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Monday, July 31, 2017

It's Carnival, Baby!

Midsummer Nightmare

Dr. Lester Simon-Hazlewood


A long time ago in the land of Nti, the Arn festival of emancipation was celebrated by taking off one separate article of clothing every day for twelve consecutive days. To prepare for the festival, some folks dressed heavily, donning thirteen pieces, whilst others made no such stuffy preparations and gleefully, at the drop of a hat, started doffing their hats, their shoes, ounces, pounds and hundredweights of makeup, wigs, weaves and other hair pieces, over-wear, wear, and underwear, and even layers of their beautiful, black skin. Others just took off altogether and left for the neighbouring lands of Uda and Unda.

On the sixtieth anniversary of the festival, the king summoned all the minstrels to his palace. Some singers were also kings and queens of the land in their own musical realm; and musicians were regarded highly as the main custodians of culture. Some musicians played music that made people start to dance, stop dancing, and start to dance again; again and again. This led to some of them deployed as traffic wardens dressed in red, amber or green, to make drivers slow down, stop, and start again; again and again. They also played special music to stop drivers using their cell phones in traffic.

The most difficult task these warden-musicians faced was getting drivers to be kind; to say thanks to other drivers who were kind to them, and to be wary of weary passersby trying to cross the road. However, some of these passersby, old and young, were very cantankerous, an assumed native characteristic, and oftentimes told the warden-musicians, who were mostly horn players, that they, the musicians, were going to get a real, good blow…. in a certain, basal part of their anatomy.

At the meeting at the palace, the king announced that this anniversary was very special; that there should be no nastiness, not even from Queen Ivenus, the loved one; that the land needed special music and special songs and especially, special dances. No longer will emancipation mean taking off one’s clothes. Instead, emancipation will mean from now on, and forevermore, respect for each other. There was a long, deafening silence, so quieting one could hear the wailing waves of dead ancestors coming from the bed of the middle passages of the Atlantic Ocean.

The silence was broken by a silly musician, actually a comedian masquerading as a musician. Some often asked what was the difference between the two? He reminded that being respectful can be dangerous, even fatal. He recounted how his brother, a Rastaman, had ventured into a cowboy saloon in the Wild, Wild, West; and on pushing past the swinging, saloon doors, greeted the cowboys by hailing, Jah! May his wandering soul, emancipated from his bullet-ridden body, shredded to pieces, rest in peace. After the token laughter, the comic-musician didn’t tell them how the police said they had so much respect for the first, real Rastaman in Nti, Ras King Nki, that they respectfully locked him up innumerable times; seeing how he had plenty locks.

Being minstrels, they all tried to impress the king and queen with tales of misbegotten respect. Like the one, told after a festival many years ago, about the respectable, hoity-toity woman who didn’t want to dance in the middle of the road for all to see. Instead, she danced and danced, respectfully, round and round, behind everyone’s back, until she ended up dancing on top of her stepmother’s grave. Sadly, the stepmother had been buried at sea.

Some minstrels were not pleased with the new decree and wondered aloud why respect and lubricious, emancipatory dancing had to be separated. They reminded that respect begins at the bottom. A plump, maiden minstrel, of good background stock, as they are wont to say in the land of Nti, was not at all amused. They laughed at her and made her feel so badly, she had to retort. She reminded them how disrespectful many songs were of women, as if all women were descendants of Jean and Dinah, the English ones, and Rosita and Clementina, the Spanish ones.

She pointed at one musician in particular and told the gathering how he had tried to interfere with her, as they are wont to call it in the land of Nti, and how she refused his advances and told him what to do with his unrequited love. Now they all wanted to know what she told him. School children say, as they are wont to say in the land of Nti, that after he told her she was being obstinate, she advised him to go home, take a shower, drink a rum, lie in bed and, with a novel, sardonic double entendre, “Wet you hand and wait for me”! Even the nubile queen roared and choked with laughter, until her head fell off and landed in the king’s lap. No one made any jokes about the king giving back the queen her laughing, choking, fallen head.

The oldest musician showered bounteous praises on the female minstrels, until he was reminded that he had fallen victim to the mango juice legend. Again, school children had it to say that legend has it that whosoever washed their face with mango juice and went to sleep will fall in love with and become addicted to and tied to, as they said in Nti, the first thing they saw on awakening. So, who tied the red cow in the pasture next to his house? He quickly hid the Red Bull drink in his hand. And that was the clean version.

Then the king’s seer, Oma, addressed the gathering. A broad hush brushed across the floor. The ceiling dropped a few metres to meet it. Quiet filled the room as the walls drew closer. One musician thought of calling on the group, Air Supply. Surely the sage will have something sagacious to say. After all, school children say, he was the most learned man in Nti. They say whilst studying for degrees at the University of Timbuktu, he took Kelvin, Celsius, Fahrenheit and Centigrade too. By this time visitors to the palace, who had come from far and farther and farther still, had joined the assembly. Oma proclaimed emancipation, like reparations, to be a two-way civilizing act. And one minstrel whispered to another that to repair past damages, and with due respect, they will no longer play mas on Redcliffe, Market and High Streets, or any other one-way street.

And so it became that for that festival and thereafter, all the music and dancing were played on two-way streets. Then the visitors, some of whom were colonizers, went back to their homelands and told their kings and queens including King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, that carnival, emancipation and, most importantly, reparations all meant respect for all humanity including oneself. And they all lived and danced happily ever after.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Long Live The Caribbean Court of Justice

THE SUICIDE OF JUSTICE

Dr. Lester Simon-Hazlewood


In an epiphany moment one day, many years after I had grown up, I was travelling on a road away from my village when a giant, incandescent light bulb appeared and revealed the rationale for the seemingly irrational behaviour I had witnessed as a child in some of the inhabitants of my village.

When the debate about the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) digs up irrational, societal behaviour, coupled with irrational responses, we should call in the social psychologists and forensic anthropologists; neither of which I am.

My vote is a yes for the CCJ becoming the final appellate court of Antigua and Barbuda and the region. My vote is a yes because I have regarded the eleven-year history of the CCJ and I have listened to the objections and I am convinced my decision is the correct and logical one, based solely on the legal evidence. Nothing else.

A stark irony of historic proportions is being played out by those who oppose the CCJ and by some who are for the CCJ. When the argument moves away from the sterling work of the CCJ over its relatively short history, we run into contradictions. Yes, the CCJ is not just about the CCJ itself but also about how we feel about ourselves as a Caribbean civilization. But no, the central and essential argument cannot and must not reside in the societal package that encloses the CCJ.

If the yea-voters make the argument that the CCJ is essential because the Privy Council does not understand our local and regional nuances, then the same yea-voters cannot be alarmed when local and regional judges understand our local and regional nuances diametrically differently from the way we understand them.

This differential was the basis of the Observer Group legal case. It revolved around the legal concept of the stark nakedness of the constitution, compared to the inhibiting, tight clothing and aloofness of the constitution. To be fair, the Observer Group went to the Privy Council because that was then the final court of appeal. I am convinced that any such group going to the CCJ will get the same judgement that was handed down by the Privy Council.

The legal profession has an intrinsic problem of alienation from the public. The medical profession had a similar issue until it was forced to come to terms with primary health care. The journey from the posh doctor’s office to squalid communities and to health clinics to practise social and preventative medicine was not an easy trek for many doctors, whether trained at the University of the West Indies or in Cuba.

The CCJ is on a blistering marketing campaign that is almost perfect. The Right Honourable Sir Dennis Byron, president of the CCJ, gets a 99 per cent rating for his presentation, “Restoring Public Confidence in the Independence of the Judiciary”. His 1 per cent shortfall is for not admitting that confidence must be stored first before it can be re-stored. Additionally, the abject failure of the rank and file members of the legal profession, singly or in associations, to court, inform, educate and champion societal issues is a blazing backfire that bellows a loud wake-up call.


But, as Dorbrene O’Marde wrote, it is not about the CCJ. The nay-voters may be saying that they are dissatisfied with the lower courts and they want them fixed first. More deeply, they may be saying they are dissatisfied with their lives, with the way they see not just justice but many aspects of Caribbean life in general and the legal profession in particular.

This entire matter brings to mind the suicide of Kirillov, a character in the novel, The Possessed, by the Russian novelist, Dostoevsky. The reference to this suicide and the intransigence of people is not uniquely mine. The following quote from Stanley Crouch is essential.

“Negro Americans are not predisposed to follow people. They aren't. That's why there is always a certain element of chaos in the negro world because I think from slavery we just didn't like [follow instructions]. So someone telling you over and over that you got to do this, you know....I'm not doing that, just because you said so. Yes, but it's right. I don't care if it's right, I'm not doing it anyway. Why I'm not doing it? For the same reason Dostoyevsky said I'm not going to do it. So that I can tell you that I exist. So I'm just gonna mess your stuff up.”

Interestingly, Stanley Crouch, a jazz critic, with whom I do not always agree, was writing about how Duke Ellington was able to keep his band of dueling personalities together,

Kirillov decides to commit suicide because to him it is the most important act of self-will. A blogger noted that it is his non-cooperation act against his maker and hence his ultimate expression of unbelief.

I believe the nay-voters are not shooting themselves in the foot. They are shooting themselves in the head in a sardonic plea for emancipation from injustice. If this is correct, and if the reference to this intransigence, this inertia, this nihilism and this non-cooperation is correct, (I will take away my ball and stop the game), then there is only one way out of this uniquely Caribbean, societal, suicidal conundrum of justice. It is that voting for the CCJ must be synonymous with and predicated on a vote for reparations.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Police Tief Me Hag!

New Year Resolution

Dr. Lester Simon-Hazlewood

This is just a friendly suggestion. For Christmas 2016, be highly selective of those to whom you offer good tidings of great joy. For example, if a seemingly pregnant woman and a man and a donkey come caroling at your gate and beg lodging for the night, do not under any circumstances put them up in the manger.

We rescued them and put them up in the manger. And now look at us. The first clue should have been the donkey singing. It was a Trojan ass. The second clue, in hindsight, was that they must have landed on one of our many isolated inlets and checked out, but did not check into any of the hotels. We should have suggested that they take up the CIP program, Christmas in Paradise.

So here we are at the police station undergoing questioning by a police officer who thinks he is really hot, with degrees in Centigrade, Chemistry, Fahrenheit and Forensic Sciences. He wants to know why I was away in the manger when the police came. I told him the yard-man usually looks after the cows and pigs and other animals in the manger. I couldn’t tell “when c’est last” I looked out there. But since we had already decked the halls with boughs of holly and it was a silent night, I was just going to see how the strangers were settling in, when suddenly the police pounced on me.

The officer said I should have suspected something when the strangers came calling late at night. He suggested that I should be very careful, especially at Christmas time. People take advantage of other people’s kindness; and you don’t know who might be a terrorist these days. Then he let on about manure in the manger containing gases like ammonia and carbon dioxide that can be toxic, and hydrogen sulfide and methane that can be used for explosives.

We were shocked! I told him I was so thankful and grateful that they had been trailing the terrorists from the time they landed. Realizing we were not in cahoots with them, he decided to let us go with a stern warning. Seeing we were nervous and distressed, he kindly offered us a plate of food and a drink since the police were having their Christmas party.

As we sat down to eat, I started wondering why the police allowed these dangerous strangers to reach so far; and why they were really patrolling our area so much that night. Just then, I saw someone passing in the police yard with a crocus bag under his arm. Then I saw cousin, King Obstinate locked up in a cell, singing in a sad refrain, “Family! A police tief me hag. A police tief me hag. A police tief me hag and wrap um up in a crocus bag.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

COME IN PLEASE



Algebra and the CIP

Dr. Lester Simon-Hazlewood

Let me confess I was the student in first form at the Antigua Grammar School who asked the math teacher if I could do mathematics without algebra. I will also say, thanks to the best male math teacher in the world, Mr. Bennett of the Antigua Grammar School, and thanks to the best female math teacher in the world, Miss James of the Princess Margret School, a group of us ended up realizing that mathematics, the queen of the sciences, was the most beautiful, logical and rewarding subject in school, even more so than (some of) the girls at The Antigua Girls High School.

So imagine my consternation and starry constellation when I read an article in The Daily Observer about the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP). Eric Major of Global Managing Partners of Henley & Partners noted, inter alia, that “What I would like to see also is a double digit refusal rate from the CIU” (Citizenship by Investment Unit).

The responses from three learned men were that they disagreed with the need for a double digit rejection rate. Can it be that they preferred a single digit rejection rate and I am making an algebraic storm in a teacup, or a mathematical hurricane in a saucepan?

One of the wise men said, “If it is the people qualify, we have set out certain requirements for eligibility…” Another wise man stated, “What we should be concerned about is not the number of rejections, but whether or not the independent overseas providers are in fact doing the due diligence to the best of their abilities”. The third wise man added, “You’d wish to have all applicants pass the test”.

Simple, algebraic, linear equations should inform us that the rejection rate is on one side of the equation and that the other side of the equation comprises the composite of requirements for eligibility, independent overseas providers doing due diligence, and the statistical improbability of having all applicants pass the test.

The CIP program must be attended by algebraic commonsense, lest CIP will not mean Citizenship by Investment Programme, but instead, Come In Please.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

FLU

What’s on my mind?
The flu of course
Flu in my head
Flu on my chest

Cover your mouth
Cover your nose or nares
Open your ears
Healthy tips AM and PM
On Healthy Choice FM (94.9)

Imagine you travel from Antigua to Brazil and Argentina to catch flu
What happen? Antiguan flu not good enough for you?

Next holiday I will stay home; have a long nap
Spread out and read the entire world map
If I really have to travel I will walk on water
Yes, laugh at my charade and dance on my watery grave

But seriously, next holiday I will not fly
You want to know why?
I got the flu because I flew

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Which Doctor?

The Doctor In Spite of Himself

Dr. Lester Simon-Hazlewood


It saddens me to the core of my trembling heart to have to write about this matter of a doctor and denial of his registration in Antigua and Barbuda. It is my firm and confirmed opinion that the good doctor should be registered. But registered as what?

There are clear and written guidelines to register a medical doctor. In general, the medical school the doctor attended and the hospital where the internship was done after graduation are two key elements that form and inform the registration process.

For registration as a medical doctor, it does not matter one jot if the person is the nicest, sweetest, most caring and respectable person in the world proclaiming the gospel of health. It matters not if the person speaks with the tongues of men and of angels, bestows all his goods to feed the poor, heals the sick, and that the sick bellows the healing powers and charity of the healer. If the guidelines for registration as a medical doctor are not fulfilled then registration must be denied by the medical council and registration sought and obtained from some other council or body, as some other good doctor.

How then was the good doctor registered in the first place? It is my understanding and it is also my view that the first registration should not have been granted. Indeed there were copious objections in some quarters to the initial registration but the majority won. The then majority made a fundamental blunder, a cardinal error of commission that is haunting this entire harrowing matter.

But what irks me the most is this: If you are walking amongst flowers and butterflies and swarms of bees, and stepping in cow dung and horse manure moistened by leaking hoses of spraying water, you must know to yourself that you are being taken down the garden path. Why go along this wrong route when there are other legitimate paths to travel and register and conduct your good work? Why? How can you see through a glass so darkly?

So when good people from all walks of life, from sinner (like me) to bishop, in a band of sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, cry victimization, I have to cry. It cannot ever be right that because I can preach; because I can touch the sick and heal them; and because I can sprinkle red cool-aid in water and claim to turn pipe water into fine wine, that I can be registered as a cardinal, or an archbishop, or a bishop. Register me just as I am, without one plea.

Those who should know better should do better.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Parasols

What colour shall I dye my hair?
Green
Tangerine
Chatterbox red
Or weeping indigo
Parasols
Dark shadows walk beside us
In this blazing Caribbean sunlight
What parasols do we bear?