Mutty and John: a Conflict of Visions

(This is an excerpt from the book Jamaica Fi Real: Beauty, Vibes and Culture).

The best proof that all points of view are given free rein in Jamaica are the contrasting outlooks of two doyens of local journalism, Wilmot 'Mutty' Perkins and John Maxwell. While Maxwell remains a more or less unreformed leftist, Perkins has become somewhat of a right-wing anarchist. Ask the two former friends anything, and you are likely to get completely contradictory answers.

The Greatest Free Lunch of All

'There's no such thing as a free lunch!' is a favourite adage of economists explaining the reality that everything has a cost, and you can't get something for nothing. Now, it's true that success is usually a product of hard work. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it...

God's Second Greatest Gift to Mankind

The following is an excerpt of a speech given at the National Library's 30th Anniversary Awards Dinner

Sometimes in idle moments I contemplate life's blessings, and make a list of the things that bring me the most joy. Number three on my happiness list is cricket, lovely, cricket. No other game, and indeed few other pastimes, produces such moments of beauty. Watching a great innings unfold is, to me, like seeing a gorgeous painting being created before your very eyes. My idea of paradise includes Brian Lara batting at one end and Gary Sobers at the other, both playing glorious strokes all around the wicket. Although the way the West Indies are playing these days, I might soon have to find a new number three!

Not Completely Black and White

"In the western industrialised world, the idea of electing a member of a racial minority to the highest office seems an astonishing breakthrough. But Jamaica's 95 per cent black population elected a white man - Edward Seaga - as its prime minister in 1980."
- Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, October 23, 2008

Only tourist board pollyannas could pretend skin colour does not matter in Jamaica. One glance through the social pages shows the still existing inequities - itself a topic for another day. Yet, imperfect as they are, race relations here are still better than in most places.

An Imagined West Indian Nation

National anthems were played before each match at the recent Cricket Twenty20 World Cup. Englishmen sang along to 'God Save the Queen' and Australians to 'Advance Australia Fair'. For the West Indies, it was 'Rally Round the West Indies'.

So there was the intriguing spectacle of players standing at attention to the 'national anthem' of an imagined country that exists only in the minds of cricket fans - 'Rally, rally round the West Indies/now and forever'.

The 2007 Cross, Angry, Miserable Awards

Casting out negativity is a path to inner peace. In hopes of a serene 2008, I hereby get out of my system a few things that made me cross, miserable, angry in 2007.


Does History Beat Biology?

'Meditate upon history,' said Napoleon, 'for it is the only true philosophy'!. But then he also called history 'a set of agreed upon lies'. Still, there's no doubt that history tells us how mankind has acted, as opposed to how we are supposed to act.

What Really Matters to Us?

We want to be happy, and we are going to die. That is all we really know about the human condition. Everything else is speculation.

Some talk as if they have life all figured out. "I wish I were as sure of anything as (Thomas) Macaulay is of everything," someone quipped of the English author. But when contemplating existence, even the most outwardly confident must be filled with the uncertainty Blaise Pascal evoked.

The Heart has its Season

From a coldly rational point of view Christmas is as ridiculous a notion as mankind has ever deluded itself with. A man marries a supposed virgin, discovers she's with child, learns from an angel in a dream that she has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and they travel to his hometown where there's no room at the inn so the Lord our Saviour is born in a manger?

The Last West Indian Hero?

They should have talked of cut and glance

described the dance

he did on such or such a day

on what green floor

on what astonished field

Instead, they said he was a gentle man,

praised him as a model for his race,

noted with aplomb he took his place

as Senator; a leader cherished

by his men, in friendship steadfast,

who, in spite of bitter recollection,

loved his country at last

Any clown can play the gentleman.