There is a sense of unease. I can feel it in the wind. Unable to rest, it throws itself at windows and doors. It tosses down the small green mangoes that have not had a chance to ripen on our trees. The frantic carnival parties continue in the night. At a discussion earlier this week, anxious words and especially the word “But…” followed words of encouragement and promise. A pudgy-faced young man over in the East is telling his robotic marching toy people that war is imminent.
And the rain refuses to fall.
One of my most-loved writers is the German-Swiss novelist and poet Hermann Hesse, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. I suppose this is a legacy of my “hippy” years; Hesse was enormously influential during the 1960s and early 1970s among young Europeans. Born into a rigid Christian missionary family, Hesse became a spiritual explorer, partly arising from his parents’ work in India. Skeptical of organized religion, he came to develop a view of a universal spirituality that still resonates today. (In fact, I often find strong echoes of my 1960s explorations in today’s world. Coming full circle, as my brother pointed out recently, I am now meditating again, as I did in my early twenties). Hesse was also a pacifist, and his work was reviled by German nationalists during and after the First World War. He became a Swiss citizen in 1923.
Well, I recently retired my forty-year-old hardcover copy of “Siddhartha“ - it had become very battered over the years and was literally collapsing. I bought a new copy, but am not as comfortable with it, yet. It needs a few more re-reads, I think.
Meanwhile, a fellow-blogger posted a quote by Hesse that simply reflected my mood, and the discomfort of this little island I live on, Jamaica. Here it is:
“There is no escape…You say yes to the sunlight and pure fantasies, so you have to say yes to the filth and the nausea. Everything is within you, gold and mud, happiness and pain, the laughter of childhood and the apprehension of death. Say yes to everything, shrink from nothing. Don’t try to lie to yourself. You are not a solid citizen. You are a bird in the storm. Let it storm! Let it drive you!”
http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1946/hesse-autobio.html Hermann Hesse autobiographical sketch: nobelprize.org
http://www.hermann-hesse.de/en Hermann Hesse Portal – this is very revealing and well put together
Bird in the Storm… (jruthkelly.com)
Hermann Hesse (pensaleas.wordpress.com)
Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse – review (guardian.co.uk)
SopranoAscends SINGS! (sopranoascending.wordpress.com)
50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom from 50 Great Books of Inner Discovery, Enlightenment & Purpose ~ Tom Butler-Bowdon (evolutionarymystic.wordpress.com)
I am nervous. I am living in fear of the aedes egypti mosquito, which is once more Jamaica’s Public Enemy Number One. I am feeling the humidity all around me. I feel I am wading through it. But I am readjusting, slowly. So, this is called “Sunday Sinting” (translation: Something) because I have been away for so long (longer than originally planned) that I am just responding to the physical environment around me, for now. It’s just a little something to keep us going. Until I have gotten myself tuned in to what has been happening/is happening, I don’t feel able to comment much on what has been happening in Jamaica in general. I hope that is fair enough… More next Sunday (and much in between, too).
As you can see from the photograph, the mosquito that spreads dengue fever in the tropics is all decked out in stripes and polka dots like a tiny, sinister circus clown. I had dengue fever about twelve years ago, and will never forget the experience. My fever was so high that I was hallucinating: innocent leaves at the bedroom window turned into ugly, angry faces peeping in at me. Sharp, sudden pains afflicted my arms, legs, anywhere (it is aptly named “break-bone fever“). So – if you have not yet had this disease – please don’t take it lightly. The worst thing is there is no real “cure” – you just have to lie there, trying to cool down the fever, and taking painkillers (but not aspirin). And waiting for it to go away. Even when it’s gone, you are actually left feeling physically and mentally “down.” It completely drains you; the particular strain of dengue that I had took weeks to get out of my system. I exaggerate not.
The view seems to have been that the Simpson Miller administration was somewhat slow to admit to the current outbreak of dengue fever, which is particularly concerning in the broader Kingston area – as well as in Portmore in St. Catherine, where mosquitoes are a perennial plague. Perhaps this should have been taken into consideration when the developers decided to build hundreds of houses on a swamp. Whatever the case may be, it is never too late to learn how to prevent its spread. Don’t be careless and leave water standing in your yard for any time at all – that is always one of my personal rules anyway. And keep windows and doors shut during early morning and dusk, when mosquitoes are at their most active – this is particularly true of the aedes egypti. Especially at dusk. I am also hoping to hear the droning sound of the fogging truck passing down our street, soon. The smell is horrible, but fogging helps – I think.
Of course, dengue is not just a Jamaican thing. Our neighbors in the Dominican Republic have recorded around 6,000 cases and at least thirteen deaths this year. India is experiencing an outbreak. Cases have even been recently recorded in Florida and on the Portuguese island of Madeira, of all places. But, as Health Minister Fenton Ferguson told us this week, let us not panic (and yet, illogically, when a government official tells us not to panic – I always start to do just that…)
Meanwhile, the intrepid team at Nationwide News Network decided to try to tackle the issue of crime this week. Emily Crooks and Naomi Francis got serious and assembled a high-powered little group in the studio for a one-and-a-half-hour discussion. All of them appeared to know exactly what they were talking about, and unfortunately, appeared to be covering much of the same old ground. At times, Dr. Carolyn Gomes of Jamaicans for Justice sounded weary; Opposition Spokesman Delroy Chuck, irritated; and the Peace Management Initiative’s Horace Levy, slightly exasperated. Dr. Anthony Harriott from the University of the West Indies patiently pointed out that over the past twenty years, “effective policing ought to bring homicide rates down to 20 per 100,000.” Of course, it hasn’t. The most recent United Nations figures show we have over 50 murders per 100,000. North America‘s homicide rate is 10.2 per 100,000. Ugh.
But crime is not just about murder rates. And there were a couple of revelations during the discussion that made me gulp. How can we tackle crime without a complete revitalization and rationalization of the justice system? Minister of Justice Mark Golding conceded that a) the justice system is in disarray (“duh”); and b) that no additional funding will be available to rectify any of the system’s burning problems, any time soon. We know what the problems are, and they were rehashed: a chronic juror shortage, inefficiency on many levels, pending legislation that never seems to get passed. But the moderators tried to keep re-focusing on solutions (and also tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain “promises” from the Minister on actions, and to hold him to deadlines on specific issues).
Let’s have some implementation, Dr. Gomes and Mr. Chuck urged. Less talk. Civil servants must be held accountable, said Dr. Harriott. Let’s “build community capital,” Mr. Levy emphasized. Again. On the law enforcement side, Mr. Chuck asserted that the police have retreated from the principles of community policing, leading to a worsening of police-community relations. Minister Golding says there is no such retreat on the policy front.
The strongest contribution to the discussion came, in my view, from Jamaican Bar Association head Ian Wilkinson. He did not mince his words, noting that “successive governments are to blame for the weaknesses” in the justice system. “The Jamaican government as a whole has abdicated its responsibility to the people” by not committing any funds to justice over the years – make that decades – said Mr. Wilkinson. For a healthy society and economy, he pointed out, Jamaica must have a properly functioning justice system. The tiny budget allocation is “absolutely awful,” said Mr. Wilkinson. He put forward suggestions for a five-year plan for justice. At the top of the list is an additional J$5-6 billion (at least) for justice issues. He said it is a disgrace that Montego Bay does not have a proper court and is terribly under-served.
One disturbing issue emerged. The Minister’s opposite number Delroy Chuck declared that although the previous political administration under which he served had appointed new judges to speed up the number of cases dealt with, the judges are “not yet working” because there is no office space for them! I would love to hear more about this. Can it really be true? I did not catch the Minister’s response. I would love to hear more about this.
Talking of crime and justice: I realize that the grief and suffering has continued unabated during the five weeks that I have been away from the island. I tried hard to avoid local news. I just needed a break. But somehow the story of a horrendous multiple rape in Montego Bay broke through to my consciousness. And in the three or four days since I have returned I have heard of several incidents that have involved the shedding of the blood of Jamaican citizens, the shock of the bereaved and their grieving. My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones violently in the past week. Below is my regular list of those who have left us, their lives abruptly severed. It is probably incomplete…
Until next time, when I will be more thorough in my coverage of Jamaica’s happenings. Meanwhile, tomorrow is National Heroes Day, a national holiday in Jamaica. There will be the usual pomp and ceremony and speeches and messages from our political leaders. I think we should also reflect on what it takes to be a hero. What are the essential qualities of a hero, asks Dr. Orville Taylor in his op-ed (the link is below)? Having mulled this over a bit, he concludes that two of our National Heroes, the founders of our two political parties (or “gangs,” as the Gleaner newspaper continues to identify them), do not qualify as heroes. I agree. What do you think, dear readers? Do we even need heroes in 2012, and what purpose do they serve? Do we need a different kind of hero?
I am not convinced that we need heroes or “messiahs.” What we do need is people, working together, supporting each other. And sensible, action-oriented leadership. No more speeches, please!
Some of those who lost their lives violently this week:
Phyllis Watson Turner, 76, Shrewsbury, Westmoreland
Leroy Morris, 41, Rum Lane, Kingston
Gregory Cooper, 25, Hagley Park Road, Kingston
Andre Edwards, 25, Savannah Cross, Clarendon
Oral Smith, 23, Savannah Cross, Clarendon: killed by a mob
Matthew Grant, Sligoville, St. Catherine
Radcliffe Bell, 46, Priory, St. Ann
Killed by the police…
Cassell Robinson, 30, Race Course, Trelawny
Unidentified man, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Washington Boulevard, Kingston
- Jamaica Steps up Efforts to Combat Dengue Fever (abcnews.go.com)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/mogul/Dengue-fever-outbreak-confirmed (Dengue fever outbreak confirmed)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-106/31981 (Government commits additional #14 million to tackle dengue: JIS)
http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2012/10/12/the-real-dengue-hotspot-isnt-delhi/ (India RealTime/WSJ blog)
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012/09/27/dengue-fever-confirmed-in-florida-girl/57848484/1 (Dengue fever confirmed in Florida girl)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121014/focus/focus3.html (Were all our heroes really heroic? Busta, Manley don’t qualify: Orville Taylor 0p-ed)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/special_sections/Heroes/Heroes1.htm (National Heroes: Jamaica Information Service)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Where-are-the-jurors-_12557646 (Where are the jurors? Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Slain-Trelawny-gang-leader-was-suspect-in-vigilante-shooting—police_12745848 (Slain Trelawny gang leader was suspect in vigilante shooting – police)
http://www.og.nr/rbt/9334-4-accused-of-zion-mob-killing-granted-bail.html (Four accused of Zion mob killing granted bail)
The word “miracle,” (like “excellence”) is a word that is much over-used in the hyposphere (yes, that’s a new word I just created. I quite like it, might copyright it). But seriously, there is a “miracle tree” – and its name is Moringa. No, not merengue – as my husband kept pronouncing it – no sinuous wiggling of the hips, here.
It’s grown in many tropical countries, and widely used, especially in India, the Philippines, Burma and also Africa, South America… But it seems Jamaicans haven’t really discovered it and its amazing nutritional qualities (I might add that this is quite commonplace. Other countries make all kinds of things out of bamboo, for example, while Jamaicans burn bamboo stands when they are clearing land. What do we really do with bamboo except a bit of craft here and there?)
But the moringa tree also grows in Jamaica. And here are some facts about it, just so that I can prove that miracles do exist…
- Every part of it can be used for food or medicine
- It is almost unbelievably nutritious – like a kind of superfood (sorry, I’ve gone into the hyposphere, again)
- It is fast-growing and drought-resistant
- It can be used to feed domestic animals
- It is widely used, especially in Africa, to combat malnutrition – the leaves are, allegedly, packed with many times more vitamins and nutrients than common fruits and vegetables
- It helps new mothers produce more milk
- Its seeds can purify water
- Ayurvedic medicine says about 300 diseases can be cured with the help of this tree
- And more, too much to detail here…
- Moringa ~The miracle plant for saving lives (lifewithdamien.wordpress.com)
- In praise of Moringa (sundayfarmer.wordpress.com)
- Do you think we are using bamboo enough in the United States? (greenanswers.com)
- Bamboo clothing: Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing may have been onto something (heartsleevesblog.com)
- The Ridiculously Long List of Benefits Linked to Moringa (sierraclub.typepad.com)
2011 hasn’t got off to an impressive start, has it. There are floods (Australia, Brazil, Sri Lanka), famine (Kenya, parts of India), and indeed pestilence (Haiti, a few African countries). There have also been large quantities of birds falling out of the sky, and dead fishes floating side by side on the surface of lakes and rivers. All very Biblical, and very discouraging. And no, the Petchary does not believe in “the end of days.”
Let’s look at the famine (food) part of it, to start with. We can move on to the floods, pestilence and showers of dead birds in another post, perhaps. Today, a president, who has ruled his country (Tunisia) for as long as our adult son has been on this earth, fled from the power he so tenaciously clung to, leaving behind burnt barricades, bleeding and masked protesters and streets filled with the acrid scent of anger and pain.
How did the Tunisia crisis start? Well, there is a food connection. An unemployed young man was selling vegetables without a permit, and set fire to himself in protest. The first demonstrators shouted the slogan, “Bread, water, Ben Ali out.”
Of course, the protests took a political turn. And, as so often is the case, the high price of food was closely linked to dissatisfaction – essentially, anger – with the government in charge. Reuters reports the chant of Tunis protesters, ”We don’t want bread or anything else, we just want him to leave…After that we will eat whatever we have to.”
And, naturally, the gloomy specter of unemployment and lack of opportunity – social, educational and economic – shuffles around in the background, in shabby doorways. The dark shadow taps the young, eager-faced students on the shoulder, reminding them, “I’m here for you. Whenever you’re ready, here I am.”
Now food riots are contagious. The price of food (and perhaps, oil) can sometimes have the same effect as tossing a can of gasoline on an already smoldering bonfire. There have been riots in Tunisia’s close neighbor, Algeria, and now down into Jordan. Last September, there were food riots in Mozambique, where huge price increases were sparked by catastrophic fires in the great wheat fields of Russia during a tremendous heatwave.
Many developing countries, including little Jamaica, are highly dependent on imported wheat. We may have to change, and start producing more cassava flour, yam flour, breadfruit flour. Why not? The Petchary watched a TV report this week about how Indian cuisine is suffering because of the high price of onions. Well, guess what… find a substitute. We will all have to adapt, and we’d better start now. In Jamaica, we can stop moaning about the price of salt fish, too. It’s an anachronism, a colonial hangover that is just too expensive. Find something else.
Yes, we use words like “catastrophic,” “crisis” and “chaos” with increasing frequency, don’t we. Crisis is really sadly over-worked, and we try to find other words, like… well, there’s no word like crisis. It sums it all up.
Meanwhile, in Jamaica, there is the scare of food poisoning – which may seem trivial compared to the riots, but is also sometimes rooted in poverty and deprivation. After the death of an Argentine tourist at a Christmas wedding celebration, apparently from saltpeter liberally used instead of salt, a rash of ackee poisoning has broken out. Warnings are going out (as if we didn’t know) that ackees must be fully and naturally opened before they are consumed. But people are desperate, picking them when they are not open and therefore poisonous, and selling them. And again, desperate thieves are busy stealing sweet peppers and other crops from the fields of the long-suffering, industrious farmers, and selling the food with the residue of more poison – freshly sprayed chemicals – still on them.
Food and want, going hand in hand.
The Maputo riots last September were a direct result of climate change. Fire caused by high temperatures is a destroyer of crops. Floods caused by an over-enthusiastic La Nina in Australia and Brazil (yes, both the same cause) also destroy crops. So do the numerous hurricanes and storms that afflict the planet daily. Let’s bear this in mind, too.
Adaptation is the name of the game. Which means: get used to change; roll with the punches; make changes in our lifestyle; leave the cultural hangups behind; become self-reliant; think outside the box; prepare for the worst, even if we don’t know what that is.
A U.S. professor who visited Jamaica last year, an Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Fellow named Gerry Galloway, made a simple statement: ”The only thing we know for certain about climate change is that it is uncertain. The future is uncertain.”
Let’s get used to it, people.
- Sri Lanka floods hamper food distribution; 27 dead (ctv.ca)
- Revolution in Tunisia: photo gallery (boingboing.net)
- First Goes Tunisia, Next Goes… (businessinsider.com)
- Mozambique food riots: The true face of global warming