Generation Y

Generation YIt's been a long time since I was able to follow the blogs I read, partly because I've been doing so much other stuff but largely because I still can't add bookmarks to Safari and I haven't taken to other feed-readers. So I haven't been discovering new blogs or dropping old ones -- I can't do much of that.But today I discovered a new blog that I would like to follow, if I can work out how: Generation Y. Here's what the blogger says about it:

Generation Y is a Blog inspired by people like me, with names that start with or contain a "Y". Born in Cuba in the '70s and '80s, marked by schools in the countryside, Russian cartoons, illegal emigration and frustration. So I invite, especially, Yanisleidi, Yoandri, Yusimí, Yuniesky and others who carry their "Y's" to read me and to write to me.

Well, Yoani, here's to you. I've found your blog affecting, and more than anything (on this Remembrance Day, 45 minutes away from 11 a.m.) thought-provoking. This is from an off-island supporter of La Revolucion, and a long-time admirer of Castro and his Cuba. You won me because of your writing, which is calm and reasoned and clear as glass, not because of your political rhetoric; your writing doesn't have any of that. Your calm description is what got my attention.Recent posts I recommend for reading:A Question of TonesA Gangland Style KidnappingBlame the VictimAnd on an entirely personal note to my friendly adversary Rick: democracy isn't an ideology as much as it's a way of life—and part of that way of life is hearing what other people have to say.Yoani says things well. I'm listening.

Are we all criminals?

Got this from zotz, aka Drew Roberts, who is a passionate proponent of creative commons licensing, of a rethinking of the copyright laws of the twentieth century:

 I wanted to post it, and link to the page it came from, because I agree with it, 95%.  My reservation comes when I'm thinking about our local creative work.  Creative commons is all very well when it's applied to corporations versus individuals -- the very issues that are being discussed above.  But what happens when corporations lay claim to the intellectual property of countries, cultures, groups?  What recourse do the creators have then?  I am still a supporter of copyright law when it applies to those peoples and cultures who did not get to benefit from the turning of knowledge into capital that occurred in the twentieth century; I believe that without the fundamental comprehension that what we imagine and make is worth cash we in the Americas will continue to do what we were established to do by Europe and its successors in North America -- provide the raw material for others to refine, market, sell, and profit from.But check out the video.  It's still something worth discussing.  Good food for thought.

Dissent, Power, and Politics

Well, from Jamaica, this is interesting:

PM Golding has invoked the Staff Orders rule that says governmental officials must keep their traps shut when their individual positions conflict with existing gov’t policy. Not an atypical move for him to make. But, it really does and should sweet us when we see cracks in the veneer of retrograde, unsubstantiated policies, that come in the form of truth-telling, even if the labba-mouth will probably lose their jobs.

Gagging Dissent « LONG BENCH

Especially given the exchange that's been occurring on Rick Lowe's BlogBahamas and Larry Smith's Bahama Pundit about the responsibility of civil servants to speak out about the wrongs and the cracks in the society.

Here's the source of Long Bench's commentary.

President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association, Wayne Jones, said the Government's Staff Orders outline a mode of behaviour for public officers, as it relates to their interaction with the public.

Jones told The Gleaner yesterday that Section 4.4 of the order points to how government material or documents should be shared with the media through the permanent secretary, head of department or designated spokespersons.Jones said Harvey would not be able to express a personal view, particularly on topical issues, without the media and other persons in society construing it to be government thinking.He acknowledged that public officials would be faced with situations where they might be asked to express a professional or personal view on a matter.

Come on, people of the Caribbean.  Do or do we not live in democracies? What is the responsibility of those of us employed in governments to our nation?  What is gained by the kinds of restrictions applied to civil servants that are outlined in the documents we inherited from the Brits (who remain subjects, and not citizens, in their own land, by the way)?  Weren't they written when only a small number of people worked for government, and when our lands were colonies anyway and when freedom of speech was not something anyone had at all?  Why are they still being invoked today, when our governments are major (in The Bahamas' case, the largest) employers?  Does this not seem to be at odds with the idea of a democracy?

Nevertheless.  General Orders stands.  Our Rules of Conduct may be found here.  Go read for yourself.


Does this country really need another bureaucrat?

You know you're in trouble when your job interferes with your calling.

The thing is, I'm a writer. Writers write. Writers write about stuff that inspires them. Writers write in part to inform those who read, and in part becase they just can't do anything else.

The other thing is, I'm a civil servant. I am one of the faceless scores of thousands of Bahamians who are bound to serve the government and people of The Bahamas, who are apprenticed to a hierarchy that grows ever more remote from the reality of life in the nation, and who are governed by a set of rules called General Orders which were drafted, by the tone of them, by English colonial bureaucrats, the ultimate purpose of whose administration was to return revenue to the Crown.

Oh, the folly. Oh, the fodder. Over the short course of my public service career I have collected enough inspiration for three seasons of a hit television series. Count two major elections twenty years apart (you do the math), and you will see the possibilities bloom. I even have the best of all possible titles in mind.

And yet. General Orders interferes.

So I ask you. Does this country really need another bureaucrat? Surely it would do better with some good social comment instead?

Amazing Grace: Corresponding with the distributors

Not wishing to wait for Galleria Cinemas to get back to us, the National Commission on Cultural Development (of which I'm the Deputy Chair) contacted the distributors for the film Amazing Grace to see what the story is on the release of the film to the Caribbean.Now. Let me make my position clear here, lest people get sidetracked by the politics of the whole thing. I tend to agree with Frances-Anne about the reasons behind the abolition of the slave trade and of slavery itself, although I would go further and say that I believe that the abolitionist movement sprang from a genuine crisis of conscience. The fact that this gained political mileage when it did had plenty to do with power-struggles and economics, and the fact that the industrialists and factory owners who were gaining economic strength in Britain wanted to break the backs of their powerful predecessors, the land-owning aristocracy and the planters overseas. I don't, however, discount the question of conscience.The problem is that conscience is often compromised by prejudices and bigotry, which are often so unconscious that they are invisible to those who practise them. The release of the film Amazing Grace provides a fascinating study in the juncture of bigotry and conscience -- if indeed there are no plans to release it in the Caribbean.This is one fact I'm still investigating.So here is the email sent by me on behalf of the Cultural Commission to the distributors:

Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2007 3:04 PMSubject: Amazing Grace - Limited Release?I am writing from Nassau, Bahamas, to inquire about the release of the film Amazing Grace in The Bahamas.I currently serve as the Deputy Chair of the National Commission on Cultural Development, a government-appointed group whose purpose is to monitor and oversee cultural activity and development for The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. One of our main foci in 2007 is the Commemoration of the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Countries throughout the former British West Indies are observing this Bicentenary, which has fundamental significance for our populations and for our nations.As part of our commemorative activities, we wish to urge all Bahamians to view the film. However, it is not currently screening here. Inquiries of the Galleria Cinemas, the only distributor of mainstream movies in the nation, revealed that the film is in limited release and is not available to The Bahamas for showing.Given that the Abolition Act championed by William Wilberforce and his Abolitionists directly affected the British West Indian colonies, of which The Bahamas is one, we find the unavailability of this film, which provides an account of his struggle, beyond our comprehension.The National Commission on Cultural Development for The Government of The Bahamas wishes to invite a response from the distributors of the film regarding the screening of Amazing Grace in The Bahamas, and would be grateful for any light you might shed on this matter.Sincerely,Nicolette BethelDeputy Chair, National Commission on Cultural DevelopmentNassau, Bahamas

I received the following response from Roadside Attractions, one of the distributors (there are two - Samuel Goldwyn's the other):

Unfortunately, we don't hold the international rights to the film. Any inquiries about the Bahamas should go to the film's producers Bristol Bay Productions. They can be reached here:

Amazing Grace

On February 23, 2007, the film Amazing Grace opened worldwide in the USA.For people who don't know (and I'm assuming that there must be many of them here in The Bahamas, for reasons I'll tell you later), this film is, among other things, a look at William Wilberforce's abolitionist movement, the one that focussed Britons' eyes on the inhumanity of slavery, and which led the British Parliament first to abolish the transatlantic slave trade (whose bicentenary we celebrate this year) and, ultimately, to abolish slavery in the British Empire (1834), and to free the slaves (1834-1838).I have to say all this because nowhere is the film showing in The Bahamas.Now I have no idea why this is. One good reason, of course, is that commercial films in The Bahamas are controlled by a single conglomerate: Galleria Cinemas, which owns four commercial theatres in Nassau and Freeport, and which usually decides what the Bahamian public sees or doesn't see. So it is entirely possible that Galleria, looking at the costumes in the movie, thinking about the "dryness" of the subject, decided to pass on the film.This is something they do fairly regularly. As with many purveyors of mass entertainment in The Bahamas, the assumption is made that we are an undifferentiated mass of ignorami, and that no one will spend money on shows or performances that engages thought or reflection. (This attitude is as true of people producing live entertainment as it is of people importing films.) And so many films that I would like to see pass us by. It's one of the reasons that I don't go to the cinema; it's one of the reasons that our DVD collection is so vast. And it's one of the dangers -- a main and looming danger -- of having a monopoly governing commercial film distribution in the country. At least when RND Cinemas were still in operation, you had two sets of people making decisions, and sometimes those decisions would be different. Competition, what.There is, however, another, more sinister possibility. And it's this.The Bahamas Films and Plays Control Board viewed Amazing Grace and decided that it was not something that Bahamians ought to see.Now I don't have time to go into the implications of this. They are, I can assure you, rich with irony and fundamentally alarming. I'll come back to this blog to do this. But I'll leave you with these thoughts.

  • Ours is a nation made primarily up of the descendants of slave-owners and their slaves.
  • Ours is a nation whose political history is grounded uniquely and solely in the British Empire (yes, our social history is American. For the purposes of this discussion, that's irrelevant).
  • Ours is a nation that never tires of referring to itself as "Christian" (even though some of us, who respect and worship the Almighty in relative quiet, would like to take one step back to avoid the lightning bolt when it falls upon us for gross hypocrisy and overweening hate).
  • Amazing Grace is a movie about how the British Empire moved towards the abolition of the institution of slavery and the emacipation of the slaves.
  • The movers and shakers behind the Abolition crusade were Christians, and it was Christian principles that they used to argue their case and it was in the name of Christ that the battle was won.

Draw your own conclusions.

The Real Free Press

Lynn Sweeting writes about true journalistic freedom here, on her blog. Here's some of what she has to say:

I was a reporter in that newsroom for about eight years. During the bad days of the “Pindling regime”, (Christ, was it really a regime?). As I recall there was an endless stream of English “editors” at that desk throughout. As I recall the paper lambasted Pindling’s government every single day. Still, one English man after another was still able to get a work permit. They put hell on the government every day in their editorials and in their front page stories, and as I recall their freedom to do this was never threatened. There were no arrests, no one was thrown in jail never to be seen again, there were no killings, there were no disappearances, the paper didn’t get shut down, and their work permits were not denied. As I recall they went to print with stories that put the PLP in a stinking light every day and that regime never disallowed them to do it.If we were not a free press then, and if they are not now, there is only the Tribune to blame. I was only there for a few years, but I can think of five or ten good and dedicated reporters and photographers from my time alone who were forced to leave their employ and even give up their dreams of real journalism, because there wasn’t a hope in hell of Going Further, there would be no training opportunities, there would be no chance of an upwardly moving career, there was no chance of ever reaching the editor’s chair, no chance of ever making a decent salary, no chance for advancement whatsoever.

Lynn's writing about the John Marquis controversy, which changes meaning as it changes reporters and perspectives.  Here's Oswald Brown on the subject, and here's more on the topic, this time from the Tribune itself. Below are some more links of interest.Bahamas Uncensored.comNassau Guardian OpinionWeblog Bahamas on the subjectBut Lynn, as always, has a voice that's unique.

The Palm Tree Lined Prison: More fallout from the Mountain

It's not unusual for the rest of the Caribbean to be judged according to Jamaica. After all, to those people north of our sea-borders, we are all the same; we're all not-white (and presumably one step removed from savages as a result), we're all islands, we're all kinda pretty, quaint and laid-back.These days, we're also all haters of homosexuals too.Now I'm not normally the kind of person who gets worked up about bad publicity. That's because most of the time it's not entirely true; things are blown out of proportion further north, and there's little real basis for their fears.There are times, however, when we go too far. And the current climate of hate, where we collectively seem to believe that it's all right to perpetuate physical violence against Haitians and prisoners and criminals, and to perpetuate verbal and constitutional violence against homosexuals and things that speak about them, I'm wondering if people are not fearful enough.So, in the hopes of sparking a little concern, here's what they're saying about us north of the seaboard.

Jamaica's curious anti-gay fixation is spreading to other parts of the Caribbean. In St. Maarten, two producers for CBS News were gay-bashed last month by thugs wielding tire irons. The attack occurred outside the nightclub Bamboo Bernie's, where Richard Jefferson, 51, and Ryan Smith, 25, were harassed for being gay earlier in the evening by the assailants. The victims were airlifted for medical treatment to Miami. Jefferson, who has been released, said Smith was being treated for brain damage.Additionally, Jefferson told the Associated Press that local authorities had not spoken to witnesses the night of the crime, nor had they pursued leads. Instead of St. Maarten's CSI, the police were MIA."The people who harmed us are well-known punks," Jefferson told the AP last week. "People in the community know who these guys are. They are not talking to the police. The entire island is watching something bad happening."Two men were finally arrested a few days ago (one has already been released), but their cowardly actions seem to have won the approval of a local newspaper, Today, that derisively referred to gay people as "faggots" and "homos." According to the paper's unfathomable April 11 editorial:"During and after World War II, it was considered common sport for military guys to let themselves be picked up by a faggot in a bar in Los Angeles or San Francisco. The one who was picked up would pretend to go along for the ride, only to turn around and beat up or rob the homo who picked him up, leaving him without wallet and sometimes teeth."All that has changed, of course, largely due to American laws that are being spread around the world. Gay bashing is now a no-no. Slurs against homos, a no-no. And beating a person over the head for flagrant public behavior that once was considered criminal misconduct is a no-no."

In a comparatively minor but no less telling cultural barometer, the Bahamas banned "Brokeback Mountain." It seems Nassau must decide if it is an island chain open to the world or a palm tree-lined prison whose pristine waters are merely a moat to drown tolerance and diversity.Unlike in homophobic hotbeds in the Middle East, our community can exercise considerable leverage over these human rights abusers. While few Americans are going to spend a holiday in Jeddah or Tehran, we are frequently visiting the Caribbean. Many of our allies would gladly vacation elsewhere if they were aware that their gay friends and family members were being brutally attacked. It is time for Americans to reassess their relationship with islands such as Jamaica, St. Maarten and the Bahamas. Either they welcome all of us, or none of us. But these "paradises" can no longer be playgrounds for heterosexuals and hunting grounds for homosexuals.Here is a message that Jamaica might understand: "Aloha, mon, friend of batty boy going to Hawaii."

(my emphasis)

Larry Smith on the so-called Gay Agenda

Over on Bahama Pundit, Larry Smith responds to a letter from a trio of pastors published in the Tribune in response to the media firestorm about Brokeback Mountain.Here's an excerpt:

Pastor Lyall Bethel (of Grace Gospel Chapel) and others recently drew our attention to the "Homosexual Agenda" to take over the world.After much research we were able to confirm that this master plan does exist. Here’s an excerpt from the document that we were able to pull down from a secret web site:6am - Gym8am - Breakfast (oatmeal and egg whites)9am - Hair appointment10am - ShoppingNoon - Brunch2pm - Convert all straight youngsters to homosexuality, destroy all heterosexual marriages, establish a global chain of homo-breeding prisons where straight women are turned into artificially impregnated baby factories to produce prepubescent love slaves for the gay leadership, and secure total control of the Internet for the exclusive use of child pornographers.2:30pm - 40 winks of beauty rest to prevent facial wrinkles from stress of world conquest4pm - Cocktails6pm - Light dinner (soup, salad. with Chardonnay)8pm - Theatre11pm - Bed (du jour)Actually, Pastor Bethel’s remarks are not as silly as the above parody makes out. They are drawn from the strong views of powerful religious and social groups in the United States, led by conservative preachers like Jerry Falwell (of Moral Majority fame) and Pat Robertson (of the Christian Broadcasting Network).

What's really interesting about that post is the discussion that follows.  It's well worth a look.

Sir Arthur on Censorship

On Bahama Pundit, Sir Arthur Foulkes writes about censorship.The most interesting bit is the part about the sweeping social change that took place the last time an arbitrary decision of this kind -- an arbitrary decision that challenged the democratic principles of The Bahamas (or of the free world) -- was made.In his words:

A half century ago – in December 1950, to be exact – the arbitrary banning of a movie by the Censorship Board caused an uproar in the Colony of the Bahama Islands and unleashed a chain of events that helped to change the social and political history of the country. The movie, No Way Out, was about racism in America and featured black Bahamian actor Sidney Poitier in his first major role. It was a performance that launched the brilliant career of the 22-year-old from Cat Island.[...]The local Censorship Board, the white owners of the leading movie houses and the political establishment known as the Bay Street Boys regarded No Way Out as a dangerously inflammatory movie for a society in which blacks were routinely discriminated against socially, economically and politically. So even if black Bahamians desperately wanted to see their boy Sidney in an important role on the silver screen, the Bay Street Boys decided they could not risk showing a black actor in such a performance, particularly one dealing with strong racial themes. That was a mistake.The protest spread and a group of black Bahamians including Dr. Cleveland Eneas, Maxwell Thompson and Kendal Isaacs started an organization to campaign not only for a reversal of the ban but for social and political reform in the colony. The Citizens Committee achieved its immediate objective and the movie was finally shown. Although it never became a full-fledged national political party the Committee is regarded as the forerunner of the Progressive Liberal Party which was established three years later.Six years later discrimination against blacks in public places – hotels, restaurants, movie theatres – came to an end when Sir Etienne Dupuch moved his antidiscrimination resolution in the House of Assembly. Then in 1967 the Bahamas got its first government reflecting the black majority.

Censorship par excellence

I don't know how much of this article, if any, can be read by people without a subscription. But if anybody is wondering how bad censorship by a religious oligarchy can be, check out what's happening in Indonesia.Balinese DancerHere's an excerpt:

The black bra under the thin yellow kebaya, a close-fitting blouse, leaves little to the imagination. Even more suggestive are the flittering eyes and gyrating hips of the dancer, who chases young men to pull them up on stage. One accepts the offer and makes a grab for her large posterior as she beckons with welcoming eyes. Another makes a gesture at her breasts and then stuffs cash into her hands.This is not a lap dance in Las Vegas, but a revered Balinese custom known as the joged bumbung, or bamboo dance. Yet it is one of hundreds of traditions across the Indonesian archipelago that could be banned under legislation being deliberated by the national parliament. The bill, which is supported by several Muslim parties, would render illegal any behavior or images that might be considered sexually provocative. Women who bare their shoulders or legs, or artists who use nudity in their work, could be prosecuted for indecency and fined up to 2 billion rupiah (about $220,000) or even jailed for up to 12 years. Kissing in public would be outlawed, as would any other acts considered pornoaksi, an ill-defined term coined by conservative lawmakers to mean "pornographic acts." The bill also says that "all elements of society are obliged to report" such acts, sparking concern that the law could be abused. "The bill would kill 80% of the art in Bali," says Cok Sawitri, a Balinese poet and activist who is against the proposed law. "People will be afraid to do what has long been a normal part of their lives."