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DEFENDING BARBARIANISM

Whatever else it may be Jamaica is seldom boring. In few places is human nature’s eternal battle between reason and instinct thrown so regularly into stark focus. We may be one of the world’s most stable liberal democracies, but our behaviour regularly echoes the most ancient law of existence – might is right.

BEAUTIFUL TROUBLE

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!

CHINESE JAMAICAN REGGAE

“Kung Hee Fatt Chow” say the Chinese on February 5 - “Happy New Year”. Which is a good time to note how well the Chinese in Jamaica have integrated. Nothing gives a better indication of this than their influence on reggae. No other ethnic minority has played a greater role in the development of Jamaican music. Indeed, with the possible exception of American Jews and rhythm and blues, the role of Chinese Jamaicans in reggae has few parallels anywhere. The first real sound system, the first live ska band, the first Jamaican produced international reggae hit, the first reggae station, and the first locally written history of reggae were all the products of Jamaicans of Chinese descent. As some wag half joked “We can’t sing, so we had to contribute to the music in other ways!”

THE GROWTH OF RASTAFARI

Rastafarianism was strongly influenced by Kumina-Revivalism. But Revivalists’ main concerns remained personal salvation and ritual observance. In contrast Rastafarians protested loudly about economic hardships and racial discrimination. Rastafarianism was not a movement isolated from place, time and history. Rather it was an integral aspect of a continuous matrix of black nationalism, folk religion and peasant resistance to the Jamaican plantation economy.

AVOIDING DISASTER

AIDS now kills more people worldwide than any other infectious disease and is mankind’s fourth leading cause of death, after heart disease, strokes and respiratory infections. And more people died of AIDS in 1999 than in any previous year.  In many affected countries the improvement in the quality of life that has taken place over the past fifty years is being reversed. In Zimbabwe over 25% of adults are HIV positive - the world’s highest infection rate - and some estimates there show life expectancy falling to 38 years, 17 years shorter that it would have been. “Healthy life expectancy in some African countries is dropping back to levels we haven’t seen in advanced countries since medieval times” says one UN Health Agency director. This is a far worse disaster than anything foreseen when worst-case HIV scenarios were first discussed. US Government analysts now say that a quarter of southern Africa’s population is likely to die of Aids, and the epidemic could follow a similar course in South Asia and the former Soviet Union.

THE NEED FOR COMPETITION

“He who is not a socialist at 20 has no heart. He who is still a socialist at 40 has no brain.” Like many witty oversimplifications Georges Clemenceau’s quip rings true. “All for one, one for all” and “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” are immensely attractive concepts to the tender hearted young. But bitter experience teaches alas that man in general is a weak and selfish creature who rarely puts others before himself and works hardest for his own interests.

PUTTING THE NATION FIRST

Politics consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable - John Kenneth Galbraith   Faced with a seemingly endless recession and a merciless crime wave, Jamaicans are crying out for change. Neither the JLP nor NDM appear more capable than the present government. But what if they joined forces?

ONLY A GAME

I once read a short story about a man meeting a star school athlete 20 years on. The once glamorous champion is now a shabby bore talking endlessly of long ago matches and insistently showing off the newspaper scraps which are all that remain of his forgotten triumphs. When his friend tries to go on his way, the faded hero clutches his arm, desperately reluctant to see his glory day memories fade back into reality.

NOT EXACTLY THE SAME

“Man is no longer victor in the duel of the sexes… the enormous superiority of Woman’s natural position is telling with greater and greater force.”
The 21st century may be proving George Bernard Shaw right. All over the world female students are outpacing males. In Britain this year girls outperformed boys in GCSE A-levels. In 1973 roughly the same number of American boys and girls took high school Advanced Placement exams - by 1998 boys had fallen well behind. American boys today are less likely than girls to complete high school, to attend college, and to stay out of jail. They read and write less well and do less homework. Except for sports, they participate less frequently in extracurricular activities. In areas like math and science where boys still hold an edge, the gap is fast narrowing. In areas where girls are in front, it is widening.

MIRRORING SOCIETY

They say sport mirrors society. And few events have so sharply reflected Jamaican reality as the Peta-Gaye Dowdie / Merlene Ottey Olympics controversy.
The JAAA management’s immorality, arrogance and incompetence were sadly typical of our authorities. First they broke their own rules and deprived a National Champion of her legal right to represent her country. It was depressing to see an innocent young girl psychologically crushed by her supposed guardians intent on carrying out an obviously predetermined agenda.