plunder the taxpayers' pockets at an unprecedented scale. Innocent people are losing jobs, homes, pensions and investments. Each collapse shows that highly paid directors had little idea of the value of company assets, liabilities, income, costs, profits and financial health. This has been accompanied by one constant factor: the silence of the auditors. Auditors collected large amounts in fees and dished out clean bills of health. As he pointed out in another column, "within a short period of receiving clean bills of health Bear Stearns, Carlyle Capital Corporation and Thornburg Mortgage hit the financial buffers, closely followed by Lehman Brothers."

Professor Sikka is one of not very many asking these questions, which lie at the heart of the rot in the free market system. To overlook Lehman's exposure to toxic derivatives – nearly $700 billion (with a b) – is to overlook the equivalent of the combined GDPs of Greece and South Africa.

How can anyone take any of these bozos seriously?
The same questions need to be asked of those most exquisite tastemakers in the valuation and assessment of risk, the ratings agencies, who can wake up one morning and defeat a political movement in Jamaica or perhaps, Peru, by changing the rating of their sovereign bonds. I have for long railed against these nutters, who consistently rate our sovereign debt below American sub-prime mortgages.
People do not understand that it is normally faceless malefactors like these who produce famines, panics and civil war, hundreds and thousands die and millions are uprooted because some 'country specialist' is dissatisfied with her boyfriend's performance the night before the ratings are decided.
Twelve years ago in a column in this paper I quoted an observation by the billionaire George Soros, an observation I thought self-evident.
"In the absence of equilibrium, the contention that free markets lead to the optimum allocation of resources loses its justification. The supposedly scientific theory that has been used to validate it turns out to be an axiomatic structure whose conclusions are contained in its assumptions and are not necessarily supported by the empirical evidence. The resemblance to Marxism, which also claimed scientific status for its tenets, is too close for comfort."
It doesn't worry me that my prognostications are not taken seriously. If people like George Soros and Warren Buffet are not taken seriously, who am I to cavil at my insignificance? The point I want to make is that we urgently need to slaughter a few sacred cows, because if we don't, they will cause even more damage than they already have.

Ideology Negotiable

Thirty years of World Bank/IMF indoctrination have produced a Jamaica committed to fundamentalist capitalism, where concepts of social justice are even more primitive than in the southern United States and its GOP. It is amusing at first, then peculiarly nauseating to read an analysis in the Los Angeles Times which equates the Obama Administration's attempt to rescue the American economy with the return of "Big Government'. This is the same lunacy which got all of us into the present mess:
Reagan says "Government is not the answer, Government is the Problem."
The even more witless Thatcher says –'There is no such thing as society', and the patron saint of Friedmanism, Alan Greenspan, slept with Ayn Rand texts by his bedside - while the world economy went up in pipe-dreams of unimaginable wealth and ease. Out of this farrago of idiocy has come the whole derivatives scandal, the sub-prime mortgage bubble and the idea that if money is to be printed it is best printed by the likes of Goldman Sachs, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Bernard Madoff.
We have to burn down these temples of Moloch and return to our humanity.
In Cuba last week the government handed over 45,000 parcels of unused land to private farmers, not because agrarian reform had failed, but because it had not worked as well as it should have. There is a place in every sector for private enterprise. What we cannot allow houseroom to is exploitative, drive-by capitalism which reduces people to serfdom and values them by their 'economic competitiveness'.
That's why I fault the Jamaican government for two of its most recent decisions:the not to increase the minimum wage and the refusal to legalise the right to strike.
If we are to create a jamaica in which we can all live, prosper, be safe and happy, we need to realise that if we are not partners we are either dead or living in prison.
Two year ago and again last year, I suggested that our political parties need to come together, not to surrender but to lead jamaica to victory over its real enemy, poverty/injustice.
Reading about how a Philippine community rescued itself by farming seaweed I thought how easy it would be to do the same in jamaica if we were willing to give up some of our cherished ignorance. In four years from a standing start the Filipinos had an industry exporting more than US $30 million annually.
If we put our sugar lands to work we can – using purely organic methods –, restore their fertility while producing food and slashing our foreign exchange deficit. In Florida, an area the size of Monymusk produces citrus worth $60 million annually. If we understand that we cannot produce any commodity to satisfy global demand, but that we can produce star-apples, or honey, or mamey, or sarsaparilla or pepper, or turmeric in quantities which we can easily market to other small enterprisers, we can be well on our way in five years to transforming this country, putting every child in school and reducing the crime rate to insignificant proportions.
We need to look inside Jamaica, to our history and culture which prove that we can do these things, We have done some before. Because of wartime shortages we planted corn and grew enough to feed ourselves and to export. In 1919 the Jamaica Government Railway brought 50 tons of jamaican butter from the countryside into Kingston markets.
We need to set people free from their mass-production slavery and their mass-production education and fundamentalist superstition and ignorance.
As I said nine months ago, "the thousands of young Goldman Sachs traders are mostly unconscious of the fact that their million-dollar bonuses mean the destruction of whole communities and the transition of many of their fellows from citizens to prostitutes and jailbirds. The hedge fund managers who have cornered the market in rice, corn and ethanol may claim not to be aware that they also own much of the market in hunger, starvation, misery and death".
We, who bought into this nonsense more heavily than most, have a duty to ourselves and our neighbours to achieve a second, real emancipation. The time is now.
Seize the day
We can and must make our country work
We have absolutely no choice.
Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell

05 February 2009

movement of flies

attend the manner that the mountain breeze

has shaken many needles to the road

they look like symbols of an arcane code

fallen beneath the old brown willow trees

some pattern of the light might have to please

one hurrying to reach his warm abode

as symbol of the meaning that was owed

although we learn there are no guarantees

words on the ground leave nothing to the air

not even recollection that they passed

mere indications of improper shape

that might in time mean more if we would dare

risk what is signified by one huge cast

or give up hope that any could escape

04 February 2009

lacking in honour

symbolic violence in lecture-room

subjected to analysis till dry

but no one listening expects true doom


to fall upon their heads so they consume

their scraps of knowledge and launch thereby

symbolic violence in lecture-room


the hard coiled words give off a heady fume

while the old teacher is arcane and wry

but no one listening expects true doom


since every year the purple flowers bloom

although unhappy scholars may let fly

symbolic violence in lecture-room


no youthful head believes there can be gloom

although they're told about the cloudy sky

but no one listening expects true doom


each palace has been built upon a tomb

we struggle to defeat the ancient lie

symbolic violence in lecture-room

but no one listening expects true doom

03 February 2009

this is the season

this is the season when we make things neat

and wait for passage to the distant shore

as other folk insist they hear a roar

no one would bother to rise from their seat

when they hear timid knocking at the door

this is the season when we make things neat

so that we may move out on the right beat

as happy couples swirl upon the floor

to the old tunes heard many times before

this is the season when we make things neat

01 February 2009

the unknown prisoner

the one-cell lock-up next the village square

must boil at noon and drive the inmate mad

his voice is loud although the tone is sad

but not a one who passes seems to care

just one more sound in heavy midday air

red seam on black will show itself not glad

and no one wonders just what choice he had

while portly sergeant might look out and glare

you wait for court-day does not fall this week

though custos might stop by to use the phone

and compliment the lowly rank and file

the man who's in the box has no mystique

though close to people he's the most alone

with words that hurt and curse hate and revile

Disaster and the ‘Free Press’

John Maxwell

The British did not invent hypocrisy, they simply manage it better than anyone else. Americans, Israelis and Jamaicans appear to believe that euphemism and a tortured sort of ersatz gentility are adequate.
Real hypocrisy should be attempted only by certified experts. And having toiled in a BBC newsroom for five years as a copytaster, I must be presumed to know whereof I pontify.
The Director General of the BBC was last week caught out in an act of the most flagrant (and fragrant) hypocrisy. Perhaps he thought he was so expert that no one would have noticed. Unfortunately for him, Mr Mark Thompson chose the wrong occasion and the wrong opponents.
The row was about the aftermath of the Israeli blitzkrieg of Gaza, which killed more than 1,500 people, wounded thousands more, destroyed thousands of homes and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
In a statement last Saturday, the BBC's DG explained what happened next:
"When there is a major humanitarian crisis, the DEC - which is a group of major British charities - comes together and, if it believes various criteria are met and a major public appeal is justified, asks the BBC and other broadcasters to broadcast an appeal. We usually - though not always - accede to the DEC's request and as a result have broadcast many DEC appeals over the years.
"A few days ago, the DEC approached us about an appeal for Gaza and, after very careful reflection and consultation inside and outside the BBC, we decided that in this case we should not broadcast the appeal. One reason was a concern about whether aid raised by the appeal could actually be delivered on the ground. You will understand that one of the factors we have to look at is the practicality of the aid, which the public are being asked to fund, getting through."
This statement does not make sense.
Who is a better judge of the practicality of relief delivery ? the BBC – or Christian Aid and the Red Cross and the other relief agencies whose special experience, skill and particular function is to get aid delivered to those in need?
As a journalist I have had much more experience than most of my ilk in dealing with emergencies and emergency relief. This is partly because of the fact that I live in a disaster-prone tropical country and partly because I have helped organise emergency relief and helped organise the Jamaican Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management. Although few journalists anywhere have that sort of experience, I cannot believe it entitles me to second guess any relief organisation, particularly those coming together in the DEC
According to Mr Thompson, his second and more substantive reason for denying the appeal is that the emergency in Gaza is a major continuing story of tremendous controversy and that "After looking at all of the circumstances, and in particular after seeking advice from senior leaders in BBC Journalism, we concluded that we could not broadcast a free-standing appeal, no matter how carefully constructed, without running the risk of reducing public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in its wider coverage of the story."
My opinion of this excuse is not publishable in a family newspaper.
I would like to hear what he would have said if half a million Israelis were homeless, 5,000 injured and nearly two thousand dead.
Or Bosnians or Croats.
First of all, an appeal attributed to an identifiable group of charities makes it clear that the broadcaster does not necessarily support the appeal but is functioning as a common carrier, a public utility like a bus, exercising no control over the opinions of its passengers, but retaining the right not to tolerate certain kinds of behaviour.
On the other hand, reporting on human events entails certain responsibilities, the main one to report the facts.
If journalism is a function of the public interest it must be the journalist's duty to report without prejudice what is happening and if people are suffering it is the journalist's duty to report that. It does not matter who is suffering or who caused the suffering.
But while reporting the facts may stimulate others to action to alleviate suffering it does not commit the reporter to anything. If the reporter chooses to help alleviate the suffering that is a political decision in that it is a position favouring people – human beings.
As a public broadcaster it is part of my public service responsibility to present appeals to relieve suffering no matter who is suffering. I also have other social responsibilities as a member of the community, to help keep it safe, to protect those who need to be protected. These are political but non-partisan responsibilities
As a member of the community I cannot walk by like the Levite in the parable, delicately raising my skirts to avoid the blood; the blood is mine and yours,and, like the Good Samaritan, it is my duty to relieve that suffering. Succouring the wounded does not mean taking sides.By refusing to help, the BBC is, in fact taking sides. What the BBC is saying is that the public will perceive unfairness since it is mostly Palestinians or a disproportionate number of Palestinians that need help.
If people perceive this, the BBC quite correctly surmises, it will destroy the BBC's and the western Press' pretence that this was a 'war', as between near equals, and not a punitive expedition by a powerful, bullying state against a largely helpless civilian population.
I am a seriously unfashionable journalist, because I believe that the proper location for a journalist is between the oppressor and the oppressed. As a human being I MUST choose humanity.
Mr Thompson's credo represents the tenets of what I call Drive-by Journalism. In some schools one is adjured to be a spectator, to hold a mirror to life. One must not choose sides or get involved or at least, not so anyone might notice.
That is why the western press is lying doggo at the moment because it hopes that the people it claims to serve will not recognise its treasonable failures in relation to the Great Globalisation Fraud and the consequent economic crash; or the Iraq War or the question of Palestine. In all of these issues the Press have been the Judas Goats leading their communities into error, loss and misery.
The press has escaped with few casualties from the Iraq War. Only the most egregious miscreants, like Judith Miller of the New York Times have been exposed and punished. But it was always clear that the western press largely accepted the lies, tergiversations and inventions of the war party and thereby allowed the illegal invasion of Iraq, the murder of millions of its people and the attempted destruction of a civilisation.
The press knew the truth and kept it from the people it claims to serve.
Long before Enron, before the revision of the Glass-Steagal Act in the US, from the excesses of Milliken and Boesky and dozens of others, the Press knew that public finance was being converted into an even and more crooked bigger casino than it had historically been.
There were lots of warnings from eminent capitalists,never mind the hairy lefties. George Soros and Warren Buffet, and professors by the dozen issued their warnings – but the press was always part of the game, a game in which the truth was too expensive.
When we ask who is responsible for the disasters of our epoch the press will find scapegoats everywhere but in its own ranks. If the Press had served the public half as well as it it served Cheney, Bush, Greenspan, Goldman Sachs and Citibank we would not now be in the mess we're in.
The long nightmare of George Bush is said to be over. He's safely back in Texas. But the aftershocks will long continue.
The press knew how clueless George Bush was long before he became a candidate for Governor of Texas.. The Press cheered Bush and Cheney on; they were re-elected after Enron, after Bunny Greenhouse exposed the barefaced and super-massive corruption in Halliburton's contracts with the Pentagon.
The press winked at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, at extraordinary rendition and the helter skelter descent into law-free irresponsibility.
They can't say they didn't know.
Nor can people like Mark Thompson.
I can't say I didn't know. After all, before the US Supreme Court anointed George W. Bush as President of the US, the Jamaican Sunday Observer published a column by me, the last two paragraphs of which read:
"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. If, this week, a hundred or so Floridian autocrats succeed in appointing the next president of the United States we will no doubt applaud, happy, like nearly half the people of the US, that the tiresome business is over and we can get back to our PlayStations, grooving to Capleton and listening to interviews with Bounty Killa et al.
"Most of us still know nothing about what is going on of course, because our media is too busy congratulating itself to notice the titanic struggle taking place an hour's flying time from Kingston. Like the people of the United States, we have been carefully screened from the truth. 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 for a very rough ride." –"Democracy! Enough Already!" - Commonsense, Sunday Observer, Dec 10. 2000
What's your excuse?
Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell