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Friday, June 20, 2014

The Charge of the Light Blue Brigade

The Twelfth Night

Dr. Lester Hazlewood-Simon

I found her at 14 past 3 in the wee hours of the morning, after the massacre of the twelfth night, naked as before she was born, awash in tears. Tears flouting gravity, ascending beyond her forehead and, on exhaustion, descending to her toes onto the floor, draining and seeping under the door. Written on the wall behind her in bright, dripping red was the reason for her torrential tears: How can we have clean, general elections without water?

I took her up, put her down on the bed and covered her nakedness with the red sheet. That was all I could find. There was a single, small blue pillow but her head needed to be flat, and her feet up, to send more red blood to her brain. Without oxygen her parched lips will turn blue, a signal, lost colour.

When she recovers I will have to explain a lot to her. One pollster had told her she will be red and another pollster held that she will be blue, after the general elections. I will tell her that polls can be wrong for many reasons. The wording and even the order of the questions can lead to error. The size of the sample and the way the sample is chosen may be faulty. Even the tone of voice of the interviewer can affect the response. She will want more details.

It is unlikely that persons will lie to one poll and tell the truth to another. The sample size may have been a critical factor to explain the consistent variance between the two polls. Let us examine these factors of sample size and response by first regarding situations that are actually opposite to how they initially appear.

In medical school we had a brilliant anatomy teacher who knew every single part of the body in fine detail. We were initially surprised to learn that he was a poor surgeon. It became obvious that his very fine, detailed knowledge prevented him from operating as quickly as the average surgeon. In effect, as perfect as he was in anatomy, very few patients attended his surgical clinic despite all the fine accolades he received from the very same patients who went elsewhere.

One of our brilliant, young, local pianists commented that he learnt so much from his piano teacher, he had immense difficulty deciding what not to play. Far too many choices came to mind during improvisation. Sometimes he had to pretend and play very simply and leave all the complicated music behind.

We all know some persons, including some politicians, who are very respectable. Yet they are so incapable of getting the job done quickly that we say yes to them and behind their backs we quietly ask or beg someone else to do the job.

When we regard the two polls, the CARUSO poll quotes a margin of error of 3% while the CADRES poll quotes a margin of error of 5%. The simple mathematics here is this. The ideal poll will access every single voter in the population. The population can be the entire constituency or the entire island. Such an ideal poll is really a census in which the margin of error will be zero per cent because you have polled every single voter. Since this is difficult or impossible for pollsters to do, they poll samples of constituencies and samples of the national population. In statistical terms, the margin of error acts as a bell curve, which means there is a point at which a large sample size becomes counterproductive to polling.

The larger the sample size, the smaller the margin of error. The smaller the sample size, the larger the margin of error. The tendency may be to get as many persons polled as possible to get a small margin of error. But hold on. What happens if there is an intrinsic or extrinsic bias in the polling population?

An intrinsic bias can mean that lots of persons like the government but are reluctant to say they will vote against the government. They are conflicted between their liking the government and thinking the opposition will be able to do things better. So they tell a little lie. They lie to both polls. However, the poll with the larger sample size will include more of these little liars, and get it wrong.

An extrinsic bias will have the same effect in that the bias is fuelled by money or gifts offered to the voters. Also, intrinsic and extrinsic biases can exist in a single voter. Look at Barbuda and the result from the CADRES poll. Landslide?

One theoretical alternative or addition to the above is if one poll had interviewers who misrepresented what persons said to them, either because the interviewers were incompetent or they were corrupted by extrinsic or intrinsic bias, or both.

The simple answer I have to give this “blue vex”, expectant, naked, dripping-wet woman, now covered in red, and “in labour”, is that bigger or more is not always better. But if I were to tell her this, she will start crying all over again. She will cry more torrential tears for five, long years with the reason for more tears emblazoned on the wall next to her bed, in dribbling ocean blue: How can you have a clean government without water?

Thursday, June 5, 2014


The Department of Explanation

Dr. Lester Hazlewood-Simon

Today they brew, tomorrow they bake. Next day the country’s reins they
take. No one knows their political game. Rumpelstiltskin is its name.

Early one morning, a woman walks into the department of explanation. What does she want? Explanation, of course. Explanation. Explanation. Explanation. The wretched, melancholy lady wants to know why, after ten years, she has to choose between staying with her current lover, and leaving him for a new suitor.

The apprenticed heckler at the door reminds her, in a not-too-gentle manner, that she came here five years ago, and indeed five years before that, asking the very same question. He wonders why she doesn’t use her phone and call and save the trip. Her phone is out of service? He suggests she goes to church more often.

The master heckler rebukes him. She, by her very name, is of the church. She was not always like this. You can still see some history in her. A conformation that beguiles the beginner; inlets and outlets to recess and rest in reverie; a level but shapely abdomen without extensive flabs; gentle, inviolate, undulations in the right places; and, if you are up for the hike, handfuls of rolling hills rising to an elevation that makes men peak and go boggy.

The apprentice whinges. The master continues. Her problem is that men have always been fighting over her, from ancient times to now. But do they really love her? There is very little evidence of this. Greed, power, narcissism and indifference, masquerade as love for her.

The intrigued apprentice wants to know how to love an island. Leave her and go on voyages to discover lands in her name. Plant her flag on captured territory. Bring back gold and silver and curry and pepper, like Christopher Columbus and Vasco Da Gama. The master heckler reminds him he has to first learn to swim and sail to do all that. Then he has to convert natives to Christianity and give orders to burn to death women and children as they plead for their lives.

The young heckler considers his options. He will have to invent chattel slavery and erect edifices and statues. Tourists will visit, including the descendants of the slaves who built the cities on cane and chain under the pain of death. They will admire and respect and take pictures, without flash, lest they have a flashback on history. Worse, he will have to refuse to come to the table for a civilizing discussion on reparations.

Some islands, like some women, are best left alone, before and after the meridian of life. They are not worth looking at or fighting for. But not this ardent, native one. This island-lady demands explanation but really needs no explanation at all. She comes here every five years because she has the power and the greed. What can simple hecklers tell her? Look back and see what her lover has done in 10 years and in that same fertile moment of imagination look forward to what her suitor can do. With her power and greed, she engages and enjoys this real and imaginary, uninhibited, quinquennial concoction.

But is she worse than politicians? Their divine power and rampant greed are everlasting because they pretend to give us the right to choose. And we love the collusion of pretence. They can turn straw into gold. They can move mountains, whether or not Mohammed wants to go to the mountain. We know the truth but the effervescent thought of the impossible becoming possible fills us with incandescent joy, like milligrams of viagra in a geriatric, desiccated, shrunken man.

Such nice people; some politicians. Granting favours, solicited and unsolicited, out of the sheer kindness of their heart. What can we do without them? Every five years we become desperate for real love or for play-play love. Our tender heart cannot pump alone.

And so this island-lady is garlanded with planks of aching signs, complaining symptoms and logs of political medications that can make you sick. With so many promises to fulfil and so many premises of wood, her natural beauty is lost from the full forest and the single trees.

Our island-lady knows what promises are real, unreal or surreal. She knows when politicians are lying through their teeth. She can even taste the potential misery in their five-year, greeting kiss. And yet, the department of explanation is called upon every five years to explain this consensual orgy of power and greed; this fusion of pretentious love and portentous lust. Yes, we vote with an X.