Signs Of The Times: #Mosquitofidead

imagesFor the first time in more than 30 years, my sister, Donnette, didn’t come home for Christmas. I’m not amused. Like the wise men from the East, she always comes bearing gifts. These are not last-minute, hit-or-miss purchases. You know the obligatory gifts that nobody actually wants.

Many of my sister’s gifts are handmade. She’s a multimedia artist, masquerading as an attorney. Some of her gifts are exquisite thrift-shop finds. She has mastered the art of hunting for treasure in unlikely places. When I go thrift-shopping with her, I wander aimlessly around the store. All I can see is junk.

After a few minutes of idleness, I feel obliged to ‘find’ something. I usually do very well with books. I like hardbacks and you can find lots of them in very good condition. Americans no longer seem to read books much. And I might pick up a barely-used designer handbag which looks like a bargain at $30. And so it goes.

Then my sister comes and inspects my cart. She imperiously tells me to put back practically everything. The handbag is much too expensive. It will be on half-price sale in a couple of days. And if it’s gone, there’ll always be another one. On rare occasions, she actually approves of one or two of my selections. And I feel relieved. My thrift-shop game is improving.

DIE-HARD JAMAICANS

Thanks to chik-V, my Christmas gifts are languishing up north. Like many other Jamaicans I know, my sister decided it wasn’t worth the risk of infection to come home this year. I can think of at least 35 confirmed cases of the ‘no chik-V Christmas for me’ syndrome. Yes, Dr. Ferguson, we all know that 35 is the magic number.

costbenefitscaleThese fearful souls are die-hard Jamaicans who come home every single year. Sometimes, more than once. After hearing so many chik-V horror stories, able-bodied yardies a foreign did a careful cost-benefit analysis of their holiday options. Stay in the cold, far from those nasty mosquitoes; or come to the warmth of family and friends – and risk a deadly bite. The sensible ones stayed put.

I wonder if Dr Ferguson was thinking about Jamaicans abroad when he tried to hide the truth about the spread of chik-V from tourists. If the Ministry of Health had heeded the early warnings about the threat of the virus, we might have protected that sure tourist market of Jamaicans who come home often. Not to mention all those of us here who have suffered so terribly.

One year, my sister came for Christmas and got dengue. It was not pretty. So I completely understand why she decided not to come this time. She went to Florida instead. I reminded her that chik-V is there. And I promised to dead wid laugh if she got foreign chik-V.

DYING FROM CHIK-V

I really admire those hard-core Jamaicans who decided to brave the mosquitoes. Nothing can keep them away from home. They will always take their chances with us. And if chik-V is going to become endemic in the Caribbean, as the experts say, we’re just going to have to learn to live with it or die from it.

images-1On Christmas Eve, I called the Ministry of Health to get the current estimate of deaths that might have resulted from chik-V. Admittedly, this is not a cheery holiday topic. But unlike so many of our politicians, I don’t believe that ignorance is bliss. We might as well know the truth, however unpleasant.

I wasn’t able to get any figures out of the Ministry. The story goes something like this: We haven’t been able to confirm all the cases that look like chik-V. So we can’t know for sure how many deaths are chik-V-related. The Ministry of Health is still in denial.

I was told to visit the website of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO). I couldn’t easily see an answer to my question. I did find a Gleaner article by Anastasia Cunningham, published on October 4, 2014: “113 Suspected Chik-V-Related Deaths in Region”. According to that report, “Jamaica has recorded at least two deaths suspected to be related to the virus, which has a fatality rate of less than one per cent.”

WHO CARES?

With apologies to Elvis Presley, all I can say is:

Every time you give me figures I’m still not certain that they’re true

Every time you talk to me I’m still not certain that you care

Though you keep on saying we haven’t confirmed the chik-V cases

Do you speak the same words to someone else when I’m not there?

Suspicion torments my heart

Suspicion keeps us apart

Suspicion why torture me?

DV1012H_ackee-and-saltfish_s4x3On Christmas morning, I got this gloating email from my sister: “Ackee and salt fish ready. Mackerel run down running down. ‘Food’ cook and breadfruit and plantain frying”. She’s obviously at home. I don’t even have Christmas cake. My friend, Kemorine, who always gives me one of hers, didn’t bake this year. Her hands weren’t up to it. Yes, chik-V.

Two Sundays ago, I bought a tee shirt, designed by a Jamaican living in Florida. On the front, there’s the now-familiar image of a chicken with a gun and the words, “Chik-V Warrior”. On the back, there’s a clear sign of the times: “#mosquitofidead”. Fi true. Mosquito mash up mi Christmas!

Dem Think Obama Easy!

UnknownTwo spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

Mi no know wa di Republican dem a go do wid Obama. Dem meet dem match. Look how long dem a nyam up demself over im. Obama a president fi more an six year. An it burn dem. Dem can’t mek up dem mind fi dis cease an seckle. Di mad one dem a stick out seh Obama no born a Merica. Dem force im fi ha fi show dem im birth cerfiticket. An all now, some a dem still no satisfy.

Unknown-4Obama naa pay dem bad mind. Im dis a gwaan do weh im ha fi do. One a di big ting im do a fi gi poor people health insurance! White, black, brown. An di bad breed Republican dem a fight im down. Dem just no waan spend no money pon health insurance fi everybody. All when it work out cheaper than fi pay fi poor people go a emergency room. It look like dem Republican never hear seh prevent better than cure.

Not fi mention wa Obama a do fi di whole heap a people dem weh no got no paper fi gi dem leave an licence fi tan eena Merica! Bout 11 million a dem dis a bob an weave. Ascorden to Obama plan, dem deh people can turn citizen ef dem prove seh dem a no criminal. Dem ha fi pay tax, dem ha fi wait an go a di back a di line, an dem ha fi learn English. Di Republican dem waan run dem outa di country. No matter seh some a dem a pikni weh di deh fi di whole a dem life.

An no figet how Obama did sort out di car company dem when autoclaps tek dem! Obama know seh im couldn’t mek dem deh company crash. Too much smaddy woulda no a no work. Im put nuff govament money in a GM an Chrysler. Sixty-two billion dollar! An a so di company dem ketch up back demself. An a di said same way Obama deal wid di bank dem weh did out fi shut down. But im never spend no govament money pon dat. Im get private company fi put een fi dem owna money.

CUBA AN MERIKA MEK UP

One a di biggest ting Obama do a fi mek Merika gree back wid Cuba. Wat no happen eena 53 year happen eena one day. Obama dis seh a time fi done di foolishness. It no serve no purpose fi cut off Cuba. Berlin Wall bruck down an Soviet Union mash up. Di Cold War done, done, done. Mi know seh dat a no di whole a di story. Plenty politics di deh. Merica still a defend democracy an a fight down communism.

But Obama know seh yu ha fi think bout people, no so-so politics. Tings well hard fi poor people eena Cuba. From Soviet Union bruck up, Cuba a struggle. Venezuela did help dem out plenty-plenty. But all Venezuela eena trouble. Oil price a drop. An a di oil money Venezuela a depend pon fi run di country. So dem no have no money fi a gi Cuba.

A now money a go run eena Cuba! Politics or no politics. Nuff Merican tourist a go go deh. An nuff business a go open up. Di Republican dem must a swell up, ready fi buss. Mek dem gweh! Johncrow nyam out dem conscience. An Obama no done wid dem. Im a go gi dem nuff more headache before im time done. Im a go lef one hell of a legacy. Rispek due!

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

Unknown-2Mi no nuo wa di Ripoblikan dem a go du wid Obama. Dem miit dem mach. Luk ou lang dem a nyam op demself uova im. Obama a prezident fi muor an siks ier. An it bon dem. Dem kyaahn mek op dem main fi dis siis an sekl. Di mad wan dem a stik out se Obama no baan a Merika. Dem fuors im fi ha fi shuo dem im bort sorfitikit. An aal nou, som a dem stil no satisfai.

Obama naa pie dem bad main. Im dis a gwaan du we im ha fi du. Wan a di big ting im du a fi gi puor piipl elt inshuorans! Wait, blak, broun. An di bad briid Ripoblikan dem a fait im dong. Dem jos no waahn spen no moni pan elt inshuorans fi evribadi. Aal wen it wok out chiipa dan fi pie fi puor piipl go a imorjensi ruum. It luk laik dem Ripoblikan neva ier se privent beta dan kyuur.

Nat fi menshan wa Obama a du fi di uol iip a piiipl dem we no gat no piepa fi gi dem liiv an laisn fi tan iina Merika! Bout 11 milyan a dem dis a bab an wiiv. Azkaadn tu Obama plan, dem de piipl kyan ton sitizn ef dem pruuv se dem a no kriminal. Dem a fi pie taks, dem a fi wiet an go a di bak a di lain, an dem a fi go laan Ingglish. Di Ripoblikan dem waan ron dem outa di konchri. No mata se som a dem a pikni we di de fi di uol a dem laif.

An no figet ou Obama did saat out di kyaar kompini dem wen aataklaps tek dem! Obama nuo se im kudn mek dem de kompini krash. Tu moch smadi wuda no a no wok. Im put nof govament moni iin a GM an Chrysler. Siksti tuu bilyan dala! An a so di kompini dem kech op bak demself. An a di sed siem wie Obama diil wid di bank dem we did out fi shet dong. Bot im neva spen no govament moni pan dat. Im get praivit kompini fi put iin fi dem uona moni.

KYUUBA AN MERIKA MEK OP

Unknown-3Wan a di bigis ting Obama du a fi mek Merika grii bak wid Kyuuba. Wat no apn iina fifti-chrii ier apn iina wan die. Obama dis se a taim fi don di fuulishnis. It no sorv no porpos fi kot aaf Kyuuba. Borlin Waal brok dong an Suoviyet Yuuniyan mash op. Di Kuol Waar don, don, don. Mi nuo se dat a no di uol a di tuori. Plenti palitiks di de. Merika stil a difen demokrasi an a fait dong komyunizm.

Bot Obama nuo se yu a fi tink bout piipl, no suoso palitiks. Tingz wel aad fi puor piipl iina Kyuuba. Fram Suoviyet Yuuniyan brok op, Kyuuba a chrogl. Venizwiela did elp dem out plenti-plenti. Bot aal Venizwiela iina chrobl. Ail prais a jrap. An a di ail moni Venizwiela a dipan pan fi ron di konchri. So dem no av no moni fi a gi Kyuuba.

A nou moni a go ron iina Kyuuba! Palitiks ar no palitiks. Nof Merikan tuuris a go go de. An nof bizniz a go opn op. Di Ripoblikan dem mos a swel op, redi fi bos. Mek dem gwe! Jangkro nyam out dem kanshens. An Obama no don wid dem. Im a go gi dem nof muor ediek bifuor im taim don. Im a go lef wan el af a legisi. Rispek juu!

ENGLISH TRANSLATION – OBAMA NO PUSHOVER

I don’t know what the Republicans are going to do about Obama. They’ve met their match. They just can’t get over it. Obama has been president for more than six years. And they’re so angry. They just can’t come to terms with it. The crazy ones insist that Obama wasn’t born in America. They’ve forced him to release his birth certificate. And even now, some of them still aren’t satisfied.

Unknown-1Obama isn’t taking them on. He’s just going along, doing what he has to do. One of the big things he’s done is to give poor people health insurance! White, black, brown. And the elitist Republicans are on the attack. They simply don’t want to pay for  universal health insurance.  Even when it’s cheaper, in the long run, than covering the high cost of emergency room treatment for the uninsured. It seem as if these Republican don’t know that to prevent is better than cure.

As for what Obama is doing for all those illegal immigrants!  About 11 million a them are just bobbing and weaving. According to Obama’s plan, these people can an become citizens if they can prove that they’re not criminals. They have to pay tax, they have to wait and go to the  back of the line, and they have to learn English. The Republicans want to herd them out of the country. It doesn’t matter that some of them are juveniles who have lived in the U.S. all their lives.

And don’t forget how Obama sorted out the crisis in the automobile industry! Obama knew he couldn’t allow the industry to crash. Too many jobs would be lost. He injected lots of federal funding in GM and Chrysler. Sixty-two billion dollars! And that’s how those companies recovered. And that’s exactly how Obama dealt with the collapse of the banking sector. But he didn’t use federal money for that.  It was private  investment.

CUBA AND AMERICA MAKE UP

ap89111001348_slide-73c82e0f3c6e88fb9ce68991028afa61120c5144-s6-c30One of the biggest things Obama has done is to start lifting the US embargo on Cuba. What didn’t happen in 53 years has happened in one day. Obama just decided it was time to end the folly.  It makes no sense to cut off Cuba. Berlin Wall has come down and Soviet Union has collapsed. The Cold War is over.  Finished.  Done.   I know that’s not the whole story.  There’s a lot of political intrigue.  The U.S. is still  defending democracy and denouncing communism.

But Obama knows that you have to think about people, not just politics. Things have been extremely difficult for poor people in Cuba. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba started to  struggle. Venezuela did give Cuba lots of financial assistance. But even Venezuela is in trouble. The price of oil has been falling and the Venezuelan economy is dependent on oil revenues. So the country can no longer support Cuba.

But now money will flow freely in Cuba! Politics or no politics. Lots of American tourists will visit. And many businesses will open up. The Republicans must be fit to be tied. Too bad for them! They have no conscience. And Obama isn’t done with them. He’s going to give them even more headaches before his term is up.  He’s going to leave a hell of a legacy. Respect due!

If Lloyd D’Aguilar Is Right …

imagesLloyd D’Aguilar has become a much-ridiculed character since he was banished from the West Kingston commission of enquiry. In cartoons, editorials and newspaper columns, on talk shows and social media, he’s portrayed as an egomaniac, hungry for attention. All because he stood up for principle!

Admittedly, he not only stood up. He spoke out rather loudly for a very good cause: condemning the “kangaroo court” that’s not likely to hand down justice, in his opinion. D’Aguilar should have tried a lot harder to restrain himself when he saw how the enquiry was set up. But it was never going to be easy.

Before the enquiry even started, D’Aguilar applied for “standing”. This is a legal term meaning recognition of someone’s right to participate in a case because of a clear connection to the matter at hand. As convener of the Tivoli Committee, D’Aguilar seemed eligible for standing.

images-1But he was informed that the decision would not be made until the day of the enquiry. This was a problem. The Tivoli Committee would not have time to prepare witnesses and assure them that their interests would be protected. But there was nothing D’Aguilar could do about this arbitrary ruling.

The Tivoli Committee was, in fact, given standing. But there seems to have been some misunderstanding about exactly who was permitted to speak on behalf of the committee. Miguel Lorne, the attorney employed by the Tivoli Committee, was missing in action at the very start of the enquiry.

I PUT IT TO YOU

In the absence of the committee’s attorney, D’Aguilar exercised what he thought was his right to speak. That was the beginning of the end. In his opening remarks, D’Aguilar raised several pertinent issues. In email correspondence with me, he outlined them: “(1) how to deal with language; (2) rules of evidence; (3) visiting Tivoli; (4) compensation”.

Even the blind can now see that D’Aguilar was absolutely right to raise the issue of language. The legal profession is a secret society. And lawyers speak in code. I put it to you that the language of the law is deliberately designed to be confusing. That is why we have to pay lawyers to translate the code words into everyday language.

In addition, the official ‘everyday’ language of Jamaica is English. But the mother tongue of the majority of Jamaicans is not English. Call it what you like – dialect, Patwa, Creole, Jamaican, ‘chat bad’ – it is a distinct language. Most of the words of this language come from English. But the pronunciation, word order and grammar are not English.

UnknownSo here we have a commission of enquiry that is interrogating witnesses in a language the people don’t understand. And that is justice? Confusing ‘rubble’ with ‘rebel’ is just one of numerous examples of the breakdown of communication between witnesses and interrogators.

When the enquiry resumes, professional translators must be employed to ensure that witnesses completely understand the questions they are asked; and interrogators completely understand the answers they get. Failure to acknowledge Jamaican as an official language of the enquiry is a grave injustice. Speakers of the language are dismissed as social rubble. And they will rebel.

‘A POLITICAL HACK?’

I think it’s really wicked that Lloyd D’Aguilar has been dismissed from the enquiry. He has done so much work to ensure that the enquiry take place at all. When a lot of us shamefully forgot about the massacre of civilians, D’Aguilar and the Tivoli Committee kept the issue alive.

Sir David Simmons, chairman of the commission, cannot possibly understand why D’Aguilar was so disturbed by what he perceived as harassment of witnesses by insensitive attorneys for the security forces. All Simmons can see is an upstart – who is not even a lawyer – daring to challenge his authority.

It was certainly not polite of D’Aguilar to call Simmons “an enemy of the people of Tivoli Gardens” and “a political hack”. Simmons, naturally, took offence. In his own words: “This strikes at the heart of my statutory duty.” But it is also Simmons’ duty to take into account the possibility that D’Aguilar could ‘purge’ himself, as the JDF attorneys wanted him to do. With castor oil, perhaps? D’Aguilar should be given a chance to prove that his bowels of compassion are not shut up.

WAS DUDUS IN TIVOLI?

images-2The question I’d like the enquiry to ask is this: Who really believed that Dudus was in Tivoli at the start of the incursion? That might seem like a foolish question. Of course Dudus was in Tivoli. Why else would the security forces go there to look for him? But why would Dudus have sat in Tivoli waiting to be captured? And where was he caught? On the Mandela Highway, in a car with the Rev Al Miller, far from Tivoli!

Was the incursion nothing but a B movie, designed to show the US government that we were really trying our best to find Dudus? There are lots of extras in movies. Sometimes, according to the script, these extras get killed. Did the people who said they would die for Dudus expect play-play guns? The tragedy of the Tivoli incursion is that many people lost their lives. Fi real. They weren’t acting. That’s a very high price to pay to find one man who, perhaps, wasn’t even there.

No Corporate Partying This Year!

weight_of_the_worldLast Sunday, I saw a senior citizen walking on Monroe Road in Liguanea. She looked so weary. She was carrying a bag and it seemed as if it was the weight of the world. I just had to offer her a ride. As we drove off, I asked her how long she’d been walking. She had no idea.

She’d gone downtown to pick up a few things at the market and didn’t have enough money for bus fare. So she’d walked all the way, one step at a time. And she’d stopped frequently to catch up herself. I learned that her name was Joyce. And she told me she’d had a hard life. At one time she had been homeless. But she was now living with her daughter.

I couldn’t help asking Joyce how old she was. As it turns out, she wasn’t all that senior. Chronological age and biological age are sometimes quite different. I was alarmed to find out that Joyce is younger than me. Hard life old yu up fi true! As we parted, I gave her some money. But how long could that last? I knew my small gift was nothing but a Band-Aid for a deep wound.

“WHY THIS WASTE?”

There are so many more people like Joyce in Jamaica today, barely surviving on next to nothing. Those of us who have houses and cars and jobs don’t always stop to see the suffering that is all around us. Things are very, very tough these days for a whole heap of people.

Cynics will tell you that’s just how life is. So wi come an find it. An wi a go dead an left it same way. Can’t do nutten bout it. No one somebody can’t solve the problem of poverty in our society. So just hold yu corner and do the little you can. And live yu life without guilt.

280px-Jan_van_Scorel_002Even fundamentalist Christians have a way of getting ‘philosophical’ about poverty. They quote Jesus: “The poor you will always have with you.” But that’s just half of the sentence. Jesus wasn’t proposing that we do nothing about poverty. He was actually trying to teach his disciples a difficult lesson about getting their priorities straight.

They were annoyed because a woman had anointed Jesus’ head with expensive perfume. So they said to him, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” Jesus answered them with a question: “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.”

WORSE THAN SLAVERY?

It grieves me to admit it. But I speculate that many Jamaicans today are worse off than our enterprising ancestors in the days of slavery. Believe it or not, enslaved Jamaicans had opportunities for making their own money. There was a long-established practice of cultivating provision grounds in their ‘free’ time. And they reaped the benefits of their own labour, selling excess produce. This became the foundation of a very profitable market system.

Coronation Market

Coronation Market

The historian Robin Blackburn reveals in his book, The Making of New World Slavery, that: “The growing proportion of internal commerce and currency in the slaves’ hands was another development encouraged by the provision-ground system which neither planters nor officials could halt.” Blackburn records the estimate that “a third of Jamaica’s currency was in slave hands by the 1770s”.

Almost 250 years later, how much of Jamaica’s currency is now in the hands of the descendants of enslaved Africans? Certainly not one-third! What really happened after Emancipation? And why are we spending so much of the little money we do have on imported food? Instead, we should be supporting the producers of high-quality local provisions.

PIE IN THE SKY

Chik-V has pauperised us even more than usual this year. So many of us mash up! With productivity down and the cost of everything skyrocketing, it’s going be a very ‘salt’ Christmas for most Jamaicans. I suppose a lot of corporate parties are still being planned. I’m suggesting that all the big companies cut the revelry this year and use the substantial savings for a good cause.

pie-in-the-skyInstead of catering for the employed, who really don’t need a Christmas party, corporate Jamaica could feed a lot of people who don’t have the bare necessities. All the upscale caterers and suppliers of expensive food and drink will not be so happy during this season of austerity. But they can still be employed to provide much more economical food baskets that could be distributed through primary schools and churches.

And if, as individuals, we put on one less party, we could also contribute to the cause. Yes, I know it sounds like pie in the sky. But one step at a time, we all can keep moving in the right direction, if we choose. The only images I want to see on the ‘Who’s Who’ pages this holiday season are scenes of collective social responsibility.