Year of Uncertainty – 2017

After spending almost 3 months in Barbados, I have observed developments in the island as an outsider that have affected the Bajan lifestyle and experience. I have been chastised by many that I am too critical of some inconveniences that are reasonably unacceptable and that need some improvement in this age of modern technology.

I have mixed feelings about departing the shores of this tropical paradise and returning to the frigid environs of North America amid the uncertainty of a Donald Trump’s presidency and the potential threat to democracy utilizing his seemingly adversarial stance with the press.

Like President-elect Trump, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart, has a similar hostile relationship with the local press, but that is where the shared characteristic ends. While Mr. Trump is up at ‘the crack of dawn’ setting his agenda through social media, and responding to every remark, however, trivial or insignificant; Mr. Stuart neither tweet, speak nor reassure the citizens what plans his administration will carry out to solve the myriads of problems the country faces. Mr. Stuart has often ask earnestly that Barbadians to give more, but they have already exceeded their act of giving through depressive taxation and unsatisfactory representation. It is now the responsibility of the Prime Minister and his out of control Cabinet to step up its game and follow his advice.

The lack of transparency and accountability in government projects has beset the Stuart administration, and the previous governments as well. Per the 2015 Auditor General’s report, some statutory bodies and agencies that spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, have failed to submit financial data for audit purposes as far back as 2010. Among the list includes: the National Insurance Fund; Sanitation Service Authority; Transport Authority and the Transport Board; Barbados Agriculture Development and Marketing Corp; Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Barbados Water Authority. This is a by no means a complete list of the offenders, but the most egregious.

Apparently, there is increasing collusion and deal-making among the powerful cabinet ministers (who also are business owners), and the 5% white minority population, who are, indeed, the wealthiest citizens of Barbados. As Heather Cole so aptly wrote about in her blog, Hypocrites and Parasites, ‘white business entities now cater to every need on the island’, leading to the concentration of power and wealth in a few hands.

As Barbados debt burden increases and attempts to provide essential services to its citizen diminish, those responsible for the government finances must be held accountable. As it stands, only a few knows where the money goes.

Barbados will return to business as usual as the year-long celebration of the 50th Independence Anniversary ends January 17th; which began earnestly after the annual summer Crop Over Carnival – the national festival of culture, music and revelry, mixed with traditions and cultural elements – from the past. Crop Over exhibitions, shows and competitions showcase the skill and talent of artisans and artistes. Partying, masquerading and alcohol consumption play a major part of the celebrating and entertaining.

The Barbados Tourism Authority promotes Barbados as the party and culinary capital of the Caribbean, and it has sponsored several chef competitions and food festivals that really enhance the dining experience with an eclectic taste in the local fare.
Finding an event to attend, is only as limited as one’s financial ability to buy a ticket to one of these extravaganza, which are pricey and less affordable for the average Barbadian, but usually well attended by the business and political class, the connected, sycophants, and tourists.

I can relax in ample sunshine, crystal clear blue water, glorious sunsets, white-sand beaches, all the rum one can drink and the delightful food around every corner eatery and restaurant, in the traditional Bajan gastronomy, seems like a no-brainer. But I am also mindful that the abuse of a good thing, is just as harmful as a lack of good governance. Whether I stay or go, uncertainty is everywhere.

What’s News!

What an incredible year. I will be happy to see the end of December…… it cannot get here fast enough. Without doubt, the choice of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States will be the highlight of the insanity that 2016 has been. Along with the Russians hacking of the United States election; the proliferation of fakes news pervading the internet in general, and Facebook the vehicle for false and misleading stories. What is truth and what is fiction.

In 2016, United States is more divided than ever, and more like the late 1890s and beyond, when lynching was part of an informal system of white supremacy. A time of political suppression of Blacks by white, who blame the Blacks for their economic hardships, and loss of social and political privileges. Now, there are more groups to marginalize and the perpetuation of murdering Black men and women, not by vigilante mobs, but by white law enforcement officers, seem to be the goal of intimidation.

It was a tough year for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Kim has not been the same since robbers tied her up and lifted $10 million of jewelry. Yeezy been recently released from the hospital for an alleged mental breakdown, that kind of stress could drive anyone to the mad house, but his circle of friends speculate that Kim is driving him crazy and he should run while he can. Kim just love them and leaves them…this looks like a Rap.

Unmarried and pregnant Pastor Desiree Allen of the First Corinthian Baptist Church of New York, has a lot of explaining to do. MS Allen is expecting twins with her finance Tony Elder on January 16, 2017. MS Allen has broken every tenet of the Christian faith but insist on remaining in a leadership role by refusing to step down and seek God’s guidance. MS Allen failed miserably to be a leader of the flock when she has no clue about the birds and bees. She claims to have had sex off and on since she was fifteen and never been pregnant. What about not having sex while preaching from the pulpit about fornication and adultery. MS Allen can hardly be a role model for the young ladies who attend her church, as in, ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

This is a case of blatant chutzpah and hypocrisy at the highest level. I must say; however, she’s got balls. I guess it is up to the church to throw her a decent wedding, thank goodness, she would not be officiating.

The New Messiah

Still at a loss by the election of Trump to the White House? Scratching your head and pulling your white beard pondering what polling data you miss? Do not feel too badly, you are not alone. The media, the pundits, the talking heads were all duped and mislead; the political scientists are perusing their data points for answers, and I am compelled to give up making political predictions, even when all the facts point to an inevitable conclusion.

The Democratic Party is in disarray, after what look like a certain victory; the Republic Party is forced to contend with a political faction that is bent on destroying it. Thus the long national nightmare begins.

Now the votes are counted and tabulated, it shows that White conservative Christians gave the Donald his victory. National exit polls show white evangelical voters voted in record numbers for DT, 81-16 percent. The Wall Street Journal confirms that more than 80 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for Donald Trump. It is the widest margin ever for a Republican presidential candidate since they have been tracking the numbers; more than Mitt Romney, John McCain or George Bush. Furthermore, more than 75% of white evangelical women – backed Trump. No one could predict that Christians would reject morality and decency.

The irony of course, for all intents and purposes, Trump cannot be considered a Christian. At least in theory, he is a man that appears to have no convictions – religious or otherwise – and represents everything that a Christian rejects. Even, Dr Ben Carson, the most self-described, qualified Christian of all the candidates, is avoiding this wolf in sheep’s clothing and has decided to turn down a position in his administration.

What does all this mean; I do not know. But with Trump and Pence, a dangerous religious extremist, at the helm, the U.S. could become a Christian theocracy. But again, I am out of the prediction business.

Hot and Bewildered in Bim!

Happy to be on my annual sojourn to the land of my birth, a journey that usually coincides with the music driven, and alcohol fueled Crop Over Festival. This year, I scheduled my visit around the celebration of Barbados 50th Anniversary of Independence being held during the month of November, ending on the 30th, and I will extend my stay to enjoy a Bajan Xmas with family and friends, a spectacle so remarkable to believe which I have not experienced in over 40 years. But I am not holding my breath, with the influence of American pop culture, some true Barbadian traditions have slowly been disappearing.

Barbados has undergone some tremendous changes: both positive and negative. The impact of the global financial meltdown still resonates throughout all sectors of the economy. The lack of a diverse economy and the inevitable switch from agricultural base revenue to tourist industry dependency, has led to stagnant growth and an unpredictable economy. Despite the harsh reality of perceivable economic chaos, there are now more cars and vehicular traffic traveling daily on an infrastructure that seems incapable to accommodate the heavy traffic. But debt laden citizens are not necessarily a measure of economic prosperity.

Maybe, due to climate change, Barbados seem to be hotter than ever. The heat is overwhelming, and the humidity is suffocating that even after a torrential downpour the temperature remains the same; whether walking in the rain or to avoid it by taking shelter, you would still be drenched in sweat either way. Complaints about the terrible heat are not only expressed by returning nationals and tourists but from Barbadians who accustomed to the intense hot climate all their lives.

One change that is long overdue is to eliminate the long wait for service, more often at a government institution, but also at private business enterprises. It is just as equally frustrating for visitors, who accustomed to a quick computerized environment, and residents alike, who waste hours standing in line to conduct simple business transactions. This is my second year of spending a couple of hours to get a Visitor’s Registration Certificate from the licensing authority of the Ministry of Transport and Works, which allows a person to drive locally on a current Driver’s License of another country. The customer service representatives basically issue a hand-written document although there is access to a computer and a printer. In the age of modern technology, this process of a ‘pen and paper’ transaction is obsolete and time-consuming.

My experience at a prominent banking establishment was similar. Luckily, I was not trying to get service, but the bank’s customer service people seem to relish the horde of unhappy people moving at a snail’s pace in their direction, knowing that only they can decide the outcome of their very unpleasant time waiting in line. Ironically, the waiters-on-line were captivated by a rapt discussion between a Christian and an obviously well-informed Atheist about waiting for Judgement Day. I am sure they were not going to wait that long. But how long does it take to cash a check, make a deposit or check a balance account? As a former teller in my youth, it doesn’t take that long and in my day, I had to verify the signature of the drawer of the check. Trying to get some foreign exchange service is another story.

Understanding the Barbados telephone communicative system operations would make Sir Alexander tinkle in his grave. Until recently LIME, (used to be Cable and Wireless Communications, is an acronym for ‘Landline, Internet, Mobile, Entertainment’), had a monopoly on the phone carrier service, but as of May 2016, the brand name changed to FLOW. Digicel is now FLOW’s largest mobile competitor but lacks enough fixed line voice and data ability to compete adequately. Navigating through the pricing plan and fees is beyond my comprehension. But get used to the phrase ‘Top Up’ which means to replenish the funds on a prepaid phone before it runs out. Calling landline to landline is free; mobile to mobile with the same provider (FLOW or Digicel) is free, but when calling a FLOW landline from with a Digicel cellular # or vice versa, however, that is when due diligence is required to decide which prefix (as in 42, 23, or 82, etc.) is related to a landline or cellular, and which belongs to FLOW or Digicel, without this knowledge, the charges could be exorbitantly pricey. Using WhatsApp would solve these calling problems.

Change is always good, but changes to improve customer service experience is a win, win situation.

Now That We Found Love…….

Recently, I have done some writing on that wonderful emotion called love. I am certainly no expert on ‘affairs of the heart’, but I have become preoccupied with the subject. Maybe, I have reached that pinnacle of maturity where my priorities have drastically changed in order for me to enjoy the finer and simple pleasures of life. As a young man, I was driven by impetuosity, impatience, intolerance and spontaneity to a degree that my perception of living was to be on an incredible fast track, heading particularly nowhere or mostly in the wrong direction. My youthful indiscretions and the desire for instant and immediate gratification at any costs, overwhelmed my thinking never considering that to savor something of subtlety and refinement, it is to be appreciated overtime to ensure its longevity. If I only knew then, what I know now.

You would be correct to conclude that I have squandered many opportunities, like sand seeping through fingers, after a while, all the grains of natural beauty that once held in the palm of my hands has slipped away. One can consider holding on to what you got, at the risk of settling, because the future is uncertain the possibilities are exponential. I would rather postulate, like that cliché, ‘nothing happens before it time’; the more commitment to risks, the greater the rewards.

This question posed by the reggae group Third World in their hit song, ‘Now that we found love, what are we gonna do with it?, suggest that after finding the ‘sweet love’ you owe it to yourself to let it control your destiny and live happily for eternity – a utopian concept – admirable but impracticable in life.

What happens when two people find each other? You have found your soul mate: a person that inspires you, shares your sense of humor, your love of adventure, with the same religious and cultural similarities, but want to keep your personality and be yourself, not committing to your partner’s ideals and escape into your partner’s world or give up your independence…. knowing who you are – your needs and desires. You have made a choice to share every aspect of your life with an another human being for a considerable length of time – hopefully forever and a day.

This commitment comes with enormous shared responsibilities. Beginning with transparency – keeping secrets are no longer acceptable. A relationship based on a firm belief in truth, reliability, ability and strength of someone, will certainly succeed but one lacking those attributes will most certainly not endure. Deceit, lying by omission, fabrication or misrepresentation of facts have no place in a healthy relationship. Definitely, a lifestyle change is necessary.

Finding ways for open communication in this modern era with options of texts, emails, Twitter, Instagram, FB and DM; deciding which medium is convenient and most beneficial is overwhelming. A phone call or the old-fashioned family conference is still the best method to table and resolve issues. With the potential of misuse of media accessibility granted by one partner to another in the interest of transparency and trust, could open a can of worms and might create chaos, conflicts and unforeseen problems.

How much openness are you willing to surrender? Are you willing to handover the password to your FB page, cellphone or tablet to your SO (significant other)? Revealing a tidbit of something insignificant or innocent might be misconstrued and as a result could start the demise of a once promising strong relationship. I believe in the ‘old saying’, ‘what you don’t know, won’t hurt you. Past indiscretions should stay private and personal. I do not believe your partner wants to hear about your encounter with a donkey in Tijuana in a drunken stupor, or your sexual exploits with the deck crew on a cruise to the Bahamas.

To know what is consensual, agreeable, intolerable, or a deal breaker must include limits and expectations for the relationship. Since one cannot control partner’s friends or family members, limitations to mother-in-laws, brother and sister interventions are clearly defined.

Marriage seems to be the perfect institution to experience joy, happiness and fulfillment in life for one other and simultaneously providing a great partnership, love and emotional support.

Humpty Trump(ty)

My prediction that Trump’s Presidential campaign bid will implode now seems inevitable as he sank in the polls amid chaos in his camp. Trump is in his umpteenth act of a tragic comedy of errors which would have sunk any other candidate. My prediction is a bit off, as I suggested it would have ended last year, however, I underestimated the segment of the electorate that is still racist, xenophobic, isolationist and prefer the pre-civil rights era; as Obama so prophetically stated in 2008, ‘…they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations’. These constituents believe Trump is the great White hope and going all in with a ‘bad hand’ in an effort to take America back to the 40s or 50s. But anyone who claims to be always a winner, is either a liar or never played poker.

Conspiracy theorists speculate that Bill Clinton orchestrated the Trump candidacy to bring down the GOP. There is a modicum of truth in any conspiracy theory and in this one, there is plenty of bad blood between the Clintons and the GOP. But this would be a stroke of such Machiavellian shrewdness to pull off such a coup to get back into the White House, where he had so much fun, now with a wife as the Commander-in-Chief, and he as the Intern-in-Chief, is genius.

Trump seems to be cooperating with the program by insulting a ‘Gold Star’ family member, expelling a child from one of his campaign rallies; refusing to endorse Paul Ryan or John McCain and his bromance with Vladimir Putin, an enemy of the United States and to the great consternation of the international community is quite astounding. Trump has praised Putin as a forceful leader and not the dictator that he truly is. Putin, no doubt, would prefer an incompetent in the White House to weaken NATO as Trump vow to do if he is President, to leave Russia to its own devices. Putin sees Trump as weak and ignorant on such political machinations and ripe for his manipulation.

Trump’s propensity to lie in bed with strange and unsavory bedfellows is his standard customary code of conduct, while pretending to conveniently disavow any knowledge of their beliefs. In the case of David Duke, a white nationalist, an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist, and former Grand Wizard Ku Klux Khan who is just one of his biggest supporter, and has endorsed him enthusiastically. Trump also defends former Fox News’ Chief Executive, Roger Ailes, who is facing law suits of sexual harassment in the workplace going back 30 years, and who is likely to take over as Trump’s campaign manager. I have not heard whether Bill Cosby will support the Trump campaign. Trump has made incendiary remarks about women in the past, and has also been accused of sexual harassment. Birds of a feather.

The Republican establishment is in somewhat of a bind. The leaders of the GOP have lack the integrity, courage or political will to denounce the eccentric behavior; clownish antics and the insulting comments of Mr Trump, and will not garner his support in their reelection bids, however, they will vote for him anyway because their hate for Hilary Clinton is so passionate, even at the risk of losing the White House and destroying their Party.

Trump is preparing for the impending defeat by claiming the elections in November will be rigged just to brace for his fall that all the king’s men will not be able to put him back together again.

Rewards for Prayer

I have overwhelming evidence – everyday day notifications of religious texts, sermons and scriptures – that all my Facebook friends, acquaintances and family are deeply religious, or showing some devotion to or reverence and belief in a higher power with a commitment, no doubt, to the strict observance of a moral code including virtue, decency, honesty and a keen interest in fighting injustice and wrongdoing wherever it seems. I truly applauded your conviction and dedication to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or whatever your religious belief, because there is no task more daunting, a unique human predicament of the impossibility, to save the world from all its dire struggles and tribulations, a task more suited to an all-powerful, all-knowing God, than a messenger of one.

Former Catholic nun, Karen Armstrong wrote in her book, ‘The History of God’ explains, ‘there’s a distinction between belief in a set of propositions and a faith which enables us to put trust in them………I cannot say, however, that my belief in these religious opinions about the nature of ultimate reality gave me much confidence that life here on earth was good or beneficent’. In fact, living on earth is a Hellish existence, that might explain the quest by traditional Christians for that journey to Heaven, a rewarding place for the righteous and the saved. Since no one can envision what the Heaven is like, it is up to your creative imagination because so little is to show about life in the eternity. The popular belief is that a good person goes to heaven immediately when he or she dies; others believe that the body goes back to the dust and the soul ascends to Heaven, however, there is just one recorded incident of an ascent into heaven.

I do not have those aspirations or yearnings to undertake the impossible task of saving people from their wretched life’s experiences; neither do I have a divine calling to a monastic order by taking a vow of poverty, chastity or obedience. But I certainly want to live in a world free from suffering, hopelessness, despair, unhappiness and sorrow; war and strive; and a resolution to all evils that afflict the poor and the unfortunate. If prayer is the great equalizer and is a means to effect changes in society: to heal the sick and infirmed; improve the welfare and aid the poor; soften the hearts of obstinate men, then the rich seem to fare better praying to multiply their wealth times over while the poor remain stagnant in their circumstances. It seems the angels that grant rewards are strangely absent from the daily lives of the destitute and disadvantaged.

We often witnessed prayers to begin a sport event and often when one team is victorious over another. It occurred to me that if both teams summons divine intervention to support one side over another. Who is to blame when one team losses, if both teams are praying for the same result – a win? Let me guess – the devil.

Being religious does not make a better human being; nor resolves the myriad of problems many people meet on a daily basis, however, prolong suffering, hopelessness, despair or unfortunate circumstances may force someone to look to religion for solace and comfort when there is a lack of hope.

The revelation of emails of the Sony executives paints a troubling picture of the attitudes of the dominant population that disparages the accomplishments of the minority actors in Hollywood. In spite of the election of the first President of color, racism is still alive and well. You would believe that the power of prayer is the antithesis of the proclivity for the killing of unarmed black men by white police officers. This is by no means a new occurrence. The perceive the threat of Black men invading White culture during slavery and post slavery, had long been the biggest fears of most white people.

I have had more church than most. Being the nephew of a Pastor of a Pilgrim Holiness Church, I used to attend church twice on Sundays, Wednesday, Thursdays and Friday nights. I have witnessed sisters overcome with the ‘spirits’ and brethren talking in ‘tongues’; I have attended more baptisms than John the Baptist at a River Bay excursion. I still enjoy a good tent revival and charismatic pastors preaching fire and brimstone as punishment for sinners.

If we are all praying to the same divine being, one dominant group seem to have the advantage of being heard. For over 300 hundred years or more of prayer for basic human rights, it is still a struggle to achieve. With a justice system that favors the rich and guilty and a deliberate disregard for the poor and innocence, it is not likely to change at any time soon or in the future.