How The Tribune is helping me get into trouble

What's not made clear, of course,  is that the "revamping" of Urban Renewal that I'm talking about was the cutting short of the programme in 2007, not the instituting of Urban Renewal 2.0 in 2012. I was disappointed to see that the revolutionary core of 1.0 was not replicated in the programme when it was reintroduced, but the real damage was done in 2007, if you ask me.

“Urban Renewal 1.0 was designed to give the law-abiding citizens real opportunities to gain access to social services and community policing worked on the premise that if you can gain the trust of the law-abiding citizens in a troubled area it becomes far easier to solve, deal with and ultimately prevent crime.“And the programme was accompanied by some real efforts by psychological professionals to help to heal people who had suffered long-term abuse, brutalisation and so on.“This core is what I considered revolutionary at the time, and which was removed when Urban Renewal was reformed because it was considered a waste of time and money, and a waste of policemen’s training too, as apparently police are supposed to fight crime, not prevent it.”“By focusing so much on the criminals, we lose sight of the law-abiding citizens in the same communities, and it is a long time since we have really sought to serve them or meet their real needs.”Dr Bethel added that the policing of inner city communities that arose after Urban Renewal 1.0 ended helped inspire distrust in inner city communities for authorities.“Imagine if you were,” she said, “a 12 year old living in inner city Nassau in 2002 and in 2003 all of a sudden police are put into your community and they’re not violent or menacing, they are friendly, father figures who are teaching you music. They are walking around, learning your names and so on and for five years you get to know them.“Then, when you are 17, they are taken away, and the only replacement are police with guns. How are you ever going to trust your country again? That’s what I think part of the root of this particular kind of violence is.”via Urban Renewal revamp 'an error' | The Tribune. - Bahamas 2013: A Year in Review with Nicolette Bethel

The highlight, for me--the part I spent the most time on:

5) 2013 may have been one of the worst years ever for crime in The Bahamas. What are your thoughts and suggestions?I’m not sure I buy the popular semi-hysteria about crime. As a social scientist I tend to stand back and look at local situations as objectively as possible. Here are the facts that strike me about The Bahamas in 2013.1) We have a population problem. It’s not a problem of overpopulation; far from it. It’s a problem of population distribution. Almost a quarter of a million people live in eighty square miles of land. The population density that results—3,125 people per square mile—places intolerable pressure on all of us. But it’s unnecessary pressure, because the whole territory of The Bahamas totals approximately 5400 square miles, and our whole population totals 354,000; the population density of our whole nation is a mere 66 people per square mile. To me, it’s a no-brainer; we HAVE to create and encourage the development of centres of population around our archipelago and establish means of encouraging Nassauvians to move there. End of story. But:2) We have an economic problem. For the last twenty years if not more, our governments have placed more emphasis on the attraction of foreign direct investment in various forms than on any single local developmental initiative. The result is that we all today confuse the construction of huge resorts with actual development, and we castigate our leaders for spending pretty well any money on Bahamians at all, put by the fact that such spending is an investment in the Bahamian nation. The landscape that has been produced is a landscape in which the fabulously wealthy of the world live behind illegally high walls in gated communities five driving minutes away from areas of high population density and virtually no amenities. We have allowed our educational services to stagnate, so that we are still providing the majority of our citizens with the kind of education that was appropriate for the first ten years of our independence, but with a deterioration in its quality.We quibble about whether we can “afford” a university but have no problems in assigning more money from our national budget to “assist” the latest multimillion dollar resort complex in its development than we assign to the College of The Bahamas. In other words, our country, which is still the wealthiest in CARICOM, has real economic problems when it comes to how it spends its money, and on what. Rather than investing in the means to develop the whole of this large, land-rich, stunningly beautiful, strategically significant nation, we waste far too much on projects that harm the general population without generating any return.In this scenario, crime is inevitable, and the violent crime that we have come to fear this year is depressingly predictable. I have been convinced for most of my adult life, from the moment I set foot in a classroom to teach the younger brothers of young men who had struck it rich working for major and minor drug lords, that some of the best minds in The Bahamas go into crime. The young men who are killing themselves and others in the process are part of our national resource, and we have worked hard to discard them like paper. They are turning their minds to making space for themselves because no one has made any room for them. We want them to work as construction workers at the bottom of a hierarchy that still places whiteness and riches at its top, and we expect them to be grateful. At the same time, we live in a society with open borders and a general resistance to spending the kind of money and time needed to police those borders adequately, and we also live on the edge of the most schizophrenic society that ever lived—a society that says that all men are equal of one side of its mouth, and out of the other side says that all people are equally good targets for bullets. The absurd American Arm the Good Guy scenario does not work, because which individual really believes he’s the bad guy? And so:violent crime, criminals with automatic weapons, and sensational headlines that sell newspapers but really do very little to present the problem sensibly.To sum up: I don’t buy the “worst year” idea in terms of crime. I’m not sure that 2013 was the worst year; I tend to divide what I read in Bahamian discourse on these sorts of things by four and digest the result. We have the crime that we should expect for the population size and density that we have on New Providence. It is not at all surprising. It’s frightening, yes, but that’s because our city is too small to absorb it. The solutions are there. It’s a mathematical problem whose solution can be simple. We need to act to make it happen.via - Bahamas 2013: A Year in Review with Nicolette Bethel.

Concerning Reparations for Slavery: Part One

This past October, a tiny tempest-in-a-teacup erupted in the wake of a fairly routine report on a decision taken by CARICOM to sue the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands for reparations for slavery. Following the report, which headlined, somewhat misleadingly, as "BAHAMAS SUING UK OVER SLAVERY", was a flurry of communications on both sides of the debate, along with a quick opinion poll by the Tribune which suggested that one-third of the people who took it were in support of the lawsuit, two-thirds against. The matter has since seemed to go away, sinking into the mire of superficialities which passes for public debate in our nation. But I want to suggest that what CARICOM has initiated is something that will eventually occur, and which may, when it does happen, change the future of the region if we let it. Whatever the noise in the market, the matter of reparations for New World slavery will not go away. A great wrong was committed against millions of human beings in the name of nothing more than global domination and profit, and that is a debt that will one day be paid.Here's why I say that. It seems to me that the resistance against the idea of reparations for slavery takes one of several forms. The first is the idea expressed by the UK government representative contacted by the Tribune to respond to CARICOM's lawsuit: that "governments today cannot take responsibility for what happened 200 years ago". The second is subtly connected to the first, but it shifts the focus from the enslaving nations to the nations founded on slavery, and argues that as the ills of the present cannot be solved by placing the blame on past wrongs, the past should be buried and the future considered. There is a third: that the debt has already been paid with independence, and that the political freedom of the people who were once enslaved is all that is necessary to right the wrong. A fourth argues that instead of focussing on the slavery of the past, the continuing enslavement and exploitation of people today is more a more pressing matter to consider. And there are countless other objections to the idea.What all of these objections have in common is that they deflect the idea of reparations from the principle on which the idea rests to the practicalities of the issue. In so doing, they inadvertently make the case, at least to me, for the very thing they oppose. What not one of these objections admits is that the institution of transatlantic slavery was a crime against humanity of such magnitude that makes it nearly impossible for us to deal with even two centuries after the beginning of its abolition. What they all do, instead, is continue to perpetuate the crime that lies at the heart of the reparations movement: that the enslavement of Africans by Europeans in the process of founding the so-called "New" World depended upon the fundamental dehumanization of those enslaved, and was accompanied by the very different dehumanization of the enslavers which occurred in the process.What these objections do is focus on the people enslaved, on the practical difficulties in addressing the wrong, on the pragmatics of the issue, which affect so many things about our current existence that it is almost impossible to conceive of living any other way. What not one of them does is address the idea that the crime for which restitution is being sought is not a crime against the person; it is a crime against the very idea of humanity and the concept of human beings. And it does not address the idea that until we begin to think about reparations from this perspective, we will continue to commit that crime.In case I'm not making myself clear, let me say it this way.For me, reparations for the transatlantic exercise of slavery (which is the specific offence that is being addressed in the CARICOM lawsuit) are not being sought for some past wrong that ended two hundred years ago. They are being sought for the continued dehumanization of the people who were enslaved, the people who enslaved them, and the people (us) who have inherited the world that rose up to maintain the slave system. It is a world whose structures, certainly in The Bahamas, remain very much intact, thus giving life to, enabling, the narrative that suggests that the past can be buried. But the past is not yet dead. It lives on in the very discourse that we use to discuss--or to dismiss--the call for reparations, and it is this which needs healing.This meditation is only a beginning of an exploration of the topic, and the start of my personal attempt to make sense of the issue, and to explain why first, I support the call for reparations; why second, I am convinced that no amount of ridicule and dismissal will make the call for reparations disappear; why third, I am certain that the arguments being brought against the call will eventually dissolve and peter out, and why the call for reparations will swell until restitution is paid; and why last, I am convinced that one day reparations of some kind will be paid by European governments (or by the EU itself) for their part in the system of transatlantic slavery.If you doubt me, consider this move, initiated this past May in France, pushing Europe to do what it has already done: to declare slavery a crime against humanity. And consider the language that accompanied it:

Written declaration, under Rule 123 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, on establishing a European day in recognition of the victims of European colonisation and colonial slavery1
  1. European colonisation not only caused political submission and the economic plunder of the colonised territories and population, but also the extermination of native peoples and the deportation and reduction to slavery of millions;
  2. Under Article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, enslavement is recognised as a crime against humanity;
  3. Colonisation had among its effects that of depriving the colonised territories of their lifeblood, impacting negatively on their development capacity;
  4. The political, economic, demographic and psychological consequences of European colonisation are still resonating;
  5. The Commission is hence called upon to support the establishment of a European day in recognition of the victims of European colonisation and colonial slavery;
  6. The Council is also encouraged to take ownership of the initiative by supporting it at European level;
  7. This declaration, together with the names of the signatories, is forwarded to the Council and the Commission.
It's a beginning. It is a small step, true, and principally symbolic, as it was accompanied by no restitution; but it is a turn in the direction of rightness.I'm going to return to this topic over the next month or so.You're warned.

'Attempt at payback deal over missing COB $12,000' | The Tribune

ATTEMPTS were made to broker a deal with a College of the Bahamas employee to pay back $12,000 that disappeared from the college, The Tribune understands.#However, the funds were not recovered despite efforts by officials to resolve the problem internally because the employee refused to reimburse the College, insiders told this newspaper.#While both the student union and the employee union have made several calls for answers, sources at COB question how such a large sum of money could have “just gone missing.”via 'Attempt at payback deal over missing COB $12,000' | The Tribune.

The fundamental issue here, as far as I'm concerned, is the excessive centralization of administrative activities at the college, and the concomitant lack of transparency of these activities. Theft happens everywhere, but when all funds are held centrally without oversight or accountability, it becomes untethered money, money that seems to have no real purpose (or money whose dispensation is at the mercy of a handful of people who have limited connection to the primary work of the institution). That kind of situation tends to invite dishonesty.I'm glad the theft was discovered. I trust that the result of that discovery is far more than a forensic audit. I anticipate a solution of the sort that obtains in almost every other tertiary level institution beyond the postcolonial world: the decentralization of authority and the ability of individual departments to disburse funds without going through a single, central office one or two steps removed from the work we need to do.

Sonny Singh on the Zimmerman Verdict

This deal with race is not easily solved. Simply declaring that people are equal does not make us all so. At best there are wounds and scars that will not heal because they have been opened again and again; at worst there remain institutions and attitudes that continue to reify racism. The idea that skin colour and cultural identification makes people worth different things will not die, in part because we will not face it fully and with a view to healing it.On the Huffington Post, one commentator, a Sikh himself, writes about the nuances of racism, showing how it's not simply black vs white. I recommend the read, which I discovered via Craig Smith's facebook status. Something to think about.From the Huffington Post:

Racism is messy. While some want to characterize everything as black and white, others, as I mentioned previously, mystify the brutal realities of white supremacy through post-racial rhetoric. This is even more dangerous. In post-racial America, we easily come to the conclusion that if Zimmerman is Latino, then this case has nothing to do with racism. Perhaps this is why many progressive activists and commentators have characterized Zimmerman as a white man. Because it's easier. It seems more simple. The general public will more readily see the injustice of anti-black racism in the killing of Trayvon Martin if George Zimmerman is white. But it's not the reality of the situation. Racism has infected all of us, not just white folks.To really understand racism in the United States, we have to understand power. Racism is not just about attitudes; it is a system of oppression. What this means is that white people receive unearned privileges and advantaged simply because of the color of skin, while people of color are systematically disadvantaged and marginalized. That does not make the experiences of all people of color alike, nor does it mean that people of color cannot perpetuate racism, as in the case of George Zimmerman. In fact, we are often rewarded for doing so.

--Sonny Singh, Zimmerman's Racial Realities, Beyond Black and White


The Aurora Movie Theatre Shooting and American Gun Culture : The New Yorker

And here, in the Bahamas, some of us discuss, seriously, that Bahamians should be allowed to carry handguns. We happen to live in that part of the world which was founded on the concept that it is some people's god-given right to sail across an ocean, map out other people's lands, eradicate those people, resettle those lands, import other people, and make fortunes out of the process.We are the broken men and women who are struggling to create civilizations out of that history. But we cannot, because we were created out of a philosophy that sees human life not as something sacred, but as something expendable—something that is less important than profit, or than massacre. The genocide and enslavement on which the "New" world was founded have left a legacy in which massacre is enacted again and again, and presented to the world as freedom.And here in The Bahamas, we believe that nonsense. We believe that true freedom consists of the right to kill other people. We believe that some people are "bad" and others are "good" and the "good" people have the right to arm themselves and eradicate the "bad" people. We ourselves are always the "good" people. Who, then, are "bad"?

Every country has, along with its core civilities and traditions, some kind of inner madness, a belief so irrational that even death and destruction cannot alter it. In Europe not long ago it was the belief that “honor” of the nation was so important that any insult to it had to be avenged by millions of lives. In America, it has been, for so long now, the belief that guns designed to kill people indifferently and in great numbers can be widely available and not have it end with people being killed, indifferently and in great numbers. The argument has gotten dully repetitive: How does one argue with someone convinced that the routine massacre of our children is the price we must pay for our freedom to have guns, or rather to have guns that make us feel free? You can only shake your head and maybe cry a little. “Gun Crazy” is the title of one the best films about the American romance with violence. And gun-crazy we remain.via The Aurora Movie Theatre Shooting and American Gun Culture : The New Yorker.

COB's Violence Symposium

Yesterday, the College of The Bahamas put on a one-day symposium highlighting current faculty research, which from 2009 focussed on the topic of violence in the nation.The studies were varied. They ranged from a study of the language used in Bahamian media reports about violent incidents to a study of the (failed) proposed amendment of the Sexual Offences Act to criminalize marital rape to a bibliography of Bahamian sources about violence, to a mathematical analysis and prediction of the causes of violence in The Bahamas. There were in-depth studies of inmates at the prison, of child abuse, and of gun ownership in The Bahamas. Some of these made the news, not unnaturally. But what was most remarkable to me was that in this society where such little emphasis is placed on intellectual activity that we still have leaders who quibble about, who even actively oppose, the creation of a university out of the College of The Bahamas (and all are equally guilty of this to my mind, as we are still using the phrase, almost 20 years after we began the process, "transitions to university status"—for how many more generations will this transition extend?), we are engaging in the kind of intellectual activity, the kind of research, that universities provide for their nations.But more on that later. Just an update on the stuff that's been keeping me quiet. This Violence Symposium was one of them—I had a small presentation in it, near the beginning, sharing the findings of the students involved with me on our study of the economics of Junkanoo about the perceptions of security on the Junkanoo parade. Not earth-shattering by any means, especially given the company in which I found myself, but interesting nevertheless—and time-consuming to boot.I'll be back.

Daylight Robbery, Meet Nighttime Robbery | The Nation

Oh, go read this. Thanks to Dion Hanna and Facebook.

Argentina’s mass looting was called El Saqueo—the sacking. That was politically significant because it was the very same word used to describe what that country’s elites had done by selling off the country’s national assets in flagrantly corrupt privatization deals, hiding their money offshore, then passing on the bill to the people with a brutal austerity package. Argentines understood that the saqueo of the shopping centers would not have happened without the bigger saqueo of the country, and that the real gangsters were the ones in charge.But England is not Latin America, and its riots are not political, or so we keep hearing. They are just about lawless kids taking advantage of a situation to take what isn’t theirs. And British society, Cameron tells us, abhors that kind of behavior.This is said in all seriousness. As if the massive bank bailouts never happened, followed by the defiant record bonuses. Followed by the emergency G-8 and G-20 meetings, when the leaders decided, collectively, not to do anything to punish the bankers for any of this, nor to do anything serious to prevent a similar crisis from happening again. Instead they would all go home to their respective countries and force sacrifices on the most vulnerable. They would do this by firing public sector workers, scapegoating teachers, closing libraries, upping tuitions, rolling back union contracts, creating rush privatizations of public assets and decreasing pensions—mix the cocktail for where you live. And who is on television lecturing about the need to give up these “entitlements”? The bankers and hedge-fund managers, of course.This is the global Saqueo, a time of great taking. Fueled by a pathological sense of entitlement, this looting has all been done with the lights left on, as if there was nothing at all to hide. There are some nagging fears, however. In early July, the Wall Street Journal, citing a new poll, reported that 94 percent of millionaires were afraid of "violence in the streets.” This, it turns out, was a reasonable fear.Of course London’s riots weren’t a political protest. But the people committing nighttime robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious.

via Naomi Klein - Daylight Robbery, Meet Nighttime Robbery | The Nation.

The Global War on Drugs Has Failed, Leaders Say

Let's think about how we can make twenty-first century policy that makes some sense now -- like considering exactly what is recommended here -- the legalization of certain drugs.

A new report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy excoriated traditional approaches to reducing drug abuse, saying, "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world." The commission, which includes such world leaders as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, recommended that governments begin to consider the legalization of some drugs and the end of criminalization for drug users.via The Global War on Drugs Has Failed, Leaders Say.

And no, I am not a pot-head. But let me tell you this: you try take my caffeine away from me, them's fightin' words.Off to the coffee shop now to get my fix.

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.

There are days

There are days, Mama, when there is far too much to do to do anything much at all.This week has been pretty much like that.  It's a week when I wish I was like earthworms or amoeba -- slice me up and let me regenerate into six or seven mes.  (Biologists, don't bother -- leave me wallowing in my ignorance!)So it was with some relief that I read the following post by Helen Klonaris, which pretty well covers some of what happened this week, and more:Wellington's RainbowHere are some excerpts.

The conversation about the rights of gays and lesbians in this country is stuck in a Christian fundamentalist scriptural war that cannot see gays and lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people as integral to the wide spectrum of human existence. And the few (read one or two) public spokespersons for the GLBT community who dare to engage in this conversation publically are time and time again hooked into a circular argument which begs the question: how can you ask for human rights if God says you shouldn’t exist at all?And by presuming firstly that all Bahamians are Christians, and assuming, secondly, to know God as absolutely as they do, Christian fundamentalists not only reduce and limit that God, but reduce and limit the scope of what it means to be human. And I cannot help but see the metaphor: It is God lying in a pool of his own blood, head severed, and no one has been held accountable.

Hear, hear.I am often struck by the raw hatred that we so often spew in the name of God in this country, so much so that I'm glad that I didn't turn on my radio to hear the discussion about this crime today.  Homosexuals, after all, like Haitians (try not to be anything beginning with "H" in this Bahamaland, people, else we'll toss another "H" your way), are easy targets.  In anthropology, we study the phenomenon of witches, who are not what we think they are when we see the word.  In anthropology, witch-hunting tells us far, far more about the society that is doing the hunting than it does about the objects of the hunt.  The salient point about the process is that societies create scapegoats out of individuals who fall outside the social norms, who make the status quo uncomfortable, and every bad thing that happens in the society is transferred to them.When people call in to radio talk shows to talk about "them" (all those deviants beginnings with "H") and invoke God and divine law and the Scripture, I always wonder where and when the Gospels fell out of their Bibles.  Like where these bits went, or this bit, or this.But I don't need to say a whole lot more.  Helen's already said it.Go read it for yourself.

Womanish Words: Amnesty International Report 08

Womanish Words: Amnesty International Report 08Lynn Sweeting reviews Amnesty's 2008 report.What's most interesting, and relevant, is this part of her post:

But here is the biggest shocker of all:"The Bahamas has the highest rate of reported rapes in the world, according to a joint report issued in March by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Latin America and the Caribbean region of the World Bank."This horrific fact means to me that our Bahamian goverment is the most failed of all the world's governments when it comes to stopping the violence.

This fact makes me stop and think -- as it should make all of us.  Lynn, after all, has already commented on my post about trees. She said:

You’re experiencing the continuing rape of the feminine divine, as are we all, by the patriarchy and it’s misogynist god, in my humble, eco-Wiccan, womanish opinion. it is no coincidence that a country number one in the world for reported rapes is also the place where all the woodland is vanishing.

But there is one small ray of hope here. Note that the Amnesty Report refers to the highest rape of reported rapes. While rapes are clearly high here in The Bahamas, can we really assume that we are that different from the rest of the world?  Surely the reporting of the rapes shows us something else, something equally powerful -- that our women are resisting the violence, and are reporting and talking about the rapes?  Is that not something to highlight as well?  Agency is as important as victimization, to my mind.Which isn't to say we need to address the issue.  But it's to add another perspective to an already complex situation.

Hell thaws again

Hat tip to Rick Lowe, for linking to this blog.Since our brief moment of harmony, though, I think we're going to part ways again. Here's why hell couldn't have stayed frozen for long.I'm a great big fan of The Wire -- the TV show about the Baltimore streets that's set up to be the classic story of cops and robbers, but which is a whole lot more.You watch The Wire, you get an appreciation of how our government works, and doesn't. I've long thought that our country runs rather like the municipal government of a major American city. So fine, the Mayor has more direct and absolute power perhaps than the Prime Minister does -- he doesn't appear to have a cabinet that he has to work with or around (or which he has to put to work for him); but the very same deals and development schemes and favours and lobbying take place. Well, maybe not the lobbying; we're not so good at that round here. But pretty well most of the rest. Not sure whether the violence that occurs on the streets of Baltimore is matched by our crime, but for that we can only be thankful (and hey, I might be wrong -- we don't have any TV show to reveal to us our underside).The show is created by David Simon and Edward Burns. David Simon was known to me because I was a fan of Homicide before I was a fan of The Wire. He's got grittier. In fact, he claims to have become a cynic. And he's got a view of the world, and of the USA, that rings true -- for the most part -- for me. (The remainder of this address can be seen on YouTube).Enough woffle from me. Watch the clip(s), and see what you think.[youtube]What struck me most about Simon's take on the world -- the postindustrial world -- is his claim that human beings are being valued less and less. I don't know whether I agree with that position in its entirety, but I certainly see where he's coming from -- and I'm not sure he's wrong (though I would like him to be).What also struck me, and what I can accept more readily (though not wholeheartedly), is his claim that whenever the USA has had to choose between human beings and profit, it has chosen profit. Anyway.***I posted the above last night, through the thickness of imminent sleep, and didn't take the time to explain why I think Rick and I would fall on different sides of this issue. I've been hard pressed to articulate just what my overall objection to unrestrained capitalism has been for much of my life. Simply stating I have socialist leanings isn't enough. Simon's claim that capitalism makes people worth less than things rings true to me. I'd like to be shown I'm wrong, but I don't know that I am.It's not coincidental that the rise of capitalism parallelled the development of the slave trade, or that the abolition of the slave trade in Britain occurred at roughly the same time as the rise of factory work. Profit over people from the beginning; why spend time on housing, feeding and preserving the lives of forced labourers when it can be cheaper to pay small wages to factory workers who then have to go fend for themselves?I'd love to be wrong about this. It would make living in this society -- a society that can only survive on entrepreneurship and the selling of things and ideas -- a whole lot easier, but the brand of capitalism I see practised again and again, both here at home and abroad, does not make me hopeful.

Bribery and Corruption

One of the clichés about the so-called third world is that nothing can get done without some money--personal money--changing hands.  It's not that you have to pay for everything you get; unless you live in some land touched by socialist thinking (i.e. almost every land, save the USA) you have to pay for plenty of stuff.  It's that you have to pay again, to hand over money to induce some civil servant to do the job you're already paying him (or her).One of the fortunate things about living in The Bahamas--so far--is that that kind of corruption is not a pervasive feature of our society.Now this is true of the Caribbean in general.  While it's certainly true that the civil service works slowly, and, for some people, paying money makes things happen faster, it's still possible to get what is due to us by waiting, by going through the channels, by doing things the right way.Correct me if I'm wrong.  Maybe I'm being a starry-eyed idealist as I write this.   But it seems to me that the kind of corruption that exists--for now--in our society mirrors the kind of corruption that exists in many small-scale governments, from local councils and municipal governments in places like the UK, the USA and Canada:  you call in favours, draw upon who-you-know.  It's only when you want to contravene the law, to outright cheat the system, that you pay bribes.Like when you want to get voters' cards, and you're not entitled to them.Or when you want to put up a business in a residential neighbourhood.Or when you want to get a driver's licence without having to pass the driving exam. Or when you want to get your phone hooked up before BTC gets around to doing it themselves.I read this article today, courtesy of Global Voices.  Here's what it could be like, if we let it:

I do have to say though that I do actively resist paying bribes, mostly because it bugs the hell out of me that people have so easily fallen into an expectation that ‘backhanders’ should be given for every little thing they do. There was a time when bribes were a way to smooth extremely difficult or lengthy processes. Now it seems we need to bribe ordinary people just to get off their bottoms and do ordinary jobs.

 In my case I had ‘no choice’ (that easy excuse): the failure to bribe would have caused me all sorts of personal paperwork problems and it was very clear from all the hurdles being thrown up that the government official I was dealing with had no intention of even blinking unless I gave him money.

So, R10, given to an intermediary to pass on (because I am chicken) suddenly produced activity and papers. It was so easy.

It worries me that it was so easy. Am I better off, as a person, for realising how easy it is to make my life a bit better with a bit of foreign cash? I think not. I can see now how so many fall into a pattern of bribing, their casual acceptance that bribing makes life easy leading to a casual expectation from all officials that accepting cash is the way to go.

So far, my experience as a civil servant has been that while there are scores, probably hundreds, of government employees who are accustomed to doing no more than is absolutely required of them, who do as little as possible to keep their jobs, who underperform with impunity, the average government official does not yet expect to be paid to do the basics expected of them. Not yet. But what is there to stop us from going the way of Zimbabwe, of fulfilling the myth that attaches to third-world societies?More on that later. For now, time to think.

Caribbean murder rates hurting growth - World Bank

How did we miss this?Reuters AlertNet - Caribbean murder rates hurting growth - World Bank

MIAMI, May 3 (Reuters) - The tourism-dependent Caribbean may now have the world's highest murder rate as a region, severely affecting potential economic growth, the World Bank and a U.N. agency said in a report on Thursday.Blaming most of the violent crime in countries like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago on the trafficking of Colombian cocaine to Europe and the United States, the report said the region's homicide rate of 30 per 100,000 inhabitants a year was higher even than troubled southern and western Africa.

Probably because we were too busy navel-gazing and trying to decide who won the election.Prophetic, though, isn't it?

Update on Harl Taylor's death

From the Guardian:

It is understood that Taylor was stabbed many times about the body and because of the amount of blood at the scene officers had to wear protective footwear and clothing. Crime scene investigators and murder squad detectives did not leave the scene until 6 p.m. Sunday.Taylor lived a short distance from College of the Bahamas professor, Dr. Thaddeus McDonald, who was found beaten to death in his Queen Street home Friday afternoon. Investigators have not dismissed the possibility of a link in the murders as both victims were single professional men who suffered brutal deaths at the hands of persons believed to be close to them.According to a police source, investigators hope to look at video footage from surveillance cameras at the U.S. Embassy, which is located on the same street as McDonald's home. The source said it is believed that the tapes contain valuable information.

The Nassau Guardian -