The squalls of last night are over. I lay in bed with continuous thunder, lightning and sheets of rain falling, assaulting my senses and rendering me sleepless. A cup of strong Blue Mountain coffee is helping to revive me. Thanks for just brushing by us, Tropical Storm Isaac. It could have been a lot worse. Nine silly people traveling through the notorious Bog Walk Gorge (basically, a main road running between a river and a sheer rock face) had to be rescued from the roofs of their cars last night. Now, Sunday morning in Kingston has been bright and breezy; and the lawn has grown by several inches overnight.
So, on to the week that was. It was the usual odd mix of melodrama and “nutten nah gwaan” (for non-Jamaicans, this means “nothing happening”).
First, the drama. The big “C” reared its ugly head (corruption, not cancer – although you could say that one is the other). The case (brought by a police sergeant who should be highly commended and supported) involves a Businessman (or “big man” as we call these powerful men in SUVs), a high-profile Police Senior Superintendent, and an Opposition Politician. I think it is fair to say that these three categories of Jamaicans – businessmen, politicians and the police force – are regarded with the greatest suspicion by the average man/woman on the street. There is always that little corruption? question mark. Trust, or the lack of it, is a terrible thing.
In this case, the Businessman was stopped by the Sergeant for speeding in said SUV, and allegedly offered him a bribe. According to media reports, in a complicated web of negotiations described as “mediation,” the Sergeant was told to discuss the matter with a Senior Policeman, who, it is alleged, “took care of things.” The Politician also intervened, as the Businessman is a great friend of his; he is charged with breaching Section 14(2) of the Corruption Prevention Act while Senior Policeman and Businessman are charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice. The case came to court last week; there were many cynical comments, some shock and some puzzlement that a Businessman should go to such lengths to avoid a mere traffic ticket. Is this how “big men” arrange their lives? There was much excitement outside the courthouse last week when the three accused, accompanied by various family members and supporters, arrived. The Senior Policeman had a very pained and sad look, head bowed, clutching his wife’s hand; the Businessman and his Wife looked cool and well-dressed, in matching designer shades; the Politician appeared happy for the attention and, as usual, talked too much. “I always say, ‘Who God bless, no man curse,’” he cheerfully told an eager television reporter. OK, then.
Now, I felt that the eviction of around sixty people in downtown Kingston a week ago – mostly women and children – was treated rather carelessly by aspects of the media. The focus seemed to be wrong. Since then, commentators have got to grips with the issue to some extent. But listen, folks, this is serious. It’s fine for us to say, “Well, they shouldn’t have so many children…They expect us to support them…I don’t feel sorry for them…They want everything for free,” etc. But why aren’t we addressing the core issue? Does no one want to talk about it? And that issue is poverty. Yes, the p-word. Jamaica Observer columnist Mark Wignall wrote an insightful piece on the matter today – the link is below. He describes the situation of squatting as a “tragedy.” Of course it is. If one-third of your population live in “informal settlements,” - at the mercy of the environment, in unhealthy conditions, preyed on by criminals, and used by politicians as a vote-getting group at election time – what else can you call it?
It is a tragedy. But these are poor people. Somehow it’s all their fault, they shouldn’t be poor. But all is not lost; the politicians “love” them (i.e. love their votes). As Wignall’s colleague columnist James Moss-Solomon notes, “The so-called ‘love of the poor’ is not expressed as a hatred of poverty and a need to eliminate that scourge, but is reminiscent of sharing the suffering of Jesus without wanting to remove the nails if we are able.” Mr. Moss-Solomon was writing in general about that elusive concept of unity - which a number of leading Jamaicans were waxing lyrical about on the Gleaner front page in the weeks before Independence. Unity – and division. See more division below.
In the Nutten Nah Gwaan section: Well, after not much more than a year, the commuter railway revived by the previous Jamaica Labour Party administration ran its last trip through the parish of St. Catherine. Yes, we know the economic reasons for its closure. But this was most disheartening. It was not as if Jamaicans were not using it – they loved it. A CVM Television series focused on reactions to the closure, and the commuters suggested it could have made much more money if it had run to Kingston, or even Montego Bay. In our fiftieth year of Independence, this was somehow not morale-boosting.
Are we in recession? asked an article in the Business Observer last week. Well, the head of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) and the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica seem confused, but it’s fair to say, I think, that “nutten nah gwaan” in the Jamaican economy. The PIOJ tried desperately to put some kind of positive spin on what appeared at first report (via the Statistical Institute of Jamaica) to have been negative growth in the first quarter of 2012. Isn’t that a recession, then? It ended up predicting between minus 0.5 per cent and plus 0.5 per cent growth for the September quarter. The looks on their faces said it all. They were not
Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke says she is “working behind the scenes” after coming under fire from the Gleaner in an editorial last week. Like all the others, Ms. Brown Burke made a wonderful speech at her swearing-in in April. We have not heard much from her since… But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s only been a few months. But it seems we are all impatient…
Meanwhile, our Prime Minister allows her ministers to get on with their portfolios, and does not interfere – so she told a television reporter this week when asked to comment on an issue. Is this the hands-off, autopilot approach to leadership?
“I see a nation that is drifting,” intoned radio talk show host on Nationwide News Network Ronald Mason last week. “There has been eight months of inertia.” I can just hear another famed talk show host, the late Wilmot Perkins, agreeing with him. Mr Perkins would have added, “Things fall apart…The center cannot hold.” Back to Mr. Mason: “I see no motivation, no reassurance from our political leaders.” These comments got the listeners and callers all revved up for a few hours of gloom and doom, last week, I can tell you.
Something is going on at Caymanas Park, where our horse racing takes place. Here are some pieces of information, and you can make out of it what you will. Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance Derrick Kellier announced recently that the Government plans to sell Caymanas, but wants good money for it. Last week, among the many murders (see list of names below) a racehorse trainer was shot in the head by two gunmen who seemed to be waiting for him as he drove into the Park. There is poor security there, it appears – Caymanas is “bruck.” Then, just last night, gunmen broke into the office at Caymanas, held up some staff and stole more than seven million Jamaican Dollars cash. Well, I don’t know. Some things we can never get to the bottom of…
Why am I not impressed?
…By the lovely 2012 Mercedes Benz driven by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Donovan Stanberry. Mr. Stanberry went into a convoluted argument in the Sunday Gleaner, explaining why this was a good deal for the Jamaican taxpayer, rather than the usual SUVs that our public servants swish around in. Only J$6.3 million, less duty concessions and other allowances which would lower the cost. Very economical, yes. Perhaps some of that could have gone towards the rebuilding of the Glenhope Place of Safety, a state home for unwanted small children and girls, which was partly destroyed by fire nine months ago. Work there has not even started. The Government is “bruck.” But what am I saying? These are only poor people’s abandoned kids. Like the squatters. They are not priority are they? (Please forgive me – I get too carried away with the sarcasm sometimes!)
…By Member of Parliament for South St. James Derrick Kellier, who did not see what the fuss was all about (his words) when he reportedly recommended that a firm owned by his brother be granted road-works contracts in his constituency, through the often-contentious Constituency Development Fund. The indefatigable Office of the Contractor General is, thankfully, investigating.
…By the dithering over the lifting of a ban on the scrap metal trade. So many hints have been dropped in the media that the ban is to be lifted that the scavengers have pricked up their ears, and got to work. They are being proactive. So far, the scrap metal thieves have targeted the Jamaica Public Service Company, Highway 2000 and telecoms firm LIME; the latter, in particular has recently suffered millions of dollars in losses. What is really happening? I thought that the Minister in charge, Hon. Anthony Hylton, was to make a statement on Friday? Meanwhile, legitimate (one hopes) scrap dealers have been protesting. In May a local think tank, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), issued a ten-step solution to the scrap metal conundrum. I hope the Minister has had a look at it. A link to the full brief is below…
…By Minister of Tourism Wykeham McNeill‘s announcement this week that its publicity campaign for Jamaica at the London Olympics was a roaring success. Most of us lesser mortal were not privileged to be in London; so we would have to take his word for it. But I hear that “Jamaica House” in London was a fun place to hang out for a drink in the evenings… And also, the one million pounds spent during the campaign was “well spent,” the good Minister told us. What actually came out of it in terms of dollars and cents, business opportunities, partnerships etc? Not sure of the details. Are you? But Information Minister Sandrea Falconer, who chaired the Minister’s press conference, gently chided Jamaicans/the media for “quibbling” over small matters, as questions were asked. Take their word for it. It was money well spent. Perhaps the “small matter” was the unfortunate tweet by Minister McNeill’s junior minister Damion Crawford, who informed us all that he and some Jamaican musicians were having a great time at a London club. Or perhaps it was the people who were part of the delegation to London. I am still not clear why Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke went, but I am sure he had a nice time, too… Meanwhile, visitor arrivals over the Independence period reportedly grew by six per cent, we are told. Frankly, I would have thought we could have attracted more visitors for Jamaica 50.
…And I have to agree with Observer columnist Jean Lowrie-Chin, who staunchly defends Jamaica’s “Out of Many, One People” motto. This multi-racial concept has come under attack recently from noted academic at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Dr. Carolyn Cooper – who loves to ruffle feathers, and appears to have seized the opportunity to do so as we try to celebrate “unity” on our fiftieth anniversary. Please, Carolyn, can we smooth those feathers down a bit?
Now, Ms. Lowrie-Chin is eternally positive, optimistic and far less cynical than I am – and I love her for it. But she spoke in an unusually strong tone in her column last week: “Will the UWI Mona folks who refuse to accept non-blacks as Jamaicans forgo their salaries and professorial chairs, since they are so heavily subsidised by non-black business owners who contribute significantly to our national coffers?” Now, it seems, UWI’s enfant terrible has taken set on the very small Jewish community in Jamaica, claiming that the history of the Jews’ role in Jamaica’s plantation society and slavery has not been properly aired. (Well, surely everyone in those days was involved in slavery in some way or other, weren’t they?) She is taking the head of the Jamaican Jewish community to task for seeking to defend his people in a letter to the Gleaner editor, accusing him of a personal attack on her. I don’t know where all this is going, and it seems both unnecessary and insensitive; but Dr. Cooper wants us all to face facts about the “out of many” scenario – or at least, her version of the facts. Perhaps she just wants to be controversial… How, I wonder, does this mesh with Dr. Cooper’s recent spirited defense of a certain deejay – now in jail on murder charges – whose claim to fame was the “bleaching” of his dark skin to an unhealthy off-white color? And perhaps she might recall that most, if not all of the Jews who arrived in Jamaica were themselves fleeing persecution in Europe.
Dear, dear. And they say race isn’t an issue in Jamaica!
…Then there are the teachers. Folks, let us just remember that the Jamaica Teachers’ Association is a trade union. Therefore, its mandate is to call for improved wages and conditions for its members – every year, at this time. The fact that – as I keep pointing out – government is “bruck” is neither here nor there to the JTA, it seems. They have rejected a wage offer, and they want their pension arrangements to remain in place. The fact is that pension reform is one of the three issues which the International Monetary Fund wants the Jamaican Government to address as a precursor (or condition?) of negotiations – those negotiations which are scheduled to start in September. Any word from the Finance Minister? Not much. Any word from the Education Minister? Plenty of words, all of which I agree with.
But still, there are some bouquets to hand out this week, I think:
Firstly, to the University of the West Indies‘ Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social & Economic Studies (SALISES) for their week-long reflections on where on earth Jamaica is heading after fifty years, “Fifty-Fifty: Critical Reflections in a time of Uncertainty.” This was the result of a huge amount of research by numerous clusters of academics on a wide range of topics. I plan to write more about this during the week in a separate blog post, but I do applaud SALISES for this ambitious conference – and particularly, for inviting the public to participate free of charge. When I went down there one afternoon this week, the Jamaica Pegasus was throbbing with life, and filled with Jamaicans who wanted to contribute to one debate or the other. I was very pleased to see this. Now I look forward to seeing some action plans coming out of the discussions. As Lee Kwan-Yew once caustically observed, Jamaicans are very eloquent and very good at talking. Now let’s translate this all into meaningful action that will propel us forward…
Secondly, I am proud of the two youth-led groups Help Ja Children and the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, who have taken on the issue of Jamaica’s homeless and marginalized (see “squatting” above) with a new online campaign. I would urge you to go to http://www.change.org/petitions/end-the-eviction-and-displacement-of-homeless-jamaicans, read it carefully and if you agree, please do sign their petition and shared it widely.
I heard about the Harris Family Vision Foundation for the first time this week, and have to give them warm hugs on behalf of our children. The amazing part of the Foundation is that it is co-founded by a seventeen-year-old (who has a growth disability) Nekhidia and her fourteen-year-old sister Kimberly. Their parents, Michael and Dasline, have been volunteering in Jamaica for the past twenty years. Among many other activities and donations, the Foundation donated a clinic in Madras, St. Ann on Marcus Garvey’s birthday this year. When asked about her amazing confidence, Nekhidia quoted Garvey himself: “If you do not have confidence in yourself you are twice defeated in the race of life.” What an inspiring family – and, by the way, they live in New York. Thank you.
And last but not least: the wonderful Yohan Blake is now officially the second fastest man in the world ever, after a fantastic 9.69 second run in Lausanne, Switzerland. Do join our Facebook group, The Unofficial Yohan Blake Appreciation Society. It seems there are more female members than males, but we are seeking to address the gender imbalance!
Kudos on the media front: Television Jamaica has greatly improved its website. I never used to visit it, but realize it is now slick, attractive and has easily accessible clips from their highly popular morning magazine program “Smile Jamaica” as well as news, etc. Good going. (A nice interview with Jamaica’s first Tae Kwon Do Olympian Kenneth Edwards is linked below). They have uploaded nearly 600 video clips – something there for everyone.
No one seems to put in a good word for On the Ground News Reports, so I will. They started off as a Facebook page and now have an excellent website at http://www.og.nr/keywords/local-news. If you want news from the street – every detail, including roads closed, car crashes, house fires, sports, security issues (murders) – you name it – this will keep you up to date. It is interactive, so anyone can contribute if they can confirm a story or add further information. You can send them photos from your phone. It’s a unique idea and it deserves to be better supported by us, the Jamaican public out there. If you see or hear of something going on, let them know! They are also on Twitter (@onthegroundjm). Their slogan: “You are the news.”
I like the Observer’s TeenAge weekly, edited and written by teens. It is nicely put together and a good mix of the usual teen stuff – pop music, fashion etc – and more uplifting information relevant to teens. I liked this week’s article on the young journalists’ visit to the Youth Science Forum in Trinidad recently.
Finally, “big ups” to the Jamaican diaspora media, out there. In Florida, there are a few radio stations focusing on Jamaican issues. For example, my Facebook friend Desmond Brown will be discussing whether Jamaicans overseas should be allowed to vote in Jamaican elections (always a tricky topic!) this afternoon on Island Riddim Radio in Central Florida. They do live streaming at www.islandriddimradio.com. Then there is the young Kingstonian Lawman Lynch, now operating out of New York with a newsletter, who is also active in the broadcast media. Greetings to all!
Once again, and on my usual sad note, I offer my deepest condolences to the grieving families and friends of the following Jamaicans, who were killed in the past week. It concerns me that this list appears to be growing a little longer each week – and no one seems to be commenting on this very much.
Killed by police:
Three unidentified men, Norwood, Montego Bay, St. James
Karl Nation, 18, Maxfield Park, Kingston
Nigel Thompson, 18, Maxfield Park, Kingston
Rohan Lewis, 28, St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann
Joseph Wedderburn, Sine Irwin, St. James
Ralbert Wilmot, 48, Retreat, St. James
Karl Atkinson, 56, Balaclava, St. Elizabeth
Anthony Kirlew, 50, Caymanas Park, St. Catherine
Michael Raymond, 51, Palmers Cross, Clarendon
Bucassa McIntosh, 35, Portsmouth, St. Catherine
Don Riggs, 35, Green Pond, St. James
Donovan Anderson, 37, Green Pond, St. James
Jermaine Gordon, 23, Green Pond, St. James
Melbourne Lowe, 57, Eleven Miles, St. Thomas
Matthew McAnuff, 25, Kingston
Unidentified man, Lincoln Avenue, Kingston 13
Peter Nembhard, Central Village, St. Catherine
Clayton Smith, 39, Bluefields, Westmoreland
Devon Thompson, 41, Islington, St. Mary
Veronica Wizard, 75, Torrington Park, Kingston
Kemar Beckford, 21, Retreat, St. James (mob killing)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Vaz-steps-aside_12331030 (Vaz steps aside – Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Poor–pregnant-and-homeless_12346438 (Poor, pregnant and homeless – Mark Wignall op-ed)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/lead/lead2.html (Birthing poverty: Is two still better than too many? – Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Help-coming-for-evicted-squatters_12322447 (Help coming for evicted squatters – Jamaica Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120823/lead/lead7.html (Squatter squabble – Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-nation-divided-against-itself-must-fall_12340147 (A nation divided against itself must fall – James Moss-Solomon op-ed)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-will-sell-Caymanas-Park-but-not-cheaply–says-Dalley (Government will sell Caymanas Park but not cheaply, says Dalley – Jamaica Observer)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/lead/lead9.html (Kirlew marked for death? – Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Stopover-arrivals-up-6—-Minister-McNeil (Stopover arrivals up six per cent – Minister McNeill – Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/31580 (One Million Pounds on promotional activities in London well spent – Jamaica Information Service)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/lead/lead4.html (Eyebrows raised over Stanberry’s Benz – Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120820/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Derrick Kellier defends the trough – Gleaner editorial)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/focus/focus3.html (Fifty years in dependence – Ian Boyne op-ed – Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/focus/focus1.html (Government squandering mandate – Chris Tufton op-ed – Sunday Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/lead/lead91.html (Glenhope yet to rise from ashes – Sunday Gleaner)
http://www.capricaribbean.org/research/10-steps-scrap-metal-solution-full-brief (Ten Steps to a Scrap Metal Solution- CaPRI)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Are-we-in-recession_12326791 (Are we in recession? – Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/31582 (Jamaica House in London a succes – McNeill – Jamaica Information Service)
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/list/31569 (36,000 additional airlift seats secured from UK – Jamaica Information Service)
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/SmileJamaica.aspx/Videos/20346 (Jamaica’s first taekwondo champion – TVJ interview)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Tribalism-in-Jamaican-politics_12340116 (Tribalism in Jamaican politics – Diane Abbott op-ed)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Fifty-Fifty–Critical-Reflections-in-a-Time-of-Uncertainty–1-_12343567 (50-50: Critical Reflections in a Time of Uncertainty – Claude Robinson op-ed)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120826/cleisure/cleisure3.html (Persistent Perversity on Jews and Slavery – Carolyn Cooper op-ed)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Jamaica—still-ahead-of-the-race-curve (Jamaica – Still Ahead of the Race Curve – Jean Lowrie-Chin op-ed)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120823/lead/lead5.html (Phillips firm on IMF wrap-up – Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/teenage/TEENage-visits-Youth-Science-Forum_12312347 (TeenAge visits Youth Science Forum)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Charity-begins-at-home-_12268953 (Charity begins at home – Jamaica Observer)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sport/-Beast–unleashed_12338646 (Beast unleashed! – Jamaica Observer Sports)
50-50 Reflections (petchary.wordpress.com)
Sunday Sighs: August 19, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Jamaica 50 Special: Monday, August 6, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
UN agency calls for full probe into Jamaica murder (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
The title of this blog post is influenced by the fact that I am have become locked into the Euro 2012 tournament for the past three days. I am just watching the passionate Croatians getting the better of the dogged Irish. It has been (and will remain) a complete distraction for me, as I am a hopelessly addicted football (soccer) fan. If I was to give a score for this past week, however, I would say that it might be something along the lines of Jamaican Politicians 3, Jamaican People 1, although the people’s goal was really an “own goal.” And in the case of our home-grown don Christopher “Dudus” Coke – well, the U.S. Government kept a clean sheet, 1-0.
Mr. Coke received a 23-year sentence in a New York court this week, for racketeering and assault. This prompted local journalists to rush down to the tired and dusty Tivoli Gardens neighborhood in West Kingston, where large bullet holes still pock-mark some of the buildings after the security forces’ May 2010 assault on the area. This is where, in the “good/bad old days,” Mr. Coke and his “Presidential Click” held sway. And yet, Mr. Coke’s criminal career, his flight, pursuit, capture, extradition and now incarceration will linger on in Jamaica, like the sickening smell of a dead cat in our garbage bin even after it had been removed. (Yes, our dogs killed a cat one night last week. They have a penchant for hunting. I am sorry, cat-lovers…) The residents’ responses to Mr. Coke’s sentence ranged from angry tears to shrugged shoulders.
Coincidentally, I think, Mr. Mattathias Schwartz of the New Yorker magazine produced another piece on the Tivoli Gardens “incursion” (this is the euphemism used by the Jamaican media for a military attack on Tivoli Gardens, when security forces pursued Mr. Coke and over seventy people were killed). See the link to Mr. Schwartz’s article below. His first article on the Tivoli Gardens attack, published in December 2011, “revealed” information that everyone in Kingston already knew – that a surveillance plane of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security circled over Kingston; embarrassingly, then National Security Minister Dwight Nelson flatly denied what we had all seen with our own eyes. The second Schwartz article alleges that, according to the U.S. Government, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) “fired mortars” at Tivoli Gardens; and the JDF conceded that indeed they did. “Bombs on Tivoli” shouted the Gleaner’s headline on Friday; and they got another confirmation from the JDF, who noted that the so-called “bombs” did not target people or buildings. Now, the U.S. Government plan to search for Mr. Coke’s assets, amounting to a possible US$1.5 million to be forfeited. It’s all about the Benjamins, as a hip hop artist once said…
The Budget Debate dragged on to its inevitable conclusion: some more tinkering with the taxes, resulting in the Budget, Mark Two. Remember, Politicians vs People and, as always, the Politicians won. The local media dutifully broadcast and reported on two lengthy speeches, firstly by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and then by Finance Minister Peter Phillips – redux. In the background, government Members of Parliament twiddled their writing implements, adjusted the collars of their fashionable outfits, browsed their blackberries, and even stuffed food in their mouths. They kept their right hands at the ready though, so that they could thump their desks in thunderous approval of every announcement or political point scored by the speakers. Journalists remained at their posts, putting all other news on hold, tweeting and reporting small chunks of the changes and announcements – all of which could have been neatly wrapped up in a half hour presentation by Dr. Phillips. But, the public and media endured a hesitant, labored (almost tired) presentation, punctuated frequently by witty remarks, muttered insults and loud guffaws from both sides of the house. The Prime Minister, whose speech took place the day before Dr. Phillips’ revisions, consisted of 25% accusing the former administration of creating Jamaica’s economic woes; 35% ranting about child abuse and how “disgraceful” and “shameful” it is; another 25% of interruptions, etc; and about 15% actual substance. As broadcaster Dionne Jackson-Miller complained in her blog, why are these speeches so long?
Some of the “softening” measures adopted in Budget Version Two were the lifting of General Consumption Tax on school books “approved by the Ministry of Education.” Having worked for eight years in the book business, I know full well that we are already approaching the dreaded “school book season,” when anxious parents descend on the bookstores with book lists in hand for the upcoming academic year starting September. Of course, I agree with Mr. Steadman Fuller of Kingston Bookshop, who said on radio last week that the idea of producing an approved book list out of the hundreds of titles that appear on school lists each year by the middle of this month is completely impossible. And is the Bible, which appears on almost every school list, an approved text book? By the way, tax remains on beef patties.
And as for the child abuse issue, as columnist and common-sense businessman James Moss-Solomon observed in the Sunday Observer today, “The poor of this country are no more intentionally depraved than the animals on television that must find ways to survive even as their natural habitat is shrinking.” It’s all a part of the general desperation that afflicts large proportions of the country’s population – including the Prime Minister’s own constituency: Majesty Gardens, for example, which was prominently featured in recent television reports. One could not find a less appropriate name for that place.
Meanwhile, in the Land of Bling it seems anything goes (see link below). Everywhere one looks there are models strutting and posing for Caribbean Fashion Week. Last week I asked where the actual economic value was in this “fashion industry.” How much is it worth – how many jobs in Jamaica does it create? I would love to know…
And last night, our very own sprint champion crashed his car again – just around daybreak in Kingston’s Half Way Tree – just a little fender bender, returning from a “popular party.” He is “at home sleeping” now, his publicist says. The inexorable build-up to the London Olympics seems to go on for ever; surely the athletes’ jewelry boxes must be full of diamonds by now?
But several bouquets are waiting to be handed out… Perhaps the Reggae Boyz would prefer something more macho, but congratulations to Theodore Whitmore and the Jamaican football team for their win in the first game of their qualifying campaign for the next World Cup. Pity you had to let in the Guatemalan goal in extra time, though. But 2-1 is, indeed, a respectable score.
Well now! Ms. Janet Silvera of the Gleaner, always the epitome of Jamaican warmth and hospitality, is the first Jamaican to win the Marcia Vickery-Wallace Memorial Award for excellence in travel tourism.
Talking of Montego Bay (Ms. Silvera’s neck of the woods) I was pleased to learn that its Free Zone is set for a a 50,000 square foot expansion - “bursting at the seams” as my favorite Government Minister Phillip Paulwell put it – and that LIME is to give up the telecoms monopoly in the Zone. LIME Chairman Chris Dehring noted, “This partnership with the Government for the development of the ICT and telecoms services signals our total embrace of competition in the sector.” That is good; and I hope for the sake of competition in Jamaica on the whole that LIME does not suffer further great losses as it competes with Digicel. Excellent work Minister Paulwell too, on moving forward with net billing and awarding licenses to those who wish to sell their excess electricity back to the grid. Woot woot!
A pat on the back for another Minister – Justice Minister Mark Golding – for taking a step in the right direction with the formation of the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA – a new acronym to remember) on Tuesday. This single anti-corruption body makes a lot of sense to me. Let’s hope the whole process does not take too long; a committee is to advise on this matter by the end of the month which is a good timeframe. After that, it will go to Cabinet. This is something that the Contractor General had recommended to the Government and Opposition more than two years ago.
I am also impressed by Jamaica’s first “all-green” residence, somewhere in St. Elizabeth I believe. It is quite a large house, and completely “off the grid” – swimming pool and all.
Another positive… The Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) that investigates police abuses appears to be gaining confidence, since the Supreme Court ruling in its favor.It has taken over the investigation into one of the more disturbing incidents (well, they are all disturbing) – the shooting death of sixteen-year-old Vanessa Kirkland in a car on March 20. Three policemen implicated in the shooting are to face identification parades next week. Meanwhile, the tireless and determined head of Jamaicans for Justice Dr. Carolyn Gomes joined the residents of Jarrett Lane in a peaceful demonstration on Friday evening in protest at the shooting death of Police Youth Club member Kavorn Schue a week ago. Head of the police Community Safety Branch Senior Superintendent James Forbes, a man whose sincerity I do not question, has a very hard job now as he seeks to mend fences in the community.
It’s tough being a talk show host. Ms. Barbara Gloudon patiently endured an onslaught of calls from irate rum-drinkers on Thursday. They were furious about the sudden increase in the price of white rum – which, like rice and peas, chicken and beef patties, is a Jamaican staple. Ms. Gloudon defended herself valiantly – the callers seemed to expect her to explain the many and various prices of large and small bottles. Let’s hope that things settle down and that “unscrupulous persons” (to use Government jargon) are not pricing their goods over the top (and often not handing over the Government tax – this does happen). Yes, you know who you are…
Time is getting on and there is more to talk about of course. Last but not least, however, may I send appreciation and thanks to Miss Jamaica Universe 2012, Ms. Chantal Zaky, who will be supporting the fund-raising efforts of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL). Ms. Zaky will hold a press conference tomorrow (Monday June 11) at JASL offices on Upper Musgrave Avenue, Kingston at 12:00 noon. Please come along and support. More on this anon, but suffice it to say, for now, that JASL are quietly doing incredible work with those Jamaicans who are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and who are routinely marginalized by society. They need much more funds to be able to continue this heroic work. PLEASE support them in any way you can; financial donations will be most gratefully received. Visit their website at http://www.jasforlife.org/html/.
- Euro 2012: Why Can’t America Get Behind the World’s Most Popular Sport? (bleacherreport.com)
- It’s OK to like football and soccer. Really. (independentmail.com)
- Euro 2012: Embrace the Bar Life and Enjoy Games with Fellow Fans (bleacherreport.com)
- As Jamaican Drug Lord is Sentenced, U.S. Still Silent on Massacre (newyorker.com)
- http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/12/12/111212fa_fact_schwartz: A Massacre in Jamaica (mattatiasschwartz.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120610/lead/lead1.html: Dudus dollars wanted (Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120608/lead/lead1.html: Bombs on Tivoli (Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/memo-to-jamaican-politicians-long-speeches-bad-idea/: Dionne Jackson Miller’s blog
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Tax-package-softened_11634098: Tax package softened (Jamaica Observer)
- http://www.kingstonstyle.com/2012/06/lisa-hyper-never-the-less-at-cfw-2012/: Lisa Hyper at Caribbean Fashion Week
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Population–popularity–and-politics_11649986: James Moss-Solomon column
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120610/news/news4.html: Janet Silvera receives major tourism award
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/videos/video.php?id=466: Anger over Jarrett Lane police shooting lingers
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120605/lead/lead23.html: Deeply wounded (Jamaica Gleaner)
- The British officer who changed policing in Jamaica (guardian.co.uk)
The international news has been looking like several action movies rolled into one, in recent weeks. There is so much going on that the BBC News can’t fit everything into one of its tight little news packages (although it still finds a spot for the Queen’s visit to Australia, in shades of pastel, and how they all love her).
Overwhelming all today was the death of Muammar Gadhafi as he tried to escape from the once-luxurious town of Sirte, where his life began and ended. The circumstances of his death remain murky, while video footage of the former Brother Leader being dragged onto a pickup and along a dusty street has been removed from many websites. So after 42 years of hatred and oppression – and tribalism (he was born into an Arab Bedouin tribe and persecuted the Berbers, a non-Arab tribe) – and nine months of rebellion and fighting, we see his blood-soaked image, a frightening mask, in still photos. ”We are happy,” Libyans say.
Meanwhile, battles large and small are breaking out all over. The Libyan Civil War has hopefully moved towards a resolution, as the “rebels” (as we still like to call them) – computer technicians, interior designers and others – break down the green walls of Sirte. Elsewhere, the action grinds on inexorably.
In Syria, we see crowds squeezed into narrow streets like a river overflowing its banks, the upraised arms like waves. We see the flow broken up occasionally as gunfire crackles and men drop their placards and scatter (or sometimes stand defiantly). In Yemen, warriors with curved swords stuck into their waistbands mingle with youth in football jerseys and women in black. All is not yet calm in Egypt, and rumblings continue like aftershocks – unresolved, long-standing conflicts and grievances and grudges. Egyptian Coptic Christians, a long-suffering minority, raised their voices and… more fighting, more bitterness.
It’s not only in the Middle East, where the light and optimistic Arab Spring has moved into a seething, dark Fall. I’m moving to our hemisphere now. The Occupy Wall Street movement began on September 17 and will likely continue until the harsh New York winter sets in. Then only the real die-hards will remain. Unlike the above horrors, there has been no major bloodshed apart from bruises and cuts acquired during skirmishes with policemen – but the anger and the hurt is there. People are not running and marching so much as standing, and sitting. Meditating, playing drums, listening to speeches and lecturing each other and anyone else who will listen. Young and old and middle-aged; dreadlocked anarchists and grey-haired intellectuals and homely housewives; a thousand different versions of protest and reasons to protest. A few demonstrations have broken out in the UK; but perhaps people are exhausted by the fiery looting and bitter encounters during the riots that started in Tottenham earlier this year. Their protests have been a little more polite; now there are people camped outside St. Paul’s Cathedral (well, I always had my doubts about St. Paul, ruddy capitalist) in small, neat tents. They weren’t allowed in the Stock Exchange.
And then there are the Petchary’s personal favorite protesters – the indigenous Bolivians from the Isiboro Secure Territory (now not so secure) known by its Spanish acronym, TIPNIS. They have walked for 250 miles – and uphill over 12,000 feet - from the lowlands where they live to the capital of La Paz. Now that is real, serious action. I’m really proud of them.
They were welcomed joyously by rows of round-faced children who gave them flowers. Now they need to deal with President Morales about that highway.
Meanwhile, in Chile things are heating up. This has actually been going on for at least a couple of months now, and the scent of tear gas fills the air as the running battles between students and riot police continue up and down the graceful streets of Santiago. Footage sometimes shows street dogs joining in the rioting, leaping delightedly in the arc of the water cannon.
Oh, and then there are the Greeks.
Meanwhile, what of Jamaica? There was a modest, quiet demonstration outside the Bank of Jamaica today (maybe a dozen people?) But in general, Jamaicans are not taking any action. We are sitting, mostly: on our verandahs, in Parliament, on our couches, at our desks (those who are lucky enough to have jobs). And talking: Yes, we are good at that.
I recall a Report of the West Indian Commission, edited by Sir Sridath Ramphal (his name has always been a tongue-twister for me) and optimistically titled “Time for Action.” That was in 1993.
Eighteen years later, not much action I’m afraid – apart from the growing crime rate and the insane drivers – they believe in action.
And you can’t even read the report online. Sad.
Important footnote: Please don’t think I am making light of all the above protests. All these protesters are brave, determined and believe in their cause. And I believe they have a right to protest and demonstrate. I just hope everyone stays safe, but I suppose that’s not a concern for many of them.
- Gadhafi killed after bombing of convoy in retreat from Sirte (thehill.com)
- Gadhafi is Dead, How Gadhafi’s capture unfolded during siege of Sirte. (ghostinfos.com)
- London Protesters May Close St Paul’s, Cathedral Leaders Say (businessweek.com)
- The language of protest (michcommunication.wordpress.com)
- Protesters of the world beware: remember what happened to Liberty | Michael White (guardian.co.uk)
- Bolivia road march enters La Paz
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a band of the 21st century, founded in 2000 and still going with the greatest of verve. Their lead singer, Karen O, was born in South Korea: her Ma is Korean and Pa is Polish. Although I think of the YYYs as a typical edgy New York band, Ms. O grew up in New Jersey and now lives in Los Angeles. A little disappointing… But enjoy this blood-red video – Karen’s lips and shimmy-shiny dress, a monster’s eyes, glossy drops of… Yeah!
In Jamaica, I am told, “Sunday music” at home used to be a bit of light classical music – some Mozart, a touch of Tchaikovsky. But in our house, Sunday music is not so restricted. No Led Zeppelin, perhaps – but something rhythmic, light, gentle.
Take Bebel Gilberto, for example. Frangipani flowers and bare feet, sugar green water lapping at your toes, tangled hair, brown skin. Her album “Momento” is just right for Sundays – sweet melodies, breathy vocals, not demanding in any way.
This particular song, though, “Os Novos Yorkinos,” although so unmistakably Brazilian, is in praise of New York and New Yorkers – and quite simply, it’s about going out and having fun. The phone rings… Let’s go out somewhere.
This may be the first in a “Sunday music” series.
Listen to it on the Vodpod sidebar on this blog. And lean back and enjoy. It’s Sunday.
The Petchary found another source of inspiration on New Year’s Eve. A very different character, background and musical genre than the angry, searching soul of Joe Strummer described in yesterday’s post.
Lang Lang. No, I am not repeating myself. This is the name of a 28 year-old, wide-eyed, spiky-haired concert pianist, whose live performance at the Lincoln Center in New York was a revelation. From what I have learned, one of the Lang’s (being two different Chinese characters) means “brightness and sunshine” and the other “educated gentleman.” Chinese scholars, please correct me if these meanings are inaccurate. Nevertheless, these two qualities combined create a remarkable human being.
Lang Lang has an openness, a sensitivity – a kind of connection that few musical performers have. It is within him, it flows from his fingers and the tilt of his head, and the emotions flitting across his chubby, almost childlike face. From the faces of the middle-aged ladies in evening dress in the front row you could tell he had made that connection of the spirit, with the greatest of ease. That is what makes a great classical performer, especially a concert pianist – that ability to channel the life history, the emotions, the struggles of the composer to create something beautiful – through his own body, and especially his hands, to rows of people who have just parked their cars, grabbed a drink at the bar and sat down to listen. He/she must also filter it through his own life and spiritual framework, like hot coffee bubbling through fine paper.
Lang Lang was born in an army barracks in Shenyang, China, the only son of two parents who, propelled by their own failed ambitions as musicians, were obsessed in their pursuit of success for their son. And they started him early. He started piano lessons at age three, and at age five won first place at the Shenyang Piano Competition and performed his first public recital. His father simply wanted his son to be Number One, and he was so single-minded he would go to insane lengths to get him to that position. Lang Lang was initally thrown out of the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music for lack of talent, but struggled back and eventually, at age 15, began studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Lang Lang is young. He suffered a painful childhood; his tyrannical father told him he should commit suicide (at age nine) when he failed an audition. He has been criticized of course, and music critics can be cruel; another pianist has spitefully called him the “J.Lo of the piano.”
But the young man seems to have sailed above all of this, and is now a classical superstar. Whether all his performances are technically perfect or not, one is moved and excited by them. He learnt this emotional connection in the United States; it was not encouraged in the Chinese system’s strict adherence to technical mastery of the instrument. Since his triumphant Carnegie Hall debut ten years ago and his stunning appearance at the BBC Proms, described as “history in the making,” he has played to sold-out halls around the world. He has played for President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, and various other world leaders. And he’s now a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Why should classical music be something dull, for old people? There’s nothing dull about Lang Lang. He has established his own International Music Foundation to encourage a love of classical music in young people and to offer financial support to budding musicians. He is like a young, benevolent – and definitely cool – version of his father.
Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is nothing if not emotional, and incredibly difficult to play, with all kinds of changes of pace and complex patches of finger work. The Petchary grew up with it and loved it as a child – romantic and melodic – but it was considered “trivial” by Tchaikovsky’s critics of the day (similar to some comments made about Lang Lang). But romantic music seems to be back in fashion. Lang Lang’s performance – at times fluttering and delicate, at others dramatic and thunderous – left the Petchary riveted on the sofa. He stretched his delicate, white fingers at times in the air, at other times holding a hand to his face – but his absorption in the music was completely contagious. One just could not let go.
Of course, all the best concert pianists have big egos. That’s expected of them, and they couldn’t do it otherwise. Lang Lang is a product of his time, a New York city man, with a big PR machine. Adidas named a pair of sneakers after him. He has a MySpace page and he’s on Twitter. You can find many of his performances on YouTube. His music is the soundtrack to Gran Turismo 5, a video game. He has a big fan website, a great image and is followed around by groups of adoring girls in faded jeans and T shirts. He played George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with jazz pianist Herbie Hancock at the 2008 Grammy Awards – but is not into the pop crossover thing in general.
He wants people to love classical music for what it is.
And we love Lang Lang.
- Pianist Lang Lang’s childhood trauma (bbc.co.uk)
- Rebel (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/03/arts/music/03lang.html?src=twrhp Review of the New Year’s Eve concert
- http://www.psxextreme.com/ps3-news/8272.html The video game
The Petchary must now comment on two happy events that have occurred in the past few days. One is, to the Petchary at least, an event of great significance and one to shout about. The other is a manufactured piece of PR that is of no significance at all, but which, because of its “cuteness factor” has won over many hearts. But then, let us not be churlish. We all need some good news from time to time, don’t we?
The first event was the release, on the evening of November 13, of the Burmese icon of democracy Aung San Suu Kyi, whom the Petchary referred to in an earlier blog post on Nobel Peace Prize winners who are unrecognized, even reviled, in their native land.
There is no doubt. Aung San Suu Kyi is a celebrity, but quietly so. Her exuberant and devoted supporters are always the ones making the noise. ”We haven’t seen each other for so long, I have so much to tell you,” she told the thousands of adoring ones on the day of her release. She sounded more like someone who had just returned from an exciting overseas trip, talking to her best friend. It is this direct simplicity that is most beguiling. President Obama’s “personal hero” is calm, firm, with a deliciously sweet smile and a cool, almost stern gaze.
But then, she comes from strong stock. Her father, General Aung San, commander of the Burmese Independence Army, had met and married his nurse, Ma Khin Kyi, in 1942 in the hospital where he was recovering from wounds received during his march into Burma. Five years later, when Aung San Suu Kyi was only two years old, he was assassinated. Her mother became a prominent public figure and was named Burma’s Ambassador to India, where Suu Kyi went to high school. She then went on to Oxford University (St. Hugh’s College, where she studied Politics, Philosophy & Economics). She met her husband Michael Aris there (he died of prostate cancer in London in 1999 and was not allowed to return to Burma to see his wife before he died). Remaining in Burma was one of the huge sacrifices she made – if she left, she knew she would never be able to return.
We forget that Suu Kyi was an intellectual, who studied, lectured and published books in New York and London. A cosmopolitan woman, who moved in somewhat privileged circles. She did not become an activist until 1988, during the upheavals and vicious suppression of thousands by the Burmese military.
She was first placed under house arrest the following year. How strange, one feels, to be imprisoned in one’s own home, the same old-fashioned villa inherited from her father the General. The house almost became a part of her – its balconies and railings and shrubs, and the street outside where her admirers gathered.
Now, life has become much more complicated for Suu Kyi. After being detained for fifteen of the past twenty-one years, she has to try to unravel some of the twisted skeins of Burmese politics. Most importantly, she has to figure out who her allies are; some of them are strong and vocal and appear to be genuinely supportive. And who are her potential enemies; some of these are seemingly sitting on the fence, others are making deals with her political opponents.
In the few interviews she has given, it is clear that she is sizing things up carefully. Her words are well chosen, but one thing she has always made clear, and continues to do so: she believes in non-violence.
Now there is another happy event, one that has evoked cries of, “Oh, she’s so pretty!” and “Aren’t they a lovely couple!” and “What a beautiful ring!” Yes, the usual response to a betrothal, lots of oohs and aahs and sighs. Only this betrothal is special – it’s a royal one. Which means a royal wedding (Gasp! Sigh!) Yes, the sweetly handsome Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales is getting married to… Kate Middleton. Sorry, Katherine. But Kate sounds so much more delightfully young upper middle-class (we are talking about England, after all).
Anyway, in case you have been living on a remote island for the past week, the charming Prince (with his mother’s face and his father’s receding hairline) is marrying a “commoner.” (Hate to say this, but the royals don’t have a very good record associating with commoners, many of whom are now divorced persons. And William’s ill-fated mother, the adored Princess Diana, was foolish enough to be associated with a foreign commoner, and worse still, an Arab).
Now bookmakers are excitedly running around taking bets on the wedding date; Kate has taken to wearing ridiculous hats perched on one side of her elegant head, just like all the royals; she has been deer-stalking with her fiance and future father-in-law (isn’t that a blood sport? Yes, it is); she has attended various society weddings wearing the same stupid hats.
The Petchary is thankful that she no longer resides in England, where every detail of the life of the royal family is related, analyzed and regurgitated by the tabloids in a manner that is part sensational, part fawning, part nauseating. It’s worse than a soap opera. Soap operas are strangely, almost reassuringly, old-fashioned. No, the royals are young and trendy and they have names like Kate and Zara and Sophie, and they are seen at the coolest nightclubs and ski resorts… And oh yes, they wear idiotic hats…
Meanwhile, the deer-stalking Kate is the latest media darling. And hey, she really is a commoner… Her mother, a former air hostess, was seen chewing gum at the Prince’s passing-out ceremony (and yes, like his fellow royals, the Prince does pretend to be a military man, and looks dashing in uniform).
The Petchary apologizes for this blog. It has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.
- Aung San Suu Kyi on freedom and phones (bbc.co.uk)
I watched a small and unpretentious YouTube video today, posted by John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono. Less than one minute long. Yoko greets us with a “Hi” and an almost imperceptible shy shrug of her shoulders, like a young girl trying to be friends. After asking us to “Think peace, spread peace, act peace and imagine peace,” she ends with the usual peace sign and “I love you” – her tone in those three words that of a mother talking to a far away child on the phone. A surprisingly touching and intimate video clip.
Yoko, who is now 77 years old, celebrated John’s birthday in Iceland, with a concert by her Plastic Ono Band (yes, they are still around) including their only son Sean Ono Lennon, and the lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower in his memory. It shines on an island near Reykjavik. The concept – a searing beam of pure light – is not particularly original, and is reminiscent of a 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero. But it is beautiful. It is night there now, and very clear, and the ice-blue beam shines straight into the star-sprinkled sky. You can see it via Earthcam at http://imaginepeacetower.com/
I wonder what John would have thought of it. He would certainly be amazed at the technology that created it, and that allowed his widow to reach out to millions of strangers around the world who love him, through “tweets,” videos and Facebook messages. He had just celebrated his fortieth birthday – expressing surprise at being so old – two months before he was shot four times in the back on the steps of his grand New York apartment block by the mentally disturbed Mark Chapman. And that’s almost thirty years ago now.
The Petchary remembers that gloomy winter afternoon well, when the news broke on TV. It was late in the evening in New York, afternoon in Europe, sipping a cup of tea. It seemed an impossible thing to happen. John Lennon was someone we felt we could sit down and talk to, one day, about world peace, about racism, about violence towards women. He would always be around to open up that dialogue, like a kind of guru. He was someone to play “Mind Games” with, like a husband or a brother. The Petchary still loves that song (see the full lyrics below).
Today, the good people of Liverpool unveiled a memorial to John. The somewhat elaborate, multi-colored, shiny memorial was heralded with John’s song “Give Peace a Chance” sung by over 2,000 people joining hands. John’s other family – his first wife Cynthia and their son Julian – were there.
There is nothing, in the Petchary’s eyes, in this memorial to remind you of John – or even of peace, apart from the spiky doves on top. Disappointing.
John struggled through an uncertain childhood and a rebellious adolescence. Not long before he died he said, “I cannot be what I am not.” From his unhappy childhood onwards (he was brought up by his aunt in a rough working-class neighborhood, with an absent father and a mother who just couldn’t cope) you just had to take him as he was. He wasn’t going to change or pretend to suit anybody. He did what he wanted to do, right or wrong. It seems to the Petchary that people who really make a difference in the world… This is what they do. They are single-minded, they march determinedly along their own path. They have no choice.
John’s path ultimately led to him becoming an unapologetic peace activist, lying in bed with Yoko, declaiming in his harsh Liverpudlian accent, courting publicity and loving it. And, before that, to becoming one of the greatest songwriters and performers ever. His song “Imagine” has become a cliche – but despite its pretty anarchic lyrics it still makes the young and the not so young sigh and smile wistfully. One could always forgive his apparent naivete because one knew that whatever other faults John had, he was never a hypocrite.
It was a rocky road to peace. John was a rebel with a devastating wit and a strong dislike of authority who failed all his examinations and was described as “hopeless” by his teachers. He was a “Teddy Boy,” one of the more aggressive youth tribes of the time, a fierce lover of American rock ‘n roll (he made a great album of his favorite songs).
He never really lost that edge, did he? He was certainly the most “dangerous,” exciting and unpredictable of the Beatles when they emerged in the still-conservative Britain of the early 1960s. He loved making outrageous comments to journalists. He would also make people laugh. ”We’re more popular than Jesus now,” he said as the Beatles became a musical windstorm. People took him seriously, but it was often tongue in cheek. He used sarcasm as a useful weapon, and a kind of bravado that was endearing: ’You have to be a bastard to make it, and that’s a fact.” As a young Beatle, his smile was cheeky and ironic. But later songs, such as “Cold Turkey” (about the horrors of drug rehab) and “A Day in the Life” (a psychedelic nightmare) are not exactly easy listening.
The two memorials today tell two different stories. The rather brash memorial in Liverpool, reminiscent of John’s tough-as-nails youth, unveiled by his first wife; and Yoko’s New Age laser, her quiet determination to keep the message of love and peace alive, burning away on an Earthcam.
John said, “If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.”
Happy birthday, John. And thank you.
We're playing those mind games together Pushing the barriers planting seeds Playing the mind guerrilla Chanting the Mantra peace on earth We all been playing those mind games forever Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil Doing the mind guerrilla Some call it magic the search for the grail Love is the answer and you know that for sure Love is a flower you got to let it grow So keep on playing those mind games together Faith in the future out of the now You just can't beat on those mind guerrillas Absolute elsewhere in the stones of your mind Yeah we're playing those mind games together Projecting our images in space and in time Yes is the answer and you know that for sure Yes is surrender you got to let it go So keep on playing those mind games together Doing the ritual dance in the sun Millions of mind guerrillas Putting their soul power to the karmic wheel Keep on playing those mind games together Raising the spirit of peace and love (I want you to make love, not war I know you've heard it before)
- Monument marks John Lennon’s birthday (bbc.co.uk)
- John Lennon’s son unveils monument on anniversary (omg.yahoo.com)
- Fans Mark Beatle John Lennon’s 70th Birthday (news.sky.com)
- Yoko Ono wishes for 1 million birthday tweets for John Lennon (ritawatson.com)