The other day an irate customer confronted me about an out of order credit card machine in my store. She said in these unsafe times she didn’t carry much cash. And on three occasions in the past week she had to leave her goods at the cashier because her keycard could not be processed. I apologetically told her that every time we called the bank promised to fix it  ‘tomorrow’. “Mr. Chang” the lady said sternly “how long you living in this country? Don’t you know that to get anything done here you have to go on bad? Get ignorant with the bank and you’ll see how fast they fix it!”


An Australian expatriate recently told me that the biggest problem at his plant was workers “thinking in patois.” In his experience those who could not speak understandable English usually could not think logically. While those who spoke English well were generally efficient employees.


I used to read a lot of novels. But Jamaica has caused me to lose my taste for fiction. Who needs made up stories when everyday life here is so full of passion and drama? Yet whenever I try to make sense of this country Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Notes From The Underground” comes to mind.


Witness slain at home - “… before day break yesterday, gunmen kicked down her door and pumped several bullets in the body of 50 year old Icylin Vaughn and her common-law husband, 48 year-old Milton Grey… several weeks ago a group of men destroyed sections of Miss Vaughn’s house with stones… She reported the matter to the police and has subsequently been branded “informer”… Yesterday the matter was supposed to be mentioned in the Half-Way-Tree Court.” The Gleaner, September 1, 2001


Small it may be. But the English speaking Caribbean has excelled on the world cultural stage of late. Only eight years after St. Lucian Derrick Walcott was given the honour Trinidadian V.S. Naipaul has also been awarded the Nobel literary prize. And last year Jamaican Bob Marley’s Exodus and One Love were chosen as Time magazine’s album of the century and the BBC’s song of the century. Can any other region of only 5 million individuals – and West Indians surely have enough strongly shared sensibilities to qualify as a “people” - boast of such recent cultural success?


Last year the human genome “Book of Life” project confirmed what every intelligent person already knew, that there is no scientific basis for the concept of race. Only a fraction of the three billion letters in the human genetic code differ among individuals, so biologically we are all 99.99% the same. Persons from different ethnic groups can be more genetically similar than individuals within the same group, and there is more genetic variability within Africa than outside it. Meaning that from a biological perspective all of us are Africans, either residing in Africa or in recent exile.


A few months ago while watching a James Bond movie I crankily grumbled to my girlfriend that this stuff was an insult to people’s intelligence. Every 007 film had the same tiresome plot - a sinister villain of immense wealth and power planned to unleash an unspeakable disaster on the civilized world and bring it to its knees. Yet nothing even remotely close to this had ever happened in real life, or would ever happen. Fiendish cleverly villains like Dr. No and Goldfinger who have a grudge against the world and continually plot to destroy western civilization simply do not exist.


Planes crashing into skyscrapers; huge exploding fireballs; towering buildings collapsing; billowing clouds of black smoke; crowds running in panic down the streets – surely we had seen this all before in countless disaster films.



Beauty is a short-lived tyranny. Socrates

Beauty is the promise of happiness. Stendhal

Beautiful woman, beautiful trouble. Jamaican proverb


Who is the smartest woman that ever lived? Surely the one who invented make-up. For cosmetics irrevocably shifted the balance in the war between the sexes in favour of females. By artificially emphasizing all those attributes of nubile young girls in their reproductive prime that disable the male brain – smooth skin, glowing eyes, lustrous eyelashes, ripe lips, shining nails, silken hair - cosmetics transformed women’s slight natural advantage in physical attractiveness into an unassailable weapon of subjection. And modern tools like face lifts, hair extensions, and breast implants have only reinforced this female power. How many men who would not walk across the street to talk to a woman in her natural state become virtually willing to sell their souls for one night with the same female decked out in glittering synthetic glory!


It’s amazing how many intelligent Jamaicans go around claiming that our murder rate really isn’t that bad since violence has increased all over the world. Well anyone who pays the slightest attention to world affairs knows this is rubbish. As a brief international comparison of homicide rates shows, the violence we take for granted would be accounted astonishing in all but a few countries.