08 November 2009

Why We Fail



John Maxwell

Once upon a time, it seemed, we could do no wrong. These days, it seems we can do nothing right.
Apart from the brilliant natural talent of our young men and women, everything we touch turns to lead.
But wait!
If our young people can do so well at athletic sports, at university and in competition with spellers ad chess players from all over, how come we're not doing much better, overall? Why are so many of our kids killing themselves or being killed by other kids or getting into all kinds of bizarre trouble?
Perhaps we should ask Mr Latibeaudiere, lately governor of the bank of Jamaica, who earns in a year more than most of us would earn in several lifetimes. Anyone paid as much as he must be very, very wise indeed. Or perhaps we should ask Mr Tony Hylton, head of the Port Authority, whose weight is enough to anchor US$200+ millions in debt – no questions asked about how we will pay back this money.
On one side of our society are thousands of children who, given encouragement and the right leadership, will work like slaves to excel and do well for their country. On the other side are ladies and gentlemen of exalted degree whose mantra is development and who persistently ask a question so simple that it should be duck soup to answer: why can't the police reduce the crime rate?
Such a simple question.
One of the good things about writing for the press is the feedback. You get it in the shops, in the newspaper columns and courtesy of some of the so-called talk-shows. I've got it from fishermen in Discovery Bay and Treasure Beach, from a 'limousine' driver in Ridgefield, Connecticut and from Rastas everywhere.
In response to my column last week there were several of the standard responses, suggesting that I am simply wrongheaded and wondering why I didn't join the respectable classes.

They didn't quite put it that way. A few weeks ago an item in the Gleaner's historical highlights reminded me of a time when I provoked even more anger. The was an item about the introduction of the National Minimum Wage, (October 22, 1975) a fight begun and carried on Public Eye until it was eventually successful. But not before one stush chatelaine in her stush Benz took deliberate aim and spat at me as I walked on South Odeon Avenue.

October was a busy month for me in the Gleaner's highlights, recounting my close encounter years earlier (October 23, 1960) with the statue of Lewis Quier Bowerbank, one of George William Gordon's murderers. At about midnight on that October night 49 years ago, I unleashed my sledgehammer in protest against Bowerbank and the fact that Gordon was still considered a criminal. People noticed, although only a few knew who the midnight 'vandal' was.
Memories like these amuse me when I read something like this

Maxwell, sometimes I think you encourage slackness too much. Squatters and other so-called underprivileged are responsible for the uglification of Jamaica.
What is it that you have against progress? Do you want Jamaica to continue in poverty and ugliness because people have to "scratch out a living"? "

There exists a whole phalanx of critics who have swallowed gallons of the Globalisation Kool-Aid and who believe that Jamaica would be well on the way to "Take-Off" if only we were more "competitive"
These characters don't realise that we are competitive where it counts: Our interest rates are among the highest in the world, to try to persuade people to rinse their money here rather than in Cayman; We have more underemployed able-bodied skilled and unskilled. people than anywhere else. Our country, instead of being able to be in any way self-reliant,has forgotten how to cook and instead depends on junk-food and imported sugar water for sustenance.
And then they wonder why people are so violent.
Is there anyone in Jamaica who makes his/her own butter? I did at my Uncle Hugh Cork's small farm, first in Tollgate and then in Juno Gully, May Pen. I learned to manage honeybees, goats, cows, chickens, turkeys and rabbits. Our people having been driven off the land can't tell the difference between coco and dasheen or know what you mean when you speak of renta, St Vincent, Lucea or himba. The development of bauxite has obliterated enormous areas of Jamaican culture, devastating farmland, driving fathers abroad and mothers and their children to kraals in inhospitable cities.
The sense of community is destroyed. The artisan skills of the elders is replaced by cheap shoes, cheap clothes, cheap furniture and cheap 'food' from abroad. Our people are adrift in the most extreme shopkeeper culture in the world, ignorant and incompetent to help themselves.
Many of the apparently Jamaican products now merchandised here are imported. No Jamaican farmers are involved. Even some coconut water is imported from southeast Asia. The merchants see no need to foster Jamaican agriculture. After all, they are helping famers, in Thailand, Brazil and California. That's Development!

"Come on, let development proceed and we will have more people getting employment.
I don't know about you but I don't want to live in a country where we have all these underdeveloped establishments"

The 'underdeveloped establishment' would be a community owned beach, run by the community with minimal assistance, perhaps, from state agencies. That was the aim. But there were and are forces in this country determined that poor people should have no autonomy and for nearly forty years they have sabotaged, corrupted and tried to destroy that dream of Hellshire and a productive, autonomous community.

The causes of Squatting

One in every three people in Jamaica is a squatter, driven off the land by bauxite or some other 'development'. We can't afford to find safe housing land because, when the Constitution was being written in 1962 the rich decided that the government effectively must pay cash for any property it wanted. So housing is built on marginal farmland which has defaulted into the hands of government. We lose land for food and endanger the lives of those who live on these lands. We can't plan to develop places like May Pen or Santa Cruz because the speculative vultures have cornered the land markets. Instead we build dormitory disasters on land subject to flooding or landslides.
    In beautiful and historic Falmouth, we are busy making a billion dollar cosy corner for the Royal Caribbean Line on the alleged promise that they will be bringing 6,000 visitors a week to Falmouth What we don't know is that we have probably been conned…

Mr Arthur Frommer is probably the foremost travel writer/publisher in the world. He has been investigating the fabled Oasis of the Seas . Here Is Mr Frommer:

"Starting in May of 2010, Half of the Itineraries of 'Oasis of the Seas' Become Cruises to Nowhere
"You have only to read the actual schedules of the new, 220,000-ton, 6,000-passenger Oasis of the Seas to understand the revolutionary nature of the changes it will bring about. .…
On weekly, seven-night sailings, the mammoth ship leaves each Saturday afternoon from Ft. Lauderdale, … then sailing for six more days and nights. Every week, on all itineraries, it spends three of those six days simply at sea, stopping nowhere. And then, on an itinerary it follows every other week starting in May, it devotes the fourth of those six days to a stop at the "private island" (actually a "private beach") of Labadee on the coast of Haiti. Labadee, as you may have experienced on one of your own cruises, is a totally isolated stretch of sand fenced in by barbed wire and guards from Haiti and Haitians. "
There's more, much more here:http://www.frommers.com/blog/
As I reported nearly a year ago, the new megaships are no longer means of transportation; they are full-fledged resorts in their own right, offering dozens of restaurants, casinos, shops, auctions and other consumerist attractions too grandiose to mention.

The Oasis of the Seas will make land-based hotels irrelevant. Instead of bringing visitors to Jamaica the new ships will bring an ersatz Jamaica to the visitors. Each of these ships will be human zoos specially designed to bemuse their clientele…


'Crapital' (sic) of the world

According to the literature each ship's 'central park' will be basically a mini 'jungle' themed to reflect an imaginary island, say Jamaica, no doubt with its quota of 5 iguanas, 3 crocodiles, 2 dozen parrots, a cage of humming birds and other 'authentic' simulacra of the 'authentic' island experience – about as much authentic 'nature' as a couch potato can stand– and making it unnecessary to actually visit the place.

One cannot help hoping that these benefactors of the sea will have the forethought to include appropriate accommodation in their casinos to display retired politicians and other ginnigogs in their natural habitat.
Given all this, the rationale for the Falmouth cruise shipping centre is simple: There's got to be somewhere to dump the huge amounts of waste generated by such a monumentally environmentally unfriendly project. Falmouth's destiny is to act as a relief point for the ship to be sanitised, resupplied with cheap Jamaican water and for the ship its passengers and crew to offload their excrement in what will become the cruise crapital (sic) of the world. And, thanks to the Port Authority, we get to pay for it – another taxpayer privilege like the Doomsday Highway.
You read it here first.

What is development?

The Kool Aid drinkers, waiting on Deliverance will wait in vain. They will soon discover that there is little difference between the likes of Bernard Madoff and Goldman Sachs apart from the fact that one has immeasurably more 'backative' than the other but they were in their own way, developers, making things happen, destroying pensions nest-eggs and lives.
We in Jamaica, particularly people like Derek Latibeaudiere, would understand this. It is a natural consequence of 'development.'
In Germany there is a substantial number of people who feel differently. They were brought up in a society, like old time Jamaica, where people looked out for each other. This philosophy is even engrained in the law, which mandates what is called "co-determination" in which the workers have a statutory interest in their enterprise, in the goods or services they produce and in the management of their production. Workers sit on the boards of management, even of Krupp and Volksagen.
It was therefore no surprise to me to read two news items from Germany that may have startled some others but didn't really shock me. Just as Goldman Sachs was announcing a bonus fund for its managers equivalent to the GDP of the Greater Antilles, the BMW company was announcing new bonus and pay policy.

Sustainable Culture

"BMW plans to tie executive bonuses to those of its blue-collar workers, in a bid to create a fairer and sustainable compensation environment within the company.
" Starting in 2010, the company will use a common formula to ascertain and award bonuses to its upper and lower level employees, based on the company's performance as measured by profit, sales and other factors. That means that upper level management could potentially lose more money than their lower level counterparts for bad performance, BMW said."
According to a spokesman BMW wanted not only to produce sustainable cars but a sustainable corporate culture.
Mr Golding should perhaps ask My Latibeaudiere to write him a short study on the possibilities of applying these principles in Jamaica
The other news item did startle a few of my friends. Some rich Germans have come together to petition their government to raise their taxes to help their country. For retired doctor Dieter Kelmkuhl, 66, it is time the wealthy came to the aid of their country.
Dr Kelmkuhl estimate that if the 2.2 million Germans who have personal fortunes of more than 500,000 euros (750,000 dollars) paid a tax of five percent this year and next, it would provide the state with 100 billion euros.
Perhaps Mr Golding could ask the Private Sector Organisation to come up with a comparable proposal. It is well known that Jamaican salaries at the top are competitive with the Developed world, and Jamaicans are famous for their generous and benevolent nature – as Lady Nugent and the Caymanians can testify.

We could easily raise the money to build our own cruise-ship. After all,seventy five years ago, the 27,000 small farmer members of the Jamaica Banana Association raised the money to build three ocean going "banana boats" – the Jamaica Producer, the Jamaica Pioneer and the Jamaica Planter, two of them sunk in wartime service.

What couldn't we do if we could get the rich to invest in Jamaica?
If we started by putting money into education (meals, buildings, teachers, playing fields) we would certainly not find it necessary to change Commissioners of Police quite so often.
As the World Bank might say –"Trust us!"

Copyright©2009 John Maxwell – jankunnu@gmail.com

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