See Diatribalist’s take on the issue.

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Sand in our faces

July 18, 2008

Letter to the Editor sent July 18, 2008

NB. The Gleaner did publish the letter albeit edited. Unnu nuh see seh di dyam editor people dem change the pronoun referring to God from “she” to “he”?! Is there any gender justice in this world? [one big kiss-teeth]

Sand in our faces

Regarding the sand mining in Coral Springs, Trelawny: Ol’ time people seh tief from tief god laugh. Most assuredly, God is probably in tears, as she bears witness to the offspring of an unholy matrimony between developers and construction companies, sanctioned by privatization ideology, and officiated by the national government. For the past two decades, both parties have ruthlessly acquired, exploited and overdeveloped the physical landscape, mining the beaches, polluting the ground waters and the ocean, running our already overburdened infrastructure into the ground, creating both substandard and exclusive developments, and contributing little to the standard of living of the people on whose backs such “development” occurs: ours.

These entities have worked well together and will continue to do so, thanks to the enthusiastic support of our Prime Minister, and the stewardship of Karl Samuda, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, whose personal and political interests are one and the same. I assume that we should be impressed by the stellar list of local millionaires involved and feel a measure of sympathy for them. Alas, Felicitas Ltd. is feeling anything but happy right now. I feel a tremendous sense of loss, but not for these actors.

Despite the flurry of activity of the high-level investigative team composed of geologists, police investigators, and other environmental specialists, the irony of this situation is not lost on most of us.
Whether the sands of Coral Springs was stolen by a construction company or appropriated by privateers for their own exclusionary means, the result is the same as it has been for years now: once again, sand has been kicked in the faces of the majority of Jamaican people who have been rendered virtually powerless to stop these folks from taking the land from beneath our feet.

P.S. A letter published in the Jamaica Observer (Sunday edition) points out, ever so politely and mathematically, that there is more than one way to approach the issue. Of course, all the focus is on finding the culprits, not addressing any the larger issues I raised in my letter. Maybe one can lead to the other, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Apparently, some “enterprising” Jamaicans have figured out a solution to the growing problem of private ownership of our beachfront lands. Here I’m imagining the kind of screwed-up scheming that must have gone into this: just because foreigners dem now come buy up de land, dat nuh mean seh dem affi get di beach to’! Mek we tek it back!

And take back they did — by the truckloads apparently, causing the “value”of the developers’ investment to bottom-out overnight, but also creating one hell of an environmental hazard for the area. Just wait till de next hurricane, yuh will see.

In some ways, this story is almost side-splitting funny – I’m envisioning a Clovis cartoon featuring some white tourists and Mr. Mahfood who come to beach only to see a pit and a sign “Sand for Sale, Call….”, with trucks driving off in the distance. Felicitas will have to go buy back dem own sand! Lord have mercy!

[Apparently, Clovis did not take my advice, although he did offer a new angle on the issue].

It funny don’t it? Now dat dem tief farrin an brown people sand, is national crisis. Even Prime Minister get involved, to backfoot! But when said people dem a tief wi beach from right under wi backside, not a soul a fart pon we. What a prekke! Next ting yuh know, dem gwa’in want back de ‘ole o dem money; den when dem get it back, tun roun’ and buy the SAME piece of land fi much less cause now it supposedly lost all its value, get all kind of government concession including that govament mus’ gi dem back di sand whe did tief so dem cya’ mek up an even fancier hexclusive resort, an den walk whe’ wid one ‘ole ‘eap o’ money. In fact, me starting to wonder if dis ‘ole ting is not a setup, if dem neva tief from demself jus’ fi dis purpose. But yuh see how rumours start, do’ eeh?

But this is really no laughing matter at all. The Observer article has some good “before” and “after” photos. The audacity of these renegade truckers really – dem see sand put dung, so dem go tek it up. Simple. I guess they assume the sand will replace and renew itself; god put it there so god will send some more? This is really a metaphor for how this country operates isn’t it?

The Gleaner July 17 article quotes Mahfood: “Only a month ago, this was a quarter mile of the most beautiful white-sand beach anyone could find in the world, and that is the reason why I invested in the project,” said William Mahfood, one of the infuriated investors.

Hm! I want to say “serve unnu right!” Ol time people seh tief from tief god laugh. After all, the Mahfood types have been so busy sucking up all the property on the northcoast, that it is getting difficult for ordinary people to find a likkle seaside fi go siddung a sunday morning. We simply can’t take public access to our beaches for granted anymore. This, in the land of sea and sun! If this kind of theft weren’t a sign of how actively we are digging a serious hole for ourselves in this country, and how entrenched corruption has become, I would salute the truckers as heroes in this ultimate sabotage.

And therein lies the problem.

First, there’s the disgusting greed on the part of individuals who source the construction companies and who, in this age of privatization, think that if they got to the beach first and undeterred, then whatever they found belongs to them, and which they will gladly sell for a price. As fi dem dyam tiefing truckers, like all how dem go mek di millionnaire dem bex wid dem, well, dog nyam fi dem suppa! Jail is too nice fi dem! Dem shoulda mek dem carr’ back di sand one condense can at a time from whi’che part dem did put it dung. Den sen dem go jail fi go res’.

This is certainly not the first beach to be mined in this way; in fact, in the 1990s, there was a stretch when it seemed as if beaches were disappearing overnight. These folks have been ravaging the country, and there is nobody who has the courage to stop them. And I am quite sure the Mahfoods and the like have been participating in the trafficking of sand, marl and the like; when they are building their mansions and what have you, indeed, when its time to build up the hotel etc. on this property, where do they think the cement and building material is going to come from? Sand and marl illegally obtained and sourced from somewhere else, of course.

The media reportage keeps emphasizing the point that “local investors” were involved. Well, I can tell you that it wasn’t the churchpeople who supposedly put their hard-earned offering money in Olint. Indeed, it is a virtual roll call of “who’s who” involved in mass acquisition of coastal lands, and whose rampant speculation have helped to drive up property values while getting all kinds of government concessions so they don’t have to pay their fair share of property taxes. These are also folks who give practically nothing back to the society, except glamour shots of conspicuous consumption. These investors provide employment, you say. Yep, they sure do. Jobs that they would never, ever do, for one thing, and which barely put food on people’s tables. I can assure you that what these folks earned on just the deal itself and the monies that continue to roll in for years to come is far and above what any employee could make if they spent their entire working lives (16 – 70 yrs) spreading beds and smiling at the tourists during the high season. Nope, I don’t feel sorry for them one bit.

Then, there’s the political factor: don’t tell me the MP’s and local councillors are not being paid off in some way, and are not benefiting from these bold efforts to move entire parts of the country from one part of the island to another? Day and night, you can hear and see the trucks rumbling on the likkle piece o’ road dem and ready fi run yuh offa di highway. Is me alone noticing that the new big moneymaker especially among young men, is to buy a 16-wheeler or dump truck, hire oneself out to various companies, and to haul all kinds of material – some not so legal – for a set price? Where is the research and surveillance that links the importation and sale of these vehicles with the annihilation of the physical environment? Where is the police and highway patrol who suppose fi know seh if yuh see truck a come from dung a di seaside wid a load a san’ yuh suppose fi detain de driver until yuh have proof of ownership o’ di land and proof of permission to mine the land? Or is mek me mek up dat? Dat nuh exist a Jamaica? Why not? This haulage thing is big big business these days; the developers need the truckers to create their expensive monstrosities, and the truckers need the developer to keep the money rolling; one han’ wash de odder, and everybody go home wid dem belly full.

Then notice how fast this reach the Police High Command and the ears of Karl Samuda, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce. Hear ím nuh?

“They’re thieves and a thief is a thief is a thief,” Samuda said. “And if you’re a little man trying to hustle and you steal, you’re a thief. And you’re a big multimillionaire and you steal, you must suffer the consequences,” he warned.

Don’t you find it weird when people start to talk about themselves in the third person? After all, this is a deal that was brokered through his ministry and personal connections; using the public purse to support private acquisition of national resources is his specialty after all. Samuda, the shameless cur that he is, fresh from his recent spending “spree” in New York, is now actively lobbying on the part of his monied BFF and bedfellows to dispatch as many national resources as possible to find out who the culprits are. Disgraceful and bald-faced! I would not be surprised if he has also personally invested in this venture that he is using his political clout to save. What does this smell like to you? I’ll give you a hint: It rhymes with “bit”, not with “nose”. Ah bwoy!

Frankly, this is a call for much stricter regulation and coordination of how the physical landscape is to be managed. But you know where that’s going to go – absolutely nowhere. In fact, I noted that the CEO of National Environmental Preservation Trust has taken a hands-off approach to this Coral Springs drama. Is that a sign that he knows this whole cass-cass is really for private/political interests and has taken an ethical stance? They’ll probably fire him or pressure the hell out of him. Watch for that.

Meanwhile, see the letter “Sand in Our Faces” that I sent to the editors of Observer and Gleaner. They probably won’t publish it, but if they do, you can say you saw it here first. [The Gleaner did]

I posted a version of this response on Stunner’s blog, but thought I’d put it here as well. Since I haven’t said much about this topic, I think this will do for now..

The popularity of this [not so] new form of sexual exploration and entertainment is a direct reflection of how sexually repressed this society still is.

The kids having sex are doing it BECAUSE they are forbidden to talk, learn, ask about and explore issues related to sex in a healthy, open way. And when there is little else that is rewarding or attention-getting in their lives, well, fucking on the steps, on the verandah, on the netball court, or what have you, that will do until they come up with something else equally unoriginal and risky.

The adults who are having sex can’t talk about what they do honestly, or even admit their lack of knowledge. The range of things that we can get pleasure from is constantly limited by judgmental attitudes and a culture that insists – at every level – that the less curious one is, the better off. Its the absence of healthy attitudes about sexuality that creates the market and the appetite for these videos, etc.

Listen to the conversations and opining [about the availability of these videos] and you can hear the tut-tutting and the moralizing about values, decency, responsibility, etc.  Even the Gleaner has gone so far as to print an article authored by a physician who has ‘diagnosed’ the problem, and consulted the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (he didn’t say which one; volume five is currently being developed) in order to tell us the objective irrefutable facts of our current psychological existence.  The eminent Dr. Alverston Bailey has found that, lo and behold, we who have been looking at these tapes are, in a word, sickos!  What hogwash!

Therein lies the problem and why we will continue to run around in circles blaming everything else except looking at ourselves.

We are so busy hyperventilating about the problem of watching somebody else having sex that we can’t even recognize what it is about us that would lead us to look in the first place (and then look again – and then ask everyone else if they saw what we did – and then send them the picture) and to feel such emotion about an activity that really has nothing to do with us.  That is, unless we find ourselves gazing at our own performance…

Not everyone has seen the footage, but enough have and are talking about it, and even want to see it.  That tells you something — we’re still looking to find something that we’re curious about and to make us feel better in this violent-crazed time, and hopefully the next video will deliver.  So far, they haven’t, and a highly user-friendly technology is able to do what it always does in this LCD (lowest common denominator) world ie. simply create multiple versions of the same thing that everyone is consuming and which satisfies the most basic tastes for flesh.  That is, until someone improves on the product.  And there’s a lot of improvement that needs to happen.

Here’s the thing. The stuff on these videos – I’ve seen enough of them – is so boring. It is the worst of vanilla sex, which, frankly, demonstrates a complete lack of sexual imagination on the part of the participants. College students in my time were far more creative than what I’m seeing! If [these videos are] a reflection of what Jamaicans know and are doing in private, no wonder the consumption of porn and sexual services is inching up! A little variety please!

If sex remains this thing that only some people are supposed to have knowledge about or to be able to talk about without being labelled in some pejorative way, then performing sexual activity – even the boring, unoriginal versions – will remain a status symbol of sorts. And people who feel left out or are looking for a way in will continue to undermine the value of that status symbol in these public ways – and sending it via cellphone and satellite for the sex-starved among us to gaze at.   I’m tempted to say twitter me, babeee!  But what we really need to do is start having serious conversations about sex in ways that can use the same technology that is passing around porn like nobody’s business.

You see how we haunted? It’s summer in America, so I guess it’s time for this year’s round of insanity with the dancehall flavour of the month.

This time, a “Straight Pride Parade” is scheduled to be held on Eastern Parkway in late August this year. From what I gather from the newsbits, this showdown was originally conceived to show support for dancehall reggae artists who have been under fire for several years now because of their odious lyrics and stances regarding same-sex sexuality. The latest casualty is Stapler and his song “Hit Them Hard.” However, somehow, these folks, under the auspices of TCOOO Productions, have decided that the best way to show such support and to protest what they see as unfair treatment, is to take up the mantle for all the oppressed heterosexuals everywhere in the US who have been unable to stave off the worldwide dominion of the sodomitic ones.

The march is being promoted as a precursor to the West Indian Parade and a wake-up call for all heterosexuals who clearly don’t know they are under seige.  According to Jango Fresh, “when “Hit them hard” by my label mate Stapler can be banned just because it stresses the importance of a male and a female in every family, it is a sign that heterosexuals need to wake up.” Just because…there is a whole lot going on in those two words.

The press release goes on to say that the event is “a chance for Heterosexuals to gather and proudly embrace their sexuality […] Adults are encouraged to bring their children along for the celebrations, as the event will be family oriented. Yardflex claims that the press release also stated that “Gay friends and gay relatives must be left at home or worse kept in the closet.” In a really fucked up way, they do recognize that we are a part of the family and friendship networks of the dancehall fans who are being invited to this special event, even if they would prefer that our families burn us at the stake. I wonder what will happen to those straight dancehall fans who choose not to follow their advice?

There is much I could say about this ridiculous waste of time and effort, but I will bite my tongue for a second.

I really really do think this is a joke. It has to be. I mean, really, people. March for Straight Pride? Who thought this was a great idea? Is this yet another one of those moments when that peculiar version of arrogance exhibited by many Jamaican men trumps common sense? I didn’t realize that we -well, they – had special insight into the plight, perils and possibilities of the heterosexual, and are uniquely positioned to define a straight identity, and to mobilize straight people around it?  I guess I haven’t been listening to enough dancehall music to recognize that the songs and performances are not only anthems to heterosexuality, but should be considered as doctrine too.

Seriously, is heterosexuality really the problem here, or these blasted artists’ insane obsession with where some men put their dicks and who’s eating whose pussy? Is there really nothing else to talk about?

At best, this is a brilliant PR move on the part of TCOOO Productions. Yep, use the power of the internet to generate controversy, get people to download the music, get all kinds of folks worked up in a lather about whether such songs, this song, should be banned, etc. etc. etc. Make Stapler a household name. There’s your entertainment for the summer, folks!

Lawd áv his mercy pon we….

Mischief with a purpose

July 15, 2008

I just happened on to Rex Wockner’s blog where he has posted a video documenting classic forms of AIDS activism of the 1990s. You have to watch it. I am sure there are many more of these videos out there; a few show up in the occasional documentary. But this one is funny and quite pointed. Finding it is quite timely also, since the Evil One recently died.  I am sure his family and all his fellow hatemongers miss him.  Lots of people don’t, and I certainly don’t blame them.  On the other hand, having to deal with the effects of his decisions and stances energized some of the most creative activism among queer folks in the US.   He marked an era alright, one that should never have happened, if you ask me.

On the other hand, I can think of a LOT of ideas for acts of mischief I want to commit against some folks here in Jamaica, but I’ll let the ideas incubate for a bit.  I also have to decide who the first target would be: there are so many, many foes and fence-sitters.  The question is where to start?

Grow Your Own

July 15, 2008

In this case, food. And to be more specific, green leafy vegetables.

I just came across the website of Kitchen Gardens International, which provides all kinds of information and resources about growing your own food. I was particularly excited about the story on “keyhole gardens” and thought I’d share it with you. For those of us who live in rental housing and in dense neighborhoods, here’s a great way to grow our food that is far more productive — and safe — than trying to use the paint pans, tyres or what have you. Imagine the beautiful, eye-catching towers of rockstones that are doing double duty as living sculptures.

Given that our diet does not seem to consist of many leafy vegetables these days, its time to expand the repertoire, if only for better health. When last you ate, let alone, were offered anything else in the market besides callaloo, cabbage, lettuce, and pak choi? I felt like I ate much better in Trinidad than I do here. I also don’t see why I should go buy the ridiculously expensive lettuce from a certain place on Hope Road, when I can buy a couple packets of seeds and plant them myself. In fact, that’s exactly what I will do. I’m thinking beets, turnip, and beans this time around.