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Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Tour of Tourism


A One-Act Play

Dr. Lester CN Simon

Fibre optic cable is in reference to the confusion between the Government and Antigua Public Utilities Authority about the laying of the fibre optic cable. Dr. Errol Cort is the Minister of Finance. Boggy Peak is the highest point (a hill) in Antigua. ‘Trading Places’ in the annual exercise in which ministers of government exchange places with workers in the tourist industry.

Scene: The reception area of a small hotel.

Jonathan: Mizpah, I was going to throw it in the bin but I am really concerned about this strange email that came in yesterday. See? It’s not clear where it’s coming from; just a set of numbers and musical symbols. At first I thought it was from a prankster or a Spanish tourist. We have had Spanish guests with that name. But last night I had this strange dream that the email was from God and that his son, Jesus was really coming to our hotel.

Mizpah: Jesus Christ? Coming to our hotel? Nah. He would choose an all inclusive.

Jonathan: No he would not. He was born in a manger. He is accustomed to small hotels. Plus, he would want to walk all over the island and sample the local dishes.

Mizpah: Yes. And turn water into wine; walk on seawater (with or without fibre optic cable?); and go fishing with Peter and John and the posse. Why don’t you reply to the email? Say that we are fully booked.

Jonathan: But he will know I am lying.

Mizpah: My point exactly. If the email is from God, he must know whether or not we have any vacancy. And copy your reply to Satan. Wherever one goes the other follows.

Jonathan: What’s Satan’s email address?


Jonathan: Remember he said he would come back like a thief in the night.

Mizpah: Well email Him back and tell Him that plenty thieves down here already. That when we complain to the police about suspicious men loitering, they ask if, “Man can’t lime?” And since He will be coming in the night, it’s time for you to go on night duty. Reply to the email and use the Bcc for Satan.

Jonathan: Why Bcc?

Mizpah: It means “blind carbon copy”. Jesus will not know that the email is going to Satan as well; unless he is not really Jesus. It can also mean “before Christopher Columbus”. He was the first tourist here. Maybe you should invite him too. Do you know that some people in the southern Pacific call tourists, aisalsaliri? It means, “floating ones”. Tourist: the personification of vulgarity, ill-breeding, offensiveness and loathsomeness. As far back as 1870, a clergyman called them that. Have you ever wondered what here was like in 1491? An award winning author, Charles C. Mann did the research and wrote that before Columbus started the cruise tourism business, there were more people living here in the Americas than in Europe. The Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, had running water, majestic botanical gardens and immaculately clean streets; better than any capital in stinking Europe. Tourist! The idea.

Jonathan: Mizpah, if you dislike them so much, maybe you should get a better job. And how come we end up so bad in history if this place was so great.

Mizpah: We end up so for the same reason the tourist gal have you so basodee. But you are damn right about this job. Then again, maybe my job here is to teach people like you about tourism. You love your job so much, you dreaming about it. How can you serve a tourist in a postcolonial society before you understand your own history? People like you are a contradiction, a native tourist on a long, all inclusive vacation. You have to come to terms with slavery, mentally disentangle colonial society and rebuild a society that includes the good ways the colonials behaved to their own. All good societies, starting in ancient Africa, have the same things. Now, black people have to become mentally naked before we can put on clothes. How can we smile, really smile at a tourist before we curse colonialism, rebuild our African culture and add to it (because, Lord, there is so much evil back there) and smile, really smile at each other first?

Jonathan: But isn’t all that the same thing like being born again? That is probably why God sent the email. Maybe everybody should work in tourism as a rite of passage. And not just for a one day, symbolic, play-play foolishness like “Trading Places”. It’s really every body’s business. Otherwise, we are simply moving from what you call political colonialism to economic colonialism and cultural imperialism.

Mizpah: You understand. Tourism is the third largest global industry after oil and drugs, which means that when tourists bring in their drugs, big business going on right here in this little country. Talking about business, you realize that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because his parents were running away from paying taxes in Nazareth?

Jonathan: Well, according to you, nobody will escape Dr. Errol Cort; not even if they hide up Boggy Peak for 40 days and 40 nights. But truthfully, Joseph and Mary had to move from Nazareth, where they were living, and go to Bethlehem because Joseph was from the house of David and he had to move to Bethlehem to meet the empire-wide census and tax decree by Caesar. Jesus was a traveling, tourist baby.

Mizpah: Tourist. Tim Hector said that sugar brought us together in large estates; tourism brings us together in hotels without the same social bonding. From bad to worse. When tourists wanted to buy the Pitons in St. Lucia, Derek Walcott had to ask how anyone can sell a metaphor.

Jonathan: Maybe that is why Jesus is coming again; to change all that. But here is another email from the same….person….. It is requesting reservation for Muhammad, Confucius, Lao-tzu, Buddha, Zoroaster, Haile Selassie and a whole host of people. I wonder what kind of credit card all these prophets use. Must be Master card. All these prophets in our little hotel? Priceless.

Mizpah: Like you said Jonathan, tourism is really everybody’s business; the quintessential, postcolonial rites of passage from servitude to service. Service to self. Service to others, near and far. Service to God. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 11, 2006

My People


Dr. Lester CN Simon

A dear friend of mine, truly sorrowed by my long suffering attempts at solving crossword puzzles, suggested I tackled them in the afternoon instead of in the morning. He explained that by afternoon time many attempts would have been made by others, and their successes and failures would be floating in the ether for easy absorption, like a national, ethereal photocopying machine. Another dear friend said that a similar, cultural, photocopying process called race memory, can explain our current behaviour and attitude.

What kind of society do we expect when slaves unlock themselves and become free men and women? One disappointing result is that our culture displays a historic and peculiar national badness every single day in Antigua and Barbuda. It is our fierce and profound lack of respect for authority in all walks of life. It is twinned to a familiarity that says we all came out of the same slavish chains. And that same familiarity breeds contempt even when and especially when some of us attain positions of privilege and power.

The explanation for this national, wanton familiarity and rabid disrespect lies not solely in the small size of our population. We have to reexamine colonial history and race memories to look for clues to solve this mystery. The colonial masters justified their behaviour by seeing slaves as less than human and ill worthy of any respect. Whilst some slaves regarded their colonial masters as the best thing since Columbus, most others regarded them and their authority status as worthy of death and destruction.

The dismantling of colonial authority and all its trappings became the affirmation of the humanity of enslaved West Indians. Anticolonial resistance became a moral duty to be carried out by any and all, by any and all means necessary. To Frantz Fanon, native violence was not a call for new violence. Native violence was a justifiable end to colonial violence. Similarly, native crass disregard for authority was aimed at applying a final solution to the arrogance of the colonial masters and birthing a bright hope for a new beginning; a new, native humanism. But utopia, without due and proper care and attention, can so easily become dystopia.

Yes, there are some of us in positions of authority who have no clue whatsoever about leadership and management. However, in most cases, the combination of small-island familiarity, the absence of any teaching about civics and history and the embedded, historical revulsion of respect for authority, makes for the gross disregard for supervisors, managers, leaders and all forms of authority. This vulgar disregard and utter disrespect even extend to companions who simply ask one another to be responsible.

But there is something peculiar and intrinsic, indeed native as in being constitutive, about the typical arrogance of the garrot. At the stroke of midnight on Thursday, 31 July, 1834 about three-quarters of a million men, women and children were emancipated from slavery in the British West Indies. The Act of Emancipation was passed by the British Government with a proviso. The ex-slaves were made apprentices to their former masters. An apprentice was only able to earn wages or choose an occupation after giving 40 hours of unpaid labour each week.

In Antigua, there was no apprenticeship system. Immediate freedom was granted to the slaves. Because of the lack of alternative employment due to the lack of free land, two-thirds of the ex-slaves returned to the sugar plantation as free labourers, within 2 months of their emancipation. Predictably, sugar production increased despite the reduction in the number of workers. Are there lessons here for this government’s voluntary separation package? In Antigua, we had a head start on freedom and possibly a head start on the social engineering that made ex-slaves jostle for position of responsibility and power. Earlier than others, we took on the guise and disguise of the colonials in form and function, with the attendant despise and blatant disrespect by fellow natives for each other.

Ironically, many of us who curse and despise authority actually crave the same authority. It cannot be that the only way to ensure succession and settle differences is to openly tear down others and in so doing, add to the long line of negative, cultural photocopying and perpetual contemptuousness. We should take a tip from one of our national heroes, the Coromantee, King Court, and the English. If we have to, we must plan and execute our strategies more carefully, cunningly and covertly (like Brer Anancy) whilst going about with apparent public charm and grace.

The enjoyment of private pleasures such as family, property, drive and ambition, requires the existence of a stable society. A stable society is predicated on adherence to laws, rules and regulations and participation in institutions. More important, it demands that its citizens be of good character and mores. But some private pleasures, thoughts, desires and actions may be publicly unacceptable. It follows that the coexistence of some private pleasures and a good society presupposes that living together incorporates an obligatory contradiction and essential hypocrisy. Nowhere on earth is it more difficult to understand and display this fundamental construct, in a civilized manner, than in a post colonial, developing country like Antigua and Barbuda where native freedom and vulgar disrespect came early.

By the bye, I no longer do crossword puzzles (Sudoku is better) because the times for tackling them receded more and more into infinity. But I still honour my dear friend’s advice in other ways. And so, I humbly suggest, with no hint whatsoever of the arrogance that is typically, historically and constitutively Antiguan, that you read or reread this article in the afternoon or evening.

Sunday, November 19, 2006



Dr. Lester CN Simon

And it came to pass in the land where the sea rolls gently onto 365 inlets, a din rose up upon the utterance of St. Michael. For in Parliament he spoke as bespoke a man seeing within and seeing without. Lo, there can be no greater speech than when an orator espies himself in the words and syntax he hurls at others. For is it not written by the famed author, P.D. James, in paraphrase, that St. Michael was incapable of passing a mirror without that moment of narcissistic stillness?

Verily, the callers to the wireless Observer, the Voice of the People, were rent asunder. And yet, divided, they rejoiced in measure for measure in their own division. In one camp they hoisted the message and ignored the messenger. In the other camp they observed the obverse. Woe be onto a people who cannot see two sides (let alone all) of one subject or object with their two eyes.

Behold, the days of rejoicing and reckoning cometh after we the people wondered in our own wilderness for 28 years. For it is written that there shall be no rejoicing without due reckoning. But alas; some of my dear good people are short of sight and shorter yet of memory. For in the new dispensation they have not yet come to understand how the victory over the 28 years of wilderness was won. It is as if many of them have become but vegans and know not the meaning of a pound of flesh. And yet, some do say, quietly and in camera, that they do know that a pound of flesh must be taken but, “for crying out loud”, without the drawing of such a large moiety of national blood.

How silly and simple are those who know not that the enemy is best defeated by its own ways and means. So now they rant and rave and misbehave because they truly believe that all the glamour and all the glitter for all the campaign came out of the barren sky and not from the golden coffers of men like unto the one whose place was (and some say, still is) on the road to the first, old town of Parham.

And the children of schools gaily said that St. Michael laced heavily into the Honourable Member of Rural East with darts of vigour and shards of pepper and vinegar that would make Susie proud. Nay, he was neither courteous nor curt in the court of Parliament. And he pushed and pulled and tugged and swayed him all over, even to the far off land of Italy. For he said the people wanted to know the role of the good, merchant Senator in the Italian debt forgiveness, and if more pounds of national flesh would be forfeited as in the softness in the hard rocks at Bendals.

And even though the loan and forgiveness bond with Italy had been spoken to many times before, as many times as the travels of Marco Polo, the tirade was ravenous and juicy to the rapacious crowd. So that when those who had gathered wrongly assumed an ebb and break in the tide, St. Michael roared and soared again and waxed lyrically and mercilessly into the potted holes of the man who was once in the lion’s den. This he did with gnashing teeth and weeping willow, pouncing upon him as children were wont to do in “dolly ketch a man”. Little Sally Walker, sitting in a saucer. Rise Sally, rise. Wipe your weeping eyes. Turn to the east, Sally. Turn to the west, Sally. Turn to the APUA that Sally loves the best.

And when it was all over and the people had laughed their bellies full and joyfully cried their eyes dry over the vocal massacre, the Tax Collector spoke softly and gentlemanly. Whencesoever, he wondered loudly, St. Michael could have so much stomach (wherefrom did he not lose some), stamina and gumption and be so boldfaced as if the hardest thing was to know. Yea, the time for combat had not yet come. For a wise warrior knows when to strike and when not to strike. Thus the people look forward to the second coming of the combatants in political Armageddon with Power Point, hardware and all in the lower house on the hill.

Who amongst them in our Parliament will come to us and speak of true forgiveness and mercy. “The quality of mercy is not strained” because it requires no force. “It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven” for it is the very quality of God himself. Verily, verily, we mortals are closest to God when we temper justice with mercy. But mercy and forgiveness for national wrongs cannot be offered lightly and unknowingly. If the princes of light have forgiven their named princes of darkness, that offer of forgiveness must be in the sunlight and not in the shade of a tent.

Forgiveness comes easily, much too easily in this blessed, Christian land. For when forgiveness is too freely had, there is but little or no point in doing right. This land will never be at peace until true forgiveness is as transparent as the dazzling sunshine. True forgiveness is much more than ceasing forbidden actions, regretting wrongdoing, confessing through Jesus before God and resolving never to repeat those actions. This entire Christian act is simple and easy.

True forgiveness for wronging the nation demands that you make it up to the nation. If you stole from the nation, you must return the stolen treasure. If you caused national pain you must placate the nationals (and non-nationals, in English ) to achieve true forgiveness. Wherefore was this laughing dagger dragged across our throats with sounding brass and tinkling cymbals in our Parliament? Was this the Day of Atonement and reconciliation offered to us in cheap, finger-pointing and khus-khus perfumed talk?

If forgiveness and mercy have been proffered by deed or by default so that wanton speeches make vulgar mockery of us all, the people must be told; for true national forgiveness is a public act. Or henceforth, in this land where the people hunger and thirst for righteousness, all politicians on all sides, in the lower and upper houses and in no houses at all shall be branded forever and ever as merchants of menace, unfit to be heard, unfit to be seen and totally and decidedly unfit to rule over us. Rise Sally, rise!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cause and Effect


Dr. Lester CN Simon

When you stab or shoot someone in Antigua and Barbuda, are you planning to run and hide in the mountains to escape from the police? There are no mountains here. With all those antennas on top of Boggy Peak, the highest hill, you might think, quite wrongly, that one of them will expose you. Notwithstanding the problems in the local Police Force, the act of committing seemingly senseless murder in a small country like Antigua and Barbuda must be driven by unique motives and circumstances.

Most people refrain from doing something wrong or evil if they know there is a very good chance of getting caught. Yes, there have been many unsolved murders here for many years. However, over the past two to four years or so, most of the murderers have been caught. So why is the crime rate rising? Some writers believe that poverty and joblessness are responsible. I beg to differ. To be unemployed in Antigua and Barbuda to the point of stark hunger would be like successfully keeping your hair completely dry and free from sand at a picnic at one of our 365 beaches. Antiguans and Barbudans would not recognize abject poverty if it came up to us at high noon on moko jumbie stilts in the middle of the Antigua Recreation Grounds and spat in our faces. I posit that wealth and empowerment by illicit and licit means are at the root of the crime wave.

Think about it. Power and control generate emotive forces that are extremely hard to supersede. Raw power and control by any means necessary may be at the root of the crime wave here. These causative factors do apply worldwide as well but they take on accentuated forms here, when other factors, like escaping and hiding out, are reduced by geography. Obviously, the lack of trust between the community and the police adds to the ease of escaping capture, but it is not the predominant, causative factor.

The first paycheck I got as a teenager fresh out of school saw me stuffing myself at the Kensington restaurant on St. Mary’s Street. I ate and drank to my heart’s content (and later to my body’s relief). Yet, to this day I cannot recall precisely what I ate although it must have been chicken or lobster, and lots of lime squash and Coca-Cola. This is because the type of food I consumed was immaterial. It was the power of having my own hard earned money in my pocket that I remember. I still recall the sensation of ordering the meal, sitting in the canopied chair, waiting to be served and listening to the music. In those days we had small and large bottles of Coca-Cola. I sat back, relaxed and, having practised to perfection, proclaimed to the waitress, “Go thither to yon vendor of effervescent beverages and purchase me a taller member of the Coke family”.

Some of us also remember the power and control we felt when we were the only one to solve the math or physics problem in school. All of our friends and some of our enemies gathered around as we dictated who would be privy to the solutions.

The rise in crime after the “freeing up” of the country since the last general elections might also be part of the “talk as you like” newly found freedom. If this is true, the slowness to meaningfully empower people in legitimate ways relative to their expectations, might lead to the shunting of empowerment in other, pathological directions.

In a recent book, The Challenge of Affluence, described as sparkling and provocative, Professor Avner Offer opens his tome with the sentence, “Affluence breeds impatience and impatience undermines well-being”. You know you are in for a very good read when he prefaced his opening with a 1955 quote from Robert McNamara, the then general manager of Ford Motor Company, who prophesied that the test of this generation will not be how well it stands up under adversity, but how well it endures prosperity.

There are many parts to the whole solution to crime and violence but understanding the root causes will help us to find the right solutions. Preventative action must be centered on education. We have to direct the young towards the all powerful and embracing emotions of the joy of discovery and the enchantment of possessing and utilizing real and useful knowledge. Youths must be groomed to realize the self-defining, authentic and enduring satisfaction that comes from positive social interaction in contradistinction to short term self-indulgence.

There will be at least one unintended consequence of creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurs. Those who want to move from the informal to the formal economy will have easy, hopefully one-way avenues of transition. History is replete with stories of crooks who became philanthropists This would be similar to other enabling environments that allow an exit from prostitution, drug addiction, sex addiction, overeating, smoking and other modern ills, with all the frustrations from varying degrees of failure.

The solution is not to remove the affluence since affluence to an extent is desirable. When affluence reaches the level where short term rewards take over from long term objectives, we are, as now, in deep trouble. Hence the conjoining of the impatience from affluence and the impatience from unfulfilled political and social desires put us in a state in which senseless and brutal crimes conspire to overrun us.

A key part of the long term solution is to prevent the problem from worsening. We have not yet reached the stage where the illegally empowered have passed on so much of their wealth to so many of us that we have dons, drug lords and war lords who are ardently protected by grateful members of civil society. We will know when we get to that stage. The demand for soap, detergent and bleach will rise. My maternal grandmother was right in reminding me to always wash my hands after handling money.

The reason why we do not see crime and violence as by-products of affluence, with
its attendant power, control and impatience, is because some of us want to deny the relative affluence in Antigua and Barbuda compared to real, abject poverty elsewhere. Alternatively, those who make the connection between affluence and crime and violence refuse to talk about it. Why? Because they would have to admit that affluence also existed under the former government.

Friday, November 3, 2006

The Outlandish Knight


Dr. Lester CN Simon

There is a quote in The Devastation of the Indies by Bartolomé De Las Casas that says, “……for in the beginning the Indians regarded the Spaniards as angels from heaven.” Some years later, Las Casas described butcher shops that sold human flesh for dog food: “Give me a quarter of that rascal there,” one (Spaniard) customer said, “until I can kill some more of my own”.

Some relationships start badly and end well, others start well and end either well or badly, and yet others start badly and are destined to end very badly. The celebration of 25 years of independence was a bad joke; a masquerade. The badness started with the Spanish interlude in recognition of the growing Hispanic community at the Independence Church Service. That threw me for a Sir Vivian six out of the Antigua Recreation Grounds. Somebody really went up their fundament.

The farce continued with three female politicians meeting the Prime Minister of Jamaica in honour of gender politics whilst the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda was on island. Mrs. Portia Simpson-Miller should not have been met on arrival at the airport by three merry and sympathetic ladies-in-waiting like three Nerissas attending Portia in the Merchant of Venice.

The tragicomedy ended with a deeper division of the people of this country on independence day. Someone must tell us the criteria for becoming national heroes and Sirs. They must offer suggestions on what national heroes do afterwards and how they cope with the burden of receiving this maximum elevation at age fifty something.

It is very often a good and wise thing to allow controversial persons to talk so they can explain themselves and remove the controversy. Everyone knows that the dictionary defines an investor as someone who expends money or effort in something from which a return or profit is expected. Simple arithmetic works out for us when an investor is given the equivalent of, say, 10 million dollars and he gives back 1 million dollars, he has given back 10% of what he got.

The same simple arithmetic also works out for us when “picky head people” (as some are wont to say) give back 50 cents out of the miserly 1 dollar they received, they have given back 50%. And 50% is proportionately more than the 10%. There are many 50% people in Antigua and Barbuda. The abject failure to recognize the 50% people, including past and present members of the Antigua Labour Party, bespeaks a national blindness that is historic, slavish, self-humiliating and self-destructive.

The elementary point must be made that there is not a single person, family or investor in this country whose wealth in this country is independent of the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda. None.

When an investor defies definition and tells us on our twenty fifth anniversary of independence that he is not here to make money; that he comes with his own money to develop the country in the name of the people, notwithstanding what our government says, beware of Greeks bearing gifts and reincarnated Columbus bearing trinkets, my dear good people. It’s like onto a man telling a woman that he does not want to have sex with her; he just wants them both to get naked and lie down so he can invest in her and watch her develop.

Such an independent woman should jump out of the bed, turn on the lights, freshen up, put on her national dress, fix her hair, powder her nose, slowly apply her lipstick smacking her lips together, look him straight in the eye, hands akimbo, and exclaim, “Sir?”

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Spanish Everyone?


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Have you ever been so upset you go to bed and wake up still upset? Imagine yourself at a national church service to open the celebration of 25 years of independence. I am at the Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG). I am no ultranationalist; not because I am running from the label that says patriotism is the last bastion of scoundrels. It’s just that I loath extreme positions; yet I love this country the way I love my family and close friends even though they upset me from time to time.

I am enjoying the national independence service. The pastor is carrying on far too long but I can do with a little (or a lot of) extra prayer. Then when he is through, I am invited to listen to some part of the service in Spanish in recognition of the growing Spanish community. Well, who tell him to say that? I am incandescent with rage and I throw myself for six out of the service by walking out of the ARG. In this country the official language is English. The misguided pseudo-national who engineered this nonsense must be joking, in Spanish. This is the mark of separation. I draw the line, not in some “wishi washi” sand but in indelible ink and lambent lights in the blue skies over this land. The official language of Antigua and Barbuda is English.

I love Spanish people and many things Spanish. It is said but unproven that the Simon families in Antigua and Barbuda derive from four brothers who came here from Venezuela. In the good old days when BWIA stopped in Puerto Rico en route to Antigua from Jamaica, I danced to Spanish music so well one night, you would think I was the joker of Seville, and all I wanted was mucho más (much more). I love the music of Willie Bobo (Puerto Rico), Manuel de Falla (Spain), Juan Luis Guerra (Dominican Republic) and virtually any music from Cuba. I love to hear Spanish people talk. I have at least 30 books and cassettes and compact discs on the Spanish language. I think all of us should learn to speak at least one, preferably two foreign languages, including Spanish. But the misguided national who decided that part of the independence service should be in Spanish must apologize for the nonsense he started and vouch never to repeat it. Otherwise I will seek residence on Redunda lest I become redundant in this adagio, moko jumby land.

We seem to be collapsing and losing our national nerve, leaving a gaping void to be filled by whosoever will speak and speak in their own tongue. I wish to remind the lento, misguided national that the first time there was such an open defiance of common sense and confusion over a common tongue for communication, the work on the Tower of Babel was halted and the people were scattered. Let this first time be the last time we disgrace Antiguans and Barbudans like that, or someone will have to find a tower high enough to disappear into his own fundament. The official language of Antigua and Barbuda is English. No comma, no semicolon; full stop.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Big People


Dr. Lester CN Simon

As we approach the noteworthy milestone of 25 years of independence, we may look back to see how far we have come, or we may look ahead to see how far we have to go. The one view is not independent of the other. We all have eyes in the back of our heads; that’s where the vision area of the brain is located.

Independence begins in the mind. It must constantly run through and around our thinking. It should be manifested in our actions. We become an independent nation when the sum total of our individual, independent actions makes us exponentially bigger and better and, ironically, dependent on each other. In short, independence means that we can choose our dependencies.

Reflection on the basic elements of an independent nation requires, firstly, serious consideration of citizenship. This reflection is occurring at a time of collision between seemingly unlimited immigration and emigration and seemingly unlimited demands for salaries and other newly found rights, such as the right to be respected in trade negotiations. This multiple accident is threatening to diffract Antigua and Barbuda into a rainbow of independent and mismatched colours.

Citizenship is firstly about what we owe Antigua and Barbuda; not firstly what Antigua and Barbuda owes us. To be a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, we have to firstly meet a sacred set of obligations to fellow citizens, to the law of the land and to the nation. Any benefits, including education, free school meals, medical benefits, roads unpunctuated by potholes, etc. must come after meeting these obligations. We have to put in to take out. That is why it is better to give than to receive. Simple arithmetic says that receiving is predicated on having given something first.

However, we must be very careful about unequal and unfair practices of giving and receiving, lest we end up with each endeavoring and only some achieving. Worse, an entire nation can become subsumed under the personas of a few or the enigma of a maximum leader. This leads us to the need for a fair and dispassionate consideration of the second most enigmatic citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, the late, premier (as in first) Prime Minister, The Rt. Hon. Sir Vere Conwall Bird Snr.

Tim Hector referred to the phenomenon of V.C. Bird. It would be useful but too lengthy to recount the details of his writings. Those who have Outlet will read and those who do not will either borrow or wait for the library. Tim noted that like all great men of history, there were positive and negative attributes to V.C. Bird. It was written that V.C. Bird was his own worst enemy, his own worst contradiction, and that he negated himself. It is this enigmatic idea, not the persona of V.C. Bird, but the V.C. Code, that we have to come to terms with in order to move on for at least another 25 years.

The concept of role models and national heroes can be a dangerous one unless we accept the V.C. Code. Role models and national heroes are phenomenal figures that show us, or allow us to see and accept their positive and negative attributes. They teach us to accentuate the positive and reject the negative we see in them and try, as only we can try, to do the same with what we see in ourselves.

An economist Professor, Robert Rowthorn observed that a nation is a community of mutual obligation that is based on a shared history. What then does it mean to be an Antiguan and Barbudan? What is our codified set of mutual obligations? It seems that an old nationhood is drifting away and a new one is berthing.

The divisive politics of the past and the present suggest that we look to another medium or institution to
define our evolving, new nationhood. The single most important institution for the guarantee of civil society is the family. We cannot choose our family and there are some family members some of us wish we never had. However, despite all its frailties, marriage is the best institutional context for raising and nurturing children. It should be the nucleus of the extended biological and social family and the simple but profound idea and ideal at the center of nationhood.

Without falling prey to the victim culture of slavery, we, the West Indians, black and white and all races of Antiguan and Barbudan must regard our shared history of transplantation to these lands and the historic decimation of the family. This will lead us to realize that incentives for marriage and maintaining the family should be our foremost priority and the basis of our civil society and nationhood. Many of us were called bastards, stigmatized and ostracized from civil society. As painful as that memory is, we must accept that we too must see that all relationships and all family types are not equal; or at best, some are more equal than others. Rewarding single parentage is a recipe for perpetual fatherlessness and motherlessness.

As we celebrate our silver milestone through our rites of passage to a truly independent nation, we must register and testify our hypocrisies, our paradoxes, our frailties and, most important, our common strengths. We must decipher and understand the V.C. Code to set us on the right path for the next, fiftieth, golden anniversary. At that time we may be ready to use the V.C. Code and other parameters to decipher the foremost enigmatic and exemplar citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, the late master, headmaster and teacher, Leonard Churchill, “Timoshenko” Hector. May his soul rest in peace as the soul of our nation finds the peace for which he struggled all his life.

Monday, October 2, 2006

The Lost Tribe


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Everyone who carries a knife, a gun, or other implements of violence should take a course in human anatomy. They should know the precise location of the heart; that it is on the left side of the chest and so close to the chest wall they can feel the beating hearts of their victims if they embrace them. They should know that a knife with a long blade is not necessary because to get to the heart you simply have to pierce the skin, the fat beneath the skin and then the muscle, including the muscle covering the space between neighboring ribs.

Those who walk with knives should know that the heart and the beginning of one of its major blood vessels, the aorta, are surrounded by a protective membrane called the pericardium. The space between the pericardium and the underlying heart is called the pericardial sac. They should know that a wound to the heart or to the invested root of the aorta can cause profuse bleeding into the pericardial sac. This blood can seal off or plug the wound to the pericardium so that the blood leaking out of the beating heart does not escape from the sac.

However, as the pierced heart continues to beat, blood escaping from the heart is trapped inside the pericardial sac. The end result of this is that the bleeding heart is crushed to death by the weight of the blood. This plug of blood which was intended to plug a leak and ended up squeezing the heart to death is called a cardiac tamponade. In some ways, it acts as a tampon. A cardiac tamponade must be a metaphor for craziness when it occurs in a young female who has just started to acquire experience in the use of tampons for menstruation.

We know all the causes of violence. We can rattle off the solutions as well. In all this clatter we still fail to make a serious dent in the problem. Maybe we should rethink our strategy. Putting the blame on the parents is right and proper but there are two types of parents in this regard. Some parents will circle the wagons around their children and the children of their extended family and friends. Other parents and their children will be locked outside like a posse of wild West Indians. Mentoring is part of the solution but who will set this up so that the mentor can be a mentor and not an organizer of the mentoring programme? And how will we really know what lies in the dark minds of some mentors. Moreover, those most in need of mentoring will be left out.

Regardless of what we do at home, it is at school that children come together. But we have a problem here as well. We need well trained teachers who can teach their subjects well and who can make teaching fun and exciting and teach the children outside the classroom. Everyone recalls their schooldays and talks glowingly of the things they did and did not do. Do not listen to those liars, except for one fact: Remember the days when teacher was absent from class and how the rudest, most misbehaving child commanded the class (even better than the teacher)?

Children must be given exciting things to do. They are bored stiff and if we do not rectify this they will be bored stiff (if you pardon the pun). We have to arrange the school day and the time spent in the community so that children can take charge of some of their activities, with parents acting as linesmen (not as referees) as in a football match.

Children know that the economy of violence acts dictates that they do not kill two birds with two stones when one stone will do. As they gain experience and perfect the art and science of violence they know that it is uneconomical to kill two birds with one stone when they can set the birds upon each other. Children will always challenge each other for all sorts of reasons. We did it; they are doing it and it will always happen. We must prepare and present the environment in which they live and learn and play so that they can challenge each other in exciting but non-fatal ways.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

How You Could Drive So?


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Interesting conversations and revelations can surface in the most unusual places. While conducting a post mortem examination some time ago in England, an English pathologist remarked that on a visit to India, he was saddened by the ease with which a vehicular accident occurred on the back roads in some parts of the Indian countryside. He thought it was a senseless loss of many young lives. Although I have never been to India, I nodded in agreement and waited for a reply from my Indian pathologist colleague nearby. He waited until the Englishman had gone and quietly but vexingly asked me my opinion of the numbers of senseless road deaths on the highways in England every day.

An accident is defined as an event that is unexpected and is without apparent cause. Road safety in no accident. Everyone knows that speeding is the major cause of deaths from motor vehicle accidents. Everyone knows that speeding is an addiction and that drivers get high on speed. Everyone knows all the details about road deaths. The Magazine of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement reports that more than 3,200 people die in road crashes every day. This is the equivalent of eight jumbo jets crashing and killing all the passengers. Or if you prefer, put half of the 3,200 people in buildings like the World Trade Center and fly 4 jumbo jets into them every day. Are terrorists better at statistics?

The elements involved in a motor vehicle accident can be classified under vehicle, driver, road, environment including the weather and pedestrian. Everyone knows all the measures that have been implemented to reduce motor vehicle accidents. These include sleeping policemen (speed bumps), real policemen with and without radar guns, speed cameras, driver and pedestrian education and a host of safety procedures and devices. Some of the latter include anti-skid brakes, adaptive cruise control, air bags, and external smart sensors that can tell the difference between a tree and a pedestrian.

The science is so fantastic, we can install undetectable microphones in street signs or hide them by the roadside to indicate the speed of a passing car, filter out background noise and transmit the data to sophisticated computers. We can then relay the information to you or anyone else via various media including a cellular phone, which you must not use while driving. For extra measure, this technological setup can even measure the weight of your vehicle and catch overweight trucks. What’s next? Maybe, finally, we will be able to see and hear what really goes on in every vehicle at every location (including at the beach) in vivid colour and stereophonic sound (quadraphonic too), day or night. Finally too, we will be able to offer a technological black box from fatal vehicle crashes to relatives and friends. They can then replay the dying moments of their love ones, in their living rooms. It is time to exchange the old lunatics in the asylum for the new ones outside.
What is the maximum speed limit in this country? Surprisingly, many drivers will get the answer right by saying 40 miles per hour. Unfortunately, many of these drivers do not realize that the maximum speed limit does not apply to all areas of the country. Take a look at your speedometer. What is the maximum speed at which you can drive, or, I should say, your vehicle can be driven? It is at least twice the maximum speed limit. Why? Are you a policeman? Do you drive a fire truck or an ambulance. Are you a thief trying to flee the scene of a crime? Where on God’s earth are you going?

No matter how much driver and pedestrian education we do; how we apply safety measures such as airbags and install warning systems in the vehicle; set up devices to catch the speedster; attend to the road and the environment, etc.; some people will always speed. An article in the New Scientist of 20 July 2005 referred to a technology called speed limiters, in which the accelerator vibrates or sounds an alarm when the driver exceeds the speed limit, as measured by global positioning system (GPS). Some drivers will just love the vibration or the sound of the alarm.

We have to prevent the vehicle from accelerating beyond the maximum speed limit unless you drive an official, bone fide emergency vehicle. According to an Economist magazine article of 21 June 2001, this accelerating prevention technology is called intelligent speed adaptation (ISA). It reported that “studies have shown that ISA could reduce the number of accidents by as much as 40%, and the number of fatal accidents by nearly 60%...improve fuel efficiency and reduce the cost of insurance”.

Cars already in use can be retro-fitted with an ISA device. But guess who are expected to resist this intelligent speed adaptation? The resistance is expected from drivers and some motor manufactures. Well hear this: It is time to tell the speeding drivers where to go, even though some of them will go there with no telling. It is time to tell the motor manufactures what we want to buy. It is time to start a campaign for the installation of intelligent speed adaptation devices. It is time to become a part of the human race.

Heads Up. Heads Down.


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Sometimes, when, to your embarrassment and dismay, you cannot use the big stick, you have to bow to pragmatism and use your head. It is almost always difficult to talk honestly and frankly about prostitution because commercial sex is a very hot and emotive issue. In such discussions we tend to discard our common sense in the heat of the argument as eagerly as some clients try to discard or plead for the discarding of a condom during sexual intercourse with a prostitute; and we all know the consequences of that. Why waste time debating if we should decriminalize or legalize prostitution in Antigua and Barbuda? As we say here, “Arwe dun do um aready”.

The next time you see someone soliciting a prostitute, ask them to ask her what is her wildest, most outlandish fantasy. As you excitedly await the response with your racing heartbeat, sweating palms and bulging eyeballs, you might be deflated to discover that all she fantasizes about when she closes her eyes is a cozy house and a family.

When we discuss prostitution, we have to regard the international reports as well as the local circumstances. The United Nations 2006 report on the global AIDS epidemic (hereafter called The Report) is compulsory, sobering reading. One of its chapters addresses four key populations that are at risk and are neglected. One such population is the commercial sex worker. The confusion and double standard that abound locally are probably reflections of the international muddle and ambiguity. Many years ago, the term prostitute was replaced by commercial sex worker. In May 2006, the UN advised that the term commercial sex worker is a tautology, which means saying the same thing twice over in different words; e.g. “cold ice water”, “pellucidly clear”, or “piping hot and sizzling sex” with your “wife or girlfriend” that makes her say, “tear off me clothes, rip off me clothes”. The politically and grammatically correct term for prostitute is now simply, sex worker. Since real sex is work, very hard work indeed, one day we will probably recognize the final tautology, remove the word worker from sex worker and end up calling a prostitute a “sexer”.

The nomenclature is important because it shapes our response to prostitution. The Report says that the term prostitute is considered judgmental while the term sex worker focuses on the conditions under which sexual services are sold. It gets more interesting albeit instructive. The Report notes that sex workers have the same human rights as everyone else (of course, they do), particularly “rights to education, information, the highest attainable standard of health”, etc. Here is The Report’s contradiction or oxymoron: sex worker on one hand and the highest attainable standard of health on the other hand. This contradiction is implicit in The Report, which argues that the strategies of successful HIV programmes must be accompanied by programmes to prevent entry into sex work.
We must respectfully disagree with one aspect of The Report in that we have to be judgmental regarding its definitions. Although it is referred to as the oldest profession, prostitution can only be controlled and reduced to a minimum when we accept the judgment of the fact that prostitution is inherently unsafe and unhealthy. By the bye, we will not use the argument a guest used on Observer Radio, in reference to a political matter, that it is wrong because it is not right.

So how do we address prostitution in Antigua and Barbuda? The right to all the human rights that prostitutes justly claim, including education, must include the right to be a significant part of the educational onslaught on HIV and AIDS leading to the exit from or diminution of prostitution. This engagement calls for much more action by the medical profession and others. The irony here is that large amounts of monies are available for work, research and various programmes on HIV and AIDS involving prostitutes. The Report correctly counsels that the work with prostitutes requires their active involvement in all phases of the project, from development to evaluation. In Antigua and Barbuda, the local circumstances dictate that the big stick of official criminalization must remain in place whilst we use our head as a carrot in professional and thorough programmes to reduce or remove this societal ill. To our peril, we are very far from addressing this adequately and yet we are no strangers to ambivalence. The advantage of this twin approach of holding the big stick and using our head should be clear to everyone, especially prostitutes.

The preventative strategy in The Report dictates an urgent and thorough change in the immigration policy and department in Antigua and Barbuda. For the Cricket World Cup, protectionism for the local prostitutes from ambush marketing is the logical extension of proper, local condom usage. The guesstimate is that there are enough prostitutes here for them to realize the realistic part of their wildest, most outlandish fantasy and, with so many balls per over per match, exit the system thereafter.

With all the attention directed at prostitutes we must not take our eyes off a less visible population that is also at risk and neglected: men who have sex with men. The Report employs the term, “men who have sex with men” because, (wait for it) “many men who have sex with men do not regard themselves as homosexual…and many of the men involved are married to women”. This is the bulldozer. Actually, this is the bulldozer, backhoe, roller and lawnmower rolled into one. The dreaded, male “buy”-sexual. If this sounds mind-boggling, consider the sexual orientation of some of the ex-prisoners and inmates of Her Majesty’s prison, where plastic bags are used for condoms, as reported in The Daily Observer. Consider too, the words of the Russian author, Dostoevsky, who said that the degree of civilization in society can be judged by entering the prison. In Antigua and Barbuda, we do not have to lock them up to see the degree of civilization in our society regarding sex; the condom is no condiment, we eating them raw.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Poop and Circunstance


Dr. Lester CN Simon

With the advent of the School Meals Program and the approach of 25 years of independence, I got to thinking about what Antigua and Barbuda means to me. I was also prompted to reflect on whether my days in school prepared me to take on the world, or, I should say, to know if and when to take on the world, and to always strive to be an independent thinker. Independent thought can initially be frightening because it takes on a life of its own and it pulls you seemingly un-independently along its unseeing path. You have to be confident in the process of thinking and know when to stop. So why can’t I stop thinking about the Nonfat Dry Milk they used to serve us children in primary school, and all the big loads of stinking poops we used to let go after eating or drinking it?

The study of flatus is a worthy and noble vocation if for no other reason than it affords us the acquired ability to differentiate between an authentic poop and its covert, non-gaseous, occasional companion, the doo-doo. A comprehensive study can also inform us of the type of flatus that is forthcoming: Will it be loud and explosive or will it be soft and whistling or inaudible and malodorous? This is vital and enviable information that many highly respectable members of a congregation would swap their collection money for in church, on a beautiful Sunday morning. Sitting in the middle of the pew on the windward side of the aisle enjoying the effervescent, tropical breeze; the holy sacrament of communion is about to begin; the priest says, “This is my body and my…….”....oooops! Everyone looks at everyone else in their minds’ eyes and in that fleeting, deprecatory moment it seems that we all must have read the same flatus inspired script, Waiting To Inhale.

The New Scientist journal reported in 2001 that Dr. Michael Levitt, a gastroenterologist (who else?), had been studying flatus for over 30 years. He discovered that although some women tend to produce less flatulent emissions, there was no significant difference between males and females in the frequency of passing wind. He also analyzed and correctly identified the bouquet of gases in large numbers of poops and thus paved the way for a new type of purgative to clean the gut before performing surgical operations on the bowel. Previously, the purgatives that were used preoperatively enhanced the production of some gases that were combustible and hitherto there were cases of real fireworks and explosions during surgical operations on the bowel!

The drinking of milk or suckling by newborns is one of the defining characteristics of mammals. Lactose is the dominant carbohydrate in virtually all mammalian milk. It is digested in the intestines by an enzyme called lactase. Lactase, the enzyme, breaks down lactose, the sugar in milk. Many Black school children of the Nonfat Dry Milk era grew up to learn that we lacked the enzyme lactase and so we could not adequately digest lactose and hence we could not drink large volumes of milk. We came to understand the reason for passing all the milk inspired flatus and we were made to feel that we were abnormal; that lactose intolerance was a disease at worse or a disorder at best. After all, one must not go pooping, pooping all over the place after drinking a tall glass of milk. The effects of drinking milk must be seen, not heard.

Studies reported in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2000 by Dr. V S Tuula et al show that there is a reduction in lactase activity in the intestines soon after weaning in almost all animals and in many humans. Lactase deficiency is a normal physiological process. Remarkable! The prevalence of lactose intolerance is about 50% in South America, Africa, and Asia, reaching almost 100% in some Asians countries. In the United States, the prevalence of lactose intolerance is about 15% among whites, 53% among Mexican-Americans and 80% in the Black population. In Europe it ranges along a rising gradient from about 2% in northern areas like Scandinavia to about 70% in Sicily in the south. Did the Nonfat Dry milk school program extend throughout the entire world? Thankfully, Black people do not have a monopoly on passing flatus after copious milk ingestion. Black brothers and sisters arise. Wipe out those pooping lies!
History will “absorb” us. “Viva Poopa!”

Calcium has earned the title of “super nutrient”. It is an essential nutrient for critical biological functions. It can be obtained in high quantities from dairy foods, Chinese cabbage, Chinese mustard greens and bok choy, from calcium-fortified foods and beverages and supplements. The New Scientist reported in 2002 that scientific studies support the theory that all humans were once lactose intolerant, and that lactose tolerance evolved only after people domesticated animals and began drinking their milk. What do you think will happen if you give cow’s milk to an adult cow? Black populations like the Fulani of Western Africa that rely extensively on milk in their diet are highly tolerant to milk. Lactose intolerance is not a disease or a disorder. With varying degrees of intolerance, about two thirds of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant.

It only goes to show that when you are called abnormal and different, do not accept the label. Do the hard, investigative work to understand the world around you and how you fit into the wider picture, even if, with the appropriate silent apologies in church on Sunday, you have to study an irreverent but essential subject such as Farting on the Nonfat Dry Milk.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Alternative Medicine


Dr. Lester CN Simon

I write in reference to the article, “Antiguan Naturopath Cures HTLV-I” submitted by Mr. Ted Emanuel and published in the Antigua Sun on Wednesday July 26, 2006. I telephoned Mr. Emanuel in Jamaica and suggested to him that his article did not contain sufficient information to conclude that the he cured the patient of HTLV-I.

HTLV-I means Human T cell Lymphotropic Virus type I. Like all viruses, HTLV-I needs a living cell to reproduce because it does not have the full reproduction machinery for this vital function. Viruses may show a particular affinity or tropism for certain types of cells. The members of the group of viruses called HTLV derive their group name from their affinities or tropism for human T lymphocytes, which are types of white blood cells.

HTLV-I is the first member of a distinct group of viruses. Other members of the group include HTLV-II, which cases a blood cancer, and the HIV viruses that cause AIDS. HTLV-I does not cause AIDS. HTLV-I is associated with some types of cancer, a nerve disorder, skin problems and other abnormalities. The major routes of transmission of all these viruses include sexual activity, blood transfusion and mother-to-child.

Many tests for viruses, including HTLV-I, are actually tests for the substances called antibodies that the body makes in response to infection by the virus. A person may be virus positive and antibody negative because the antibodies are in very low, immeasurable quantities. Hence the article by the Antiguan naturopath should have stated whether the test on the patient was a test for the antibodies or a test for the virus. Additionally, the sensitivity and specificity of any test should be included and referenced to a gold standard, which is a test that detects extremely small amounts of the tested material. Everyone is familiar with the fact that the inability to detect something does not necessarily mean that it is absent.

In the absence of pertinent scientific data, the article submitted by Mr. Ted Emanuel falls short of basic scientific principles. In this regard, I wish to note that there is a place for naturopathic medicine in the healing process but that place must be earned and maintain by proper attention to scientific principles in medicine, statistics and logic.

I am a medical doctor and I have no hesitation at all in saying that we must acknowledge the shortcomings of orthodox medicine and attend to them. But we must not discard the baby with the bathwater. Reverting solely to natural medicine without attention to orthodox medicine, science, statistics and logic would be akin to discarding the baby, the bathwater, the basin and the entire bathroom.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Music Gone To The Pigs


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Quite a lot has been said and written about the way we dance at Carnival time; how the wining is too rude and vulgar and is nothing short of adulterated, orgiastic sex. The good news is that you are right; the bad news is that we do not examine why and suggest how we should dance. Maybe it is our refusal to take on fundamental issues and move from banal observation to analytical discourse that makes us pig tail and pig mouth people. We don’t want no reason. We don’t want no cause. We don’t want no basis. We don’t want no sense. Everybody shout out: All we want is pig tail and pig mouth; pig tail and pig mouth!

Dance is a form of social intercourse, with emphasis on social. We dance to music. The contribution of Africa to Caribbean and world music is so emphatic that we make the mistake of thinking that only black people got rhythm. Well, all God’s children got rhythm but one man’s rhythm may be another man’s confusion.

Examine a few of the dance forms in the Caribbean and Latin America and take a hard look at two of them. Argentina developed the Tango and Martinique and Guadeloupe developed the Beguine. How do you dance to Calypso? Is there a specific and recognizable Calypso dance? Dorbrene O’Marde says that King Obstinate says there is no such thing as a Calypso dance. And Obsti should know. Could it be that the dances we develop or fail to develop in the Caribbean and Latina America are reflections of the social intercourse between the colonial Europeans and the transplanted Africans?

A recent article called Contrasting Empires by J. H. Elliott in the August 2006 edition of History Today compared Spanish and English colonialism and concluded that the Spaniards were more accommodating to their colonies. The late, Lord Bold Face must be blue vexed (with people trying to ambush market his name). I guess it’s like saying that all colonialisms are unequal but some are more or less unequal than others.

The Tango is a stylized, extremely sensual, adulterated, almost artificial form of what we are accused of doing at Carnival time. Yet it is very popular internationally and it attracts highly sophisticated people. I have never been to Argentina but I suspect you can find there a more vulgar form of Tango that will make the international, provocative Tango look like a May pole dance at a Sunday school picnic. I hear that the Beguine dance is one in which there are loads of waist movement (rolling hips, like rolling hills for crying out loud) but the upper body is stiff, stiff, stiff. Again, a more stylized, adulterated form of what we do at Carnival time. The French West Indian inventor of the Beguine must have had the good sense of humour that only a West Indian can muster.

What was it about English colonialism that differed from French and Spanish colonialism regarding social interaction between whites and natives? Is the absence of a calypso dance an indictment of the English speaking West Indian, reflecting our failure to weave a stylized, ornate, artificial dance that represents the conjoining of the two cultures? Is this one of the reasons why Calypso is not so popular internationally? Surely a music with a distinctive, accommodating dance will go further than a music to which you just do what comes naturally. Why has the English speaking West Indian middle class (the same ones rightfully crying out against the overt wining at Carnival) failed to find a dance between the staid ballroom dancing of the Europeans and the earthy “Sylvie Breakaway” of the Carnival wining dancers, especially when the literature of calypso is uniquely chock full of humour and mockery?

A word of caution is in order for those who may be thinking that African dancing is all about wining and vulgar simulation of sex. I have seen African dancers on stage with bare breasted women wining much more than the slackers you see at Carnival time. The female African dancers I saw were moving all over the stage and despite of (or because of) the naked breasts and the gyrating, the theme and purpose of the dance attracted more attention. In fact (wait for it) they reminded me of ballerinas. It may surprise you to learn that if you observe ballerinas carefully you will discover that when they move, especially when dancing on pointe their entire body is shaking. It has to do that for proper balance. The ballerinas are really wining but they are wining to a different rhythm.

So if you want the vulgar, adulterated sexual wining to stop, let us choreograph a dance in which the wining comes second and the entire dance and theme and story come first and we end up with a new, stylized, hybrid dance form. But this will require that we desire more, much more (mucho más) than just the succulent pig tail and pig mouth.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Crocodile Tears


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Have you ever felt that everyone else is going to heaven and you alone are going to hell? This is how I feel with all the cries for prayer in the wake of the most recent murder. Since everyone is praying and prayer moves mountains, I too have a prayer, so let us pray.

I pray that God will close all the doors of all the churches in Antigua and Barbuda for a while. And for those of us who are still found inside a church, I pray that Jesus will take a whip (the local, bovine version) and bang them, bang them, bang them, and tell them not to come back to church until we do the following things.

1. Build a modern, national library and foster a library culture.

2. Make it compulsory for all school children to join one of the youth clubs as part of national service otherwise they will not graduate from school.

3. The communities that have effective neighbourhood watch groups will pay less property tax. This will include neighbours keeping their dogs inside their own yards with properly built fences.

4. Disband the defence force and create a national security force with enough men and women to contribute to regional security and, more importantly, patrol the streets of Antigua and Barbuda.

Anything else is just crocodiles crying again and devils like me asking God for help when we already know the answers. The Lord help those who help themselves.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

How You Could Dance So?


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Some people can wine better than others. The Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage defines wining as “erotic or provocative dancing with vigorous swinging and gyrating of the hips”. It goes on to note the link between wining, Carnival and vulgarity.

I want to propose to you that good wining says a lot more about the winer than simply being vulgar. According to the Oxford Dictionary, Vulgar means “making explicit reference to sex or bodily functions”. But the dictionary also notes that the word vulgar comes from the Latin word for “common people” and hence it simply means “characteristic of or belonging to ordinary people”. In this etymological sense, The Daily Observer is the most vulgar newspaper in Antigua and Barbuda.

To appreciate the sophistication and implications of a good wine we have to understand the variety of movements of the hip, the lower part of the spine and the knee. The first requirement is to discover the different kinds of movements possible by each joint in isolation. For example, the hip joint can perform six different movements all by itself. It can bend forward, backward, rotate outward, rotate inward, move outward with no rotation and move inward with no rotation. Examine the different movements of the lower spine and the knee separately.

The art of wining requires combining all or some of the possible kinds of movements of the joints to create a smooth, flowing, seemingly complex, singular movement. This leads to the central argument that persons who are adept at multitasking in any activity might make good winers. When you consider all the disparate activities women have to undertake from dawn to dusk, it is no wonder that they generally out-wine men.

But sadly, there are many women and men who seem to be good at multitasking who cannot wine at all or who wine very poorly. There are reasons for this. Some persons who are doing many things at the same time are very inefficient although they appear very busy. Others, who may multitask very efficiently, fail to bring the art of multitasking to the art of wining; or they may be too tired after all the hard work.

If it is true that poor winers might be poor at multitasking, there is hope for these needlessly hapless persons. Firstly, when you approach a seemingly complex activity, you have to put up broad headings or categories or (in this computer age) folders. Without these signposts, you will get lost among the rubble of the details. People who gossip or tell jokes by starting with the small details and end with the punch line will endear themselves to their friends and audience. However, a reversal of this approach is mandatory in learning to multitask, to study a complex subject, or to wine properly. You have to be like a manager, newspaper reporter or editor (for a vulgar newspaper) who can place the singular items in categories, brackets or columns (headlines etc) and then combine them to make a complex, exciting and organized whole or bestseller.

Being able to distill all the possible movements of the joints into a good wine is no different from cooking a good meal and really wining and dining your guests. Good wining may also be a reflection of expert negotiating skills, especially at Carnival time when you have to jostle between the Carnival Development Committee, the myriad groups and troupes, associations, and the press.

It should not surprise you that wining is regarded as vulgar, if by vulgar we refer to the common people. Common people have to multitask all the time to make ends meet. They simply carry over that art of everyday living to the art of wining. Even high-society women are now expert winers as they remember their roots and realise that they too have to multitask regardless of their vocation. Not to be left out, especially with the physical separation of the extended family, men are now being asked or forced to multitask in concert with their womenfolk to make ends meet at home. This can only be a good thing for the family and for conjoint wining which is best confined to the privacy of the home.

As you look at dancers during this Carnival season, try to determine how well they have combined the various possible movements of the spine, the hip and the knee. Look out for those winers with additional, unusual or unique movements which may include holding their head, hands or feet in positions that embellish the central movement. Is the central movement clockwise or anticlockwise? Why are the knees at a particular angle and how does that angle contribute to overall stability? Is that angle utilized in architecture? What different skills are deployed in wining while sitting compared to wining while standing or walking? Do not be fooled or enamoured by those winers who appear to be all over the shop, explicit to the extreme, only making plenty noise, like empty vessels.

One word of caution as you studiously regard parts of the anatomy in collusion and collision: Having discovered the best winer for the Carnival, please do not make the silly mistake of complementing her by asking her if she has applied for the voluntary separation package.

May we all have a happy and safe carnival 2006. Remember the ABC of HIV/AIDS: Abstain, Be Faithful, use a Condom.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Whale of a Time


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Some of us who are neither pro-whalers nor anti-whalers and who are seeking to arrive at a position on this important issue are deeply disappointed with the local debate before and during the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The level and content of the local debate underscored the need for a national library in Antigua and Barbuda with access to modern scientific journals. One may argue (successfully) that such journals and other materials are available on the internet with and without subscription. But those of us who frequently access these data encounter periods of disinterest and lonesomeness largely because information must be properly disseminated, churned and debated in a civilised way to be of real and lasting value.

The way information is shared says a lot about us. Simply visiting a library to borrow a book or to nestle in the unique aroma of reams of data, or surfing the internet until you are bubbling with information all fall short of the needs of a modern society. In Antigua and Barbuda we have to ferment and nurture a culture of dialog that will secure the proper format for healthy, social discourse.

The entire whaling issue is so complex it demands a diverse panel of real experts presenting and jostling scientific, economic and other relevant data in a local, public forum. This should be one of the functions of a national institute of social, natural and medical sciences. Commonsense, logic and truth tend to carry a transparent quality that most people can see through.

Before anyone makes the vile suggestion that we ask Japan for a national library to complement the school of fishes from the fishing complexes, let me simply suggest that we ask Japan for assistance from some of its manga artists. Manga is the Japanese word for comics and Japan has become the world leader in this art form.

When the whale swallowed Jonah it represented the myth of someone going into darkness and emerging transformed. In our local, manga version, we the Jonahs on all sides of the whale debate need to swallow our whales of self-righteousness and emerge transformed with a more reasoned, balanced, civil and sincere approach to the way we discuss issues of national and international import.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mr. Browne


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Good morning Antigua and Barbuda. I have to tell you I have not always called you Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua was all I used to say until I wittingly added Barbuda in order to rescue my journals from finding shore on some distant land. For over the past 2 years the new and promising UPP government has been trying to come to terms with the demands of a hotchpotch nation, a disparate brew of insipid, pepperpot people bent on forcing the government to satisfy all earthly and heavenly demands at once. Abracadabra!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to find the soul of Antigua and Barbuda. Some agents claim that it is within the governing, UPP party but others maintain it resides within the opposition, ALP organization. I have to tell you too that it is also alleged by experts, to be a figment of the imagination, a banana of some mindless fool.

As always, should you or any of your forces be caught or killed in this mission, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. Since this newspaper will not self-destruct in 5 seconds or 5 minutes, hours, days, years or decades, you must destroy it in the usual manner. Good luck, in your mission, Antigua and Barbuda.

Normally, as in all Mission Impossible cases, I take my leave at this time. However, because of the complexity of this important mission, I must go on to advise you that you will need the help of an agent, Melanie Phillips, a journalist from Britain. She comes highly qualified because she has been investigating a similar dilemma in Britain. In particular, she is concerned about citizenship and immigrants. It might surprise you that you have a more serious problem than Britain and it is again made more complex by your scarce resources to identify and enunciate the problem, let alone to find the solution to it.

Melanie Phillips will tell you what the economist, Professor Robert Rowthorn observed recently in a lecture about the dangers of unlimited mass migration. He reminded, ‘A nation is a community of mutual obligation that is based on a shared history’. This fact will force her to tell you that unless there is a rigid grasp of the true history of Antigua and Barbuda, civic obligations will have no bedrock in which to root themselves, and hence nationhood in this twin island state will become an effete, banal nonsense.

As the clamour mounts from all and sundry in this babbling land of new, free radio, Melanie Phillips will help you to argue that few Antiguans and Barbudans and fewer residents realise that citizenship is not about what the country owes to an individual, but what an individual owes to the country. Very few people truly understand this imperative and glibly quote President John F. Kennedy. It means that the obligation to the nation and to fellow citizens and to law and order must come first. Then and only then can you twist and shout and limbo and babble all over new, free radio about your rights, your demands, your medical benefits, schooling for your children, and your passport.

This is why the soul of the nation must be identified and held up high for all to see and behold; for without it, there is no Antiguanness, no Barbudanness, no anything but a wild bunch of assorted local, Caribbean and international neaga.

So how do you deal with immigrants, since to varying extents, we are all immigrants at some point in time? It is “a simple thing” (as the Analyst would say). You are welcome in my house, you can practise your religion and espouse your culture but my national culture comes first and foremost. This means that when the immigrant culture collides with national culture, the traffic police will automatically give national culture the right of way. Anything else is a recipe for collision and disaster.

But what is this national culture? What is this Antiguanness and Barbudanness? It is not just the food and music and the dance and the “distinctive customs, achievements, product, outlook and way of life” as the dictionary states. It also requires an honest attention to, and constant review of our history, for culture is both static and dynamic.

How then, in this hotchpotch nation can one pitch a large tent over this assorted mass of babblers? It seems that one may be better off holding on to the indigenous people and pronouncing their history, their rules and regulations, their requirements and expectations so that all visitors and welcomed non-nationals will, in time and under their own, smaller tents, do likewise as they look and see Antiguans and Barbudans meeting and surpassing the fundamental tenets of national life. Only then should one pitch a wide tent.

It is the failure of us Antiguans and Barbudans to stand up and be counted and to identify ourselves on the side of what is right, and claim what belongs to us that affords, fuels and effects the disintegration of our society.

The irony of political life in Antigua and Barbuda is that what at first might seem like a good thing, a national umbrella under which the nation can shelter, might, in fact be the wrong medicine. We now know from medical science that the same medicine does not work the same way for the same sickness, in different patients.

Meanwhile the opposing forces will have to come to terms with the simple fact that New Labour will require a more honest and critical examination of the past, with even a public reconciliation for the past misdeeds. Only one young man amongst them seems to understand this, especially in the glaring afterglow of his public tranche of election offerings from the man from the sun. How ironic it would be if that one young man becomes the Joshua of the national soul as the Moses folds up beneath the wide, frail, falling tent. So while the rose and the thorn adorns and pricks the jocular vein on babbling radio, the opposing forces will one day come to see and know that the ALP will only win again when all the leaves are brown.

Mission Impossible?

Monday, May 1, 2006

Physicians Heal Ourselves


Dr. Lester CN Simon

And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. (Revelation 6:2).

Medical professionalism in Antigua and Barbuda is under attack. The battle began many years ago but the freeing up of national radio is bringing the frontline of the battle to the streets of the city with embedded journalists and all.

When I am confronted by a medical problem I cannot solve, my profession teaches me to consult my elders and resort to the medical archives.

The November 18, 1999 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine carries an article entitled, Medical Professionalism in Society, by Matthew K. Wynia, et al. It reminds us that the word, “profession” means, from the Latin, “speaking forth”. The authors put out a model of medical professionalism that comprises three core elements: devotion to medical service, public profession of values, and negotiation regarding professional value and other social values.

Whenever a doctor reflects on the harrowing years in medical school, two overwhelming emotions underscore those challenging years. We all remember the strong desire of be invited in, to be inducted and welcomed into the fraternity of noble men and women dedicated to the noble art and science of healing. We also recall the satisfying feeling of arrival, of actually becoming a doctor and being charged with the responsibility of doing battle against the evil forces of sickness and untimely death.

I have always wondered what is so unique about belonging to a fraternity of doctors, especially since we do not fraternise as often as we should, and, quite frankly, some of us would oftentimes prefer to socially engage other members of society. Wynia et al answer by suggesting that professionalism is a structurally stabilizing, morally protective force in society. The authors posited the triumvirate of private-sector, public-sector and professionalism as the cornerstone of a stable society.

It must be noted that the professional side of this stable, social triumvirate is both constant and manifold. Professionalism is not exclusively medical; it includes other professions and it embraces civil society.

According to Wynia et al, the first core element of medical professionalism is devotion to medical service. They remind us that physicians should cultivate in themselves and in their peers a devotion to health care values by placing the goals of patients and public health ahead of other goals. In Antigua and Barbuda, as elsewhere, this cultivation must grow out of a functional association of doctors in which we criticize and police one another. This core element of medical professionalism is so important, the authors arrive at a telling admonition.

They charge that devotion to medical service is so important, physicians must avoid even the appearance that they are primarily devoted to their own interest rather than to the interest of others. Patients in vulnerable times of need of medical service may be easily confused, used and abused in this regard. It behoves the members of the medical profession to profess, to speak forth.

The second core element of medical professionalism, the speaking forth must be done from a moral, ethical and professional base otherwise individualistic ranting becomes a big boast and an ugly, cheap, self-defeating marketing tool.

The third core element involves balancing medical needs with other societal needs as it allows other arms of the multiplex, professional bodies and the rest of the triumvirate to jostle and sway and engage in battle. The non-negotiable tenet, the sine qua non of this romantic war must be that the triumvirate forces of professionalism (including civil society), private-sector and public-sector must always underpin and rigidly stake society to the ground. Those who deliberately seek to destroy the underpinning of Antigua and Barbuda society are seeking long-term residence at the east of the Antigua Recreation Grounds.

So if you know all these things and you see any young, medical warrior return home brimming with enthusiasm, confidence and self-righteousness to do battle against sickness and untimely death, it is the sacred duty of the you the elders to temper and guide the misguided youth, curb the enthusiasm and distil the natural effervescence of the neophyte. And when the youth throws a tantrum and rants and raves and misbehaves, it is the sacred duty of the elders to remind: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things (First Corinthians, 13:11).

Verily, it cannot be acceptable that the former elders of society wantonly, barefacedly and wittingly allowed a young medical warrior to marginalize and alienate himself and then shout at the new elders and remind them that they, the new elders, proclaimed before they became the new elders that “What is wrong will be made right”. This kind of thing will make Jesus bawl, as in the Gospel According to Saint John, 11:35.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Bigger You Are


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Please permit me to point out to Mr. Lionel Max Hurst that he should read what I have written and not what he thinks I have written. He refers to the East Bus Station project as the “monstrosity so amiably described” by me. Nowhere in my article can anyone find or infer such a reference to the project.

The request from his side that the government should follow the law is not an “alternative proffered by the green marchers in white”. It is simply an admonition, and I must say, a commendable one coming from him, given the history of some of the members of his tribe. By alternative, I mean, according to the dictionary, what is available as another possibility, another plan that you would put in place to solve the stated problem.

The alternatives registered by me were not made because I am “wiser and more intelligent” or because I am a doctor as Mr. Hurst rudely suggested. My proposals derive from an everlasting fear of blind ignorance and unquestioning allegiance to any political party, idea, person, place or thing. My search for an alternative is derived from the same approach some of us learnt in Grammar School from doing our mathematics homework: quod erat demonstrandum (QED).

I know Mr. Hurst appreciates good humour since he related the indigestibility of his shoe’s heel compared to the rest of his edible shoe. So let me end by saying in reference to green and greenery that the three primary colours are red, blue and yellow and green is made from mixing yellow and blue, not red.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

The Green Green Grass


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Green is one of my favourite colours. When I was little and laid waste my schooldays in St. Thomas, all I wanted was to be Green Lantern, the super hero. His mantra was, “In brightest day, in darkest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power….Green Lantern's Light!” So when I see two neaga marching, in white, for green space, I have to don my greens and become Green Lantern again.

The reported purpose of the proposed complex at the East Bus Station is to ease the vehicular traffic in the city and to allow for the setting up of a modern sewage system in St. John’s. Many of those who are against the car park part or the entire project cry out for the preservation of the greenery. Given the stated problems in the city, the alternatives proffered by the green marchers in white are untenable, nonsensical or nonexistent. To find a really green alternative, we have to challenge conventional wisdom and think outside the green and white box.

The solution is to stop designing or redesigning the city, the suburbs and the entire country around the demands of private automobiles, parking and vehicular, rush-hour traffic. We have to conceptualize urban and country planning around pedestrians, communities and public, not private transport. You want green? Take green.

The congestion in the city has already spread to the suburbs. This is clearly evident when you try to get to or from the city along all the roadways. This is a natural progression in all cities as more commuters with more cars travel from the countryside and suburbs to and from the city centre in private vehicles. The growth of St. John’s is typical of any developing or crowded city as the commercial centre becomes packed and growth occurs at the edges. Our architects and engineers must begin to redesign and rebuild this country from a master plan.

The argument against the use of the supposedly sacred greenery at East Bus Station is a tuppence hapeney argument unless those arguing against are willing to consider the whole pound, shilling and pence: the city and its environs. In their narrow, green context, the argument against the use of this particular green space becomes a storm in a teacup or a hurricane in a saucepan.

Transportation for the public requires public, not private, transport. Concentration on public transport will require express bus roads since the roads are not wide enough for dedicated bus lanes. However, we may consider express bus lanes alongside one-way lanes into and out of the city. Emphasis on public transport will require easy access, convenience and efficiency. Instead of two large, east and west bus stations we may need more, larger bus terminals at the far edges of the suburb linked to more medium-sized and smaller and smaller terminals as we get to the city.

Such a public bus system will require a transfer system using a single ticket. It will be like a subway system above ground. The larger terminals with larger buses will require commuters to pay as they enter a transparent, covered, rain-proof , properly ventilated, elevated bus stop shaped like a tube (eat you heart out London). We then exit directly from the tube into the bus and no time is lost in collecting money on the bus. Wheel chairs will be easily accommodated.

This public transport system must be operated and maintained by the private sector with a government agency such as the Transport Board acting as overseer. The bus companies and bus cooperatives will be paid by the number of miles they operate rather than by the number of passengers they transport. With proper control mechanisms in place, this can be done. We will pay less for fuel as we leave our cars at home or at parking lots far from the city and commute on public transport. We will also build bicycle paths and many green parks of varying sizes which will all connect to public transportation. Derelict buildings and empty city lots will be transformed into green spaces. No private vehicles will operate in the city separate from the public transport. You want green? Take green.

It’s amazing how we think of parks and how we use them. In the sixties when we were studying for exams the best places to study were the graveyard of the St. John’s Cathedral (with warnings of which jumbie you were sitting on) and the Botanical gardens. The connection between the two was that there was hardly anyone around (whom you could see). This is why I decided one day in London to visit the nearby park to get away from the noise in the house and practice my saxophone in peace. In less than five minutes I was surrounded by crowds of park goers. In Antigua and Barbuda we must organize activities inside the green spaces to attract people. Many of the green marchers in white would not recognize a green leafy vegetable if you stuffed one down their throats.

Since the city needs a new sewage system, let us consider waste in general and implement a recycling program. It should not surprise you if many of the green marchers in white will still continue in the same old way, dumping garbage on their beloved green spaces with pee-pee and poo-poo to boot.

Ask Ambassador Underwood to tell you about a city in Brazil called Curitiba. An article on urban planning by Jonas Rabinovitch and Josef Leitman in Scientific American in March 1996 informs my position. It chronicled Curitiba’s downplaying of the needs of private motorized traffic and prioritizing public transport, bicycle paths, pedestrians’ walkways and the environment. How has Curitiba fared since 1996? That year is crucial because at that time, official planners from all over the world including New York City, Toronto, Montreal, Paris, Lyons, Moscow, Prague, Santiago, Buenos Aires and Lagos, were visiting and praising Curitiba.

You want green? Let us go the whole hog and give them all the green they want. The next thing you know is that, as we green up the place and de-emphasize the use of private cars, they will have a protest motorcade and at the front of the motorcade there will be a certain, quaint, little green car. You just can’t win. Time to call the real Green Lantern.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Our Music


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Pan In Education: A Sustainable Business Model for the Caribbean Music Industry by Simeon Louis Sandiford, was one of the presentations at a recent regional workshop in Antigua & Barbuda on Information, Communication and Technology (ICT). Pan In Education by Mark Loquan et al., is a watershed, double compact disc from Trinidad and Tobago. In addition to 13 calypsos in various formats including musical scores and data on Caribbean rhythms, there is a plethora of data that can be used in a classroom in the Caribbean or in any part of the world. Music and business are integrated.

The appearance of this double CD about steel pan and calypso begs the question about calypso music in general. Why is calypso less popular on the international circuit than reggae and what must calypso do to catch up? Somewhere amongst the myriad reasons must be the fact that if you line up 20 of the bests traditional reggae and calypso songs, the lyrics of the reggae songs will appeal more readily to the average international listener. Generally, calypso lyrics are more parochial. There are many more double meanings (double entendres) in calypso than in reggae.

The origin and purpose of calypso demanded a more subtle, indirect approach. Although calypso started as protest music, reggae is more direct, more “get up, stand up; stand up for your right”. Reggae will walk straight and direct along Market Street from the market to the police station, calypso will take you all around town, allow you to enjoy yourself before you realise you are locked up in the same police station!

If we can package steel pan music for education in a classroom in far off lands, why can’t we package calypso for the average listener in the same far off lands? We would have to use DVD instead of CD because in addition to music and data formats that are the confines of a CD, a DVD can also carry movies. The parochial limitations of calypso can be surmounted by displaying the lyrics, outlining the story and employing a glossary of Caribbean words and phrases using a standard source like the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage by Richard Allsopp. The same goes for the double entendres. We can also incorporate music videos of singers performing the songs with sceneries of Antigua and Barbuda, information on the locations, travel arrangements, etc., all on a single DVD.

The marketing plan would be to get the average international person who is infected by the drama and beauty of carnival and calypso to understand what the mystique is all about. We can also include in the DVD a dissertation and demonstration on the art of dancing to calypso music for those hop, skip and jump tourists who seem to be out of time, all the time, every time they go on the calypso dance floor.

An important past participle of calypso theme and strategy was used for the building of strong, narrative structure: Witty humour. Traditional reggae was terribly lacking in this element. It is a unique, marketable aspect of the verb and gerund of calypso composition. Have you ever heard a traditional reggae song that makes you band your belly and laugh your head off until the lost tears of laughter make you dizzy from dehydration? As much as I love Bob Marley’s music, you will never hear a reggae song from that era about a lying competition, a lion and donkey rematch, love in the cemetery, or a treatise on the theatrical art of two women “cussing” on Greenbay Hill.

In recent times, reggae has ventured into humour and this has paid huge dividends with lyrics responding to, and countering lyrics of a previously released song. This genre comes straight out of the calypso tent and there are knowledgeable musicians and musicologists who will “tell you flat” that reggae came out of calypso; but that is another story, which itself is another genre of the calypso art form. Both calypso and reggae have surfed onto a wave of banality to the extent that you have to search hard amongst the haystack of odious garbage to find the solitary, buried, musical gem that pierces your musical heart.

As we bridge the ICT, digital divide we expect answers to questions about computer simulation of vehicular and pedestrian traffic into and out of St. John’s city. We want to know about computer simulation of the use of the entire extended East Bus Station area as the predominant atrium of the city. This is modern town and suburban planning which must extend to the whole of Antigua and Barbuda. However, within this exciting ICT, digital milieu, the fundamental things of life still apply. It is our culture that defines us, and dictates how we deploy the ICT, digital tools. We must understand ourselves before we can export our culture with or without the ICT, digital media of CD and DVD.

A crucial part of this understanding of national self must begin with coming to terms with the singular and central lesson of slavery. The cardinal lesson of slavery is that black people are a dignified race of survivors. Amen! Once we understand the historical significance of this, we can also survive in a dignified way the nonsense we face now including the enslaving nonsense that comes even from some of our very own. With the Caribbean being the melting pot of all of the races of the world, the raison d’etre of a West Indian and Caribbean person or personality is how all these races can survive and live together in social harmony. Indeed, in the Caribbean, we are the world.

So let us celebrate the hard work that went into the Pan In Education double CD. But we must use the same ICT, digital tools to extend to packaging calypso and other forms of our West Indian and Caribbean culture for export. The requirements for this successful venture are the same requirements that schools of business administration have been trying to teach corporate executives. When the tools of business are used for culture, the learning and mastering of the tools of business will be so much easier. Indeed, Pan In Education is a brilliant attempt to apply all aspects of a business from creating to manufacturing, to selling, and investing, to creating again, using music and steel pan.

The business of culture will help us to redevelop a business culture. This propagation of culture by first understanding national self and culture and valuing our cultural icons and sending out our minstrels and jesters and traders, is not uniquely North American. It is as old as the hills. It started in the home of all of mankind: in Africa.