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February 25 2014

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January 17 2014

Call for Better Crime Fighting Policy in the Bahamas

The government has failed…the prime minister…continues to pass the buck, throwing words and rhetoric at the cycle of violence, instead of mustering common sense and workable responses.

Bahama Pundit takes on what it calls the Prime Minister's “disastrous leadership on crime”.

July 12 2013

The Bahamas: Life Begins at 40?

Earlier this week, the Bahamas marked its 40th anniversary of independence from Great Britain. A few bloggers shared their thoughts about the milestone…

Weblog Bahamas gave some context to the event:

In 1973, we embarked on a journey that should have taken our small island state ‘forward, upward, onward, together’. The overriding question we now face, is after 40 years of relatively exemplary democracy, relative political stability, steady economic growth for most of those years and with all of the challenges and implications that attend being a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), have we moved forward, upward, onward and done so, together? Two main arguments support a decidedly negative response to this question.

The post referred to challenges such as crime, education and economic dependence, which it called “evils against our society”, concluding:

Whilst we have come a long way since gaining Independence from Great Britain, it is not far enough, and although we have made it to our 40th anniversary, we have not leveraged our strengths nor made the most of the opportunities…

We easily practice corruption at all levels of society: state, organisation and family… [it] has destroyed our moral compass. At this point, we must yield to reflection and ‘hold a mirror’ up to ourselves because our wonderful country is in the state it is in, because of us!

Political Bahamas Blog, meanwhile, wondered “what would three giants who were intimately involved in the Bahamian march to freedom say about this day”:

Imagine these three giants, Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Sir Lynden O. Pindling and Sir Milo B. Butler, looking down from where their spirits are resting and marveling at the progress of these past 40 years.” Some highlights of this imaginary conversation included:

Cecil: And then our prayers were answered by the people on January 10, 1967 when majority rule was finally realized. And what a glorious day that was! We all celebrated with the people.

Lynden: True, but that was the beginning of so many other challenges. Cecil, it wasn’t long before we started to fight among ourselves. You and the other seven left us and formed the Free PLP and then the FNM. The biggest battle that we fought though was based on our decision to seek political independence.

Milo: And what a battle that was! It nearly destroyed our march to a common loftier goal.

Cecil: That is true. I also said that independence should not be sought then, nor any time before the next two general elections. We believed that independence should be a unifying force among Bahamians, not a dividing force among our people.

The invented conversation went on to remind people that key sectors of society were at the time opposed to the notion of independence, most notably the media and the church. The dialogue continued, ending on an optimistic note:

Cecil: The constitution has served us well these past 40 years. Despite our intense disagreements and bitter political battles, we have done well as an independent country.

Milo: Look at what has been accomplished in the last 40 years. We established a national insurance program, a College (soon to be University) of The Bahamas, a Central Bank and a defence force and so many other institutions that serve our people. And look at the vast number of Bahamians we educated in so many professional and skilled occupations. Can’t wait to see what will happen in the next 10 years as we approach the 50th anniversary of independence.

Lynden: I agree. You know, when you look at it, we really did build a firm foundation that, year after year, ensures that the nation we left behind will undoubtedly continue pressing onward, and marching together, to a common loftier goal.

But Blogworld greeted the day with “profoundly mixed feelings”:

On the one hand, of course, I am proud of this day, proud that at forty we have not suffered any of the calamities that pundits have predicted, proud that we have indeed made a nation out of these ‘barren’ rocks and cays…I am proud, too, of the contribution that Bahamians have made to history here and around the world, that we have been making for over a century. And I’m proud that on the surface, we Bahamians created a society that stood for equality for all races without bloodshed.

At the same time, though, I am profoundly uneasy about this moment. There will be much talk today, all over the airwaves and in cyberspace, about the self-same things I have mentioned above. Elders will call up names from their memories, as I have done, and talk about why they are proud, and they (we) will expect their pride to communicate itself, somehow by osmosis, to the majority of the Bahamian people, the average age of whom is 29. And yet still, still, we have not invested anything substantial or lasting to ensure that these reasons to be proud make it into the bloodstream of the Bahamian nation.

Nicolette Bethel soon got into the specifics of her unease:

At forty, here is what this nation (of which I am proud) does not have:
- a national library whose job it is to collect the publications and other documents and keep them in a safe place that is open to all members of the public where even the poorest among us can go to find out the things that elders will shout about today;
- a national broadcasting station whose job it is to produce programming that…provides Bahamians with reasons to be proud of themselves;
- a national curriculum that determines which things young Bahamians should know by the time they become adults, and sets about teaching them;
- a national centre that celebrates, encourages and nurtures the innate creativity that we have;
- a national philosophy that provides for Bahamian citizens some ideal or goal to which to aspire, something that we can stand for wherever we go, and which does not change when the political party in power changes.

And all this occurs in a climate where less than 1% of the national budget is invested in tertiary level education—in creating the kinds of institutions where research can be ongoing and more to be proud of uncovered, written about, and shared.

She concluded by challenging young Bahamians to put their money where their mouth is:

We’re forty, and the world is not standing still. I challenge the generation coming after mine to rectify the mistakes we have made, and to do more than believe in Bahamians: invest in us too.

July 03 2013

The Bahamas: Equality is for Everyone

The Bahamas’ Attorney General recently proposed that the country's Constitution be amended to end all forms of discrimination – except discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Blogworld explains why she has a problem with that.

June 26 2013

The Bahamas: Intellectual Property & Reparations

The amount of traditional knowledge that is stolen from our region on a daily basis is staggering.

Blogworld suggests that there is a link between that knowledge and required compensation for “the slaves and their ancestors [who] have never been paid for the generations of their labour.”

May 22 2013

Bahamas: Haitians are our Brothers

One of the most dastardly parts of the Atlantic slave trade was how fellow human beings were treated as as if they less than men and women. And it seems that many of us feel the same way about illegal Haitians here in The Bahamas.

Weblog Bahamas’ Rick Lowe adds, “I agree they are illegal and we must deal with it, but do we have to pretend these people are not human beings?”

May 09 2013

Bahamas: Too Free on Facebook?

Facebook is free for all, but it doesn’t mean that we are liberated to slander others with impunity – or to make vile threats…without consequences.

POLITICAL BAHAMAS BLOG discusses “potentially criminal Facebook behavior.”

April 28 2013

To Cut or Not To Cut College Subsidies in the Bahamas?

Education, democracy and societal priorities are being called into question as Bahamian bloggers address the government's recent decision to reduce the subsidy it provides to the College of The Bahamas. A week ago, Rick Lowe, writing at Weblog Bahamas, explained why he thought the cut was a good idea:

In case we're not looking, the country is now in debt to the tune of approximately $5 billion.

Assuming our total population is 350,000, that's $14,285 per person.

If we divide it among a working population of say 150,000. That's about $33,000 each.

These numbers are astounding and worsening with each passing year, so something has to be done.

Sure it sounds cold hearted, but either the government starts to find ways to cut back expenditures or we all might have a much higher price to pay. Cyprus comes to mind.

Still, he was a bit sceptical as to whether the government would actually follow through:

The question is, will government stick to its guns and cut back in other places or is this the typical political trial balloon?

Another thing the government should do is pass a Constitutional Amendment restricting deficits and borrowing and a balanced budget.

It seems just a short while ago that most people had to work to pay their way through college. Today we take it for granted our way should be subsidised.

Where did we go wrong?

The post caused an emotional reaction on the blog's Facebook page; Lowe defended his position in a follow-up post:

Subsidies must be paid for. Either by COB creating their own revenue stream through studies etc or by everyone paying more taxes. The Government borrowing money to subsidise at the expense of future generations is unsustainable.

The concentrated benefits (COB students in this case) and dispersed costs among all citizens, is simply unfair to the general public that is on the hook for the taxes.

What prevents like minded people (people that see the value in education, COB Alumni etc) starting a fund to donate to COB to help pay for the needy students? Seems to me that would be a better way?

A day later, Blogworld posted a link to a press statement by The College of The Bahamas Union of Students, making the point that “the press in general has focused on one small part of the document”, [the union's foiled protest on Parliament over the issue] but that the bigger picture is “the value we place on the young adults in our society who have chosen to educate themselves at home, and the value we place on their place in our so-called democracy.”

The blogger, Nicolette Bethel, highlighted some of the key points of the statements that particularly stood out for her; in another post, she quoted from an article which suggests that “the thing being made in a university is humanity…what universities, at least the public-supported ones, are mandated to make or to help to make is human beings in the fullest sense of those words — not just trained workers or knowledgeable citizens but responsible heirs and members of human culture.”

Finally, she wrote a post about her take on the issue, examining the situation from the perspective of the student body:

Over the past several weeks, the College of The Bahamas Union of Students has worked tirelessly to resist the college’s proposal to raise fees in response to proposed government cutbacks in subvention.

Their work has included attempts to meet or speak with senior administration, with the college council, with the minister of education, and with the minister of state for finance. Their most recent press release may be found here; I encourage those people who may be quick to dismiss the students for their passion to read it, as it will show you another side of them, and may encourage us to treat them with the respect that is due to adults who are legitimately questioning their rights to participate in our democracy and their place in our society.

Bethel continued:

I will be the first person to say that, given the fact that our society has decided that the only education offered freely to its citizens is that which stops at the secondary level, I am not opposed to the principle of raising tuition. Here are my reasons.

In the beginning, the government was the primary subsidizer of tertiary-level education. Fees were never non-existent, but until 1998, they were a mere $25 per credit hour. The result was the persistent underfunding of the institution.

In 1998, recognizing the move to university and the development of bachelor’s degree courses, the college raised tuition over the course of three years from the $25 per credit hour to the present $100 per credit hour for lower-level (100-200) courses, and $150 per credit hour for upper-level (300-400) courses.

No other increases in tuition have been applied since 2000. Students today still study for the same cost as students in 2000, but the purchasing power of the Bahamian dollar today is worth only 80¢ of the 2000 dollar. The tuition increase originally proposed by the college administration (from $100 to $120 per credit hour) can be seen as merely making up for that lost revenue. But that is not all. Not only does the 2013 Bahamian dollar buy 20% less than the 2000 dollar, what students get for that price is considerably more than what students got in 2000. Tuition for the college has not increased in that time, but what is provided to the students has consistently been expanded over the past 13 years.

She went on to explain:

I can see the rationale behind the increase. All things being equal, I would even support it, even though I am theoretically persuaded by arguments that tertiary level education is worth being fully subsidised by our government. My pragmatic perspective in this country at this point in time recognizes that our culture, so heavily influenced by the USA, tends to devalue those things that we do not pay for; on the contrary, the more we pay for something here in The Bahamas, the more we tend to respect it.

That said, however, I do not support the principle of raising incidental fees in an attempt to recover costs.


In the first place, student amenities at the college are sub-standard, even with all the improvements; in the same period of time, although the investment in tuition and the quality of education has improved, changes in student life have been mixed.

In the second place, the pervading attitude towards students on campus appears to be that they are a necessary evil—or, to use more gentle language, that they are simply overgrown, misbehaving high-schoolers who should be seen and not heard, and who should be deferential to their elders, accepting of whatever treatment is meted out to them, unquestioning of inefficiencies, and uncritical of mediocrity. Unlike the quality of the education provided at the College (which is, against all odds, high—and some of the best value for money in the hemisphere), the quality of student (and faculty) life is low. To ask students to pay additional fees without addressing these shortcomings is asking a bit much.

Blogworld added:

I said…that all things being equal, I would support an increase in tuition fees. For example, if that increase was linked to the College’s full and legal transition to university status, I would have no quarrel with the proposal. But it is not. It is a desperate move on the part of a college administration faced with drastic and untenable cuts to its subvention to find ways to maintain the services currently being offered.

So to me, the real question is whether or not The Bahamas as a whole, and its representative, the government, sees any real value in Bahamian tertiary-level education.

As many have said before me, there is something fundamentally visionless and absurd about the government’s proposed reduction of the COB subvention. While the government itself is faced with the need to reduce its own expenditure by the 25%-over-two-years that it is passing onto its agencies, it is not making those cuts across the board; certain agencies have been deemed to be exempt. That the College of The Bahamas, poised by promise on the verge of the university status that the government has yet to grant it, is not also exempt speaks volumes to the place of the intellect in Bahamian society, and to the real commitment of the government to Bahamian university education.

She finally came to this conclusion:

These facts, together with the relative lack of outrage about the government’s proposal to cut COB’s subvention, suggest that the Bahamian government, together with the society that supports it, does not in fact take the idea of Bahamian higher education seriously at all. What the College of The Bahamas is being asked to do, at the same time as it is being moved to university status, is to cut just under $6.25 million from its current budget over the next 2 years. This is to be done ‘without any reduction in quality and level of services to the public’.

Sleight of hand and double-speak aside, what the government has just demanded the college do is carry water in a sieve. Do I object to the raising of fees for tertiary education? In principle, no. But when this is the only way in which the services currently provided can hope to be maintained, I am left with grave and serious questions about the proposal indeed.

In an interesting twist, another blogger at Weblog Bahamas agreed:

The PLP Government is wrong to cut funding to the College of The Bahamas for several reasons (including…the fact that the Prime Minister said as recently as last month that they would do nothing to ‘compromise education'). I will focus on what I believe is the most important reason: the proven impact of public spending on education on a country's economic growth.

In The Bahamas, we are saddled with a host of challenges, not the least of which is our declining educational standards, steadily weakening workforce and loss of skills. This is not the time to take funding away from our only tertiary institution.

April 11 2013

Bahamas: Limericks for Thatcher

She has to be admired for her ability to transform her country…as a middle-class woman in the conservative party. But I remember apartheid, and…how she almost destroyed the British university system, and…made Britain unwelcoming.

Blogworld writes limericks in commemoration of the Iron Lady.

February 14 2013

Caribbean: Valentine's Day is for Bloggers

Think you know what love is all about? A few regional bloggers use Valentine's Day as an opportunity to figure it out…

From Jamaica, Nadine Tomlinson quotes a poem by Rumi to set the tone for the day, while Havana Times republished a post from the blog's inaugural year, which provided a glimpse into how February 14th is celebrated in Cuba.

Cuban diaspora blog Babalu, on the other hand, put a twist on the celebrations by offering some dictator love and criticizing the way in which New Zealanders are “celebrat[ing] the lovely bohemian ambience of the Castro Kingdom”.

Other posts from the regional diaspora included chookooloonks’ tips for a Valentine's Day craft activity “for kids with moms who are *completely* uncrafty”, while back in chookooloonks’ homeland, Trinidad and Tobago, Wuzdescene posted an image of a press advertisement that he thinks is perfect for Valentine's Day. The text reads:

Tabanca SALE!
Why buy chocolates for a person that will leave you when you can buy a computer that will stay with you?

(Tabanca, according to “Cote ci Cote la“, the Trinidad and Tobago Dictionary, is local parlance for “the forlorn feeling that one gets when a love affair is over”.)

Over in the U.S. Virgin Islands, News of St. John blogs about the eleventh annual celebration of “Celebration of Love”:

Last year, 72 couples repeated their vows in the beach ceremony organized by non-denominational minister Anne Marie Porter.

There is a practical post from the Bahamas’ Mainstream, who offers advice for men to impress the ladies “even if you're broke and clueless”, and another from Barbados’ Notes From A Small Rock, who writes about “the pillars of love and marriage” – at least according to a Barbadian pastor:

The first pillar is money. Yes money. You need money. I need money. Alicia, you must accept that Keshorn is in charge of the way the money going be handled. You must trust in he wisdom…accept that or mark my words, this marriage go be over before you could say macaroni pie.

The great temple of marriage has a second pillar and that is communication. I does meet a set of young people getting married and they don’t know how to talk to one another. They busy emailing and could spend the whole day on Facebook or texting.

The third pillar holding up the roof of the temple of marriage is sex. The adult male and adult female must have a good and regular sex life. By now you should have located her G spot. If you ain’t done your homework I promise you my friend: someone going do it for you.

The fourth pillar that you Alicia, and you Keshorn, must pay attention to is the one and only Lord God All Mighty.

Happy Valentine's Day!

February 03 2013

Bahamas, U.S.A.: Superbowl Hopes

For the American Football fans, Weblog Bahamas makes a prediction about today's Superbowl game.

November 13 2012

Blogging Contest Focuses on Child Development

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced its first contest for bloggers, which will focus on issues related to child development:

Now is your chance to share your ideas! You can tell us about a child development success story in your country or analyze various innovative methodologies. The topic is open. In order to participate, you just have to get your creative juices flowing and share your winning idea with us.


November 09 2012

The Bahamas: U.S. Election Result Sign of a Global Shift?

The recently-concluded U.S. election captured the interest of the entire world. In the Caribbean, online discussion forums like Facebook and Twitter were full of netizens sharing political memes and posting updates about their take on electoral issues. Post-election, a couple of bloggers from the Caribbean territory that is geographically closest to the United States - the Bahamas - shared their thoughts about the outcome.

Nicolette Bethel, who blogs at Blogworld was not at all surprised that President Obama won a second term in office:

I don’t predict political results, because I don’t like making mistakes, but I’m beginning to think that maybe I should. I knew in 2008 from the moment that he announced his presidency that Barack Obama would be a two-term president…I had a feeling that Obama was going to have a tighter race this time around, but had no doubt whatsoever he was going to win the election.

She went on to explain why - and what new media had to do with it:

It’s not hope that makes me feel this way; it’s something else. It’s the sense that we live in a revolutionary time. Let me be up front here. I buy into the idea floated by Marshall McLuhan that the medium is the message, that modes of communication transform society.

The world—not just my Bahamaland, not just the USA, but the world—is currently going through the greatest revolution in communications since the printing press. The digital revolution has changed the way in which information is shared and processed, and it has made the prediction of outcomes in any election unstable. Most political prediction machines are fundamentally anchored in the twentieth century and have not fully adjusted to the universe of social media, where conversations about politics are not limited by political party, national boundaries, or even ideological leanings. The world is talking to one another, ideas are flowing more freely than ever before, discussions are being held outside of the various centres of discussion, and individuals are making up their own minds. The expenditure of money is important, there is no doubt about it, but it is not the deciding factor in any democratic exercise. The deciding factor are the millions of conversations that are happening online, between people who may not be connected in any way beyond their phones, and these conversations are not yet being closely enough monitored to be able to make any decision on political outcomes.

She referred to the conversations that were happening on networking and microblogging sites like Facebook and Twitter as being critical to the way the vote went:

Perhaps in part because of this true spread of democracy - the ability, finally, for individual citizens to make their own contributions, through places like FaceBook and Twitter, to make their opinions known — the ideological temperature of the world is swinging to the left. I don’t find this surprising…given the fact that…the current so-called recession is the culmination of years excessive right-wing economic policies.

Bethel also paid attention to “the demographic of the social media universe”:

It’s younger, more diverse, and more radical than the mainstream media. It looks more to me like the faces that are appearing in the shots of the various crowds gathering at Democratic Headquarters across the USA than it resembles the faces gathered in the Republican ones. It is this situation that led, I believe, to the election of the first African-American president of the United States of American in 2008. It’s this that led to his re-election this year.

Quoting from an article by Cord Jefferson entitled “Dying of the White: Requiem for the 2012 Election”, Bethel dealt with the topics of race and gender in this follow-up post:

Not trying to make people feel uncomfortable here. But racial and gender transparency and white male privilege in the USA can no longer be taken for granted. To wit:

‘Increasingly, the message in America is clear: If your organization or project is a myopic den of white homogeneity, or if your strategy for success includes trying to gin up fear around people who are different, you are destined for irrelevance, and nobody will care how rich you are, or who your daddy is, or at what ivy-draped liberal arts school you cut your perfect teeth. Those who haven’t learned that lesson are mocked, shunned, or, worse, totally ignored. Either way, they don’t win elections.'

She thought there was a lesson in there for everyone, even Bahamian politicians:

How does that translate for the Bahamas? Well, my advice to all politicians, past, current and future, would be not to take the status quo for granted. In the USA, the white rich male norm is being challenged. People are pointing out, rightly, that by the mid twenty-first century American whites will be a real minority. Wealthy white men are a minority now. Expect for something similar to affect the mainstream political class in the Bahamas, be it PLP or FNM, as time moves on. Expect it to happen to those who rely on cries of immigrant invasion, women as the property of men (think the marital rape exception), culture as peripheral, or the Christian nation fiction here at home. This is not the time for business as usual. Usual is slipping into the past.

In a similar vein, feminist blogger Womanish Words said:

I am so pleased they have given [President Obama] four more years, so pleased that Romney and his racist, woman-hating cronies have been rejected. Mr Obama is a man who cares about women, minorities, poor people - people like me! So glad a good man like him gets to remain the leader of the free world. Thank you America for voting with sense. Hope has been restored.

November 05 2012

Bahamas: Banking or Learning?

If a school in no way challenges its students to synthesize, analyze, interrogate, I fail to see how that school can produce critical thinkers, educated citizens or nation builders.

Blogworld sees the value of displacing the banking concept in education.

October 28 2012

Caribbean: Hurricane Sandy's Wake

As Hurricane Sandy closes in on the east coast of the United States, bloggers in the Caribbean who have already experienced the storm share their experiences.

Cuban diaspora blogger Uncommon Sense collated tweets and photographs from netizens who were on the island when Sandy hit, while Havana Times posted a series of entries telling of continued alerts for rain and potential flooding in the country's central provinces, the postponement of a second round of municipal elections which was originally scheduled to take place this morning, and the devastating damage that took place in Holguin province.

In a post written soon after the hurricane hit, the blog reported:

Preliminary data on the effects of Hurricane Sandy in eastern Cuba shows 11 fatalities, nine in Santiago de Cuba and two in Guantanamo…

Fallen trees and collapsed homes are some of the causes already identified.

Hurricane Sandy touched land in Santiago de Cuba Province on Wednesday night and left the island on Thursday morning from Banes, Holguin.

The blog's most recent update, posted this morning, said that government reports showed “widespread devastation in Santiago de Cuba and Holguin”:

In Santiago, where Sandy entered Cuba from the south, the local authorities reported on Saturday that 132,733 homes, apartments and other buildings were damaged, of those 15,322 were considered totally destroyed. Over 43,000 of the homes lost part or all of the roofs.

In Holguin, the province from where Sandy left Cuba in route to The Bahamas and the USA, an estimated 17,000 homes were damaged, 1,800 totally destroyed and 3,000 without roofs.

There were also many homes damaged in Guantanamo province.

Electric service is still out in many parts of the affected region and hundreds of electric workers from other parts of the country have joined in the effort to restore energy as quickly as possible.

Over a thousand four hundred schools and nearly four hundred health facilities were damaged by the storm’s 105 mph winds.

Meanwhile, Generation Y wrote a post that contained suggestions for the authorities after Hurricane Sandy:

Thursday morning will never be forgotten by thousands of people in Eastern Cuba. The wind, flying roofs, heavy rains and trees falling on streets and houses, will remain as permanent memories of Hurricane Sandy. Some people lost everything, which was not much. For the victims it rains and it pours, literally and metaphorically. Nature intensifies the economic collapse and social problems of this region of the country. So these are the times to redouble our solidarity, to roll up our sleeves and help them rebuild their homes, to divide the piece of bread, and to go all out to contribute to those unlucky Cubans that Sandy left behind.

I think we all know what we can give and do, but I still dare to venture some proposals directed at the Cuban authorities. The decisions they make in the coming days will be crucial to shortening and mitigating the tragedy…

Here are a few of her ideas:

- Eliminate the custom duties for entry into the country of food, medicines, appliances and building materials.
- Ensure that the public is organized to collect, transport and deliver clothes, medicines and other resources to the affected areas.
- Encourage and authorize the collection of funds and resources from Cuban immigrants to bring to the island, both on a personal level as well as a group or institutional level.
- Ask for an assessment by and cooperation from international organizations that provide aid, loans and advice to overcome this disaster.

In comparison, the Bahamas managed to fare pretty well. Rick Lowe at Weblog Bahamas reported:

Just spoke with the family in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, and while there is loss of shingles and a now leak in the roof, so far, so good.

Have not heard from family and friends on Eleuthera and the surrounding islands but have heard no reports of loss of life.

Of course the people of Cat Island seem to have taken the brunt of yet another storm. As a friend pointed out, they are strong people and will bounce back. Let's hope it will will quick and easy for them to do so.

We were lucky here at our house. Trees down in the road that we cleaned up already (pushed them on the side) and the highest gust we clocked was 40 mph.

In New Providence, Womanish Words had a similar experience:

Hurricane Sandy is upon us in The Bahamas…we are having only small, 20mph gusts, interspersed with moments of stillness, so far so good, I think the trees will hold.

Right now, another calm, another little 20 mph gust wooshing in the trees, its quite pleasant. For now.

In Haiti, it was a different story. The Life and Times of the Mangine Many wrote:

We got the east side of the storm which packed inches upon inches of rain.

Now, that can be a problem anywhere, but in a country that is 75% deforested, flash flooding and landslides present unique challenges.

Also worth mentioning– there has been a constant problem with the river banks eroding whenever it floods (read: rains) in Jacmel. To help fix that, someone (the government?) has been doing a bunch of work making a wall to reinforce the river bank. A bit of a bandaid on a bullet wound, eh? (In their defense, the wall was not yet finished, but yeah, didn't hold the water back so well…)

To quote Steve Concepcion (with Praxis Haiti) on this issue, ‘This is why attention to the environment matters.'

October 21 2012

Caribbean: Blog Action Day 2012

Since its founding in 2007, Blog Action Day has united bloggers from all over the world by having them devote space to a specific topic or theme. Past themes have included water, the environment, poverty and climate change. The theme for Blog Action Day 2012, which was observed on October 15th, was “The Power of We”. According to the Blog Action Day website:

2378 blogs from 111 countries, using 43 different languages, registered to take part in Blog Action Day, October 2012. We also know that an additional 500 blogs took part in Blog Action Day without registering.

Several Caribbean bloggers participated in Blog Action Day 2012 and their contributions took a variety of forms, from reports on voluntary work to poetry.

The Petchary expounded on the theme by exploring the ways in which blogging can unite a community:

The essence of blogging is, or should be, creating a community in which to share ideas, agree, disagree. It is not supposed to be an ego-boosting, self-aggrandizing exercise, as a Guardian blogger suggests in the article below. It should be about ‘we.' But which ‘we' are we talking about? How large is the collective ‘we' – how vague, how amorphous is it? Can we reach out and embrace the ‘we' and if not, why not?

She also addressed the way the way the term “we” is used in political discourse:

Our local politicians seem to like the concept of ‘we' – when it suits them. When fingers are pointed at them to seize the initiative, to lead, to deal with a specific problem, the cry often goes up, ‘Well, we are all in this together… We can fight crime together… We can generate jobs together…' etc, etc. The Jamaican citizen, staggering under the weight of poverty, growing inequality, joblessness and all the other social ills, hardly feels empowered, one suspects. He/she feels like the ‘us' in ‘them and us.'  And if he/she does get up and assert him/herself, with fellow citizens, as the collective ‘we,'  the powers that be may not support you whole-heartedly.

The Petchary went on to list several organizations in Jamaica which she felt encouraged unity. Alas, the two main political parties weren't included on this list:

Please, please… let us not follow the example of our two political parties, whom our esteemed Gleaner newspaper still describes as the two ‘gangs.' They bicker at each other and among themselves. They sigh and heckle and shout and grandstand and show every evidence of divisiveness in their daily lives and their work in Parliament (although there is a general feeling that this combativeness disappears when they are at cocktail functions and social events). Instead of cheering them on in their spiteful forays against each other; instead of calling radio talk shows to defend the party we support; instead of accepting their favors, waving flags and abusing our neighbors in their name – let us be the real Jamaican ‘we.' Our oft-quoted National Motto is‘Out of Many One People.'

Let us be that ‘One People.' For Jamaica, ‘we' means unity.

Geoffrey Philip used the occasion to draw attention to an ongoing campaign to exonerate Marcus Garvey:

Unfortunately, Marcus Garvey was wrongfully arrested and convicted on trumped charges of mail fraud and Africans at home and abroad have never realized the full benefits of his answers. Since then, Garvey’s work has been deliberately distorted and his legacy has been all but erased from our collective memory.

It’s for this reason why I have joined with the Marcus Garvey Celebrations Committee (South Florida) Rootz Foundation, and the Institute for Caribbean Studies, to petition to President Barack Obama for the exoneration the Right Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the father of Pan-Africanism.

For although Marcus Garvey does not need to be exonerated in our eyes, it will take political pressure to bring about change.

Kris Ramperad used the occasion to encourage others to blog:

If you have not yet done a blog now's the time to do to feel the power of communication and outreach now available to all those who have access to a computer/phone or social media tool.
Blogging gives you direct access to a world audience no matter how small a place you may come from.

She compared the impact a blogger could have today to that of one of the Caribbean's most prominent broadcasters:

From Trinidad and Tobago, one of the most powerful voices in mainstream media, Trevor McDonald,  has often told of how he came from a small backwater island in the Caribbean and became the toast of the media world through moving to London to to work for the BBC and then for ITN. He has had a significant impact on perceptions of the role and place and power and influence of media in shaping society. Now, through blogging, that power is in the hands of social media users everywhere….

In the Bahamas, Jeremy Delancy volunteered at a shoe drive for needy children, while Francis Rousseau linked to a video of the Jamaica mento band The Jolly Boys in support of the ”2012 Age Demands Action“initiative:

The Wordy Phoenix from Grenada offered a poem exploring the power of “we”.

Because the power of ‘we’ is that ‘we’ always find ‘we’, whether ‘we’ want them to our not.
‘We’ are linked.
‘We’ are blood,
‘We’ are power
Because nobody takes ‘we’ from ‘we’ permanently.
Unless ‘we’ let them..

August 25 2012

St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Bahamas: Reproductive Rights

Two female Caribbean bloggers, in light of the recent debacle over U.S. congressman Todd Akin's comments about women and rape, are discussing the issue of “the war on women and their reproductive rights”. From St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Abeni says that “persons making foolish comments about rape never fail to irritate [her]”:

WHEN OH WHEN will it be openly realised and accepted that RAPE IS ROBBERY with violence? That it is an ASSAULT on another human being for purely personal reasons.

HOW MANY persons, male and female -but predominantly female today- have had their lives tainted…reliving their trauma every waking moment! Looking at, and loving, or inwardly rejecting her child because of how he/she came into the world! Any idea, Rep. Akin? When will it be accepted that when a woman says ‘NO,' SHE MEANS NO!

Akin's video apology did little to appease her:

BEFORE MAKING UTTERANCES, words need to be weighed, because of the sentiments that they convey…to use this in the context of rape is to say the least, reprehensible: In all fairness, there has been some retraction, but these ill advised statements continue to heap massive damage to the cause of women and it will take some time before it is repaired!

Pure Fawkery, who references the Pussy Riot case in her post, takes issue with:

Men who have no concept or understanding of what it means to be a woman. Men who epitomize the stereotypical caveman, beating their chest claiming ‘me man, you woman', only to knock us over our heads and drag us into the cave. Well today those men no longer need clubs, today they are armed with laws, edicts, ceremonies and regulations all aimed at keeping women in a reproductive prison.

She makes the the point that the indoctrination begins with two things: socialization, which “innately reinforc[es] the oppressive mandate of the good girl”, and that pervasive double standard, in which “there is no such edict for good little boys”:

Locally, we have even more archaic repressive policies that provide an unending artillery supply in this war on women's reproductive health. Teenage girls who become pregnant are routinely removed from their school and transferred to another school, if she returns, after the birth of the child. No such policy exist for teen fathers.

Pure Fawkery also cites tweets by @RodneyMoncur, who is a Justice of The Peace for the District of New Providence and Paradise Island in the Bahamas, saying that his opinions “[espouse] the purefawkery that continues to propagate this reproductive war”:

With each capitalized tweet he fires another bullet arming and enabling this kind of misogynistic bondage.

But she admits that the issue stretches far beyond the Bahamas:

There is something in the water globally. Women around the world, engage in a daily battle to fight repressive religious, political, cultural and economic forces to gain or retain control of their own bodies; their own reproductive health.

Women are already oppressed and discriminated against in almost every other facet of society. Women are paid less then men for the same job, not allowed to ascend to leadership positions in religious organizations, humiliated and sexualized in the justice systems (don't even get me started on the legitimate rape comment), denigrated in music and entertainment. Is that not enough for these men?

Abeni agrees that women should have rights over their own bodies:

I am sure there are babies who were aborted because they were the product of rape. On the flip side there are instances of babies born of rape, either because abortion was not available, or because the mother believed that all life is sacred. Clearly, the choice is hers and should be respected by the foolish law makers-mostly men who seek to make decisions about a woman's body…

Pure Fawkery signs off with a “promise”:

You keep trying to repress our inalienable basic innate right for reproductive health and we will take up our cause and give you more than a fight. We will take up the call of Liberia's Leymah Gbowee’s and create ‘peaceful, feminine havoc', well will not only win the battle, but also the war and in process will incite a pussy riot!

August 14 2012

Caribbean: Regional Sports Academy?

Following the success of the Caribbean region at the London Olympics, there is now talk of “a single sports academy…located in Jamaica, and funded by all the governments and private sectors of the Caribbean Community”, to which Weblog Bahamas' Rick Lowe quips, “Come on.”

August 08 2012

Jamaica, Bahamas: Long Way to Go?

Two bloggers, Stunner from Jamaica and Pure Fawkery from the Bahamas, consider how far their countries have come - or not - since independence.

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