My Blog List

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Goose is Fat


A One Act Almost Christmas Play

Scene: The reception area of a small hotel in Antigua.

Jonathan: Here comes Santa Claus.

Mizpah: You shouldn’t mock Joseph. He is doing a fine job. He is a good chef.

Jonathan: I cannot understand why men can’t cook at home and all the top chefs in all the hotels are men.

Joseph: It’s not that men can’t cook at home. Their mother and women spoil them; like you.

Jonathan: Always remember this: I refused the job that you have.

Mizpah: Women do not get the top chef’s job because of gender discrimination, and talk about women’s domestic life. From now on, any more advice from me about food will cost you two.

Jonathan: You should have applied for the chef’s job. What new advice do you have for Christmas?

Mizpah: I am looking at what is cooked and how it is cooked in this hotel compared to what is cooked outside because I want to understand why there is an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease just outside this hotel’s door. Food is killing us.

Jonathan: Inside the hotel too. Some tourists are so big and fat, they can’t pass through the doors.

Joseph: That’s the reason for the downturn. Some tourists are so fat they can’t enter this small country.

Jonathan: Too much fat, too much salt, too much meat, too much booze.

Mizpah: It’s the sugar, baby. Too much sugar.

Jonathan: Well tell me this, Miss Mizpah: If too much sugar is bad, how can plenty of fruits be good?

Mizpah: A really good man would understand why. In a nutshell (and nuts are good for you too), all of something, or someone, might be good for you but concentrations of some of the parts might kill you.

Joseph: There is coded message there but let’s stick to real sugar, not imaginary ones.

Mizpah: All sugars are not equal. Table sugar is sucrose. Sucrose itself is made from two other types of sugars: glucose and fructose. The key sources of fructose are fruits, vegetables, and honey. Fructose is the sweetest of all naturally occurring carbohydrates. It is about 1.73 times sweeter than sucrose, the common table sugar. Excess of any sugar is bad but excess fructose is so bad, it’s almost like a poison.

Jonathan: So, again, why are fruits, containing fructose, the sweetest of all natural sugars, so good, and sugars, including fructose, are so bad?

Joseph: I suspect we need another lesson in biochemistry.

Mizpah: Simply put, glucose is used by all cells of the body for energy and some of it is changed into fat or stored as glycogen in the liver. However, fructose is not used by any part of the body except the liver, where it is changed into fat and some other bad things.

Joseph: It’s complicated. Glucose causes insulin to decrease appetite. Fructose increases appetite. But excess glucose and excess insulin can also increase appetite. Too much of any sugar is bad.

Jonathan: Too much of anything. What is all the fuss about high fructose corn syrup?

Mizpah: High fructose corn syrup is in almost everything, from baby foods to soft drinks. It’s cheap and it is a good preservative for processed foods. But it’s not just high fructose corn syrup, since it actually has in fructose and glucose, almost like sucrose, the table sugar. It’s that we are using too much sugar.

Jonathan: I hear that fructose is almost like alcohol.

Mizpah: The liver handles them almost the same way, just that you don’t get a buzz from fructose.
Joseph: The way some children drink soft drinks you would think they get the buzz and are addicted to the fructose. Plus, fructose opens their appetite.

Mizpah: It’s not just soft drinks. Almost all sugary drinks, including fruit drinks, have added sugars.

Jonathan: So, again, why are fruits so good and the fructose in them is so bad?

Mizpah: You must eat the entire, natural fruit. When the fiber from the fruit is in your gut, it cuts down on the amount of fructose you absorb from your gut into your bloodstream and body.

Jonathan: So what happens to the remaining fructose in the gut?
Joseph: The bacteria in the gut act on it and change it into gas.

Mizpah: You have to know how and when to take your fructose or any kind of sugar. Take it in high doses in drinks and you get fat. Eat wholesome fruits and vegetables so that the fiber decreases the absorption of fructose. Be moderate. Eat too much fiber and sugar and you will make plenty gas and fart. That is why Dr. Robert H. Lustig, said that when God made the poison, fructose, it was packaged with the antidote, fiber. Fiber, unlike fructose, suppresses appetite. But again too much fiber with too much sugar will make you fart.

Joseph: Excess sugar makes you fat or fart. Stop drinking all those soft drinks and all those fruit juices too.

Jonathan: So I should eat an entire orange or local fruits, fiber and all, and drink water, for Christmas.

Mizpah: All the time. Eat properly or repair you body from fatness or excessive farting. Reparations again.

Jonathan: Why does everything with you always lead to reparations?
Joseph: Yes Mizpah, you pushing reparations too far. Reparations and food?

Mizpah: Food is all about choice and control. You have to look back and see the good, natural foods we used to eat in Africa before the European arrived, mainly vegetables and grains; very little meat, used mostly for flavouring. We had to change our diet by adding large amounts of salt, sugar and fat to make the junk food we ate during slavery more palatable for all the energy we had to put out. After slavery, some of us are trying to get back to good, natural foods, like the nutritious one-pot meal; like pepperpot.

Joseph: But the salt, sugar and fat remain along with salted pig tail, salted beef and salted fish.

Mizpah: Precisely. Until we refocus on our journey from Africa to here, how we survived, and regain control of our food, we are dead. Reparations are lined to food. Reparations will assist us at arriving at food security. We would eat more of our natural foods, stop importing so much junk, so much processed food with high fructose corn syrup, and stop financing the rich countries. The goose in not getting fat. It is fat.

Jonathan: The next thing I will hear about is reparations and Christmas.

Mizpah: Christmas, the celebration of the coming of Christ, not the comical, commercial celebration we practice, is all about reparations. But that is another story. I wish you a healthier 2010.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Murder Most Fowls and Most Other Animals


Dr. Lester CN Simon

I have always wanted to be a detective. It all started with my fascination with the Green Lantern superhero and, more pedestrian, my absorption of Perry Mason novels, the first books without pictures that I had read. At first, all I wanted to do was to catch the crooks and show them how smart I was. Now, all I want to do is to understand why we have crooks, and reveal how I am not so smart after all.

My fascination with crime detection was peaked in Jamaica. I had done my medical internship at Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) in 1977 and during my six months on general surgery and orthopaedics, a strange association occupied my time and space, living adjacent to the hospital. It was the sound of gunshot from the neighbourhood and the subsequent ring of the telephone. Since then, I have always looked to Jamaica to find the causes and solutions to the crime wave soaring across the Caribbean. But I have been looking in the wrong place. Let’s go north and examine the greatest country on earth, the land of the free and the brave, the murder capital of the world, the United States of America.

It was reported by Jill Lepore in the November 9, 2009 edition of The New Yorker that “The United States has the highest homicide rate of any affluent democracy, nearly four times that of France and the United Kingdom, and six times that of Germany”. Might we in the Caribbean learn something from America regarding why one country is more murderous than another?

One of the theories reported by Lepore to explain the long decline of the murder rate in Europe from the Middle Ages to the present is the civilizing process. Simply put, this refers to a gamut of behaviours that require physical restraint and self-control. Importantly, it also reflects the “growing power of the centralizing state to disarm civilians, control violence, enforce law and order, and, broadly, to hold a monopoly on the use of force”.

How then does the United States fit into this mold? The American homicide rate has always been higher than Europe’s, even from the start. The reasons put out by some Europeans is that Americans have not undergone the same civilizing process (some might say outright that American are not civilized). The argument goes on that democracy came too soon to America. The suggestion is that, unlike in America, by the time democracy came to Europe, the populace had accepted the authority of the state.

It is argued that the American Revolution happened before Americans got used to the idea of a state monopoly on force. Americans have not only preserved the right for individuals to bear arms (rather than yielding this right to a strong central government). They still have medieval manners such as impulsiveness, crudeness and a belief in a culture of honour. In the case of the latter, Europeans are said to have replaced the culture of honour with a culture of dignity.

The lesson from this comparison between Europe and America is that we West Indians may be more American than we think. No matter how we try to avoid it, we seem to be forever circling the roundabout of how we build a society from slavery and colonialism, from a culture of honour in which “dissing” can cause your death, to a culture of dignity,without addressing reconciliation and reparations.

Recently, I heard the head of the Observer Group say that he was not interested in reparations, all he wanted was opportunities. I used to say the same thing, until I came to the conclusion that individual opportunities will be given, and I have been a beneficiary of the same, but collective opportunities require a seminal shift from a culture of dishonour (slavery) through a culture of honour (post slavery) to a culture of dignity (the future). Collectively, only reparations can do that for all us, West Indians and former colonials within and without the West Indies.

Crudeness can be rampant and subtle. I recall apologizing to a medical student friend after a movie for hitting him very hard during an action scene in the movie. He promptly, told me not to worry because, obviously unbeknownst to me, he had returned the favour in excessive measure. Crudeness applies to the way we eat (no more finger-licking chicken?) and terms we use, like “box off” a plate of food. It also applies to how we treat our womenfolk, directed, as we are, to either make her walk and talk, or “gee she work fu do”, with all the burning flames consuming her.

Some researchers say that the prevalence of guns in America does not support the high murder rate in America. Lepore noted that some scholars have suggested that laws allowing concealed weapons actually lower the murder rate. I recall the first (and only) time a gun was pointed in my face. My entire life passed in a slow-motion flash before me, like a movie, popcorn (with butter), soft drinks and cartoons included. The lasting effect is still present.

Lepore lists other theories for the high murder rate in America. Four other factors mentioned were, mobility, federalism, slavery and tolerance. Mobility has fractured the social fabric that used to bind society together; plus criminals can escape more easily, or blend in so well amongst a crowd of strangers in a small town like St. John’s, with a crowd of football fans peeping.

Federalism is said to be a weak form of government. There are other forms of weak government, such as West Indians in a small (place) state, disrespecting politicians and politicians allowing disrespect as a currency for being local, colloquial and for obtaining votes. Slavery, Lepore argues, rationalized a culture of violence. Tolerance, speak for itself here. From tolerating bad driving, bad roads, bad service, to bad credit, bad behavior, bad debt, bad death, and murder.

One remarkable point Lepore makes would be seen as racist, were it leveled at West Indian. She makes it in reference to Americans. One of the theories she mentions, leads her to conclude that Americans are medieval and backward and warlike, because they became free before they learnt how to control themselves. Risking the loss of friends, I wish to say the very same thing about post-slavery, post-colonial West Indian society. But I have a caveat.

Whenever freedom comes, it must be grasped with hands and feet and whatever else. Freedom must be wrestled away from the enemy, taken and celebrated. Immediately thereafter, the real battle to win the war begins. The battle is to build a society so that we can move from an disparate, murderous ten to one to an attempted oneness of civility, accepting as our battle cry that we will still be imperfect, but less so.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Badness Forever


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Show me a country where the majority of the populace comprises descendants of slaves, slave masters, and indentured workers, and where law and order is not a major problem, and Beelzebub will show you the kingdom of heaven on earth. Is there some historical element in our psyche that forces us to defy law and order? Have we inherited this inalienable right?

You can read tomes of literature on the causes of crime. You might even be a victim of crime, or worse, (or is it better?), a perpetrator of crime. You can agree with the experts, like Jamaican Dr. Bernard Headley, that the cause of all street-level crime and violence resides “in the nature of society itself, not in the mental or emotional states of its citizens”. Yet when you confront the corollary that the recipe for preventing crime would be the creation of a social-economic system that can deliver social and economic justice to all, you embrace your head in worrying doubt.

Can it be that a society that has not engaged in reconciliation and reparations for past wrongs, continues to live out the past? The foes may change but the forces of evil remain the same. How else can you explain the way we treat each other? It’s not that criminals do not know their neighbours as themselves. Indeed, they have to study them very well before executing (pardon the pun) their jobs. It’s simply, according to Dr. Headley, that the neighbour is a removable, depersonalized obstruction standing between the criminals and their prize. It’s akin to traversing a nasty pothole on route to a prime, crime destination. Fix it, for badness sake.

Another expert, Dr. Obika Gray, writes about the concept of badness-honour. He notes that defiance among the urban poor is remarkable for its preoccupation with matters of identity, honour and respect. Tie this to the treatise by Dr. Orlando Patterson that to understand slavery, we must grasp the importance of honour. He contends that slavery is a great deal more than an institution allowing property-in-people. It is “the permanent, violent domination of natally alienated and generally dishonoured persons”. “Dissing” is not new and it has always carried a heavy price. Criminals, including dons and their subjects, understand “diss”.

Badness-honour, simply put, is the idea that there is honour and respect in badness. It is the securing of power, honour and respect by use of intimidation. This intimidation may be overt or covert; covert even to the point of passive vulgarity. I recall a Jamaican who visited Antigua in the 70’s complaining to me in Jamaica how he initially found Antiguans tame and almost respectfully docile. He had passed a dread on the street and shouted, “Hail de dread”, to which the dread replied, “Goodnight Sir”.

He received the obverse, classically and uniquely Antiguan response, when he was ignorant enough to ask a saleslady (so he thought she was) in a bread shop, if she sold needle and thread. Her response was bombastic, fantastic and iconoclastic, “Arwe na sell dem subben ya”. Figuring out the dialect and the dialectic response from “the look” of her voice, he readily apologized by saying that he was a stranger who had just arrived in the island. Such a feeble admission earned him the coup de grace response, “Ana fu me fault that”.

It must be registered that badness-honour is not the currency of the vast majority of the poor, but rather, of a tiny minority. It should also be placed on record, as Dr. Gray does, that badness-honour is not a resource available only to the disadvantaged. Power holders from slave masters, to colonial authorities and party bosses in postcolonial societies have employed it.

Badness-honour can take the illusion of goodness. As my dear father told it (God rest his soul), a bank customer, who just happened to be a white English man, complained to the bank manager that my father had opened the bank door late. It was sympathetically explained to the bank manager and the English gentleman that the bank opened by, and only by, the wrist watch of my father, a timepiece that carried BBC time. Moreover, massaged my father, if he were to open the bank door by the gentleman’s time, he would be compelled, by the inimitable logic of the bank, to close the bank by the same gentleman’s time. My dear father suggested to them that for the sake of good customer service, he was not averse so to do. But, and he slowly kneaded and injected the coup de grace, he would have to go searching all over the island for the good gentleman because he had no knowledge whatsoever of where he lived. You see the problem?

It is ironically remarkable, until you understand badness-honour, that some of the demonstrators, right up front with giant placards, chanting and waving, in public marches against the UPP government, are the very same ones who benefit most from the policies of this government. Be silly enough to point this out to them and you will earn an unadulterated dose of our second national motto, “Me na kay”, sometimes adulterated by a concoction of expletives delivered with an adagio that only a badness-honour symphony can play.

Justification of badness-honour is ubiquitous. With all the wrongs meted out to Jews, and they have meted out their share, it took me an extra hour to fall asleep to BBC radio when an American Jew rebuked President Obama for comments about Jewish settlement in occupied territory. After all, the territory was given to the Jews by God and was once “occupied’ by King David. You see the problem.

Badness-honour takes all forms of expression. When you hear talk on the radio that rape is not about sex, and that it is all about power and control, you wonder if these people have actually had sex. Sex is all about power and control. But in rape, the power and control is neither shared nor consented. Rape hijacks the native power and control ingredients of sex, and perverts them to and beyond the most imaginable extreme, to a vile and inhumane form of badness-honour. Christian fundamentalism and badness-honour inform some dancehall proponents to kill homosexuals and yet the same self-appointed social gladiators are unsighted of their depersonalization of women, to which the dancehall queen contributes so much.

So again, is there some historical element in our psyche that forces us to defy law and order? Have we inherited this inalienable right? We have to know the answer because it seems strange to me that badness-honour exited from slavery time until now, that badness-honour can be used and manipulated, that in our attempt to prevent crime we will create a social-economic system that can deliver social and economic justice to all, and yet badness-honour will still throttle our existence.

It also seems strange to me that slavery has ended and yet, to at least attempt to remove or reduce badness-honour on all fronts, there is no reconciliation, no reparations to restore honour; not one communally rejuvenating thing. So, in the eyes of the criminal, we the majority are left with the empty solace that society should look on the bright side of life because he did not shoot the neighbour, he did not shoot up the police station (this time), he did not shoot the deputy (for “dissing” him). We are lucky. He just shot the sheriff.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Road to the Future


Dr. Lester CN Simon

We can predict the future. We do it all the time. The last time it rained and we ventured outside without an umbrella, we got soaking wet. We predict that the same thing will happen if we do the same thing the next time it rains. Predictions do not have to be absolutely correct all the time. They just have to be good or fair often enough to give our predictions an acceptable degree of credibility.

We recall there was a badly filled ditch across Friar’s Hill road many weeks ago and that it went from bad to worse. It was partly responsible for the death of two persons in a terrible motor vehicle accident. Immediately afterwards, Public Works (one of our oxymora) fixed the spot. There is a similar area in the road by the northern gate of the Anglican Cathedral. It’s unlikely that there will an accident here because of speeding since it is on the crest of an often congested hill. It’s also unlikely that someone will become so irate over the disrepair of the road that they will stop and put down one piece of cursing. After all, they would be just outside Big Church. We predict that it will not be before next Easter that the spot of bother will be fixed.

Next Easter, the church will enact the walk of Jesus to his crucifixion. Someone, preferably a worker at Public Works, and a churchgoer) will be asked to bear the symbolic cross, and he will stumble and fall at the very spot that needs repairing. When our predictions are generally good, we will occasionally make a knowingly false prediction to some people, in order to get the appropriate, opposite action from others. Let’s see.

The world is watching to see the future of countries like ours, comprising the descendents of slaves and slave masters and others. In particular, the world is watching to see the future of Antigua and Barbuda. Because of the unique mix of Caribbean nationals and other nationals living here, we are unwittingly the nidus of the future of the Caribbean. To see what our future will be like, we have to understand the journeys that descendants of slaves and slave masters must take whether or not they are aware of their fated rites of passage.

First, let us regard the descendants of slaves. Initially, we must recognize why we were enslaved and why and how we were freed. Then we will sing and dance and dress up like nobody else. Different forms of emancipation will last for varyingly long periods of time. You must have heard the story about the rapper, Talib Kweli, driving through the Mississippi delta and seeing a brother running with no shoes or shirt on. Stopping the car for fear that the man might be in trouble, and offering assistance, the man, unaware of the end of slavery, responded, "Shhhhhh... I’m escaping!"

Our self adoration, as a form of emancipation, will become so defining, a popular, local clothing store will cleverly advertise itself using the slogan, “We go kill dem wid clothes”. Our singing, dancing and dressing, as well as our conspicuous consumption, will be the life motif and motive of many. The next, future step away from the middle towards the end of our rites of passage will be the hardest. It demands the partial stepping out from ourselves, the truest emancipation of them all, and our beginning to see our environment as us and not just a place, a landscape, a geography.

We will know we are approaching our remarkable future when we stop littering and literally see beyond our noses whist smelling and abhorring the stench so close to us. We will redesign our cities and environs for business and for pleasure, in equal measure, primarily for us, as if we were the substance of a cake, and our visitors, guests, and tourists, the icing. Designing our environment will be a natural extension of the laying out of the inside and outside of our homes. Emancipating ourselves will be defined by our freeing of our environment.

When we look ahead at the burgeoning development along Friar’s Hill Road we will see that the entire eastern area needs to be circumscribed by major roads. In addition to Friar’s Hill Road itself, and Lauchland Benjamin Drive, two more roads paralleling these two should be added to form an embracing square or a quadrilateral roadway with a verdant oasis somewhere within.

Secondly, for their rites of passage, the descendants of slave masters will accept that there were various classes of slaves and that some of the ingenuity and expertise ascribed to slave masters were in fact engineered or modified by artisan slaves who came over with immense knowledge and high levels of skills. Until and unless the symbolic gesture of reparations is made, we will be denied the respect and the resources for the reconciliatory healing process. We will continue to wander though an economic, social and psychic deuteronomy. Interestingly, reparations will remove the pseudo-philosophy some of us espouse, refusing to repay loans we signed for and blaming others for every single, little error we make, including all the bad manners and all bad mindedness we harbour, and all our inefficiencies and misfortunes.

When, as a candidate for president, Barack Obama opposed offering reparations to the descendants of slaves and yet contended that, “The best reparations we can provide are good schools in the inner city and jobs for people who are unemployed”, was he being duplicitous, diplomatic or both?

We can judge people by simple, common actions and qualities. How many times after stopping our vehicles for someone, young and old, to cross the road, do we have to remind them, using a geometry of gesticulations, to say thanks? Our future will begin when we no longer have to remind others to give thanks (and praise, as our Rastafarian brethren remind us). Our future will begin when the indecent haste to dig up the road to lay utility pipes will be followed by an equally decent haste to repair the damage.

We predict that the emancipated future of the Caribbean will be assured when, in our Sunday-best clothes, going to mass in an edifice described as "the most imposing of all the Cathedrals of the West Indian Province”, after 28 years of independence, we do not accept driving or walking for weeks over lumps and bumps and patches and pitches of stone and dirt, in a major road, at the steps of a cathedral whose cornerstone was properly laid more than 165 years ago.

Thursday, October 29, 2009



Dear Editor

We are often warned not to discuss religion and politics. Sexuality, and homosexuality in particular, should probably be added to the list. When religion and homosexuality are combined, as in the article, “Homosexuality: When The Jealous God Retaliates” by Shelton Daniel, in the Daily Observer of Thursday, October 29, we should probably not discuss his article at all. But we do not just observe The Daily Observer.

There are probably enough homosexuals here to defend themselves without any assistance from me. However, I find Shelton Daniel’s argument worthy of comment. He posits and quotes scripture to show that homosexuality “is a punishment from God upon those who have chosen to reject him”. He also refers to persons flaunting their celebrated homosexuality in self-delusion as a “liberated personal choice”.

For an all-inclusive discussion of homosexuality, it is good to seek the opinions of homosexuals. And who better than the celebrated comedienne, Wanda Sykes? Just before we get to Wanda; the way is which homosexuality is regarded in many parts of the Caribbean, forcing homosexuals to hide or literally be stoned to death or be killed in any other way, suggests that homosexuals are fighting a serious battle. And let’s not think we can win the war on HIV/AIDS without discussing, at the very least, all forms of sexuality. So let’s not cloud the issue. If homosexuality is God’s retaliation, them leave it at that (with its corollary, noted below) and leave out the “liberated personal choice”.

The argument from Wanda is this: Homosexuality is not a choice. If it is, then maybe sexuality in all its forms is all about choice. In which case, imagine a man saying this to his wife or girlfriend: My dear, you know what? I really feel like having sex with a man; but I choose, I choose to have sex with you instead.

Maybe we should not just compare homosexuality to other forms of sexuality, we should also compare sin to sin. The idea that homosexuality is a punishment from God should be extended to point out all those other forms of punishment God metes out to those who have rejected him. According to the same first chapter of Romans that Shelton Daniel quoted, these other sins would include: “unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,” etc.

If we call homosexuality a sin, all of us are not homosexuals but all of us are sinners. Hence all of us, not just homosexual, must repent according to the epistle of Shelton Daniel to the homosexuals. In this regard, homosexuals might just realize that they have no choice (liberated or otherwise) but to think that they are just like the rest of us sinners. This is not a “liberated” view. To me, the concept of a homosexual marriage is an oxymoron. Call it something else. But we must follow the logic of Shelton Daniel’s argument, even if it leads to the conclusion that, in some ways, in our many sinful ways, the homosexuals and the rest of us are all in the same den.

Thank you
Dr. Lester CN Simon

Tuesday, October 27, 2009



Dr. Lester CN Simon

Can it be that after twenty eight years of independence, we suddenly wake up to the realization that independence is not a single, ceremonial night of becoming, not a boisterous walking away from England, not an annual celebratory event, but rather, a gradual process of extracting and filtering a way of life that on one hand, makes us different from others, but on the other hand, makes us establish and cherish an amalgam of values, common to all humankind?

Consequent on the recent passing of the last matriarch of my maternal family, I have been rediscovering pathways and places in my village that I had long abandoned and forgotten. After the funeral, I was forced to park so close to the yard where I grew up, a wave of nostalgia almost blew me over. This reconnect has taken me from nursery-school road to primary-school ground, from family and friends I took for granted, to villagers whose names had become uncomfortably unfamiliar, but whose familiar faces collectively painted a landscape from which I had exited with indecent haste and improper and impolite closure.

It is not enough to say you are independent of a noun (a person, place or thing) if you have just walked away, even if you said goodbye. You have to return. Going back ensures that you are truly independent because it pitches the memory of things past, against the reality of things present. It brings to quick attention, and into sharp focus, an understanding of living that is different in its method from the past, but an understanding nonetheless, that is identical in outcome. It simply says that these are my people, my tribe. As different as other tribes and villagers may seem, we all come to a singular state from myriad roads and all roads lead to the one homeland we call the nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

Recently, there have been all kinds of talk about native Antiguans and Barbudans versus non-nationals. Some have even gone as far as to talk about xenophobia. Talk is cheap. Hence I take my expensive time to write and say that, yes, there will be unwanted and unwarranted excesses in the claiming and re-claiming of nationhood after long periods of unchallenged quiescence. This is not xenophobia. I will call out these occasional excesses but I will not genuflect and offer exuberant excuses for them, anymore than I will offer guests at our home the appropriate excuse for the torrents of rainwater that flood our yard after a long drought.

You cannot come into a country, you cannot even sleep in a house or stand at the bus station, for a short time and claim knowledge and familiarity. Such instant familiarity is deeply contemptuous and is a registration of mockery. Worse, is the vulgar and wanton disrespect for our culture and blind deference for yours as if you are a peninsular of non-nationals jutting out from a mainland of nationals. That can’t work.

You have to become foot soldiers. You have to walk for affirmation and walk again for confirmation. You have to walk to, and through places in this land, taking instinctive pictures of nouns, and then go back, after a time, to see the transformation of these persons, places and things. It is this distraction, this voluntary separation and distinction over time, between the past and the present that helps to create a view of life that is truly independent, because it tests your affirmation.

This is why we can never say we are independent until we revisit our separation from England over long periods of time, such as twenty eight years. We will come to the realization that as much as we disliked many things English because of our history, the differential of time tells us an independent fact. There are just so many ways to do anything. There are just so many ways to ride a bicycle; and even the number of ways to skin a cat is not infinite. There are just so many ways to unite people. We must have a regional radio broadcasting service before we have a Caribbean Court of Justice, or at least have both at the same time.

Indeed, some ways are not particularly English; some ways are simply human. But this independent thought and associated action can only come with proper closure of our servile, historical links with England and other colonial states, and opening of a relationship rooted in the common values and virtues of humankind. This is why reparations are as inseparable from independence as our future is inseparable from our past.

It is in returning to our places of growing up and measuring our growth that we establish the notion that whilst we no longer speak as children, and even though we have put away childhood things, the charity that we display as adults is actually the very same charity (probably less now) that we displayed as children; only now, as adults, the method of distributing that common charity (greater than faith and hope), is simply different.

The next time you hear non-nationals talk about their instant love for Antigua and Barbuda, ask them a few questions; and ask some Antiguans and Barbudans the same too. How many trees have you seen grow? How many children have you witnessed and helped pass through the rigors of life? How many roads, byways and pathways and buildings have you seen altered or transformed? How is your view of today, in this land, different from yesterday, to allow you to arrive at a viewpoint of our present, if you do not know our past? How can you help us surge into the future if your view of our future is dependent only on what you see and hear today?

Some things in life take time. Independence of thought, word and deed takes a long time. You have to get up, get out, and walk about all over this country over periods of time and mingle, to know it and its people. So the next time anyone says they know Antigua and Barbuda and Antiguans and Barbudans and they want to share our independence, ask then to show you the motion and emotion of their long walk for more than a mile and a half around this country. Ask then to show you their feet.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Know Teacher, I Know!


Dr. Lester CN Simon

This is a joke. It might not make you laugh but it’s a joke worth sharing. For the next few minutes, you and I are going to help to solve the financial problem in this country. It’s not very difficult. All we have to do, is to follow the main arguments from the experts, and take them (the arguments, not the experts) to their logical conclusion. So, let’s get to work, and think. Yes, we can work and think at the same time.

Let’s start with the statement by the president of the Antigua and Barbuda Employers Federation, Patrick Ryan. He called on the government to cut public sector jobs, whilst warning that the private sector was not prepared to absorb any laid off workers. Almost immediately, members of the Antigua Labour Party chided Ryan for talking about the laying off of workers without offering a solution. Obviously, Ryan thought he had done precisely what the ALP had not done: offered a solution. What do we learn from this? The problem is not the lay off. Government can lay off as many workers as necessary, if we have a solution to the unemployment problem created by the lay off.

You lay off workers because they are in excess of the money available to pay them. They are bloating the civil service and many of them are unproductive and contributing to poor work ethic and low morale in and out of the workplace. Following this same rationale, of cutting the excess fat, let us consider what else we have in this country that is in excess that we can cut, lay off, utilize better or sell.

Not the beaches. The best ones are occupied. Not the off-shore islands. Are any spare ones left? Not the ubiquitous “cassi” bush that nobody wants to buy. Don’t even dream about the non-nationals. Many Antiguans and Barbudans, including politicians, on both sides, will leave with them if we send them home. What about a reduction in the excessive numbers of government vehicles? Many persons have called for this.

This leads to another question. Why stop at government vehicles? Why not look at all kinds of vehicles on the island, public and private? We have far too many. If we can only find a way to lay off government workers and utilize our vehicles better, we might be able to solve a large part of our financial problem.

Here is the plan. We swallow the bitter pill and lay off the excessive and unproductive government workers. But we continue to pay them a small fraction of the wages and salaries they used to get. Apart from numbering amongst the excessive workers and being unproductive, any laid-off worker must own and operate a vehicle, or must be able to drive, or they will be sent to learn to drive.

We draw an imaginary ring around St. John’s and include the popular roads that are tributaries into the city. We levy a toll to enter and leave the demarcated areas from Monday to Friday, 7.00 AM to 5.00 PM. The laid-off workers will form fleets of taxis. Only these taxis and the already established bone fide taxis will be allowed free access into and out of the toll areas.

All other drivers must pay the heavy toll or utilize the taxi service, paying much less for riding in the taxis than the toll for their private vehicles. These new taxis will be so efficient and cost effective, many of us will leave our vehicles at home until the evening and weekend. It will be a dream come true: A reliable and cheap (and quiet) transportation service. But what about the government vehicles?

The toll charge will also be levied at government vehicles. Moreover, to set an example, all ministers of government, including the Prime Minister, will have to use the new taxi service. No monies from the government treasury (or from any statutory agency) will be paid to private drivers (and private advisers) of government ministers. In fact, the toll charge on government vehicles alone, will be set so high, it would be cheaper to hand over the tax payers’ vehicles at the toll and walk, than to pay the toll charge. Brilliant!

We would have finally found a way to take back the government vehicles, which can then be leased to those laid-off workers who can drive but do not own a vehicle. Many of the laid-off workers might have some difficulty at first, in driving at the normal speed, since they are not accustomed to operating at a normal pace. In fact, many of them will show a penchant for driving on one way streets and going round the roundabout round and round and round, initially.

Think of all the advantages of this revolution. We will have fewer cars on the road during the workweek. Riding in the taxis, we will get to know each other better. We will get to work and back home on time. We will walk more in the city and be healthier for it. When the toll is lifted in the evenings, we can drive our private vehicles. But we will be too tired in the evenings because we will really be working during the day, having discovered real work, in the absence of the laid-off bloaters. On weekends, we can embrace our private vehicles and go to church, visit friends and drive to the beach.

We will save a whole ton of money and we will make a pile of money too. The laid-off bloaters will feel better about themselves. We will love them. All of us will love our little country more. We will ride, in the new taxi cabs, happily into an incandescent Antiguan and Barbudan picturesque sunset. There is only one little problem. This is a joke.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

May I Approach The Bench?


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Whenever you hear West Indians object to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) becoming our final court of appeal because it will be influenced by politicians, you must laugh. Laugh out loudly and hysterically, pointing a finger at them (at a distance), as if mocking them.

In an attempt to escape from history, including our West Indian history, and probably because we have had so much English history shoved down our throats, we sometimes forget or disregard the struggle the English endured to get where they are today. We neglect our own noble struggles and confuse our sterling contribution to English history with that made by the English themselves. And hence we assume we can just latch on to England forever and ever without embarking on our own path or reconnecting to our own history to evolve a modern state. This is as true for agriculture as it is true for the CCJ.

Our eminent lawyers and historians should tell us that what we call the Privy Council is really a committee of the Privy Council and that we are really referring to The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Moreover, they should tell us that the practice of politics interfering in law was the genesis of the King’s Council which gave way to the Privy Council, a body through which some monarchs used to rule without turning to Parliament. The word "privy" means "private" or "secret". The ancient Privy Council was originally a committee of the monarch's closest advisors.

The historical struggle from the primal and ancient Privy Council in the Middle Ages to the highly regarded Judicial Committee of the Privy Council formed in 1833 and modified over the ages even up to today, must be underscored, including its recent relocation from Downing Street to the new UK Supreme Court building this very month.

The history of courts is crucial because it is that very West Indian history that is fuelling the objection to the CCJ. This is a crucial debate for all West Indians because it throws up a very important and fundamental question. When we seek justice between each other, between ourselves and institutions or against the powerful, rich or famous, we can go to court. What then do we do when we seek justice against the court or what do we do when the court’s procedure, proceedings and verdict are clearly, self-evidently and simply not fair?

The matter of the acceptance of the CCJ is historically, fundamentally and inescapably tied to our relationship to everyday law and order. It is not just whether we think the process or the verdict of any court is right. It has to do with that long arm of the law that is so far removed from society, it seems to be, and we have grown accustomed to it being, not of us but other worldly or alien.

This is not just a layperson’s view. The appeal judge’s judgment in The Observer case spoke of The Observer group knocking and disturbing “the sanctity of the constitutional door”. Our Constitution is the supreme law of Antigua and Barbuda. It was the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that rebuked the appeal judge and proclaimed that, “With respect, the image of the Constitution as secluded behind closed doors is not one which their Lordships adopt. Nor would it be right to think of the Constitution as if it were aloof or, in the famous phrase of Holmes J., “a brooding omnipresence in the sky.”

Antiguan and Barbudans might add that our Constitution, sacred as it is, must be like the Antigua Recreation Grounds, or much less encumbered and away from a prison and a roundabout, like that area between the former Parliament building and East Country Pond.

We must engage our parliamentary representatives concerning matters of law and order and the courts. Without resorting to mod rule, civil society must hold its feet to the fire of the pavement when it is displeased with the law and the courts and peacefully protest by marching, and marching again, if necessary. How could we have stood and sat idly by when our lower courts were long in waiting for renovation and for proper toilet facilities. Surely, if a magistrate cannot pass a good motion in peace and quiet on the seat, how can proper judgment be passed on the bench? Shucks!

The legal (and the medical) professions have a lot of work to do. Professional bodies in capitalist and especially developing societies are predicated on the basis that they give back to society some of what they have earned and what society originally gave to their members. This is not just in the form of pro bono cases. It demands establishing an umbilical connection with society, very early and naturally in our professional careers (we might get a peak named after us). This community engagement should not just be during our twilight years, when we can wax eloquently and comfortably about all the rights and wrongs, and suggest all the answers.

In the absence of this umbilical nurturing between law and society, there is no need for a politician to influence judges, the influence is already nurtured. A well known and paradoxical parallel here, is the case where a drug don simply has to wish someone dead, and one of his subjects, wishing and thinking like the boss, does the job without being asked. Remember those dark days when we were sick because Massa was sick?

Most of us laypersons see our constitution the very same way our appeal judge saw it; as “a brooding omnipresence in the sky”. That’s the nurturing the legal profession has planted, cultivated and reaped. And then we talk about law and order?

So we can talk about the independence of the CCJ until the court comes home. It will never really work until simple law and order and the police engage society and civil society engages the police and the lower courts. Then the path to justice will not be “a brooding omnipresence in the sky”, but a constitutive, enveloping part of us, that will naturally lead to this correct and inalienable response to the CCJ: Objection overruled.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Six Of The Worse


Dr. Lester CN Simon

It was hard, backbreaking work on a sweltering, breezeless day almost fifty years ago. The seawater’s edge was idle all the while we assembled, adjusted, dissembled and refitted on site an entire set of beach beds ordered by a hotel. Probably because he thought tourism should begin at home, or more likely, because he was simply exhausted, one of the workers all at once sprawled himself off on one of the beach beds. The rebuke from the boss was so precise, immediate and coarse, it ordered the seawater’s edge out. Always one with a good retort, the worker walked away embarrassed, and muttered, “I was just viewing the view; for the tourist”.

The debacle surrounding the US 6 tourists says volumes about our concept of tourism, how we relate to each other, how we treat our guests and how we should behave when guests pass their place. Somebody has to shout out that tourism can never operate successfully and sustainably in any country in which the people do not know and exhibit their understanding of their history and their view of the future.

Writing in Last Resorts, The Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean, Polly Pattullo noted that, “Antigua’s disregard for its own identity is perhaps more acute than anywhere else in the Caribbean”. Reasons cited by Pattullo include our smallness and the largely foreign-controlled nature of our tourism, dominated by expatriates and investors. Regarding the reasons cited, Pattullo missed the boat. She missed the entire ocean.

It seems fundamental that a nation of people made up largely of the descendants of slaves, as well as the successors of slave masters, varying combinations of the two, and others, must first come to terms with our history of slavery and its disguises as well as our future, before we can honestly welcome a tourist to our island.

A friend put it very simply. He said that a black woman must go through the epiphany sequence from understanding why she hated her nappy hair, to loving her nappy hair, afro, locks and all, so as to be able to do anything with her hair, including what she used to do before her understanding, in order to wear a wig (or is it a weave?) comfortably.

An understanding of the glorious past of our ancestors as well as realizing that economics, not racism, was the primary imperative for slavery (racism was the subsequent marketing tool), will afford us many advantages at this time. We would realize just how much of the world we built. Looking at ourselves from Africa to the entire black diaspora, we will come to terms with just how brilliant, noble and despicable some black people can be. We will arrive at the fascinating conclusion that we are just like other people.

I am reassured whenever I see black people behave badly and run afoul of the law. It not only tells me that all black people are not the same. It also tells me that some of us are so beholden to tourism that we do not know when to tell the tourists, black, white or indigo, to go back where they came from (and stay there).

Tourism should make us proud and proud to serve but not servile. Tourism can never empower us socially and psychologically if it is not liked to our culture in all its complexities and contradictions. And the greatest avenue to cultural realization is not music (as I used to think) but agriculture. The word bespeaks itself.

Subsidizing agriculture has relatively little to do with courting votes at elections or even providing for a family without any other means of production. Agriculture must be subsidized because the proper running of our agriculture should be predicated on this simple and often overlooked fact: It is humanly impossible to till the land, to get dirt on your fingers, to hold national produce in your hand, to taste it, and not feel the national pride that germinates within the farmer and consumer. Priceless, way beyond any Master card.

It is the presence of this national pride that informs us firstly and informs the tourists instantly about the way we relate to each other and the way they must relate to us. It also tells us what to do and say when six of the worse of America parade their true selves here and go back home and pretend to be sweet things.

We must never again allow another set of Christopher Columbus to come here, misbehave and we become afraid that we will not survive when a ship turns in the opposite direction. We will conduct our due process. Then we will go to Spain and tell Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand that whilst we welcome tourists here, alas, some tourists will never discover our beautiful paradise. They will discover our police.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

With Child Will School


Dr. Lester CN Simon

The comments regarding the schoolgirl with child, are painfully exercising our thoughts because we are dealing with a complex problem, and we wrongly assume that a complex problem always requires a complex solution.

It all started with the recent proposed amendment to the Education Act of Antigua and Barbuda, which partly states that….. “A noticeably pregnant student is not permitted to attend a public school or an assisted private school or to wear a school uniform in public until the end of the pregnancy."

The pregnant schoolgirl should continue her secondary school education. She also requires additional special education and support about pregnancy and child care. If this is so, then the first part of the proposed amendment suggests that the noticeably pregnant student should be relegated to some unassisted private school or facility. No such school or facility exists. And it would be counterproductive to open one.

It follows then that the noticeably pregnant schoolgirl should continue to attend her regular school right up to the day or time her doctor says she should be admitted to hospital or until such time she would deliver the baby in hospital or at home. Government and private facilities already in existence can be extended to assist the mother-to-be.

If you agree that the first part of the proposed amendment is outrageously wrong, shortsighted, or even silly, and discriminatory, I have to tell you that I think the second part is in perfect order.

A school uniform, like any uniform, signals an agreement to abide by a set of rules and regulations. The respect for the school uniform means that there must be undivided attention to these rules and regulations and to decency, decorum and choices appropriate for students, within and without the school premises.

I get upset when I see students, especially ones form my Alma Mater, wearing odd caps and hats and berets, and whatever else, with the established uniform. These accessories should be official accessories designed in the colors of the uniform and sanctioned by the school. Any thing else demeans the uniform and makes a mockery of it.

I can only conclude from my argument that the pregnant schoolgirl, noticeably or unnoticeably with child, should be defrocked of her school uniform and continue to attend school as previously noted.

It follows that the schoolboy who got the schoolgirl pregnant, or for whom some other woman is pregnant, must also be disrobed of the school uniform, and continue to attend school, as well as the appropriate counseling sessions to receive appropriate support for a father-to-be.

Having said all that, I am forced to conclude also that the schoolgirl who gets married in school must walk the same aisle as her pregnant school mates who defy, wittingly or unwittingly, the uniform set of rules, regulations and general guidelines that define a secondary school.

A complex matter sometimes requires a simple solution. Our desire for a complex answer in this matter is part of our customary illogic of wanting to have our cake, after we have eaten it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The One That Got Away


Dr. Lester CN Simon

There is an old, true story in my village, of a gentleman who confessed to stealing a piece of wire from the then operational USA Military Base. His confession was offered immediately after the villagers had been summoned and told that the perpetrator had done a most commendable thing in removing the valuable piece of wire. It was reported that the wire had fallen on to a very dangerous place, where, had it not been removed surreptitiously in the dead of night, by an angel of mercy, many a good man would have been laid waste.

For the past few years, indeed some would say for the entire history of this country, and for the next few years, and again some would say forever and ever inevitably, some of us have performed and will carry out acts that can only be described as treasonable at worst or just plain, old, bad mindedness, at best.
It is important to know right from wrong but it is even more important to understand why wrongs are committed. Such an understanding can mitigate the penalty for wrongdoing. But putting such an understanding in a larger, philosophical context can lead to, not only the justification of the wrongdoing, but, the culturing of wrongdoing. When such a culture expands from the personal to the national, the soul of the nation is diminished and extinguished. So here we are then.

A group of local men of great national influence is convinced that it is justifiable for the government of Antigua and Barbuda to refuse to pay back, to the point of wanton disregard, monies borrowed from other nations and groups, even with the signed intention of paying back the monies. (“No Ink”, says the calypso man). The justification is a weird concoction of false black philosophy, national thievery (or “thief-ing-niss”, as we say here) and plain bad mindedness. The claim is that, “they”, the ancestors of the lenders, were rogues and thieves.

It is this same deadly kool aid that pushes the One Love philosophy for all Caribbean people in vulgar disregard for the rule of law so that whosoever will, may come and go, as whosoever please. Not even ants’ nests operate like this, their apparent arbitrariness notwithstanding.

We can justify anything. Let us justify slavery on the basis that (secret, secret) we are really God’s chosen people and slavery is our “walking for confirmation”, our journey through the wilderness of life so that we may inherit the kingdom. Let us justify all robberies and rapes so that the police has good training material; which, incidentally, would require more crime if the training seems not to be effective.

The Trade Unions have a lot to answer for in this country. Having failed at getting the planters to accept the workers as partners in the sugar industry, through the unwillingness of many, not all, of the planters, the animosity between worker and management had a number of effects. It led to a brilliant piece of legislation called the Labour Code. It also led to two dangerous approaches to managing workers. The wrongs and attitudes of many workers, as mild as they were, compared to those of management, were either subsumed under a pile of corruption with the consequent leadership style that corruption requires, or glibly passed over without chastisement, with the consequent leadership style of indecisiveness, that appeasement demands.

We still have not come to terms with the paradox of capitalism: Greed is good but the hungry ones, for whom greed is a mirage, must be fed. And here again, we justify excessive, uncontrollable, unnecessary and unnatural greed by claiming that we are fighting for poor people, the small man. How do we redress national wrong? Go to court? But justice can be blind and, worse, very expensive. The number of public enquiries this country has had should inform us that we simply do not care, or, as our unofficial motto declares: “Me na kay”.

One time, I had abandoned my grandmother by playing with some friends for far too long. When evening closed in and I waltzed back into the yard, she greeted me with a novel complexity. She told me that I should know the kind of person she was, and that I should not have to light the lamp to look for her. Barely seeing my dearly beloved grandmother in the darkness, and knowing that she would talk in parables, saying one thing and meaning the next, I honestly thought she wanted me to light the lamp in the house. I had not heard of a metaphor at that age. So you can well imagine my crosses, and my backside, when, after carefully lighting the Home Sweet Home lamp, dozens of licks from a strap of car tyre came packing on to me.

If punishment will do you good, then clearly, you must do something that is primarily worthy of punishment. On a national level, I am forced to conclude that it can only be that all the badness perpetrated on this little nation by politicians, their invitees, cohorts and people in high places, is seen by some as a schooling of the nation, to teach us how to graduate from badness to goodness. The devil knows his place and an apple a day is good for you.

In fact, some people will claim that the suffering they are visiting on the nation is in line with the Christian way of suffering as part of emancipation and ascension. These are the same people who will tell you that it was Jesus himself who told his disciples which one of them would betray him, and pointedly dipped bread and passed it on to Judas, and then actually urged him to do quickly what he had to do.

One argument, reported by Joan Acocella in Betrayal: Should we hate Judas Iscariot?, in The New Yorker Magazine, is that Jesus is divine and since only mere mortals can be killed, that Judas did not really kill Jesus, he simply did him the favour of setting Christ’s Passion in motion, allowing for the saving of humankind.

Can it be that it is this warped reasoning that informs some of us that Antigua and Barbuda cannot and will never die? And hence national thievery and bad mindedness are justifiable? Is this why, even when these good citizens are caught (red or blue handed), and even after all the long drawn out court battles and innumerable public enquiries, they know long before hand that they will still have 29 pieces of silver?

Thursday, August 6, 2009



Dr. Lester CN Simon

It was a most remarkable endorsement, by a most remarkable and socially respectable woman, after she had witnessed the scintillating performance of Hell’s Gate Steel Band on Panorama night. She confessed, “The ban ’poil me.” Those of us who were similarly emotionally disemboweled could only muster a meager reconciliation in order to subtract the good lady from her emotive division, by rejoining, “My sentiments exactly”.

So why does music spoil us and turn us into jellyfishes, or transform us into wild beasts? To try to answer this question, I turned to an article by Karen Schrock in the special, July/August 2009 edition of Scientific American Mind. Additionally, in an attempt to understand why socially respectable persons (not the same lady) would engage in vile and vulgar public dancing that, as someone remarked, “makes animals look civilized”, I turned to the exhibitionism and voyeurism section of the book called, Perversion, by Dany Nobus and Lisa Downing.

First, let us tackle the suggestion that we should “Stop using the cultural celebration (of carnival) as an outlet for brazen half-nakedness, sexual enactments and carnal gratification”, as reported in a letter to the Antigua Sun newspaper. Let us seriously study the acknowledged vulgarity that takes place, in apparent contradistinction to the wish by some for an emancipation carnival. The fundamental question we must answer is this: If we agree that the vulgarity is inappropriate for an emancipation festival, what purpose does the vulgarity serve? It is not enough to look at the immediate, singular purpose, we must also percolate this immediacy through our history to decipher why something so pleasurable to some and so utterly disgusting to others has persisted for so long.

Nobus and Downing claim that the aim of the exhibitionist is never the seduction of the onlooker. The vulgar dancers derive pleasure from their act and not from any onlooker taking them on to actually consummate the act; a lesson readily learnt at one’s peril at carnival. Yes, the vulgar dancer wants to excite the onlooker, but this is not for a conjunction of desires. The simple and yet profound idea of exhibitionism is to make the onlooker become not only excited but also disgusted, upset and even scared, according to Nobus and Downing. Letters of complaints to newspapers attest to this.

Is there a link between emancipation and vulgarity? The emancipation through the vulgarity we so despise seems to come about because the onlookers are enticed to be enslaved by their attention to the wantonness of the exhibitionists. Hence the onlookers cannot and must not conjoin the act. I am forced to conclude that the evolutionary reason for the persistence of the vile and vulgar acts at carnival, the half-nakedness, sexual enactments and carnal gratification that we find so detestable, is the un-freeing of the spectators, casting them into visual slavery whilst the exhibitionists dance on the turned-tables of the masters, deriving pleasure from the neo-enslaved.

Now to the spoiling effect of music. The article by Schrock notes that research suggests that infants seem to have the capacity to appreciate music at birth. She makes reference to the phenomenon of “motherese”, the peculiar singsong way people instinctively talk to babies. It is even suggested that this singsong language may be the original starting point for both music and language.

If babies are hardwired at birth to appreciate music, either in the singsong “motherese” format, or as orchestrated music, and if spoiling someone is often used in reference to children, small wonder that a socially respectable lady is reduced to a child and become spoilt by the scintillating performance of Hell’s Gate Steel Band. The fact that the music was arranged by a mere 19 year old musician, probably played no small part in the spoiling.

Music, which is fundamentally exhibitionistic in some ways, can bring about the vile exhibitionism we abhor and at the same time spoil us in all sorts of ways. I will leave you with one example of this combined effect: A beloved, belated uncle of mine (friend of the famed Arthur Braggoat that cousin King Obstinate sang about) was bizarrely affected by music. He would become thirsty. In satisfying his thirst, he would throw some sugar into his mouth, squeeze a dash of lime onto the sugar, drink some water, and jump up and down riotously, like a spoilt baby.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Strange Fruit


Dr. Lester CN Simon

A most remarkable phenomenon is happening right before our opened eyes and I almost missed it. Concurrent with the government’s seemingly inescapable march into the den of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a mushroom of local talent, expertise and finance is exploding into a cavalcade of carnival music. Almost all of this music will soon disappear, probably before the money from the IMF is released. And almost all of this music will hardly be heard again, unlike the IMF. Am I missing something?

Thousands of miles across the Atlantic, another remarkable phenomenon is awakening our ears. Jazz and classical musicians are joining forces. Jazz pianist, Herbie Hancock and classical pianist, Lang Lang are performing, together, with the Philharmonia Orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Herbie Hancock reminds us that there was a time when classical musician would improvise, as in the cadenza portion of a concerto.

In the general discussion about the pairing of these two musical masters, something odd is being bandied about. Comments are made about the safety and security of classical music in contrast to the bubbling freedom of jazz. Herbie Hancock was exhilarated when Lang Lang abandoned that so-called safety and security and improvised a part of the music they were playing.

In making the contrast between security and freedom, we often ignore the fact that the freedom we take for granted is based on the security of years of strict, slavish attention to detail and study. Otherwise, freedom, with no apposite regard for its opposite (in the past and in the present), is rooted in raw, primal, wildness and becomes an oxymoron.

I wish to declare that the ease with which many of us are able to express ourselves so skillfully in music and the similar ease with which we abandon or destroy our musical creations at carnival, are all part and parcel of our inability to build a modern society and manage the affairs of this nation.

When we take our music for granted, we often do not spend the time and expend the energy to manage it like a business or to realize its true potential. Ask our four top calypsonians if their music sheets are kept in some local repository and they might ask you if you need a suppository. Musicians would scamper to find the music sheets to play at a concert to honour these same top four calypsonians, expecting these master singers to sing at such a concert. In fact, in deed and in honour, they should be invited to sit in the front row with their family whilst a national orchestra and singers regale them with the very songs through which these masters gave us so much pleasure and contemplation.

These days, it has become too easy to compose a song, if song it can be called. Some of these offerings will make “Sing a Song of Sixpence” sound like a platinum classic; others will force Dan the man to abandon the van, and yet others will force the grandchildren of Jean and Dinah, Roseta and Clementina to bet and lose their lives on something they are selling, round the corner posing.

Notwithstanding this criticism, the fact remains that time, effort and money are deployed and dispensed to produce what the artistes regard as works of art. If this process is not managed effectively by the artistes, by their managers and by other persons related in some way to the music, how can we expect them and their followers to suddenly become responsible, productive and efficient at work in the civil service?

It seems that we have to take a second, long look at our music industry and other art forms in this country. We must rescue music from the hotels in order to rescue our people. The way we organize an orchestra, a pan yard, schedule and manage a practice session, including ironing out all the kinks in the music and settling all the personality clashes, and still eat and drink and play and perform together, must carryover to the workplace.

Can it be that we have lost the wholesomeness of music in particular, and of the arts in general, that we see them simply as media of pleasures, and not also as tools to arm and fortify us with the discipline we need in the workplace? Can it be that music is so easy to us, and now even easier still, that we misunderstand what is meant when it is said that “music is the universal language” or when Beethoven said, “Music is the language of God”?

Music is not just the language that all people can understand and be moved by. Music, in all its requirements and facets, from idea to creativity, from production to marketing, from enjoyment to contemplation, is a gift from God. It is given to us to enable us to understand the world around us. Through its compulsory twinning of discipline and freedom, it provides us with the fundamental and universal tool required to run our lives, to run a business, to run a country and, yes, to run the IMF. Unfortunately, the IMF dances to calypso with a strange, discordant and irregular rhythm.

Sunday, July 12, 2009



Dr. Lester CN Simon

The question is on the table: Does Antiguan calypso music have a unique sound compared to Trinidadian calypso? If so, what is it? Many persons contend that there is a difference. The very same, many people find it difficult to outline the said uniqueness of the Antiguan calypso sound. I am in this group that finds it difficult to clearly lay bare the differences. I thought it might be useful to open up further, the discussion started by Cleveroy Thomas, the host of a Friday night program on calypso music on Observer Radio.

Let us begin by lauding the contribution George Jonas made by calling in to the recent Friday night program on Observer Radio. He underscored the role of the musician, the more rhythmic aspect of the Antiguan sound and, as we discussed off air, the role of dance and radio.

Our examination of the Antiguan sound should survive and surpass the harrowing application of universal parameters that can be used to examine any form of music, be it calypso, classical music or jazz. There are at least four such parameters. These are the role of music in society, the functions of music societies, the quality of musicianship, and the commercial underpinnings that tie those in the music business to the music.

It is probably fair to start by saying that music and dance were born at or around the same time, twin members of the arts, one might say. To the extent that a society advances from a more physical to a more aural and cerebral desire for music, so too would the music in that society become kinder and gentler to the dancing feet. Music societies are often the custodians of the status quo. They would put on concerts in which the dancing member of the twins (of dance and music) would take second place, if any place at all, to the music used in ceremonies and rituals, including church services.

The presence of radio is crucial because with or without the hosting of concerts by music societies, radio allowed for the broadcasting of music to large audiences. Indeed, whilst such broadcast involved dance music, it allowed for music that was aptly described as “for your listening pleasure”. It would seem that the emerging polar positions of dance music and listening music might lead to a hybrid popular music that was somewhere between these two poles. Clearly, those societies that maintained some semblance of dance in their ceremonies and rituals, including, in particular, church services, might develop different hybrid music forms from those in the societies that did not. Look at the mammoth wave that followed Superblue after he won his first carnival Road March singing Soca Baptist.

The quality of the musicians seems so fundamental, it is almost not worth mentioning. What is worthy of mention is that origin and nurturing of the quality of the musicians and the calypsonians. It has been said that although musicianship can be improved by playing at hotels, hotel music in a country whose lifeblood is tourism, diverts the musicians from their role in the development of local music. This means that rather than a regular diet of local music for the demanding and thirsty locals, all we get is a jam-packed primal offering for a few weeks around carnival time.

Unless there is proper marketing and sponsorship, or music societies assist in the financial and other management areas of national orchestras, the commercial aspects of music can determine the success or failure of top ranking musicians and artistes, The advent of music piracy has challenged the way we get money from exposing our music to listeners (and dancers) but the internet is pointing us in a direction to help head off some of the piracy. More importantly, the financial future of live music in dances or fetes or shows is assured.

So now we have looked at the four parameters, what are the developmental differences between Antiguan and Trinidadian calypsos? Do not entertain the thought that simply because Trinidad is the homeland of calypso, that Trinidadian calypso is superior. There are many examples (I hate to mention West Indian Cricket, these days) in which the master has been surpassed by the student. Indeed, some say that is how it should be. If at all Trinidadian calypso is superior, our analysis must prove this, although the concept of superiority in music might reside only in the biased ears of the listener.

It is said so often by so many persons I respect, I am beginning to think it might be true. They claim that calypso music gets faster, starting on a musical meridian from Trinidad (slower) to Tortola (faster). It begs the question about the entry and penetration of radio into Trinidad, compared to Antigua. I recall listening to calypsos on radio in the sixties. Some were quick and jumpy but most of them were more for listening compared to what I saw (hiding under the counter) in local dancehalls. Indeed, I vividly recall the wild big-people dances, in which, on one occasion, a kind gentleman man handed back a woman her blouse, which she had allegedly danced off onto the dance floor, all by herself.

Worse, I luridly recall the even more physical dances I would see at carnival time; dances that poor little, tiny me, in short pants, had to put up with. Imagine big people who would otherwise chastise you at church or at or after school, now singing and demonstrating and remonstrating about some part of the male anatomy standing up for what it wanted. That sort of public, primal wildness would make a good parson drink off all the wine, and send out the server to buy some more.

With the migration of Antiguans and people from other neighboring islands to the Virgin Islands, these islanders would want to maintain their musical roots. They would probably end up playing faster calypso than the calypso back home, if their local, calypso music was only for annual celebrations such as carnival, and they were starved of a regular diet of local, dancing calypso in concert and in competition with calypso played just for listening pleasure.

As a society moves towards calypso for listening pleasure, the skills of the writers of calypso stand out. I have to report that, whilst it might not be a uniqueness of Antiguan calypso, many of our calypsos seem to be recitations or poems written as such, and then an attempt made to put them to calypso music; or is it put calypso music to them?. Such inorganic and aplastic calypso becomes almost as angular, and in and out as the geographical shape of Antigua itself. This is probably why, with the resurrection of the jumpy, up-tempo music of the Burning Flames, Antiguans once again took part in that long lost ritual of following home your band at carnival time; in this case, walking and dancing all the way from town to Potters.

Hardly surprising then that the Soca Monarch show is upstaging the Calypso Monarch show. The role of radio in stifling debate, in general, during a dark period of our history, probably had some bearing on the paucity of well written calypsos with acute and biting social commentary, except for the token allowance grudgingly granted at carnival time.

The question is still on the table, or is it now on the dance floor? What is this unique Antiguan calypso sound? Whatever the original, authentic, Antiguan calypso sound is, we have to examine it more to identify it. Its identification is not just nostalgic because we are now into a pepperpot culture of music. It is precisely because of this merging of cultures, that we must always be able to identify our own, just as a good chef, can identify salt, pepper and sugar, so as to make it a little sweeter and a little hotter. And then you can ( in typical Antiguan twang), drink some ice water. Or, if the burning flames get too hot, you can obey the command to take part in the calypso baptismal order, and again in Antiguan lexicon, take a jump and “bathe you skin” in Country Pond water.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Bajan Got It Right


Prime Minister Thompson of Barbados is paving a new path to true Caribbean integration.

The fundamental problem we are facing regarding immigration is this: Irresponsibility. The governor of the ECCB recently mentioned the lack of fiscal responsibility on the part of Antigua and Barbuda, and Jamaica. A few more countries can be added to this list. I want to suggest that it is also political and civil service irresponsibility that is at the heart of the problem.

There are penalties for running a country or an immigration department worse than a peanut vendor. Barbados is taking a responsible approach to immigration and the irresponsible Caribbean nationals, including Norman Girvan, are upset. They are upset because they still do not get it: Running any country, in particular a developing country with a post slavery society, demands almost a slavish attention to professional responsibility. Freedom is not free, in its genesis, deuteronomy or revelation.

In the context of the Free Movement of People, there can be no such thing until the wild and vulgar degrees of political and civil service freedom we practise are replaced by responsibility; not perfection, just plain old measurable and manageable responsibility, as Prime Minister Thompson is trying to chart. Without this, Free Movement of People will be nothing but a public guttural exercise on a public toilet.

And by the bye, Antigua and Barbuda should NOT enter an IMF program. If we do, our lack of fiscal and other professional responsibilities will mean that not even dog will want to eat our supper.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Keeping Company


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Sometimes we have to look back to see ahead. We should go through this exercise now as we try to chart a course out of these perilous economic times. I have heard it said by intelligent people that in times like these we need a saviour. Whenever we say this, and if we really mean it, we must ask ourselves if the saviour has not already given us the answer through the written words of one of our sterling, native sons.

We have had the good fortune of experiencing two polar examples of relationships between companies and workers, to know right from wrong. We have had companies with varying degrees of unionized workers from militant to token unionization. We have also had companies, including a spectacular one, which not only had no unionized workers, they covertly or overtly abhorred unionization.

Examination of both extremes should tell us that militant unionization and no unionization are ultimately counterproductive. When we hear union officials cry out for workers and extol the fundamental rights of workers, we are reminded of the origin and history of trade unionism in this country. We should balance this with the genuine cries of some employers. We regard the Labour Code almost as a sacred document, even though it has some imbalances and is in need of revision and modernization.

To understand the opportunity rather than the danger we are facing in these perilous, economic times, we must re-read one paragraph of The Struggle and the Conquest by Sir Novelle Richards. Parts of it read, “The aim of the Trade Union Movement was that workers in the sugar industry should be accepted as partners, whereby they could share in the wealth created by the industry, rather than being tools employed to do a job.”

This text, which should be in all workplaces, goes on to say that the planters resisted this partnership approach. It notes that increases in wages would mean less profit for the company, unless there was improved production efficiency. The trade union movement at that time challenged the producers to this paradigm shift of improved production efficiency to balance the warranted increases in wages. The seminal paragraph of the text ends by noting that men like Moody-Stuart and others were willing to accept the challenge but “others did not relish the additional exertion and planning necessitated by this challenge.”

So, it is written, that the producers, the owners, were too lazy to exert themselves, to work, to plan, in order to make their own business more efficient. This is sterling stuff by Sir Novelle Richards. However, if the dead could cry, he would be bawling long eye water to discover that after all the struggles and conquests, we have arrived at a stalemate. Not only are some producers and owners still too lazy to exert themselves to improve efficiency, when some of them honour the raison d’etre of the trade union movement, there are workers who do not want to join the partnership-efficiency struggle.

The fault does not lie just with some owners and some workers, it is also seated in the lap of some trade union officials. Hopefully they express disapproval of some actions of their workers in private when the workers are blatantly wrong. But some things must be acknowledged in public: like the wanton abuse of the sick leave provisions in the Labour Code. And since we are on the topic of sick leave and acknowledgement in public, let me shout out that a few doctors and some workers are unconscionably and wantonly bartering sick leave. There is a vulgar joke about a postman who went to deliver a letter to a doctor and was offered a sick leave certificate, without asking for one; and even before he had delivered the letter, or had a clinical examination.

Last year, in a telling article by Banks and Coutu, in Harvard Business Review, some clues were given on how to protect your job in a recession. Suggestions included starting to act like a business partner and a survivor if you really want to be one. Studies show that supervisors and management will often choose workers that are more congenial than those who might be more capable but difficult to work with. It was also suggested that workers be ambidextrous and wear multiple hats, aiming to improve efficiency.

The basic plan is not to become depressed, helpless and hopeless. The article noted that studies of concentration camp survivors showed that a central, defining requirement for survival is to see a good future ahead rather than bury your head in the current quicksand. The article did not note that the black West Indian history of survival during slavery was based on this fundamental strategy whilst we were labouring under inhumane conditions to build much of the western world on sugar and spice and everything but nice. The successful West Indian response to this present world crisis is predicated on a thorough re-examination of our past histories and conquests.

In these times, even if you are employed, you should have a survival strategy in case the worse comes and you lose your job. You should carefully consider and plan for working for yourself or joining a group of similar workers and starting something new or unique. To become the best worker you can be in any company, you might have to lose your job during a recession and work for yourself to redefine your work ethic and possibilities. In the while, companies will have to be wise enough, or be forced by circumstance, to take on the original, primary aim of the trade union movement, or risk going under.

While you are working for yourself during hard times, you must make yourself more marketable for the future, when a job turns up. Self employment will enable you to discover that ultimate and yet fundamental journey that all workers, management and union officials will have to undertake to realize the post slavery and post colonial meaning of work. It will change the concepts of terms bandied about, like union, employers’ federation, trade union, chamber of commerce, workers union, or, the perfectly named, trade-and-labour union.

Working for yourself will not only prepare you for the best company you can keep, it will prepare you for the best partnership company that can keep you; the Novelle dictum, if you wish, for these and all times.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jamboree for the Living


Dr. Lester CN Simon

It was with bitter sadness and curdled regret that many of us endured the passing of the Antigua and Barbuda Jazz Festival; a festival that we had worked so hard to build but could not sustain against all sorts of odds. I am not jealous of the success of the other regional jazz festivals but I have never had the urge to attend. I am still looking for a music festival that not only adds to the national coffers but one that leaves me and other local musicians and all of us so enriched musically that we want to sing and dance beside ourselves. I think I have found one.

Classical music is often regarded as European music to be played by Europeans only; or at least music that is played best by them. Indeed, many Europeans have championed this stereotype and often look askance at outsiders who venture to break down the sacred halls of their cultural birthright. Moreover, some of our own West Indians classical musicians have performed this protector function better than some Europeans. The colonized surpasses the colonizer.

It is for reasons like these, as well as simple unfamiliarity, that many West Indians will tell you that classical music is dead music by dead composers. They regard it as funeral and funereal music that must be shut out from their ears and barred from their minds. Strange. These are the same folks who will tell you about a wonderful, classic movie they thoroughly enjoyed. And yet they seemingly ignored the fact that the wonderful, classic movie they extol was made wonderful and classic largely because of the same classical music they despise.

Classical music and Jazz (not the 5 minutes popular, smooth jazz version; but the more extended format) came to me the same way reading a book without pictures came to me as a child. It was difficult at first; but then I discovered I could paint my own pictures, even if my pictures were slightly different from the ones painted by others, including the writer or composer.

I have to confess that I took a lucky shortcut into classical music. I decided to listen to classical music centered around instruments I like to hear; like the cello, violin, viola, clarinet, flute, French horn or English horn. I also have to confess that the first time I heard Dvorak cello concerto, I was moved to dance along to a particular passage as easily (well almost as easily) as I had danced the first time I heard Bob Marley, Shadow, Super Blue or John Coltrane.

The idea that music is the universal language and that all emotions can be experienced in all forms of music is a universally acknowledged truth. So here is another confession: I once thought country and western music was the pits. I started to change my mind when a friend (Dorbrene O’Mard) remarked that the stories were similar to those of calypso. I was finally convinced when I read that Charlie Parker would often listen to country and western music in night clubs, to the dismay of fans and other jazz musicians. When asked what he found in such simple music, he responded, “The stories, man. Listen to the stories.” And jazz and all other types of music, including classical music, are all about stories, stories in sound, with vacant canvases waiting for you to paint the pictures of your life. Also, Charles Mingus, in response to a snide remark about the simplicity of folk music, reminded that all music is folk music because horses do not sing. It’s all folk.

So why not have a classical music festival? Jazz festivals, including its many and varied formats, have been taken to the point of exhaustion, repetition and redundancy. Calypso and soca abound. Pop, Creole and world music are also taken. What will happen to our Romantic Rhythms? If it follows the path of our jazz festival, what’s left?

With or without Romantic Rhythms, we can start a classical music festival by bringing together overseas and local musicians, including, and here is the kick: steel pan players. Such a festival would be the culmination of one or two weeks of music workshops. Television programs and documentaries will be showcasing the twin islands whilst recording the development of the festival through the personal journeys of the musicians and the progress of the musical items. You might recall that in its early years, the St. Lucia Jazz Festival included workshops, to which regional musicians were invited. Sadly, this was smoothed over by the smooth jazz and pop.

Before and after the celebrated success of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, many classical music aficionados said that the future of classical music was in Venezuela. They also pointed to China. Antigua and Barbuda has strong ties with these countries. In the April, 2009 edition of Classic FM magazine, a 16 year old violinist of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, Angelica Leon, said that music taught her so much, from being on time to working as part of a group. Youth in this orchestra have been taken from the chores of rustic, rural farms to playing music in palatial concert halls all over the world.

Centering a classical music festival around visiting and local musicians with the aim of improving and extracting musical talent, in addition to attracting regional and more distant visitors, will give our local musicians, including pan players, something else to aim for. It will help to force the older, lazy musicians to adapt or be relegated to the back rooms of some of the hotels, playing Yellow Bird and Jamaica Farewell.

What do we do when some of our nationally conscious music lovers start to complain that all this concentration on classical music is making us neglect our indigenous music? We will show them that the skills acquired from playing classical music and the responsibility of being in an orchestra can carry over to calypso, soca, jazz or whichever type of music they request. Indeed, if you listen carefully, you might just hear local musicians whispering or singing a vaguely familiar tune to each other, in uppity tones: Bach to Bach, Bob to Marley, give me any band, we learned music already. Sing the chorus. Bach to ….

Friday, April 3, 2009

How The Rest Was Won


Dear Editor

I am alarmed and frightened to hear that the UPP took us into the last general elections knowing that the voter list was padded and flawed. Someone from the UPP should clarify this issue and say what options, if any, were opened to the UPP party armed with this terrible information.

The manager of one of the UPP candidates said on Observer Radio that they tried in vain to address the electoral commission on the matter of some 900 registered voters who they could not account for. And so, they decided to “take a chance”. Take a chance with an entire country on the wings of a prayer?

Is the UPP a religious organization? The overemphasis of God seems to be a cover for its crass ineptitude. I now understand why one of the commissioners (Ms. Agnes Blaize) from the electoral office said on Serpent’s show some weeks before the elections that God sees everything. Not even the Vatican could or would prepare for an election like this.

I am now asking if the some members of the electoral commission had let out to the UPP candidates that the list was padded. Is this why an independent inquiry has not been mounted into the abject failure of the electoral commission?

Believing in God is essential. But the good Lord help those who help themselves. Depending on God to win a general election because of the abject blunder of your party machinery, and then praising God for the victory, is sacrilegious and deserving of a hot, pointed seat in the deep recesses of hell.

So what is the way forward against this terrible world economic condition we now face? Let’s build as many churches as possible and praise the Lord. Amen.

(The following was not in the original letter)

But the service is not over. After church, I recall the strong, almost umbilical affinity some members of the ALP have for their party, even though they know that the ALP top brass have been accused of corruption in public office. I am hastily turning around on my Damascus road to avoid this epiphany:

When ALP politicians are accused of corruption, they themselves may be forced to hold a public inquiry, or the UPP can mount one, regardless of how long it takes to get to the truth. When the UPP government and party give away the governing of the country on the wings of a prayer (like they almost did), and console us by saying it was God’s will, what sort of public inquiry do we hold? A public inquiry into God?

Dr. Lester CN Simon

Monday, March 30, 2009

Physician Heel Thyself


Dr. Lester CN Simon

To arrive at the correct diagnosis, all doctors are taught to start by obtaining a proper medical history of the patient’s ailment. This should then be followed by a thorough physical examination and appropriate investigations. Let’s carry out this exercise to see if we can diagnose what is affecting the Antiguan and Barbudan doctors who were trained in Cuba and who are still unregistered and unemployed.

The first historical point we have to register is that as far back as 1988, the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda agreed that local doctors trained in Cuba will be eligible for registration on satisfactory completion of a one year of internship in Antigua and Barbuda. It should be noted that the local Medical Board was in agreement with that position. It should also be noted that this requirement for a local internship for one year was identical to what obtained in other English-speaking West Indian islands. Moreover, this requirement of a local one-year internship was adopted in many islands after consultation with the Dean of Medicine of the University of the West Indies.

The question you are dying to ask is why this requirement for registration was not communicated to all medical students going off to Cuba in 1988 and thereafter. I will answer that question by telling you that in 2007, almost twenty years after the Cabinet decision, I tried to find out how many of our medical students were in Cuba. I went to the Ministry of Education. No one knew the answer. It was suggested that I go to the Board of Education since that was the agency that gave scholarships. They asked me to give them a few hours to get the information. I gave them more hours than they wanted, and yet I was turned over to the Cuban charge d’affaire.

One crucial point we have to examine is what is meant by an internship. Let the definition from the online dictionary, Wikipedia, suffice: “A medical intern is a term used in the United States for a physician in training who has completed medical school. An intern has a medical degree, but does not have a full license to practice medicine unsupervised. In other countries medical education generally ends with a period of practical training similar to internship, but the way the overall program of academic and practical medical training is structured differs in each case, as does the terminology used.”

One key point to appreciate is that whilst academic medical training can be universalized, practical medical training is largely dependent on the way the local medical system is organized and the prevalence and morbidity of different types of diseases doctors are commonly exposed to.

Call it what you want because the name does not matter. Investigations by competent authorities including regional medical councils show that while the internship done in Cuba is perfect for Cuba, that same internship is grossly imperfect for Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the English-speaking West Indian islands. This is the basis of the 1988 Cabinet decision. The fact that this perfect-for Cuba but imperfect-for-us internship in Cuba, is largely a reflection of the relatively good state of healthcare and the medical system in Cuba compared to the healthcare system in Antigua and Barbuda and the other islands, should not escape your attention. Cuba boasts an excellent, highly integrated medi9cal network system that is the envy of countries in the Caribbean, Latin America and the rest of the world.

The other key to hold on to is that the doctor doing an internship (the intern) does not have a full license to practice medicine unsupervised. Prior to the recent Medical Practitioners Act 2009, the laws of Antigua and Barbuda catered only for complete registration. This meant that any newly registered local doctor trained in Cuba, could practice initially unsupervised in a system for which he or she is not adequately prepared practically. And “practically” is the operative word. This is untenable. Ironically, after Cuba has done so much for us, we are being asked to do relatively next to nothing.

Those who suggest that older, local registered doctors are against local, Cuban-trained doctors are misguided. The medical pie is much larger than you think. The center of healthcare in the OECS in the future will be in the country that sees this Cuban-trained local doctor issue as an opportunity instead of a problem. This country should be Antigua and Barbuda.

Until such time when we can “cubanize” our healthcare delivery system, there is only one solution for all local doctors trained in Cuba, as noted as far back as 1988. Call it what you like: internship, externship, or whatever. My demonstrating colleagues must undergo the type of supervised practical training with the related registration in the proper place that is appropriate for the country in which they want to practice. And which country is that, my dear good doctor? Antigua and Barbuda, I presume.