Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Demented indeed

Just got in from Christmas Eve drinks at a fairly quiet bar and was a bit astonished to see downtown Georgetown heaving with shoppers along Regent St. - to such an extent that the police blocked off traffic heading east.
A Facebook friend has been writing derisive comments all week about the mad consumer rush for non-required junk and the fact that the average Guyanese has turned into a mindless consumer-- I rather liked his plea: 'Stop shopping mutton'.
The bar itself was fairly interesting -- mainly a younger 'cool' crowd; a quarter of whom were compulsively texting on their cell phones, the guys  looked  a bit 'posey' and the some of the girls a bit over-dressed while others in smart 'afternoon' casual clothes. The amount of vehicles was pretty impressive-- both in the car park for the bar and on the main shopping streets close to midnight. It's a whole different life once I take my nose out of a book!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Way Guyanese Men view Women

In spite of the fact that like the rest of the Caribbean and the developed world, the numbers of women continuing in tertiary education are outnumbering men; Guyanese men seem to be stuck in some sort of Time Warp where women are there to provide cooking cleaning and sex.

Sadly, 'big men', those in positions of power wield their economic power and frequently cross the line of decency, telling themselves the women deserve to be treated like that.  I was appalled that a 21yr old accepted a lift from a much older man to drop her child off to day-care. She reported that she was surprised that he waited back for her and offered her another lift... this time it was ominous, he locked the doors automatically, drove her to a remote location and raped her, made her perform acts seen on pornography, had her say she enjoyed it so she could get a lift back, then tossed her out of the car with a $5000 bill (US $25). She stopped a mobile police patrol who arrested then released the man without investigation and apparently advised her to seek medical advice without telling her to not wash herself until evidence was taken

This sort of behaviour starts all the way from the top-- pathetic men who tell themselves young, poor women are whores and should be flattered by their attention... the main attraction being the cash and other emoluments. Particularly stomach-churning are the instances of Government Ministers indulging in this behaviour... not limited to one particular Party as the previous regime did that also. So I was suitable disgusted to read the transcript of the Anil-gate taped conversation between the relatively 'green' Attorney-General and a reporter of one of the more trashy dailies. The conversation opens with the AG badgering the reporter for the name of the woman reporter because his uncle would like to f**K her/bang her ... Sadly this attitude appears to represent the majority of Guyanese males, judging from the book In The Sly Company of People Who Care.

Being from fairly conservative family, it is an attitude totally alien to me and when I engaged in voluntary work in 1995, I was thinking that the men must be 'backwards' to refuse to let their intelligent young daughters go out to work; now that I have been around for a while-- I understand that that is about the most a poor man can do to protect a beloved daughter, as there are so many wolves in sheep's clothing about.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How Do You Go About Fixing Things....2

Quote from a response to a disgruntled letter ( in the local newspaper: 'the hidden defects of colonization is the silent culprit that will forever influence the leadership psyche of those who aspire to govern.'
One wonders when exactly will we be able to shrug off the mental shackles when even those countries guilty of manipulating the Global system are up Shit Creek themselves?  The letter-writer himself says that 'there is the near total lack of standards and ethics in the national character. It is where many are on the take, and others long to be taken.' and his warning for those on the outside contemplating returning:  'They will run into the steel wall of the local mindset that is ensconced intractably in mediocrity and fear. It is the fear of unskilled, untutored, and unexposed natives who feel threatened and apprehensive that their game might be up, and that they could be sidelined or overwhelmed, or revealed for who they really are; of how much they lack and how prehistoric they just might be.'

So with the happy thoughts above, I note that four students from one of the top high schools were posted on Facebook quite unashamedly engaging in oral sex seemingly at school (turns out in a private home but they were in school uniform) -- of course the girls giving the boys--- still a sex imbalance in the field. No doubt the ready availability of pornography via cell phones has contributed to the desensitizing of the act and as someone noted-- they WANT to be caught. There seemed to be a free exchange among adults before FB pulled the video. One suggestion was to expel them...then what? This was the same school where a teacher or two were caught on camera exposing their backsides and underwear during a post-election upheaval incident. It strikes me that we simply are overwhelmed - bad parenting notwithstanding, it is difficult to police people shrieking Human Rights while breaking whatever rules-- unwritten moral ones and written ones referring to a bygone era.
The so-called leaders just out to get the glory of leadership while being clueless about what to do-- I left our little (un)friendly society when the members started belly-aching about poorly qualified people coming out from the local university while making plans to employ them?
The mindset of no tomorrow has sadly extended to the more accessible interior - overhunting and fishing is beginning to make its presence felt and I feel a bit sorry for the locals who might have been dependent on supplementing their subsistence farming, but I am reliably informed the young are now all drifting to the cities to engage in the local hustle of money by any means.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Unsurprising really

The news reported that a 40-something yr old Liberian decided in early September to join his family in the US as the Ebola epidemic is poised to explode further. He had no strong ties to Liberia, living in a rented room. He assisted his landlord's family to carry their 19yr old 7-months pregnant daughter to several hospitals but she could not be admitted as there were no beds. She died of the disease a few days later, apparently having caught it from a cousin who came to visit her at home-- now with all the information going around ... why the need for touch?? Dying of ignorance! I believe the man knew he was at risk and I was reading the outraged comments of Americans who are furious that he was admitted into the US to sponge off their health system. To which I say-- the world is interconnected-- you can't manipulate the system to be top-dog and think that it would not find a way to bite you in the backside at a later date!  Extreme poverty is responsible for the unwarranted spread of this disease... the variables that could lessen the terrible outcomes all have this as their root cause- from simple communication of health promotion messages and alternatives to dangerous practices, to lack of beds to isolate the infected from transmitting the disease.
I read of the UK Foreign Secretary -Philip Hammond considering the alternative to last-minute efforts - that of letting the disease run its course--- sounds cruel but what else can you do with such large numbers of people? If that would be the case, the world can expect hordes of the educated ones with the means to 'visit' friends and relatives in 'safe' countries by any means - I would certainly be considering that possibility if I were in their shoes!  In fact, I half-expected something of that sort when Sierra Leone announced their shut-down for three days! Truly interesting times we live in.

PS -- most amusing to see the Americans getting their knickers tied up in a twist... one faux-pas after another: from totally missing the possibility to an Ebola case in Texas -- the man's nephew having to contact the CDC in Atlanta  to forcing the man's family to stay in the apartment where he had shed bodily fluids, confusion about getting a 'specialist crew' to decontaminate the place (shouldn't they be moving the humans out??!) then the crew not being given permission to transport the linen he used. What will they do if there are more then 10 cases?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bad Governance

The newspaper today has a Reuters' article about the President of The Gambia in West Africa voicing concern about pirates ramming boats just off Europe and being responsible for the deaths of many illegal immigrants to Europe. I heard a BBC report earlier this week and the gruesome details albeit on radio left a graphic picture in my head that I just cannot shake: A Palestinian man recounted that a (pirate's) boat rammed their boat carrying illegal immigrants to Europe (at  U$4000 per person), in the ensuing confusion, he and his brother clung to a piece of wood and between them tried to save a baby when died of hypothermia; he further stated that he saw a desperate survivor clinging to the (pirate's) boat and the men leaning over and hacking the hands off the body!  Such appalling inhumanity but in the next breath the Palestinian said he wanted to go to Sweden where he had family and find a job. Gaza is pretty much totaled. How many people can Europe hold, even with the best intentions? And what about the swelling numbers of their unemployed--- currently seeding better educated and tech savvy disgruntled young people who feel no empathy and strong cultural ties with their country of birth/residence ?
I replied back to the President of The Gambia... what was he doing to keep his people safely in his country? Small bands of elites in Africa mimicking their counterparts in the developed world are leading to increasingly desperate peoples. Sierre Leone has just instituted quarantine measures without seemingly giving thought to how people would get basic supplies to live, including food-- even if people started a kitchen garden, it would be at least a few months before they can reap anything-- which led to the problem in the first place-- the possible zoonotic transmission of the Ebola virus from a different species into humans-- eating bushmeat.  Sadly this can be repeated in Latin America and pretty much elsewhere.

29/9/14 Yep:   'Though far from over, the crisis has demonstrated how ill-equipped the multilateral system is to cope with global public health emergencies, particularly in the world’s weak and failing states. In an increasingly globalized world, it is illusory and hazardous to imagine that fragile states can cope with such emergencies on their own, cordoned off from the rest of the world.'

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Voluneetering-- how does this work in practice?

So it seems to me surprising that the most important and exhausting tasks are left on the shoulders of those a bit more community-minded than most.  I read about UNICEF looking for (qualified) volunteers in Nutrition, Risk Communication and Water + Sanitation for the West African countries currently affected by the Ebola outbreak.  While I understand the urgency of the situation and the need for a quick-fix solution and maybe a sane system might develop from an ad-hoc one ( but I pessimistically don't think so!) - surely focusing on building local capacity using their volunteers might be a better long-term solution?

I have been compulsively following whatever Ebola news has been grudgingly picked by Google-- Fox News (???) and the established networks and cussing lack of news to disseminate the important things without a 'spin'- couldn't any network find a local person with a mobile telephone to call in daily reports?   I think the Washington Post or the NT Times had a video about the 'burial boys' of Sierra Leone -- 20-something yr olds, some who used to be  taxi-drivers and who volunteered to do the unenviable task for burying the dead victims, facing - being infected, outrage from the communities not being allowed to honour their  dead and ostracism from their family and immediate community from running the possible risk of infection.  They were initially not paid and are now on a princely sum of U$6 per day -- really-- we grudge them THAT paltry sum for risking their lives??

The question of finance is a tricky one -- medivac-ing ain't cheap as presumably there are not many specialised units. I read reports that to evacuate the first American doctor was U$ 2 million then U$1 million per person -- whatever it is: plenty money and yes-- brave of them to volunteer (when they did the outbreak wasn't 'on') and also wise of their agency to have back-up insurance but I mourn the loss of the local healthcare workers -- we are told that when they realised that they had contracted the disease-- no-one was digging into their pockets to medi-vac them to Germany which one assumes had agreed to treat them--- well people-- how does THAT work-- the nightmare (and cost!) of getting a local person to the level that you can communicate with on an intellectual level and you leave them without (financial) support?  On what basis does the world decide to spend billions and then ignore local capacity?  PAY/MAKE AVAILABLE MONEY FOR THE DAMM PEOPLE!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Globalisation - is it a good thing?

So, with the tragedy in West Africa (Ebola infections) being made worse by governments without a risk management strategy of any sort-- all three initial countries barely struggling to keep peace between different factions--  the exacerbation caused by effects of globalisation can be seen.
Attempts to cordon off reputed affected areas are being met with resistance as fears about regular food supplies in urban areas and other goods and services in the more rural areas are quite rightly being raised-- official responses seem very ad hoc and would not inspire confidence in the populations that the people in charge have their well-being at heart.  Add the declining international transportation services to those areas to the  mix with dwindling non-local supplies and no wonder the people are inclined to riot!  Rather reminiscent of Italian city states during the plague.
So where are the smart asses who devised the grand plan that countries should not be self-sufficient and instead  join the global rat race? And what suggestions do they have for desperate people without even means of basic protective barriers? Even more worrisome is that the majority of population in the worse hit country (Liberia) are illiterate and the most effective communication means is by radio and as knowledgeable people in the front-line decline there are not many others to take up the slack. Typical - destroy the local capability to create a band of elites to tie into the global system then stand back and wash your hands of the situation when it all gets out of control!

29.9.14: 'Though far from over, the crisis has demonstrated how ill-equipped the multilateral system is to cope with global public health emergencies, particularly in the world’s weak and failing states. In an increasingly globalized world, it is illusory and hazardous to imagine that fragile states can cope with such emergencies on their own, cordoned off from the rest of the world.'

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How Do You Go About Fixing Things?

Well -- thanks to the generosity of the people at American universities, I have been amusing myself watching MOOCs and other You Tube videos. I took a double take at a University of Berkeley one which was talking about surveillance... without knowing where cases are... what action can we take?

This is sooo applicable to Guyana: one always gets a feeling that something devious is afoot with all  the cloak and dagger stuff - statistics are not published on a regular basis and some official is second-guessing why you want one.  For instance, I have noted that there are increasing anecdotes about a form of dengue fever in the Eastern part of Guyana - some call it Chikungunya virus but in the absence of a Lab in Berbice -- it could be another form of dengue as the symptoms are alarmingly the same: high fever for about a week, severe aches in the joints-- to the extent that mobility is affected and lasting several weeks, general lassitude. There were odd cases back in May which then snowballed to practically everyone in Berbice knowing someone who had it-- worse hit seem the villages in central Corentyne.  The outpatient clinics at the Public facilities are filled to overflowing and as I commented - the private doctors are raking in the profits by charging for some kind of pain-killing injection at $5000 (U$25) a pop whose effects do not even last a day - in fact their clinics are so busy the quacks have taken up the slack and even the pharmacies are selling the injection directly for $3000.  In the meantime-- not a word from the Ministry of Health -- who usually swing straight into denial mode and protestations of having a system in place!
I personally find it appalling that the people up there are uninformed about the type of mosquito to avoid--  the daytime ones-- particularly the ones with white bands and that the local councils are not pro-active in clearing sources of standing water.  I have seen a few informative newspaper ads in one of the local papers but I feel it is a lazy approach. Here is one recent (private) reporting on the problem:     but as someone commented it is a shame to have to pay to read about a national Disaster in the making!           On the other hand, my dealing with the Ministry of Health some years back, was that they had spent their budget roughly 6 months in advance so clearly have no money to do anything while the Government is finding millions of dollars to give a favoured few to 'celebrate' the freeing of the slave population back in the 1800s -- wise move people!
So first move is a dispassionate analysis of what is wrong/seems to be the problem....

Post Script: Ebola was first brought to the attention of 'authorities' by a doctor in Guinea who noticed that three patients had died of cholera-like symptoms-- unlike Guyana, his superior forwarded the information until it reached the Ministry of Health

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Brave New World...

... and definitely a head-scratcher for an Ethics Committee:

Making the rounds on FB, an Australian couple sought to have a Thai woman make their babies for them. First question - is it right to exploit poor women's wombs in this fashion? I have just started Paul Farmer's "Pathologies of Power" and only at the introduction -- this strikes me as exactly wrong-- because of gross inequality and what's termed structural violence the 'choice' by the Thai or any poor woman to earn money is limited. And in the whole of Australia-- they couldn't find anyone- then could this be a morally incorrect thing to do ?

Turns out of the eggs that were fertilized and successfully implanted, fraternal twins resulted-- one boy and one girl.  Apparently in the contract's fine-print, the surrogate signs to agree to an abortion on request - again-- is this right that another person/s decide on what happens to a  socially-disadvantaged person's body?  At the 4 month check, it was discovered that the boy baby had Down's syndrome and the Aussie parents requested an abortion -- how wonderful is medical science to be able to kill one child in the womb and not affect the other? I strangely have no problem with parents choosing to abort a fetus if they think they would not have the time and money to spend on the child when born-- however at 4 months, I feel it borders on cruelty to abort a viable fetus in addition to making the procedure more dangerous for the mother/person carrying the child - apparently at such a late stage it involves, for a single child- the docs cut up pieces including crushing the skull and pulling through a dilated cervix... I am guessing in this case they would inject some poisonous substance to kill off the 'bad' fetus  but wondering how it would not affect his sister?  (Clamp the placenta, then inject something poisonous then cut,crush and extract?)  Anyhow apart from the medical mystery, the Thai woman refused. On delivering the twins, the parents swooped in and carried off the girl! The boy was detected to have problems with his heart.  Should they be liable for his upkeep and subsequent medical bills as one presumes the Thai woman is pretty poor?

Also, this all has seemingly happened under the radar of the Thai and Aussi officials. Is this right?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Multilateral Diplomacy for Small States

by Rudy Insanally

After the 'storm in a teacup' response to one of the Ministers' publicity stunts, I thought I would take down this book from the shelf and actually get around to reading it.

After finishing the introduction, it didn't bode too well as those countries who dominated the world after WWII and took plum positions, for example in the Security Council of the UN, are most reluctant to widen the playing field and acknowledge changing world situations - like the Asian tigers,BRICS countries and a peaceful united Germany.
I liked the smart cover that had a built-in bookmark but although he mentioned the book was unplanned in the sense that he had to look through and reconstruct his old speeches, I thought some dates might have been useful to get an idea of the timing of events - there wasn't even the year of publishing in the front!
Ch 1 noted growing inequalities within and between countries and the helplessness of the UN to address these problems due to lack of funds and political will. Many initiatives have failed and the two main Agendas have been distilled to:  the one for Development and the other for Peace. That's where Cheddi Jagan's New Global Human Order is mentioned as one giving broad suggestions on how both Development and Peace may be achieved by finding 'common ground on which future international cooperation  can be solidly founded, and to provide a comprehensive and holistic framework for development.'  Interestingly the writer notes that 'democracy often means not greater people participation and consensus, but the rule of the powerful and its manipulation of the majority.  Democracy is increasingly a cloak for government by oligarchy...' 

Ch 2 begins to put dates in some of the speeches and basically notes that the UN peace-keeping role would be strengthened if all countries gave up financing their armies and paid to a central fund-- for some reason scenes from the Star Wars sequels kept popping up in my head - whether it would at all be possible to persuade countries to give up their armies-- however that would free up a lot of money and resources to fund a central Peace-Keeping force. My take - It would make sense to have an overall coordinating body now that crimes are becoming trans-national eg. drug-smuggling and have sub-regional bodies with various branches having autonomy. How THAT would work is questionable seeing that Guyana is unable to haul in the local Drug-Lords who one assumes are under the control of larger organisations? However, the writer notes that instability undermines States which have then have the ability to affect economies - he then notes the pros and cons of nationalism vs internationalism, that while sovereignty should be respected - if gross inequality results it ought to be subjected to the imperatives for global good. The question then asked was how can trustworthy procedures be found? How can consensus be found? I began to see why the UN seem 'stuck' at times.

Ch 3 commented on the upheavals around the world and the need for the UN to gets its Agenda for peace rolling; the author again makes the point that this is closely aligned with the Agenda for Development as persistent economic marginalization leads to instability and conflict. Maintenance of peace seems to fall under the mandate of the Security council, but I was surprised to learn that rape and using children in conflict is not considered a criminal act?  Why ever not? Looks like a case for strengthening the International Court of Justice also with everyone agreeing to abide by its ruling.

Ch 4 dealt with problems that small states, in particular, face with even getting started after post-colonization, especially when the developed countries hold hold all the financing trump cards - many times being unable to fulfil their pledges or deliberately withholding - in fact the suggestion was made several times that an NGO suggested that in addition to recipient countries being made to jump through hoops to prove that they are using the money as intended; those countries not fulfilling their donation promises should be 'named and shamed' - the Nordic countries and Netherlands being the only regular subscribers who do not default.

Ch 5 writes about the importance of ensuring every human being get basic human rights, the establishment of the International Criminal Court being important to ensure the Rule of Law.(I was surprised to learn our neighbour T&T had made the original suggestion!) Interestingly although elections are cited as being important instruments for ascertaining popular will and facilitating democratic governments;  more important is the structures in place for the people to internalizing this process-- meaning participatory government. Education playing a vital part in promoting social cohesion, along with health and housing and halting social disintegration. He notes that newer post-colonial countries need help in establishing these and that there also ought to be democratization between countries and also between the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions to prevent duplication of efforts. He also called for more moral responsibility in international relations.  Here also he mentioned the Charter of the UN - 'enshrining the fundamental principles of human behaviour by which... succeeding generations might be spared the scourge of war'.

Ch 6  points out that the developed countries 'developed' with blatant disregard for the environment both in their countries and those they colonised and they ought to bear that in mind when linking development finance to new forms of restrictions.  I couldn't quite agree with his assertion that cutting down one greenheart tree encourages on average 5 saplings to grow- as it takes about 100 yrs for a tree to reach maturity  and also there are no figures to show how Guyana practises sustainable development apart from dodgy Government ministers mouthing off with untransparent figures.

Ch 7 talks about the implication of globalization for small states and about three pages later notes the reason why it is likely to fail( my take not the author's): 'the conduct of international relations depends on the full respect for the principle of the sovereign of equality of states'. Sadly it looks as if small states will continue to be screwed. The author however is optimistic that establishing a task force the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC) 'to find ways and means to promote policy outcomes and institutional capacity building measures that will link the outcomes of the series fo inter-related international conferences already head.' He envisages that the G-77, which in fact has over 100 members, and China would support efforts to strengthen the General Assembly in the discharge of its Charter responsibilities to provide international economic and social cooperation. In Ch 8 he reiterates that a global common good of a fair international financial system would ensure a strong macroeconomic regime and establish appropriate policies and surveillance to ensure stability.  It would be interesting to note who benefits from an an unstable system and what degree of influence they have on the international stage?

Ch 8 I found most interesting as it dealt with reform of the UN and how those countries enjoying the privileges they gave themselves after WWII in 1945 are reluctant to acknowledge the changing world situation which gives them an unfair advantage in many fields.  Then I thought back to the American Ambassador concerned about democracy in Guyana-- that those entrenched in a position to reap the perks while the rest of the country degenerates and fights among themselves for the crumbs; his earnest wish that one person /one vote would count and reflect the true wishes of the people to ensure a more equitable distribution of the wealth (if any) and laughed out loud because THAT is exactly what the USA is NOT doing on the world stage as regards the UN -  clearly a case of 'the kettle calling the pot black' but in the US's case worse as they do not pay their dues (now in Guyana that would mean you cannot vote-- mmm-- we better than the UN who still allow the US to veto action that would curb their aggressive allies like Israel) in addition to imposing their poor foreign policies on the rest of the world! Nice example of democracy ya'll.

Ch 9 deals with problems that Small States face with the end of the Cold War period and the emergence of stronger northern alliances. He suggested more South-South co-operations and indeed the BRICS countries this week announced that they would support an new bank - maybe more responsive to developing country needs as the Bretton Woods Institutions seem resistant to change and primarily interested in preserving the status quo - nothing like competition to stimulate change! The emergence of the TIMP countries represent a new group maybe frustrated with the foot-dragging going on at the UN.It does appear that in unity there is strength but it it would mean a certain maturity to put away petty jealousies, also clear definitions of guidelines.. he noted that distrust of the other's motive was the main kicker to unity  (that I can attest to as it seems to me most friendly societies over here very quickly degenerate into vehicles for people's egos and their personal promotion or the members join in name only and one is forced to confront the awfulness of other people!)
He ends with some good suggestions but assumes that the intelligent people are in a position to make decisions when, in fact, the Law of the Jungle rules and the most cunning elbow their way to the top and promptly see those who are needed as threats to their status quo.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First do no harm...

In this video, the doctors in Zaire in 1995, in desperation, transfused untreated blood to get the Ebola antibodies into a new case who was one of the nurses they worked with - patients generally last up to 10 days after first manifesting the symptoms. The Virus is more hardy that the HIV/AIDS virus and can be spread by skin contact and even indirectly by an object touched by an secretions from an infected person, making it doubly hard on the victim to not have any human contact when sick as those treating them have to be clothed in plastic clothes which are destroyed immediately after use and then they have to be doused down liberally in bleach/chlorine solution.

I was struck how in the 21st Century a country with poor resources had to resort to 18th Century means -- it reminded me of how Jenner 'discovered' vaccines and the initial reaction against compulsory smallpox vaccinations arose because other diseases were transmitted due to the initial untreated transfer of bodily fluids.
I mused that the foreign scientists there, mainly from the (American) CDC,  bent on researching the origin of the virus (they think transmitted by bats) disapproved but did not offer to provide a sterilizing unit although the initial response to the transfusions - 7 out of the 8 suspected cases - did not die. It was reported that 1 patient out of 20 survives, but because they have the virus in their system-- presumably have to live a quarantined existence -- maybe we ought to take lessons from Cuba- in building habitable isolation/quarantine units where people don't mind living an isolated existence, until a cure can be found? Totally taken from my History in Health assignment!

(McNeil Jr, D. G., 2012. Cuba’s Fortresses Against a Viral Foe. New York: New York Times.)

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Big Sea by Langston Hughes

An autobiography which starts at Sandy Hook, newly notorious for the shooting to death of 20 primary school students by a teenaged nutter in 2013.  The book is about a young man trying to find a place in racist America of the post WW1 era. After being unable to find work in NY, he is thrilled to get a job on a ship going to Africa but is disgusted by the racist exploitation of the Africans and dismayed to not be accepted by the native Africans as 'one of them' and is not allowed to see a African Ju-Ju ceremony.
It is amusing that he starts writing poetry as that was the post he was given in his High School paper on the assumption that Black people were naturally versed in rhythm and verse! (it certainly is in his case - his poem The Breath of a Rose:

Love is like dew                       Love is like star-light                    Love is like perfume                      
On lilacs at dawn:                  In the sky at morn:                   In the heart of a rose:                
Comes the swift sun               Star-light that dies                        The flower withers,
And dew is gone.                     when day is born                      and the perfume goes-

Love is no more
Than the breath of a rose  ----- is very rhythmical - he says set to song- interestingly I couldn't find the lyrics online but instead a Swedish proverb: Love is like dew that falls on both nettles and lilies - mmm wonder if he knew that?) He seems to be a light-skinned Black person who is well placed to give an outsider's perspective.
Part 2 deals with his sojourn in Paris, it was interesting to read from a Black perspective and I was glad he wrote it and was able to compare with Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast -

He visited parts of France, Italy and Spain on a shoestring and found people who both aided and hindered him - just like in real life I suppose.

Part 3 deals with his return and subsequent struggle to survive in NY. He mentioned the fame of Harlem in the 1920s which crashed in 1929 with the beginning of The Great Depression. As always, the lack of money and the dependence on the those who had-- the whites -- influenced the way the Blacks had to live. There is thinly veiled resentment at the middle-classed Blacks for not supporting Black artists and his efforts to start a quarterly newspaper - Fire -went up in flames - literally: the writers/starters being unable to pay their contributions to keep it going and the loan to print the first edition not relieved by sales -- sounds a bit like the other book I am reading - the UN: starting with good intentions, hampered by lack of funds and goals not fulfilled.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

UN Charters

Finding that it's taking me a longer time to read 'Multilateral Diplomacy for Small States' than I thought.  When the UN formally came into being it had two main goals - one for Development and the other for Peace, because they are intrinsically linked.
As Donne says, no-man is a island and we are all linked. Those countries perceived as 'successful' are having serious border breaches as refugees do whatever it takes to abandon their country of birth and migrate, frequently not fully conversant in the new language and culture - clearly those people represent the more aggressive and enterprising and have the potential to be assets to their new countries as the founder of English economics Adam Smith says - ‘By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.'  Ayaan Hirsi Ali would be a good example.  However a vast majority develop both mental and adaptive difficulties and really wouldn't the better solution be to ensure the the UN Charters get a chance to work so people do not feel such desperation that they send their children unaccompanied, as in the recent case of the Honduran children now being shipped back from the US?

 Looking further afield, the tragic loss of AIDS researchers among others, having their plane blown apart reportedly by a surface-to-air missile while flying over an area of unrest goes to show that the ostrich approach can't and wouldn't in a Martin Carter poet: ' Like a jig shakes the loom. Like a web is spun the pattern all are involved! all are consumed!'   
Unrest within and between countries have the potential to impact all our lives... who knows what the contributions to society any of the 80 children in the airplane shot out of the sky could have made? If the UN was stronger then the issue in Ukraine might merit more attention and Israel would not be firing on unarmed civilians? It would do those people who feel that they can perform better themselves to remember that, there may come a time when they might need the support of a larger independent body-- the ending of the last blog about Ayn Rand can be used as a metaphor!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The 'Asshole Effect'

Thanks to technology, ideas generated in an opposite part of the world can reach here simply by a click of a button!
The British newspaper "The Guardian' online reviewed Anne Manne's new book, The Life of I: the new culture of narcissism, published by Melbourne University Press  and introduced the term coined by US psychologist Paul Piff who found that those who thought they were superior to others eg perceived wealth,  felt a sense of entitlement and superiority over everyone else - thus more deserving.

BINGO -- that explains the mess we're in entirely.
Piff conducted a series of revealing experiments - a traffic one where 'Researchers positioned themselves at crossroads. They watched out for aggressive, selfish behaviour among drivers, and recorded the make and model of the car. Piff found drivers of expensive, high-status vehicles behave worse than those sputtering along in battered Toyota Corollas.They were four times more likely to cut off drivers with lower status vehicles.'...... I totally put the unsuitable, oversized vehicles that families are buying their seemingly stupid young men to drive on the roads of Guyana in that category.  However, here the old battered Corollas driven by illiterates who seem oblivious to the rules of the road also exist....

'As Piff says, this goes way beyond the individual, to noxious social attitudes – like being punitive towards the poor while living the "because I’m worth it" lifestyle. As a society becomes wealthier, it can get more narcissistic, less empathetic and unwilling to look after the vulnerable.'  Guyana with its overnight, unaccountable wealth has indeed bred such individuals-- no sense of community whatsoever-- having risen from the hand-out-for-help mentality - they still harbour the 'I need to get what I can while I can' mentality not realising that they have reached the top bracket monetarily  where one 'gives back' to society so it can keep functioning --- sort of not kill off the goose laying the golden eggs.
The article ends with this wry observation: 'The whole idea of "leaners" and "lifters" is the central teaching of the right wing ideologue, Ayn Rand, who penned books like The Virtue of Selfishness. It’s a self-serving crock. Rand found out the hard way. After a lifetime proselytising on behalf of the "producers" and denouncing anyone needing government assistance as "parasites," when Rand became old and sick, she discovered that even a bestselling author could not afford health care in the neoliberal US. She availed herself of Medicare and ended her life on what she had despised – social security.'

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Portrayals of female working-class Afro-Guyanese experiences - spoiler alert

Jesus removed my grave clothes - Joy Wilson
Frangipani House - Beryl Gilroy

This year the book selections got jiggled around and I happen to have the two above to finish before the next meeting... made for an interesting comparison.

The first could do with a lot of editing - its raison d'etre being the message that God - the Christian one - used the writer's life to show that a worthwhile one could emerge from a dysfunctional coupling and sexual abuse and the latter - a more polished presentation used the device of flashbacks of women in a nursing home run by a Nurse Ratched type (One flew over the cuckoo's nest).

I got the message that God was the saving grace in the first woman's story (why did He drop her in the mess in the first place I wonder?) and was fascinated while reading it that other religions, making up the majority in Guyana, weren't mentioned -- perhaps not counting in the writer's consciousness. She carefully screened out seemingly, the rest of the other races in Guyana also; which I found odd as being a multi-ethnic and religious place, I felt, was one of the best things about Guyana - anyway it's the woman's story and her prerogative. She was careful to shield recognition of any person which sort of spoiled the fun for me - I like local films if only to recognize the locations. In spite of Hoyte's economic miracle, the writer toyed with the idea of 'hiding' in NY in the late 80s when she got her US visa but nixed the idea when she couldn't get the UN job she wanted and returned to Guyana.  From having such a dysfunctional upbringing I credited the close female network that supported her-- (which the other writer alludes to - in that story the nurse daughter who migrated to NY looks contemptuously at her mother's life and poverty and doesn't appreciate the warm kinship ties stronger than 'family') but wondered why she was hell-bent on producing so many children when her focus was on educating herself and moving up the career ladder... she had to stop at four for medical reasons. The children seemed to have turned out ok, one becoming a doctor and the other an economist and doing the classic Guyanese thing of migrating.  After putting up with her husband's philandering the couple in the first book settle down to becoming a solid couple with him supporting her rise in the church to the consternation of the brothers who feel that a woman's place should be one of submission to the man but seeing as she gets her masters degree from UWI there's not that much they can object to and I got the impression she was heading to becoming a Minister in the Church.  Not that I would want to be accused of being a cynic or anything, but that career path seems the most promising in Guyana in the absence of strong Government and social service policies.
In the second book, at the end we find out that the protagonist's best friend kills her abusive husband but the woman is hard-working and turns her hand to anything  to make money to support the children (and later the grandchildren when the daughters migrate and send then back to be raised by the grandmother) eventually by taking in laundry and making roadside snacks.
There is a strange similarity between the books as the girls grow up, get tied up in their lives while depending on the older women for support - like minding the children when young and then apparently forgetting about them in their hour of need - leaving them to battle the loneliness of old age and dementia by themselves and the kindness of strangers.

Shut up and stop making things worse!

So SN today reports Luncheon as unapologetically 'standing by his minion' saying a no less august body than Cabinet (!!) agreed that the most appropriate forum to express their dissatisfaction with the outgoing/gone US Ambassador was at his farewell.  Mmm, their memories must be poor indeed as I remember the fragile-thin, criticism-sensitive President before this current one who  took this Machavillian observation much to heart: 'Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.'  and got a Sikh Indian Ambassador removed for some innocuous remark which he construed as criticism about himself. How come they cabled New Delhi so fast, following all diplomatic protocols that only until the poor man had left we knew about it?

More hilarious yet, is one of the many ex-Vice Presidents of the Burnham era, allegedly in charge of the 'thug unit' responsible for breaking up opposition meetings of the past, in his current role as Mayor of Georgetown thanks to the current Government's laxity and the man's conviction that he was born to be a leader, writing that he was part of the heckling crowd at the US Embassy whom he describes as 'responsible' and 'high-profile' - right!  I sincerely hope the US is not stoking trouble that ignited the race riots of the 60s which Guyana is only slowly recovering from.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Biting the Hand that feed ya...

After a period of self-imposed isolation, the tragi-comedy that is Guyana burst into my consciousness with the Headlines of the the recently lauded (by a US University) Education Minister, standing in for the  Foreign Minister (the jobs are juggled between the favoured few who then whinge that they don't have people to do the 'wuk' and they have to wuk so hard!) and going to the US Ambassador's farewell do and dragging up the US sins of interfering with the country's affairs in the 50s to the present time of imposing their wishes on small States.  Not the most diplomatic thing to do, especially as the US had worked out ages ago that this particular Minister is amenable to being manipulated and recently awarded her an award for services to the Guyanese people which the thinking few think is ludicrous as back in the day when the supposed service occurred, nothing positive resulted - apart from bits of paper and outright support for people abusing those in her portfolio she was mandated to protect!   One assumes that she also got the Guyanese state to pay, no doubt, for her to have her two children in the US thence making them bone fide US citizens- hardly the most tactful thing to do then - buse down that country's representative - as this is your 'go-to' country?
I can't say I entirely disagree with her -- as the US is no shining example of democracy themselves but I wondered if the niggling sore-point was that the Guyana Government has to declare all the assets held by US citizens to the US government - yeah baby-- the US IRS is known to be particularly vigilant and immune (at our level!) to 'knowing someone' unlike their Guyanese counterparts.  Speaking as a small business owner - the situation in Guyana is such that the small pool gets a shake-down for increased revenues while the undocumented keep building higher and unfeasible buildings but 'are not on the books', this can only be a good thing.. right?
I had a good laugh that the Minister got slammed for crude behaviour but no-one thought to comment about the crowd at a 4th of July US Embassy celebration who would heckle her to the extent I was unable to hear the recording-- truly she represents what is now Guyana's society....but then SN published a picture of part of the crowd and there was the guy who had instigated disgruntled losers of an election to start fires on the main shopping street and storm the President's office--THAT's who gets invited to these things?? No wonder the goodly minister had a moan about them interfering in the country's affairs!  It's the equivalent of Putin donating money and supporting Farrakhan's unit ...mind you I agree with some of his rantings!.. maybe the white supremacists of the Kentucky hills perhaps?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Changing face of Georgetown -- 2

For whatever reason --  monitoring more closely monies out of Guyana by people barely literate -- there has been a minor building boom in GT, oblivious to things such as fire regulations, drainage and other people's boundaries. Guyana seems to have caught up with 16th Century Europe where Balzac noted derisively in Cousin Bette, that the 'new' way to make money was to buy and divide property to rent out as units - both domestic and commercial. This seems the current vogue.. wonder where the proposed exploited are expected to get money to pay, from?
Clearly not only Guyanese, but two international hotels-- the Marriott and Ramada foresee a boom in visitors and are trying to bring hotels with International standards here once again. Again I ask, where would the average Joe get the wherewithal to pay?
Someone noted at all new buildings being proposed to be rented out be mandated to provide parking for at least 50 cars. This NIMBY attitude (Not In My Backyard) attitude has to stop somewhere. A local person has taken it upon himself to build a building for three apartments on the corner of a relatively upmarket area-- in addition to carrying out using the road for mixing and storing materials and obstructing traffic I note there is no parking!
It is extraordinary how myopic those with new money are!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

How to see a Jaguar in the Wild...

... destroy its habitat.
keep seeing this BBC documentary on our education channel where the crew got very excited to capture a jaguar on one of their trip cameras.
My hunter guy was just telling me that he saw three jaguars, two margays and two ocelots on a recent trip down past the 'waist' of Guyana. I thought there was protected territory but apparently it has been 'sold' to the Chinese who are busy cutting down the trees-- yep the virgin rainforest soon will be no more-- my guy said that the diameter of one log was coming under 6 feet. Even allowing for exaggeration, the implication that we have no clue about what is going on past Linden is fairly worrying.  I guess there's not much publicity about it cos there are little or no Guyanese workers! You would think after all the environmental damage in China they would be at least a bit concerned about climate change?  But these International agreements are dependent on the locals to institute protection clauses? It was said that the huge tract of land given to the Barbadians is part of the Rupununi wetlands- for large-scale agriculture; and there are currently no laws governing what chemicals can be used - Rachel Carson must be turning in her grave--as apparently the people signing these agreements are totally unconcerned about the long-term effects on the environment.  Wonder how long it would take for people to realise another 'road' is being built in prime forest-- the Human Rights people managed to get a local mining concession halted in the deep south but the Chinese seem to be operating in broad daylight.
So the poor elusive jaguars are now very visible.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Court doesn't work...Police doesn't work ....2

So the man whose wife was giving him 'blow' with his good friend found out about it (eventually) and used his wife's cell phone to ensure the 'other man' was home. He drove there with the wife to confront the 'friend' and then shot him 16 times as the guy came to sit in the car-- the wife getting a bullet in her foot.
He then ran away to Surinam while his family found out whether 5 million could sort the problem out. He came back and was charged but after 5 months no witnesses could be found to testify and the case was dropped - yep it's THAT easy folks.

Meanwhile on the Corentyne Coast, the citizens are fearful of bands of aimless young men liming in the street harassing the poor souls who have no choice to work late-- like nurses on a late shift.
This frustrated letter-writer says it all:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

RotiHut -- stay away from the Biriyani!

When they first opened, the biriyani rice was surprisingly good-- made with Basmati rice and interesting spices.  Now I must confess with the familiarization of the internet and good recipes online I am a fairly good cook and nothing annoys me more to pay good money for shit food-- because when eating it-- I think and KNOW to myself I could do better.

The common problem with 'sharp' Guyanese is they too 'smart' and start cutting corners and the next thing you know the cousin doesn't resemble the original at all. It has been several years since I tasted theirs, but yesterday apparently a dead man's body was found in Mandela Avenue around 5pm as apparently the traffic was backed onto the Cemetery Road. I decided to turn around and while passing decided to give it a try and introduce it to an out-of-town person: I always enjoy introducing something new to hear people's reactions.

Bad mistake, in the first place the "special" was not VAT inclusive -- as were all their prices-- really-- what a cheap marketing trick; you seriously expect people to go around calculating 16% in their heads?
I scrabbled around looking for change to make the limit as I am always short of cash-- (wiser heads suggested that I keep some emergency money to not annoy the choke-and-rob people but I tend to end up spending that too!). Luckily the a Yoga classmate lived nearby and topped me up- to pay for this foul tasting food--  now thinking about it-- would have been better that she wasn't to save me the dreadful experience:

The rice tasted as if it had been frozen and microwaved. The heat was there but the spices not and the chicken tasted like the left overs from the new fried chicken place they opened thrown in. I can't say enough bad things about it -- outrageous at nearly $2000 (U$10) for left-overs!
Guyana going to the dogs.