18 October 2009

The Truth & the Public Interest

John Maxwell

On Monday, in this newspaper I made an astonishing and disconcerting discovery. The Don Anderson poll, on the basis of 535 interviews announced that 90% of Jamaicans agreed that a foetus is a human being.
I knew that many Jamaicans were ignorant, but I had no idea that so many of us were so clueless.
I then became extremely offended by this so called poll because I am almost certain that 90% of Jamaicans cannot give any sensible definition of the word 'foetus'. In addition the number of respondents is too small, we have no idea how they were selected (were they all churchgoers?) and the questions were unscientific and unbalanced.

My apprehension was confirmed on Wednesday, when the Observer, to my absolute incredulity published one of the most misleading news stories I have ever read.
According to the Anderson poll, reported by the Observer

"Abortions being done without knowledge that foetus is real child, poll finds."

If the Observer can provide proof that a "foetus is a real child", that foetuses are 'real' children I will donate whatever the newspaper pays me over the next year to the Mustard Seed Community or to any charity of their choice.
I would like to ask the sponsor of the poll – the Mustard Seed Community, the polltaker, Don Anderson and the Observer to publicly explain the process by which they have arrived at the determination that a foetus is a child.

This is extremely important, because if a foetus is a 'real child' – the rules of science will need urgent revision and the teaching of biology and sociology will be revolutionised.
I believe that public discourse, particularly public discourse designed to influence public opinion and to change the laws by which we are governed, must be conducted ethically.
That is to say all the participants must recognise the right of the public to be told the truth, so that when they make up their minds they do so rationally and not because they have been misinformed by lies or misled by hysteria.
I define a fact as a statement susceptible to independent verification. Facts will turn out to be facts whoever is looking at them and wherever. They don't change whether the scientist is a Muslim, a Christian or an atheist.
Different belief systems have their own attitude to certain facts but the attitude does not alter the fact. Scientists may be moral persons according to their lights, but neither their DNA nor the instruments they use have any moral status.
To argue, as the so-called pro-life faction argues, that human life begins at conception is nonsense. Human life began a long time ago and conception is simply another link in a continuum which began long before human consciousness.
There is an old joke about a young woman coming aboard a tram, looking a little exhausted. Seeing all seats filled she goes to a nice young man and asks for his seat, on the ground that she is pregnant. He yields his seat and, out of shameless curiosity asks–
"And how long have you been pregnant?"
"About fifteen minutes", she says.

Laws for Nomads

The Israelites needed as much manpower as their small tribe could muster, so when they codified the rules of their society they made an example of Onan, who spilled his seed rather than impregnating his widowed sister in law. For this he was put to death, an example enlarged and magnified to terrify young boys with the perils of masturbation.
Science has now discovered that those who masturbate or otherwise spill their seed in non-procreative events are less likely to be killed by prostate cancer than those who dont.
There are all kinds of people telling us that we must pay literal tribute to the holy books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
They all forget who wrote the books and when. Divine inspiration is one thing, but even God has been reported to have changed his mind.
And, as we wear our invisible phylacteries it may be useful to remember that
"The Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath."

Is a jelly coconut a tree?

To describe a foetus as a human being does violence to language, science and commonsense.
The girl on the bus may have been impregnated and one of her ova may have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of some fortunate spermatozoon, but she certainly was not pregnant and could not be described as "with child".
Nature itself disposes of dozens of potential Einsteins, long before even their sex is determined. A woman's heavy period may well be nature's way of rejecting a defective gamete, despatching some hapless haploid without inquiring about personhood. Spontaneous abortions, miscalled miscarriages, are nature's way of deleting unwanted processes, and foetuses are processes long before they become people.
A jelly coconut has encoded in it all the information it requires to become a tree – just as a foetus has all the information it needs to become a living human being. But a jelly coconut can no more be described as a tree than a foetus may be described as a person.
One well established and notorious fact ignored by those who would criminalise abortion is that criminalisation does not inhibit – even slightly – the practice of abortion. What it does do is to promote illegal, backstreet abortions which every year kill four times as many women as all the men, women and children killed in any of the first four years of the Iraq war.
I do not understand how anyone knowing this fact can, with a clear conscience, contemplate the criminalisation of abortion, because they know or ought to know that the only measurable effect of criminalisation is in killing women who do not want, for whatever reason, to have a child.
To force women to bear children they do not want has a measurable effect in domestic violence, in brutalised children and eventually in minor and major criminality. I do not understand why it is OK if the body rejects the foetus, but not if the mind does. And I cannot understand the intellectual sadism and emotional brutishness that tries to prohibit abortion even in cases of rape, including child rape.
Those who call themselves 'pro-life' should put their money where their mourths are. Every one of them should, as an earnest of their sincerity, adopt an unwanted child. Otherwise they are responsible for every bully, domestic brutaliser, pedophile, rapist and murderer that they let loose upon the rest of us.
Those who preach responsibility should practice it.



Making Jamaica work

The same old soothsayers are at the same old corners peddling the same old garbage.
Jamaica is in a recession and has been for a long time. But it's going to get worse. So the same old bull is trotted out.
• Cut wages
• Cut labour forces
• Cut off our noses to spite the unions.
Nobody asks these geniuses to explain the effects their 'solutions' will have and how soon. They are our paid 'Theorisers and their theories are the equivalent of prayers to a God yet to be revealed.
Life is funny. According to a story this week, "Bauxite sours milk," Jamaica is in a bind because Mr Deripaska, the Russian oligarch is having financial problems which may hurt Jamaica because one of his companies, Windalco, produces one in every four gallons of milk consumed in Jamaica.
Some of us remember when a few years ago, as a consequence of globalisation and the advice of our IMF parakeets, millions of gallons of milk were dumped into drains and gullies. Dozens of Jamaican dairies failed. One of the major beneficiaries of that policy, Nestlé, has taken its most of its business to the Dominican Republic and is now importing ice cream from Colombia.
We followed the idiot Theorists and their lies have crippled us.
FOR INSTANCE: Now that the world is looking for a small, tough drought resistant high yielding milch cow just like the Jamaica Hope, we cannot even begin to think of responding to the demand. Those who preached against import substitution and self-reliance are still doing it, and when their time runs out here will get good jobs in the World Bank and the IMF advising some other potential economic suicide.
We need to deny airspace and house room to these idiots. I remember saying so in 1994 on the Breakfast Club when our resident jackasses were advising us against subsidising interest rates for farmers.
Time, they say, longer than rope!
What we really need are some simple proven practical solutions. We have two major problems:
•     WE need more – not fewer – people working, and more money in circulation at the bottom of the society.
•     We need to prepare for global warming, climate change and all kinds of disasters.
An intelligent development policy will combine these two needs and solve both problems:
To protect our land we need to plant more trees, fruit trees on hillsides. We need to employ teenagers in this job and combine their work with literacy and skill training
We need to convert cane-land into food growing land, with diversified small farmers feeding themselves and trading their surpluses. WE need to abolish the plantation-agribusiness-slavery mentality which has destroyed farming in Jamaica.
If a man cannot make a more than adequate living off 500 acres he has no business owning land. Limiting land ownership will limit waste and improve food production.
Planting the hillsides will not only occupy many young people, it will decrease soil erosion, increase productivity especially of food; revitalise the fisheries, especially Kingston Harbour. Planting the hillsides will also increase water supply, increase water quality and help restore the beaches.
Increasing economic activity by public works must include building more schools, particularly in the most deprived areas. More schools mean more teachers so we give incentives to teachers and tax the MBAs to pay for them. WE need to build more playing fields and arts and crafts schools and to bring farming into all schools, including university.
We need to reinvent Jamaica Welfare and pump money and manpower into the building of social capital by the Jamaica Agricultural Society and the Ministry of Agriculture's Experimental stations and hugely expanded Extension Department.
Above all, we need to put ideas like these before the people and see what they make of them and then we need to fund them to put their ideas into practice.
The murder rate, I guarantee, will go right down.

Copyright©2009 John Maxwell jankunnu@gmail.com

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