Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Too Many Gods (Old Testament v New)

I wonder why Christian churches don’t scrap the Old Testament. Much of it is an embarrassment. The Burning Bush, The Parting of the Sea, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat... All of those are harmless fairy stories, but it’s all the gratuitous violence that compromises the message of the religion.

And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones. ..And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel to commit trespass against the Lord. ..Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man. But all the women children that have not known man, keep alive for yourselves. Numbers 31:9-18 KJV

Slaughtering prisoners of war, raping and killing their widows and sons, and keeping the little girls as sex slaves... Those sound rather like the NATO atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those atrocities, as we know, are committed by Christian troops and supported by most Christian congregations. Unless the Messiah was a psychopath, he would not have approved of them, surely.

Why don’t Christians and their priests and pastors publicly renounce the Biblical atrocities, and the psychopathic god that inspired them? The god that ordered those atrocities was a tribal god, and the role of every tribal god is to advance the interests of its tribe. Moses took an assortment of refugees and moulded them into a brutal military force – the Taliban of its day. He managed that force in what he reckoned were the interests of his new tribe; but it’s hard to see how his actions are relevant to modern Christianity.

All tribes need to have a heritage. Moses and his lieutenants cobbled one together in the wilderness from the various legends of the various communities of refugees. First they worked back to a supposed patriarch (Israel, formerly Jacob), then further back to the Abraham of regional legend, then back to Noah of the Flood, and eventually right back to the physical creation of the First Man by a non-tribal, universal god. The Bible tells us that this creator-god was the same god as Moses’s tribal god; and the two gods came in the Old Testament package sold to the early Christian church. The tale of Abraham’s readiness to murder his son was a constant reminder to the new tribe that the god of the universe has the same cruel standards as the god of the tribal atrocities. Wow.

..Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and offer him for a burnt offering. ..And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. Genesis 22:2-10 KJV

The third god of Christianity is the “prince of peace” – a wholly admirable person in whose name the reach of his personal ethics was extended to the rest of humanity. “Thou shalt not kill” applied to everybody, he said – no exceptions. Even the Midianites would be safe, and Abraham’s son. Slaughters, rapes and oppressions of tribal enemies might be okay by the tribal god – but they were not okay by the god of love. The god of love was worthy of worship, not the other. So why keep the other on the books?

There is a schism in the Christian religion that needs to be resolved. The meek of the community embrace the philosophy of love: the savages, the philosophy of cruelty. It’s the savages who recruit young men to slaughter and mutilate their way to political dominance around the world, and who relish their gruesome work. The meek... well, the meek go along to get along, I guess.

How can any decent person honour all three gods of the Christian Bible? Until the vicious tribal god is removed from the pantheon, what worth can “Christian ethics” possibly have?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Checkpoint Charlie (T 1 - Berlin 1960s)

It’s a grandfather’s privilege, universally acknowledged, to bore his grandchildren with tales of his younger days. I miss out on that, because my granddaughters don’t speak English well enough to get the full benefit. All I can do is wait until they are fluent enough to read my memoirs. In the absence of memoirs, there are my blog postings. So I’m going to start slipping in occasional reports like the one below. Will they enjoy them, when they’re older? Ah well, that’s not my department. I deal in stories, not enjoyment...

It was 1965, at the end of a week’s driving through East Germany from Poland. It was 11.30 p.m., our visas would expire at midnight, and the East German border guards were refusing to let us cross into US-occupied West Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie. With the brashness of youth, and some experience of evading a few minor border formalities elsewhere in the Soviet Empire, I set out to change their minds. My smattering of German had served us well in similar negotiations. A smattering is sometimes much better than fluency; with a smattering, you aren’t expected to understand everything that’s said.

“It is forbidden to enter West Berlin except from West Germany.” (West Berlin was an enclave in East Germany, with access restricted to three long corridors.) I didn’t actually know that, though we had been warned by Westerners we had met along the way. Pitching up so close to midnight was a gamble.

“But two years ago I visited East Berlin for a day and crossed back at this exact place.”

“That was a day visit, sir. This time you want to formally enter the West from East Germany, and it is forbidden to exit East Germany here at this place. You must drive around to some authorised exit, cross into West Germany, and enter West Berlin on the autobahn. Is that clear?”

“Yes, it is clear, and thank you. But the nearest exit is sixty kilometres away, and I don’t have enough petrol to drive that far, and we have spent all our East German currency.”

“Then you must buy some. You cannot cross here. It is forbidden. Do you understand that?”

But no exchange was open at midnight in East Berlin, and no service station, and we were within ten minutes of being in East Germany illegally and subject to arrest. I explained this, and held out my crossed wrists with the most disappointed expression I could manage. Linda watched this pantomime in horror, and in another few seconds she would begin giving serious voice to her concern. The guards could see that as well as I could.

The crossing at that time was a sort of obstacle course of brick walls and sharp corners, with signs in German and English warning us to drive v-e-r-y slowly. We made it to the American checkpoint with two or three minutes to spare – to be greeted with the utmost suspicion. Sunglasses at night on soldiers with guns never indicate a warm welcome.

“Hey, buddy, you can’t enter here! You have to go round to the autobahn.” I shrugged, and let the situation speak for itself. How come they let you through? They never let people cross here. It’s forbidden. Jesus! This is crazy. Look at these passports, guys! Holy crap!

It was a Cold War first, we gathered. Maybe it was unique. Certainly, nobody has ever believed my story. “They could have shot you as you drove through”, the sergeant said. Well, maybe. But they were nice fellows, just doing their job. Maybe, too, they felt a guilty thrill in ignoring the rules and using their initiative for once. That occasionally happens in dictatorships.

The Berlin Wall lasted for another full generation. I’d like to have watched it being torn down, and I’d like to have a small piece of the hut at Checkpoint Charlie, for old times’ sake. I’m told the hut has been moved to a nearby museum now, where there are photos of the old obstacle course. One photo has a little white VW driving the course. The photo was taken in daylight, so I know it’s not my car. All the same...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Town & Country (cruelty to animals)

Sometimes daily newspapers have to cast a wide net for their news, don’t they? Last week England’s Daily Mail reported that two men in a lamb-castrating speed-contest in Wyoming had become physically ill from removing lambs’ testicles with their teeth. I may have been one of a rather small number of readers whose immediate reaction was, “Gosh, Dad used to do that all the time, and it never made him sick.”

I mean, why should it?

There has always been a huge cultural difference between the customs of towns and countrysides. What counts as good, practical sense in rural settings is often frowned upon in urban ones, and vice versa. Until very recently, Cayman’s isolation made it “country” as opposed to urban. So one finds some significant differences in customs and attitudes, between native Caymanians and city-bred expats.

The political dominance of the native-born Caymanians more or less forces us immigrants to (pretend to) admire the old Island ways, and there is not much reciprocity. Caymanian community leaders are not the slightest bit interested in other places’ customs. If there were some meaningful reciprocity, the cultural divide would be a whole lot less than it is now.

Ever since the earliest settlements, Cayman has had sheep and goats. How did the old-time farmers castrate their lambs and kids, if not the way my father’s generation did it? Those things are too slippery to get a grip of, Dad reckoned. Around 1950, where we lived, the traditional method gave way to expandable rubber rings, by which means the expendable organs dropped off in the course of time - way too slow for speed contests like the one reported in the Daily Mail, of course, and probably not quite as certain.

Horses, too, fulfil different cultural wants in the countryside and in the towns. Town horses have riders with helmets on, leaping gracefully over formal obstacle courses. Country horses are vehicles for pulling ploughs or herding sheep and cattle. Older Caymanians, at least, will readily acknowledge the cultural gap the two usages reflect.

Dogs, too: workers in the country, pets and guard-dogs in towns. In the Caribbean, yard-dogs are a third category - neither pets nor guards, they’re encouraged to bark themselves stupid at all hours of day and night at anything that moves within half a mile. Immigrants from outside the region find yard-dogs an unpleasant novelty. We have one behind our house. It starts its mindless noise at five or six o’clock most mornings and continues for much of the rest of the day.

Country dogs are lucky not to get kicked into silence by their owners, whereas yard-dog owners exercise no control at all. They don’t make for good neighbours, in quiet middle-class areas. South Church Street is not quite as exclusive as Crystal Harbour, but it is middle-class enough for us residents to find a yard-dog a nasty cultural shock.

Cruelty to animals is not a universal constant. Tugging baby lambs’ balls out without anaesthetic seems cruel, to townies; leaving dogs alone to go mad with loneliness seems cruel by country standards. Forcing horses to jump the same hurdles over and over again is unnecessarily humiliating, from the country viewpoint; making them gallop unshod over rough ground and fallen trees while chasing breakaway cattle is disgracefully risky, from the urban viewpoint.

Which offenders most deserve the attention of a local Humane Society- my present neighbours and their lonely yard-dog, or my childhood neighbours and their dentally de-testefied lambs? Animal cruelty is defined by local judgments, I guess.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The 16 Days (Violence against women)

About this time every year, Cayman honours “16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence”. There are a couple of marches, and a couple of speeches, and that’s it for another year. It has long disappointed me, that our community’s supposed concern for the safety of women is concentrated on such a brief period. Shouldn’t it be longer? It’s also disappointing that the concern seems to focus only on women who are Caymanian. Shouldn’t it cover ALL Cayman’s women?*

We don’t exclude black women or white women or brown women; why shouldn’t we extend our concern to the migrant women who work among us? (“But we do!” Oh, but we don’t!) Last month the Philippines government put Cayman on a blacklist for failing to grant adequate protection to its nationals in these Islands. How did our authorities react? Did our Immigration bureaucrats investigate the work-conditions of Filipino women in domestic service, and announce their findings to the public? Maybe they did and I missed it; more likely, they couldn’t care less what happens to migrants.

What kind of message does discrimination of this kind send to men who abuse women? Don’t rape Caymanians, but your migrant helper is fair game? Must be.

At an international conference I was at a few years ago, some female judges from several African nations spoke on the difficulty of enforcing the “right” of African wives not to be beaten by their men. International human-rights standards were fiercely opposed by tribal tradition, which verged on sacred. The battered wives invariably pleaded in court for their men’s freedom: babies would starve without their fathers’ work, they cried, truthfully. The men claimed it was their human right to beat their wives - just as some men do everywhere. Some Caymanians claim the right to exploit their migrant employees, on the grounds that it is their (the employers’) human right to do so. Well, what can you do with tribal traditions?

For many men in the civilised West, violence against women is still an equivocal topic. A joke from my schooldays, for illustration: Viking warriors! This is your captain speaking! Tomorrow we raid England. Here are my orders. Boat #1: you will do the looting! (“Hooray!!”) Boat #2: for you, the pillaging! (“Hooray!!”) Boat #3... (Groans and protests: “Oh, come on, chief! Not the bloody raping again!”)

Male violence against women is strong-versus-weak persecution. Rape is almost always about power and bullying, rarely about sex. Even in civilised societies it’s a kind of war, and every war is about strong-versus-weak. The motivation for wars is the reward you get for winning. In The Good Olde Days the prospect of rape and loot was what kept the troops in the field - and from what we read about the West’s occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, it still is.

A great many TV shows contain jokes about the prospect of male-on-male rape in prisons. Strong versus weak, again. For as long as the jokes about violence continue, our society is bound to limit its disapproval to sixteen days a year.

* This criticism is NOT directed at the Estella Scott-Roberts Foundation, but at our community as a whole. To the best of my knowledge, the Foundation’s work is beyond reproach.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

True Democracy (in ancient Athens)

WARNING! This post contains some speculations on matters of history and etymology. I find that sort of stuff very interesting, but it’s not for the squeamish.

We don’t always know what we mean when we say “democracy”. It signifies different things in different contexts. There is “representative” democracy, in which voters elect a limited number of oligarchs to pass laws and hire bureaucrats to interpret those laws and security personnel to enforce them. And there is “pure” or “direct” democracy, in which all licensed electors vote for or against specific propositions.

It was the city-state of Athens in Greece 2500 years ago that gave us the concept of democracy. In their usage it was a liberal kind of representative democracy - a reform imposed by a popular dictator who set out to break the power of the City’s hereditary rulers - property-rich native families whose clannishness had long inhibited the development of the City’s full economic potential.

Hitherto, all eligible citizens could vote for members of the governing Assembly: no problem there. But each family always voted together as a bloc, for its own relatives. The liberal dictator’s new constitution created artificial groups with the authority to elect representatives to the Assembly. Think of school “houses” with elected leaders to represent the members in matters involving the governance of the school.

Each “house” had its own meeting-place called a deme, where the voting took place. Hence deme-ocracy, -cracy being the standard English transliteration of the Greek word meaning “rule”. The members of each deme were a carefully chosen cross-section of the citizenry; social classes and families were so mixed that none of the traditional factions could gain dominance. That was the innovation.

There were occasions in ancient Athens when the entire electorate voted as a bloc, but only ever on issues, not on candidates for the Assembly. Athens’s democracy never meant “rule by the people”, especially in the sense of the direct voting we associate with Switzerland.

By 500 B.C. the franchise was the monopoly of male hereditary (bloodline) citizens. The rest of the population- women, slaves and long-term residents, could not vote. This situation particularly irked the immigrants, who at that time dominated commercial life, and were nearly as numerous as the citizens. Giving them the vote was deemed necessary to prevent an exodus of foreign investors and their skilled foreign workers, which might have seriously damaged the local economy.

Sound familiar? Immigrants in Cayman who benefitted from the mass Status grants of 2003 may well owe their good fortune to FCO clerks who remembered their school history lessons. What a thought! In Athens, mass grants of citizenship happened more than just the once. The occasional merging of immigrants and bloodline natives is what set Athens above and apart from its more village-oriented neighbours. Will bloodline Caymanians have the gumption to do the same? Doubtful, I’m afraid.

Incidentally, the demes would not have been specially created for the purpose, merely adapted for it. Brand-new places would never have been able to override family loyalties. It’s far more likely that they had existed in some form or other for some respectable traditional purpose. For me, the most likely original purpose would be religious shrines to a highly respected god. My candidate for that honour is Themis, one of the earliest recorded Greek gods, who was associated with the divine law and custom-law, which in England is called common law.

It would have been a stroke of genius to choose that god’s traditional holy places as venues for the casting of votes under the new constitution. Themocracy, democracy: potato, potahto.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Our Latest Blacklist (Filipinos in Cayman)

In the end, it wasn’t even a nine-days’ wonder. Three days’ attention was all our local media gave to the Philippines Government’s sudden broadside against Cayman’s mistreatment of migrant workers. It can’t have taken the Philippines authorities years and years to acknowledge the slavery-like aspects of our indentured-servitude program, so we are left asking ourselves what the purpose of the broadside might have been. I think it probably had three objectives, each of which was at least partly achieved.

First, it was a general warning- notice to the whole world not to exploit Filipino citizens working abroad. There are several millions of them at any one time, and the forty-one nations and territories on the published blacklist are all very minor importers of Filipinos. How many of them could there be working in Zimbabwe, for goodness sake, or Tuvalu, or Haiti? If the home bureaucrats were working strategically, it would make sense for them to start their threats with the smaller importers and work their way up to the majors. The two or three thousand Filipinos in Cayman comprise a miniscule proportion of the total working overseas.

The second purpose of the blacklist might be the political one of assuring domestic voters that the governing Party is looking after their sisters, daughters, mothers and brothers, sons and fathers labouring in strange lands thousands of miles away. It’s always a scary move (and sometimes a dangerous one) for young people, to head off to parts unknown. We should all- especially native Caymanians- have the greatest respect for the bravery of those who make that move. All native Caymanians have forebears who made it, after all.

Thirdly, all but the most heartless of bureaucrats in Manila must feel genuine disgust at our immigration system that gives local employers a licence to cheat and exploit migrants held on bond-service. They must also wonder what kind of people we are, to be practising such a departure from civilised behaviour. Of course we know that most of the devisers and enforcers of our system are nice people on the surface. We see their photos in the paper and think, well, he or she looks pleasant enough. But a lot of us are discerning enough to see, behind some of the smiles, personalities that lack compassion. They are people from whom we should withhold our respect, however high and mighty their positions.

In my mind, endorsing servitude is not all that much less offensive than endorsing gang culture. Individuals are intimidated into silence in both cases. Filipinos in Cayman (like all migrant workers) risk having part of their wages and pensions stolen without recompense, and risk being assaulted in public places by thugs who are never brought to trial.

Ah well, Filipinos are a resilient people, and they have a strong support-network here in their fellow-nationals. They will survive, as exploited migrants everywhere survive. Ultimately, they and their families are better off being exploited in Cayman than unemployed back home. Any moral equivocation is ours, not theirs. We Caymanians should feel shame for our community, that it refuses our guest workers the full protection of the law. In many ways, Cayman is a paradise; so how can we live in paradise and not be on the side of the angels?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Parishes of England

It’s an ancient English tradition that every parish look after its own natives. Parishes used to have the right to expel “foreigners” back to their home parishes. Most of those expelled were poor people, since some parishes had more money in the kitty than others. “Foreign” workers brought in to help with the harvests acquired no right of residence no matter how long or frequent their visits. In general, the only foreigners accepted as residents were men who married into one of the parish families. There was no rollover policy as such.

The natives themselves, of any and all parishes, were subject to arbitrary transplantation by decree of the king or the local lords of the manor. In the 1700s, tens of thousands of parishioners from England, Scotland and Ireland were unwillingly “planted” in the British Caribbean and North American colonies as indentured servants, and in the preceding Century King James implemented the mass transfer of villagers from his realm to what is now Northern Ireland.

One can see the link between the old British customs and the practices Britain includes in its current colonial rules. Cayman is an example of a parish’s autonomy; the deportation of the Chagossians in the 1960s illustrates a British monarch’s legal power to override that autonomy. Both examples are consistent with the old customs. If the United States had wanted Cayman Brac handed over to it instead of Chagos, all the Brackers would have been expelled without a moment’s hesitation.

It would pay native Caymanians to study British history in more detail than is done at present. It would pay their MLAs to study and understand the distinction between a nation and a parish-sized territory, too. One day those studies might come in handy.

It’s very tiresome hearing and reading comparisons between Cayman and large nations. “How would Britain like it if two thirds of its population were immigrants?” or “America’s Presidents have to be born in that country, so it’s only right that all our MLAs be born in this country.” Utterly stupid comments, deriving from a deep ignorance of the world around us.

Cayman’s proper comparisons are with British parishes or towns, not Britain itself. Why is that so hard to understand? The FCO did our Islands a great disservice when it re-titled our Leader of Government Business as Premier and our ExCo (Executive Council) as Cabinet, and set up a Protocol Office. How many English parishes have Protocol Offices, for goodness sake? Those titles just gave our local rulers ideas above their extremely modest stations. A place of our size needs Parish Councillors, not Cabinet Ministers.

Dear God, the FCO does get some cockamamie ideas into its woolly head! The junior clerks assigned to watch over the flyspecks of Empire must be laughing themselves sick, watching the ridiculous posturing of our Protocol-obsessed village aldermen. It would be nice if the aldermen would plant their feet back on the ground and bring a sense of perspective to their foolishness. Yes, maybe they don’t see their actions as foolish, but the rest of the world does.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Right to be Born

What is called “the right to life” in anti-abortion circles is actually the claimed right of a non-viable foetus to be born. (Both sides agree on the right of a viable foetus.) The doctrine is espoused by some religious denominations as an article of faith rather than of logic or science. Morality comes into the equation, but only as the stepchild of a belief in Original Sin and a supernatural creator-god. The same faith sometimes opposes artificial (pro-active) methods of contraception, which leaves the moral position up in the air. If a creator-god forbids birth-control pills, spermicidal pills and morning-after pills, in what order of priority does he or it disapprove of them?

When does life begin? If the answer were “at conception”, why on earth should it be sinful to prevent conception? And, why delay it until after an approved marriage ceremony in an approved church? (Approved by the agents of the creator-god of the moment, that is.) Well, it’s because the agents themselves say so, they being uniquely qualified to know the mind of the god they inherited. Any debate quickly descends into a battle based on false premises. I myself claim to believe in Loki the old Norse god of luck and caprice. You can probably guess what his opinion is on this whole matter.

If life does begin at conception, there are practical problems that need to be addressed, and not just the problem of when to have one’s birthday parties. Every conception would require formal registration, lest a life be lost and not accounted for. Since conception is not immediately evident, every act of sexual congress would need to be reported. Of course that is something the average boy and girl are reluctant to tell their mothers, never mind some faceless bureaucrats in a Ministry (or Church) for the Preservation of God’s Children. Anyway, where would registration leave sperm-banks and their clients?

In the movie Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon faced down the argument that a sperm-donor might legally be entitled to parental rights over a baby conceived using his sperm. Logically, she said, it would follow that “all masturbatory emissions, where his sperm was clearly not seeking an egg, could be termed reckless abandonment”. That’s one for the church fathers to ponder!

It’s a nice paradox, that liberals (in the British sense of the word) tend to be pro-abortion and anti-war, whereas conservatives generally oppose abortion while being pro-war. A child once born must be protected from hardship and poverty in the soft liberal world, but left to take his chances in a laisser-faire conservative society. It’s relatively rare to find a consistent opinion on the sanctity of life, however defined. Perhaps all anti-war pacifists ought to be anti-abortion, and all supporters of wars ought to be pro-abortion. The latter set doesn’t usually mind bombing a baby the minute it’s born; the former would ban the bombing while frustrating the birth. Go figure.

The famous satirical book 1066 and All That reported the English Civil War as being a struggle between the Cavaliers (“Wrong but Romantic”) and the Roundheads (“Right but Repulsive”). The descriptions could easily be applied to the parties in the debate on the right to be born. But which is which? Hmmm. My old Norse god of caprice has just told me, “It all depends...”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Right To Life

My last blog noted that without freedom of speech, no other rights can be defended. I have been reminded that without life, no rights at all can be defended, so there must exist an inherent right to defend oneself. Sounds fair to me. Most human-rights professionals, though, say not. They take governments’ deprivation of human life as an abuse of the most fundamental right of all, on the grounds that without life, no other rights can possibly exist.

Enemies of state can be locked away in dark holes and tortured daily, while awaiting enough Amnesty International letters to set them free. Foreign troublemakers can be deported beyond the reach of all human-rights organisations, and even beyond their concern. But when you’re dead, you’re dead. No Amnesty letters can set you free, and no indignant lawyer can stop your expulsion. Punishment camps may be a living death, but they’re not the real thing.

The standard list (bill) of “human rights” appears in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by a voting majority of the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 as an ideal for all nations to aspire to. Not just aspire to, but actually work towards achieving: each member-nation of the UN within its own boundaries, and each keeping its fellow-members up to the mark.

The Declaration was drafted in the wake and aftermath of Germany’s recent wars of aggression, and was therefore supposed to be universal, not tribal -- supposed to apply to all humans, not just certain nationalities. In future, all nationalities were supposed to be equally protected. Aggressive wars were to be outlawed, since each nation had agreed not to take the lives of any humans, including nationalities not its own. The chief indictment at the Nuremberg War Trials of the Nazi defendants was not for the slaughter of the Jews, or Russian POWs, but for waging wars of aggression.

How ironic, then, that wars of aggression have become so common among the nations that provided the original prosecutors, and that their current governments despise the now-forgotten context in which the original bill of human rights was composed. If the Nuremberg laws were applied today, most NATO politicians and generals would risk being hanged. The changed circumstances make it difficult to argue for the right to life any more. It seems grotesque to criticise the application of “the death penalty” for domestic murderers in nations that have embraced the practice of mass-murdering unwitting foreigners without remorse.

The argument (for the right to life) has reverted to a tribal relevance. Our national governments may slaughter whom they like, but not their own nationals. Libyan civilians YES, local killers NO. For as long as we condone that policy, it seems trivial and unnecessary to try to protect the lives of local thugs. If we applaud the killers of innocent wogs and dagoes and rag-heads in faraway places, why not issue guns to every householder and tell him to take out every guilty mugger he can find. Watch the 1970s movie Death Wish, a model of encouragement for vigilante justice. “Go, and do thou likewise.”

Some ethnic communities are inherently more valuable than others. Our soldiers are heroes, theirs are cockroaches. We have the right to defend our lives and they don’t, even while we are breaking into their homes. Might is right. Right? Well, if might is indeed right, why can’t it be applied against an armed burglar in our homes? Hey, maybe he’s a Muslim. Then what? They don’t have rights, do they?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Freedom Of Speech (censorship in Cayman)

It’s disappointing to read of McKeeva’s lawsuit against Cayman News Service for defamation. The action makes no sense, and could well cause enormous damage to our Islands’ image overseas. Cayman is a much more sophisticated place than it was a generation ago when I had to fight censorship for criticising the ExCo of the day in the Chamber of Commerce Newsletter.

Ezzard called me “obnoxious” in the Legislative Assembly; Benson called the Chamber “a subversive organisation”. Dr Edlin pulled my Work Permit, and the Chamber had to scramble to prevent being closed down by the political establishment.

It was a serious dispute- but nobody sued. Presumably, the political heavies thought it would be too embarrassing, although it turned out to be embarrassing enough even without a lawsuit. Our criticism was robust but warranted. We called the new Labour Law “a lurch towards socialism”- which sounds hopelessly tame today but was inflammatory then.

Jim Graves, the Editor of the Nor’Wester magazine, had been expelled at the instigation of Jim Bodden a few years earlier. There was a big fuss over his Editorials, too - but nobody sued. Later, Jim Graves and I shook our heads over the irony that the very people who had brought him back to Cayman, after a few years of exile, were the ones now trying to get rid of me. “Well, that’s just what they’re like”, Jim said - meaning, Caymanian MLAs in general. “You today, me yesterday; who knows who they’ll go after next?”

There have been a couple of other victims along the way - and now it’s Nicky and Wendy, Daphne and Randy. Critics of our politicians can never relax, it seems. The faces change, but the censorship lives on.

The Protection Board, later the Immigration Board, was always the censors’ weapon of choice. Traditionally it was packed with anti-expats; as a general statement, all the immigration-related Boards still are. I’m surprised Randy’s Work Permit employees weren’t targeted for deportation, instead of the radio station being sued. Dear oh dear: no respect for tradition!

My persecution in the late 1980s was reported by the Jamaica Gleaner (“A Climate of Censorship”) and Offshore Alert (“ExCo Hillbillies”). Selected English newspapers were being lined up when the FCO quietly stepped in and called off the dogs. There was no coverage by Cayman’s mass media, of course. The Caymanian Compass shrank even further into its “see no evil” shell; the Chamber of Commerce was gradually subverted by political cronies and reduced to the lap-dog it is now.  

CNS is pretty much all we have, today. CaymanNetNews prints my weekly columns (several of which are politically incorrect, though not all) as well as its own sometimes very critical Editorials; Knal and I do our blogs. Otherwise it’s just the Wendy & Nicky show, and all the contributors to their forums.

I don’t believe the general public can afford to let their website be neutered. Cayman is a much more prominent target than it used to be, and censorship by what Offshore Alert is bound to call “Hillbillies” will become a hot topic internationally, sooner or later. If someone close to the citadels of power can get these lawsuits withdrawn, he or she would be doing Cayman a wonderful service.

It’s an axiom of human-rights activism that without freedom of speech no other freedoms can survive. As we know, human rights are as yet unrecognised by Cayman’s authorities. All the same, the sight of a human-rights-inspired Gender Equality Law being debated in the same month as an act of blatant censorship is way too bizarre to pass unremarked by many of our international critics.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

War Criminals (Western ones...)

George Bush decided not to visit Ottawa recently, because of local opposition to entertaining a man who is widely accused of war crimes. Dick Cheney defied his critics and gave a speech in Vancouver. Donald Rumsfeld prudently limits his travels to inside the USA, where domestic war criminals are tolerated. Men responsible for the deaths of a million civilians in the Middle East, and the physical torture and mutilation of a million more, usually have remarkably thin skins. Most psychopaths do; it’s the nature of the beast. Self is everything, other people count for nothing.

When the victorious Allies imposed their victors’ justice on the Germans and Japanese in 1946, they invented the concept of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”. At the Nuremberg trials the least forgivable crime of all was reckoned to be not the death-camps or the bombing of civilians, or the oppression of conquered peoples, or even the torture of captives- but the crime of making unnecessary war. It was argued that by its circumstances war provides a natural cover for all brutalities, and aggressive wars are therefore the greatest brutality of all. Those who were hanged in Nuremberg and Tokyo were hanged for fighting wars of aggression.

The trials established the principle that aggressor-nations’ rulers could be justifiably prosecuted under international law. The International Court of Justice and later the International Criminal Court were set up to judge national leaders and other individuals for war crimes and “crimes against humanity”. Nobody was to be exempt. That was the theory. But winners are always exempt. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are exempt. Tony Blair is exempt. Cameron and Sarkozy are exempt; the NATO atrocities they have supervised in North Africa are overlooked. Bill Clinton is exempt in respect of the NATO bombing of civilians in the former Yugoslavia. Hillary’s and Obama’s terror attacks on villages in selected Muslim nations are okay. The essential difference between all those people and the Hitler gang is that Hitler lost.

Here in Cayman we tend not to worry about international war crimes or criminals. Guantanamo and Haiti are just over the water, but they might as well be a million miles away. Our local rulers aren’t actually concerned about human rights of any kind, so reputed war criminals are safe here. President Clinton has been here. Kissinger has been here, I think. Oliver North came down to speak at a YCLA dinner; Tony Blair will be speaking at a Tennis Federation* dinner in November.

This last event is mildly inconvenient for me as a director of the Cayman Islands Tennis Club in South Sound. The Club is the chief member of the Federation, and will have some representatives at the tournament and dinner. One director out of ten can’t cancel that involvement. All I can do is vacate the office of director before Mr Blair arrives. That will be a futile act of self-indulgence, of course; nobody will even notice. But my son and his children would not respect me if I participated in a welcome to a man like Blair, and their respect is important to me. My son is a fierce opponent of human-rights abuses, so it’s probably just as well he won’t be here. The Police won’t need their pepper-spray for me!

It’s a moral dilemma. We all disapprove of our local gangland terrorists, and jail them if and when we can. More fools them, really. If they joined the West’s occupation forces in Afghanistan and Iraq they could be as brutal as they liked, and come back home as heroes. We don’t ask questions of the US soldiers who come here on holiday; we’ve no idea how well they have behaved in America’s wars of aggression. We save our visa restrictions for the children of our Jamaican helpers. Huh.

* I was incorrect in describing it as a Tennis Federation dinner. The dinner will in fact be hosted by the organisers of The Ritz Carlton Legends Tennis Event.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fool Me Once... (Cayman immigration)

“Feigned retreat” is a military tactic dating from the most ancient times, and practised to perfection by most armies in history. The most famous example to students of English history is that of the Norman invaders of England in 1066. By prior arrangement, the contingent of Breton troops allowed themselves to be “routed” by the defenders. The latter broke ranks in pursuit, only to be cut down by French knights on horses.

McKeeva’s proposed two-year suspension of the rollover program looks to be a feigned retreat. Release the pressure and pretend to give up the cause, then, when the enemy is relaxed and off-guard, send in the Immigration rottweilers to savage those who have fallen into the trap.

McKeeva is a very clever politician, at the village level, and it is always a mistake to underestimate his granny-wits. Unfortunately, politics at the village level requires no sense of vision. None of Cayman’s born-and-bred never-left-home politicians can envisage their Islands as a nation. A nation is defined, more or less, as a coalition of tribes; and the majority of tribal Caymanians are just not interested in a coalition with immigrants, much less with transient migrants – and least of all with low-paid coloured migrants.

Tribal Caymanians cleave to the sentiment towards outsiders reported in the Biblical legend of Joshua: Ye are cursed, and there shall be none of you freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water... That passage is carved in gold and rubies above the entrance to the Immigration offices. Mere mortals can’t see it, but we know it’s there, and so do all the Immigration officers and officials. I wonder if they are required to recite it every morning before the doors are opened.

In Cayman’s tribal lore, non-Caymanians are Kipling’s “Sons of Martha”, a poem based on a tale from one of the Gospels. Martha and Mary were the two sisters of Lazarus the dead man. Martha did all the work of hospitality, and spoke with Jesus man to man, as it were. Mary spent his whole visit fawning over him. In Christianity, as in Judaism and Islam, blind worship has always trumped practical good works. It’s part of the “God’s Chosen People” theme.

The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

In that context, how can we interpret the Rollover’s suspension as anything but a ruse? Give the Work Permit expats hope, encourage them to buy houses and new cars, wait until they’re settled, then tell them to bugger off home. If the UDP were (for whatever reason) reluctant to swindle the immigrants and migrants in this way, the PPM would gladly do the dirty deed.

It was the PPM who made the rollover retrospective, and who implemented the ethnic-cleansing of thousands of decent law-abiding immigrants who had made their homes here. Let’s remember that, when we talk about the alleged decline of quality of new arrivals. At the same time, let’s also remember that the Rollover law originated with a UDP Cabinet, and was introduced for the specific purpose of deporting long-term Jamaican and other residents. There’s really not much difference between the two anti-immigrant protectionist parties.

There are some sensible and practical ways for Caymanians’ elected representatives to repair relations with the immigrant communities, if they wanted, but suspending the rollover program isn’t one of them. We are not going to fall for that trick a second time. Fool me once...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Lepper's Spots (Cayman residents)

How intriguing it is, that some of our not-in-power politicians have declared that the Rollover Policy has “served its purpose” and can be put back on the shelf for a while. What purpose did it serve, exactly? Well, it was a successful ethnic-cleansing exercise, that’s for sure. A couple of thousand domestic servants and labourers were sent back to Jamaica despite having established domicile in Cayman. Some domiciled immigrants from other countries were also deported to their original homes - even some white people. Yes! Their removals provided handy cover for getting rid of lots of unskilled and unmoneyed black Jamaicans. Anti-Jamaican sentiment is the driving force behind most of our immigration “reforms”, isn’t it?

Most ethnic-cleansing exercises replace settled immigrants with newcomers, often transient migrants. Was that part of the purpose of Cayman’s Rollover? Presumably so. Quiet, law-abiding individuals and families with years or decades of residence in their established homes were replaced by persons of unknown quality. Most of the latter were good people too, but not all.

Immigration is always a risk. Every village and town in the world of our size can confirm Cayman’s experience with newcomers. The sensible thing to do with them is to encourage them to settle - to put down roots and think of themselves as belongers. The worst thing a host community can do is erect barriers to integration - to keep reminding them how unsuitable they are to hold any stake in the community’s future. “This is NOT your home, you bastards. Don’t even think about it.”

Presumably, the PPM Team is hoping that its Party’s anti-immigrant reputation will be forgotten by immigrant voters in the next elections. And maybe it will be - who knows? Somebody posted on the CNS website the other week, “A lepper [sic] doesn’t change his spots.” But there is a first time for everything. Maybe the PPM “lepper” can indeed change its spots. We shall see.

Its leaders have a wonderful chance to improve its image among immigrants (if they want to) by taking a stand in favour of the latest United Nations human-rights Convention. The ILO Convention on Domestic Workers was adopted on 16th June (two weeks ago), and of course it has great relevance for Cayman. Its contents are the stuff of nightmares for householders who exploit their migrant helpers - and for the politicians who support that exploitation.

The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (Article 3) - BOO! Fair terms of employment (Article 6) - COMMUNISM! No exemption from overtime rules (Article 10) - HOWL! The same protection as other workers (Article 14) - SAVE US, JESUS!

Mind you, our authorities take no notice of any other human-rights Conventions, so why should this one be favoured? Our new Human Rights Commission is already too cowed by the politicians to even bring this new Convention to the public’s notice. Good God! How pathetic is that?

However, hypocrisy is the backbone of our local politics. Will somebody from the new-image PPM cross fingers behind his back and say something positive about the new Convention? Maybe welcome the remote possibility that migrant helpers will actually come under the full protection of the Labour Law one day? Come on, one of you chaps! Be a devil.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

House of Cards (Cayman - a British colony)

Some recent events have thrown serious doubt on Cayman’s future as a serious tax-haven and international financial centre. If the Governor’s assent to the waiving of audited government accounts for the past six years didn’t signal Britain’s intention to let Cayman go its own way, nothing will. The disclosure in a lawsuit that our Monetary Authority was no longer monitoring the behaviour of hedge-fund directors constituted another sign.

The Civil Service’s failure to participate in the Financial Times survey on direct private investment told the world that Britain just doesn’t care any more. The UK’s meek response to all the open contempt shown to the Governor and his superiors recently, puts the matter beyond all reasonable doubt. In years to come, these won’t be remembered as straws in the wind so much as whole forests blowing away before our eyes.

Why might Britain be pulling the plug on Cayman after so many years? Well, maybe the 2003 disclosure of MI6 hanky-panky was the turning point. The EuroBank trial will surely have made MI6 a laughing stock in the international spying fraternity; James Bond it wasn’t. Maybe it destroyed the organisation’s credibility beyond recovery, and it’s time for a new start.

The world has changed a lot since 2003. The American Empire is rampant, now, impatient of obstacles. Cuba and Venezuela are two obstacles to US hegemony in its own hemisphere, and Cayman would be a useful staging-post for military action against them. If only the British could be persuaded to surrender control of Cayman...

Well, maybe they can be. Maybe they already have been. The transfer of power would not be of the Diego Garcia kind; the forced expulsion of a whole native people would be too embarrassing, a second time. Anyway, Cayman has a much higher profile than poor old Diego Garcia had fifty years ago. It would be far easier to quietly yield to the local politicians’ incessant demands to change their Constitution. Remove the UK veto on all legislation, and let the demagogues do their own thing - why not? The revised Constitution could lift Britain’s liability in respect of the local government’s borrowings, and Bob’s your uncle.

Of course without the British guarantees, Cayman’s Offshore industry would fold like a house of cards. Everyone who knows anything about tax-havens knows that. And tourism by itself can’t preserve our prosperity. Ah, but never fear - the Seventh Cavalry is here; or soon will be. In the event, the collapse might not last long at all. Nature abhors a vacuum, science tells us- and so does an empire on the rampage. The CIA would have its feet up on the Governor’s old desk before the ink was dry. Good luck arguing with them about the right of native peoples to self-determination.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Small Town (Cayman's settlements)

All progress comes at a price. The peaceful boredom of an isolated fishing village or farming community must be surrendered if the locals want a road connecting them with someplace else. Next thing you know, one of the locals sells a patch of ground with a shed on it to a stranger, who fixes up the shed and rents it to weekend visitors. Another local hires himself and his boat out to the visitors and shows them the reef. The next thing you know, it’s happening all over. There’s no more boredom, but there’s no more peace either. The rent-money or the boat-hire pays for a motor for the well, or a bicycle, or a kerosene fridge- and the next thing you know, you don’t know what will be next.

Economic progress and social progress tend to come hand in hand. Were the good old days really as good as we remember them? The smaller the community, the less privacy, and that wasn’t always a good thing. I can recall listening to Loretta Lynn singing about love in a small town, on Loxley Banks’s Country Classics afternoons on Radio Cayman.

Tonight at nine we get married
Friends all say it's a shame and disgrace
That he's loved every woman in Jackson
But Jackson ain't a very big place.

Sometimes it was a yearning for a proper education that began the progress. The first school-teacher in a community was often the best-educated local parent; the children’s learning was limited by the teacher’s knowledge, but it was progress. The usual standby option of home-schooling might be chosen by parents whose knowledge was equal to that first teacher’s. Later, a trained teacher would assume the job. External exams would become available for children with the proper level of achievement.

Cayman’s educational system would have grown from that sort of beginning- as did my own home community’s. In the absence of a school, our mothers taught us the syllabuses set by the provincial authorities and mailed our homework exercises in for marking. A few families paid a neighbour to teach their kids. After a few years of this, the authorities responded to pleas for a qualified teacher. “Build a schoolhouse and guarantee twenty pupils and we will send you a teacher.” So our fathers built a one-room hut with wooden awnings and we got a teacher.

Exactly the same kind of progress occurred in the Cayman settlements that were too small even to be called villages. The pattern must have been common in the West Indies, as indeed it was everywhere. The settlements grew into villages, then small towns. From Barkers to Savannah is a middling-size town now, isn’t it? Will the Shetty Hospital and the SEZ and the new school help fill the gaps to North Side and East End, or will those two small towns always be separate? Will their residents resist the temptation to progress to something larger?

I looked up the last words of Loretta Lynn’s song on YouTube. Loxley, are you there? The good old days really weren’t quite as good as we remember.

Yes, Jackson is a mighty small town
Where gossips and rumors go round
But the gossips are the ones he turned down
And Jackson ain't a very big town...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Price of Eggs (inflation in Cayman)

The world is in an economic mess. All the experts are telling us that, and I guess they should know. We haven’t experienced much of a mess in Cayman yet; ours is more of a minor inconvenience. Count the monster-SUVs on our roads and you’ll see how well off we are. However, we can get a glimpse of what the future might hold for us by taking note of what is happening in the US and Europe.

Statistical unemployment in some places is at levels not seen since the Great Depression. Cayman doesn’t have statistical unemployment yet; all we can say is that our chronic OVER-employment has shrunk a bit. The boys and girls at our government Economic Statistics Office (ESO) are much too far out of their depth to give us useful comparative figures- or even relevant ones. Well, ours is a small dependent territory, and we can’t expect anything better than the statistics we get.

The ESO hasn’t a clue how to allow for the doubling of the citizenship base following the mass Status grants. Nor can it cope with the sudden halving of the proportion of migrants in the workforce. The statistics that are published are largely meaningless, so our planning process has to operate “by guess and by God”. When local property development slowed down, the pool of construction workers shrank because of the expulsion of migrants. Unemployed citizens go on the dole and continue to spend money in the community; unemployed migrants (and their savings) are deported pretty much immediately. I’m not sure the ESO is even aware that we have over-employment.

All during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Cayman’s boot was on the other foot. Most men of working age (women were rarely employed outside the home) were overseas sending their savings back to their families. There was no domestic unemployment; there never is in a subsistence economy. So there is no valid comparison to be made between the circumstances of then and now. Statistically (as well as economically), we are in virgin territory.

Our MLAs and senior Civil Servants can therefore be forgiven for being clueless about how to govern in hard times- though not for being irresponsible, reckless and arrogant. Or for pretending they aren’t any of those things. If you don’t know what’s going on around you, for God’s sake be humble about it and seek help. Fizzing around like a fart in a bottle is not the way to solve our imminent economic problems.

All our Pension Funds may well fail to provide enough money for our individual retirements. MLAs and Civil Servants who retired on the “defined benefits” scheme (a percentage of salary, index-linked) don’t worry about that, because their pensions will come directly out of taxes and government borrowings. It’s everybody else who will be in trouble.

Except for senior executives in the tax-haven sector, everybody’s wages probably won’t retain their purchasing power, when the US Dollar falls in value against many of the things we consume. Meat, eggs, and most other foodstuffs will likely cost more dollars to buy in the future than they do now. Rent and the price of houses might require fewer dollars. Jamaican dollars might become cheaper, Euros and Canadian Dollars might become dearer. It’s a gamble!

If you’re worried about a devaluation of The Cayman Dollar, don’t. It is a coupon currency (look up “local currency” in Wikipedia), and will go up and down with the US Dollar. There would be no point in devaluing it. It could conceivably go up- but only if we were governed prudently, and we know there’s not much chance of that.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Silence Of The Dogs (after the hurricane)

More than any other time of year, Hurricane Season is when it's prudent to be on good terms with one’s neighbours. Most hurricanes pass Cayman by without disrupting our lives much. The electricity and water are only briefly lost, and one doesn’t need help from neighbours. Hurricane Ivan was different.

The secret of survival after a severe hurricane is to be independent, and not reliant on the neighbours at all. First, your roof has to stay on, and your walls, doors and windows have to stay whole. Cooking gear, water and tinned food are the only essentials, and cash. Pretty much everything else is a luxury. Cash in the bank is nice, if you have a bike to get there and back; cash in the house is better. After Ivan, we needed cash for the small army of Jamaican women who cleared our house of sludge from the sea-surge. And for William, who entered our lives as a passer-by who buried my wife’s dead cat; he ended up with a small fortune by being a handyman to all and sundry.

Work Permit? For all we knew he wasn’t even on the Island legally. In the emergency, government experimented with a free labour market for low-skilled migrants. For once in their miserable lives, all the Gestapo agents had something else to do besides harass hardworking Jamaicans and Latinos. If our politicians weren’t so blinded by their pro-slavery instincts, they’d have noticed how well the free labour market worked. Sigh.

We were lucky with rain, after Ivan. It allowed us all to fill up every container we could find- one lot for drinking, one for washing, and one for the toilet. Once or twice we raided a neighbour’s swimming pool for water to flush the loo, and once or twice we raided Smith Cove. But most of the time we had water to spare. Ah, the advantage of being brought up in a land short of water! We knew how to brush our teeth with a minimal amount of drinking water, and to wash our bodies in a cupful of water and save the run-off. There was a camaraderie in the neighbourhood. We shared mosquito coils and endless cups of tea, and thanked our stars for having enough cooking fuel among us.

Without a live cat, we ourselves didn’t have the extra burden of pets. Strange to tell, I don’t recall ever being kept awake at night by barking dogs in the weeks after Ivan. Our neighbours were responsible enough to keep their dogs quiet; that’s what neighbours should do, after all. Barking-dogs are the bane of my life, and I can’t be the only person in Cayman who hates being kept awake by them, or woken up by them. There is a strong whiff of sociopathy about people who allow their dogs to bark during the night or early morning. (Sociopaths are defined as people who don’t give a damn about other people.) I don’t blame the dogs. Dogs are social creatures, and get lonely when left alone for hours in a confined space. Indeed, there is a strong whiff of cruelty in doing that to one’s dogs. Humane Society, are you listening?

I don’t kill dogs, even barking-dogs. However, plenty of people do kill barking-dogs. You read about dogs being poisoned in their yards and beyond, and why else would they be killed except to shut them up? Poison might well account for the silence of the dogs after Ivan. If so, we can probably expect more of the same after the next hurricane. Responsible owners’ dogs will be okay: sociopaths’, perhaps not.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Draconian Laws (in ancient Athens)

Law-enforcement in Athens in the 7th Century BC was a shambles. Government was undemocratic and irresponsible. The city-state was home to a mixed populace of citizens, immigrants with Permanent Residence, and a caste of slaves and indentured migrant workers. Its rulers were drawn from an upper caste of hereditary citizens who used their wealth to cheat and exploit their subjects. Laws were uncertain, and their enforcement even more so. The ruling elite exempted its members from prosecution on an ad-hoc basis and for most offences, and invented ad-hoc laws to keep the lesser folk in their assigned places.

The situation was out of hand. In desperation, the rulers commissioned one of their number to give the community a written constitution and body of laws. The Commissioner (called Draco: it meant “dragon”, and was probably a nickname) began his task by identifying all the written and unwritten laws recognised and enforced by the rulers, and who those laws did and didn’t apply to. Since most of the laws favoured the ruling caste (slave-owners, businessmen and citizens) and disfavoured the Permanent Residents and slaves, etc, the laws Draco presented to the ruling Council were extremely harsh for 80-90% of the population – “Draconian”, in fact. The new body of laws, embodied in a draft new constitution, so shocked his peers that they ordered a reform of the whole legal system, law by law and line by line.

The Cayman of today is equally a community with laws written and unwritten, and a rule of law that is selective at best and wholly absent in some places. Our most influential citizens are exempted (at their option) from as many laws as their money can buy. Regarding corruption: here are two questions and sets of options to think about.

1) How much corruption do we have in Cayman? a) not much; b) too much; c) about average for the Caribbean.
2) How many people are sent to prison for corruption each year? a) none; b) probably none; c) none that we know of. (Note: this is not a scientific survey.)

The marl road has always (since I’ve lived here) pointed to the Police, Immigration and Planning bureaucracies as where most of the corruption occurs. That may be a terrible slander, but in the interest of transparency I must report what the marl road tells me. What are our law-enforcement agencies doing about it all? Well, we have an Anti-Corruption Commission, whose name seems to belie its real purpose, which is to do nothing. They say they have discovered nothing worth reporting. Hmmm. Either the crooks are devilishly cunning or the Commission is blowing smoke.

The Commission on Standards of Public Life is another do-nothing body fulfilling its secret purpose. The Human Rights Commission, another. Corruption usually involves human-rights abuses, and turning a blind eye to evident corruption is itself an abuse. Draco’s one-man Commission of 3,700 years ago, operating in the absence of a working constitution, did what all our over-manned and under-performing Commissions apparently can’t do. You or I could do more in a week than all the Commissions have done in eighteen months.

We honest folk are urged to respect the law, but how can we when so many crooks are- informally- licensed to break it. There’s not one person who is on the hook for corruption, at the present moment. Not one policeman on trial for perjury, not one Immigration Officer on trial for illegally hiring out his slaves (indentured migrant workers), not one Civil Servant on trial for accepting a bribe.

Instead, our law-enforcers harass and imprison kids for a spliff or two outside nightclubs. As a community, we judge ganja to be more of a danger to our values than corruption. What the hell is wrong with us? How did our priorities get so screwed up?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Crimes-Czar-Us (crime in Cayman)

I’ve been trying to think up a slogan for the proposed Office of the Coordinator of the three Islands’ Crime-Prevention and Law-Enforcement Agencies and Organisations. “Crimes Czar Us” is the best I can do. Any other offers? The Coordinator will need all the help he or she can get. My column in this weekend’s Cayman Net News expresses serious doubts that the Office would or could be effectual.

My blog of 8th July wondered if the RCIP was wholly relevant any more, and suggested it phase itself out of crime-prevention altogether. Concentrate on the old community-policing task of “thief-taker” (investigating crimes and catching suspects), and leave crime-prevention to private businesses and individuals. What might a Czar be able to do that the Commissioners apparently can’t do?

Cayman is a difficult place to police. There are umpteen ethnic minorities, none of them fully integrated with any of the others. Our languages include twenty or more dialects of English, Spanish as she is spoke in each of a dozen nations, Tagalog, Hindi, Urdu and Cantonese. The main religion is Christianity, with either Hinduism or Islam in the second rank - all with umpteen varieties and all competing with the intellectual force of post-religion heathenism.

The minorities don’t live in ghettoes, but each operates in a fairly tight self-protective circle- ethnic Caymanians most of all. Our government’s law-enforcement agencies view this hodge-podge as a single community; after all, how much internal division can a tiny community of 50,000 have? The agencies make no concessions to the differences in cultures: that’s no way to control crime or catch criminals.

Of the two chief law-enforcement agencies, Immigration is the more influential, and the one whose policies most threaten our peace and security. The Police are top dog in theory, but this is a case of the tail wagging the dog. Immigration has the power to save favoured criminals from trial and prison by deporting witnesses and complainants. In effect that gives it a veto over criminal prosecutions; you can’t get more influential than that!

The top priority of Crimes-Czar-Us (CCU) ought to be to exhibit a commitment to openness and transparency. If it doesn’t, it will be dismissed by the general public as unresponsive and unreliable, and perhaps irrelevant. Openness would help identify the exact nature of corruption within government, and might help focus the search for individuals involved in it.

Another CCU priority might be to question the prohibition of legal access to ganja, decades after proof of its failure. There is no logic in treating the drug more severely than alcohol. It’s a lot safer, after all: very few pot-heads beat up their wives and children while under the influence – unless of course they have been drinking as well. Legalise it and tax it, is my advice.

The toughest job on a CCU agenda would be to create a link with every ethnic minority. Reaching out to those groups would set the CCU on a collision course with an Immigration bureaucracy that is inherently hostile to them. Well, that can’t be helped. The RCIP has always gone out of its way to be chums with Immigration, and that has cost the Force every bit of trust it ever had.

Would a Crimes Czar be nimble enough to avoid the trap? We must hope so. If not, the whole project will founder. Then, it would be a futile and expensive gesture like the Tempura and Cialis operations. Cialis, was it? Some Celtic word. You know the one I mean…

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thief-Takers (Cayman's Police Force)

Sad to say, the “Island Watch” proposal [see June archives, on the right] hasn’t generated enough interest to give it legs. There were a few positive comments on my CNS Viewpoint article, but the effect of noisy fireworks on sensitive pets was a much more popular topic.

Of course it’s still possible that the National Security Council will look the idea over, and that its Crime Prevention sub-Committee members will kick themselves for not thinking of it first. Crimestoppers Inc might one day volunteer to implement the program. Sherlock Holmes used to rely on his Baker Street Irregulars- street urchins who acted as his eyes and ears in the criminal underworld of 19th-Century London. Maybe our Police Force will one day see the virtue of having an army of cellphone-users doing the same sort of thing.

The biggest obstacle to recruiting the general public into the service of any anti-criminal venture is the need for anonymity. Last Thursday’s Caymanian Compass editorial related yet another example of why the Police aren’t trusted to keep their informants’ identities secret. One of their reporters’ confidential enquiries was leaked to the Premier. The leaker apparently couldn’t care less about the RCIP’s public image – or he or she was paid not to care. Who knows? When the Compass goes on record with a complaint, you know things are serious!

On Tuesday last week, only five people turned up for a public meeting called by the Police. It’s not the first such meeting to have had a disappointingly small audience. A word popped into my head while I was mulling this situation: the word was “irrelevance”. Many of us perceive the Police to be irrelevant- which in a way is worse than being perceived as untrustworthy. Our authorities all deplore the public’s apathy- but it’s not apathy, or lethargy, or not caring; it’s just a reluctance to waste our time. We’d rather stay home and watch TV. If Tuesday’s meeting was anything like the meeting at South Sound Community Hall a few months ago, it began with ninety minutes of boring speeches from the High Table. Why would we put ourselves through that again?

Are the Police aware of their perceived irrelevance? They must be. Unfortunately, they don’t know how to change the perception. God knows, they’ve been told often enough to shake up their image, but for them (stale joke alert) denial is just a river in Egypt. Actually, the whole role of the RCIP needs a serious re-think. We can’t go on the way we are.

Look, catching criminals is one thing and preventing crime is quite another. There are reported to be 650 private security guards in Cayman whose job it is to provide a presence that might discourage criminals from committing crimes where the guards are. I don’t want to make Stuart Bostock even richer than he already is, but maybe we need another 650 private guards. Maybe the Police should give up trying to prevent crime and concentrate on catching criminals.

Once upon a time, every parish in England had its specialist “thief-takers”. It was a natural enough transition from catching criminals to preventing their crimes, but maybe Cayman would be better off with the old system for a while. At the moment the general public (however unfair this might be) trusts neither the RCIP’s integrity nor its competence, and that has to change, asap. The RCIP needs a breather- some time and space to get on top of its issues. Giving more authority and responsibility to private security guards might be a practical, and temporary, compromise between an over-stretched Police Force and a vigilante society.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rolling Over (Cayman's expats)

How intriguing it is, that some of our not-in-power politicians have declared that the Rollover Policy has “served its purpose” and can be put back on the shelf for a while. What purpose did it serve, exactly? Well, it was a successful ethnic-cleansing exercise, that’s for sure.

A couple of thousand domestic servants and labourers were sent back to Jamaica despite having established domicile in Cayman. Some domiciled immigrants from other countries were also deported to their original homes - even some white people. Yes! Their removals provided handy cover for getting rid of lots of unskilled and unmoneyed black Jamaicans. Anti-Jamaican sentiment is the driving force behind most of our immigration “reforms”, isn’t it?

Most ethnic-cleansing exercises replace settled immigrants with newcomers, often transient migrants. Was that part of the purpose of Cayman’s Rollover? Presumably so. Quiet, law-abiding individuals and families with years or decades of residence in their established homes were replaced by persons of unknown quality. Most of the latter were good people too, but not all.

Immigration is always a risk. Every village and town in the world of our size can confirm Cayman’s experience with newcomers. The sensible thing to do with them is to encourage them to settle - to put down roots and think of themselves as belongers. The worst thing a host community can do is erect barriers to integration - to keep reminding them how unsuitable they are to hold any stake in the community’s future. “This is NOT your home, you bastards. Don’t even think about it.”

Presumably, the PPM Team is hoping that its Party’s anti-immigrant reputation will be forgotten by immigrant voters in the next elections. And maybe it will be - who knows? Somebody posted on the CNS website the other week, “A lepper [sic] doesn’t change his spots.” But there is a first time for everything. Maybe the PPM “lepper” can indeed change its spots. We shall see.

Its leaders have a wonderful chance to improve its image among immigrants (if they want to) by taking a stand in favour of the latest United Nations human-rights Convention. The ILO Convention on Domestic Workers was adopted on 16th June (two weeks ago), and of course it has great relevance for Cayman. Its contents are the stuff of nightmares for householders who exploit their migrant helpers - and for the politicians who support that exploitation.

The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (Article 3) - BOO! Fair terms of employment (Article 6) - COMMUNISM! No exemption from overtime rules (Article 10) - HOWL! The same protection as other workers (Article 14) - SAVE US, JESUS!

Mind you, our authorities take no notice of any other human-rights Conventions, so why should this one be favoured? Our new Human Rights Commission is already too cowed by the politicians to even bring this new Convention to the public’s notice. Good God! How pathetic is that?

However, hypocrisy is the backbone of our local politics. Will somebody from the new-image PPM cross fingers behind his back and say something positive about the new Convention? Maybe welcome the remote possibility that migrant helpers will actually come under the full protection of the Labour Law one day? Come on, one of you chaps! Be a devil.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Island Watch (catching criminals)

The concept of a “neighbourhood watch” is well established in Cayman. A friend of mine has suggested extending the concept to an island-wide community-alert program: “The Island Watch”, using mobile phones and texting. SMS texts are already used by LIME to notify hundreds (thousands?) of subscribers - all at the same time - of special events.

The Police have said repeatedly that the active participation of the general public is essential in the fight against crime; combining the speed of mobile telecommunications with an island-wide “neighbourhood watch” might be very useful in this regard. The aim would be to mobilise IW members in the vicinity of a reported crime to observe and identify suspected burglars, robbers, muggers, attackers or drugs-sellers – and maybe catch them too, if that could be done safely.

At the moment, witnesses to crimes in progress can phone 9-1-1. The operators there first authenticate the calls as best they can, and then connect the callers to the appropriate unit of the Police. The caller receives no feedback. You make your call, and the Police take it from there at their own pace.

An Island Watch communications base would receive SMS messages from IW members reporting a crime in progress or shortly afterwards, and relay the messages first to the Police (or to 9-1-1, if that service can receive texts) and second to all IW members. The relaying could be virtually instantaneous, unless heavy monitoring or authentication were required: texts in, texts out, texts in, texts out. Photographs would be a bonus.

A question arises, relating to liability in respect of libel, in the event that a message carried the name or other identifiable description of an innocent person. Would some lawyer please advise on this?

The communications base could be provided by Crimestoppers (an independent volunteer committee), or the Chamber of Commerce, or one of our local telecom companies, or even one of the service clubs. (Not the 9-1-1 organisation, I think. Cayman doesn’t need to be adding to government services, at this stage of the game.) I know nothing about Twitter or how it operates; could IW open a Twitter account and give its members access to it? Answers by email, please.

Who might IW’s members be? All residents of Grand Cayman by default would be best, if the telecom companies would allow it. That might deter a lot of crime as well as help the Police identify and maybe catch those whom it didn’t deter. I’m not talking special constables, here, just plain old public-spirited residents of Grand Cayman.

Of course it’s one thing for people to receive incident-alerts and quite another for them to be pro-active in feeding information to the base. Would it be possible to guarantee their anonymity? Maybe not. Calls from cellphones are famously traceable. It would be a foolish expat security guard who put his name out there to be picked up by someone who resents his presence on the Island. An anonymous and untraceable denunciation to Immigration might have him deported in a flash.

Indeed, any expat without Status would be foolish to allow himself or herself to be identified in relation to any incident that might carry the risk of deportation. Is there a way around this problem, or would an Island Watch just have to get by with the citizenry alone?

Any reader with a constructive suggestion to make on this topic, please email it to barlow at candw dot ky. I will forward it to the Brains Trust. The more, the better. Updates will follow here, when there’s something worth reporting.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Absent Fathers (juvenile crime)

This week my column in Cayman Net News deplores our community’s failure to tackle the root causes of juvenile crime and ignorance. Generally speaking, the young wastrels are those who are raised by incompetent and/or irresponsible parents. Their mothers can’t cope with them financially, educationally or socially; their fathers often aren’t in the picture at all.

We tend to concentrate on the mothers more than the fathers. Well, these sweet-talking Caribbean men, you know; what can you do? They are what they are, and they do what they do, and the culture has been around since slavery times. And anyway, it’s up to the women to take care of birth-control, right? The men don’t care, and never will care. That’s just the way of the world.

Bob Dylan once wrote a cynical song in defence of male arrogance -

I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind
You coulda done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right*

He also wrote what must surely be the theme song of all bachelors -

But it ain’t me, babe
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe**

Middle-class morality requires that men who sire children take some responsibility for their upbringing. There is a comprehensive body of law relating to families and to parents’ duties to their children. In marriages, fathers and mothers are legally obliged to share those duties. Usually, the main burden falls on the mothers; that’s the way of the world, too. And, more often than not, it is the fathers who contribute most of the money needed to ensure that the children are properly prepared to cope with the world. When parents divorce, their responsibilities towards their children don’t cease. The justice system is there to ensure that both parents continue to contribute fair shares of the children’s care until they are old enough to care for themselves.

It is usually outside the middle-classes that the social problem exists of children with mothers who can’t cope financially, educationally or socially, and fathers who often aren’t in the picture at all. Those children are currently posing a very serious problem to our community here in Cayman. Many of them are running wild, and we don’t know what to do about them. The mothers are often working, instead of being at home caring for the needs of their children. The fathers are often uninvolved to the extent that they don’t even contribute money.

Oh, dear: these young girls! Surely they know how to stop babies coming, even if they don’t seem to know how to stop their boyfriends. It’s their own fault if they end up with four kids by four different men. Let them sort out their own mess.

But it’s not just their mess, is it? It’s the entire community’s mess. It’s our homes the out-of-control kids are burgling, and it’s we whom the kids are looking to rob, and it’s our kids whom those other kids are trying to get addicted to illegal drugs. So: if it’s our mess too, what are we doing about it? Not a lot, as far as I can tell. We (as a community) pay one of our bloated Civil Service empires to ensure they don’t starve, but that’s about it. There is only a token effort to make fathers pay for the maintenance of their children. The rest of the time we all sit around and kiss our teeth whenever somebody mentions how silly it is for young girls to get pregnant.

But why do we take it out on the children themselves? Surely they deserve better from us than that.

* Don't Think Twice, It's All Right Bob Dylan, 1962
**It Ain't Me, Babe  Bob Dylan, 1964

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Tourism Idea for the Brac (Cayman tourism)

It’s always puzzled me why so many people on the Brac want the place to become like Grand Cayman. “More hotels!” “More jet planes!” “A dock for cruise ships!” Maybe Brackers aren’t as laid-back as they pretend. Maybe they dream of getting among the big tourism dollars like GCM.

While Manager of the Chamber of Commerce I was once thrown out of the Director of Tourism’s office for suggesting that the Brac should aim to attract budget travellers by opening the Island to a Youth Hostel and camping ground. The reaction was hostile. Why should Brackers aim for anything less than Grand Cayman was achieving? Hmm... how has that strategy worked for them, these past 24 years?

The International Youth Hostel Association is still going strong, although overtaken now by generic backpackers’ hostels. In my travelling days, official IYHA hostels were spread over most of the world. In Europe only USSR, East Germany and Albania didn’t have any; Poland had hundreds. Some were fairly grand, some very simple; some were attached to fancy hotels. All were cheap.

I recall paying a pittance at one basic-but-comfortable place beside a lazy river in a small town in France. The hostel’s warden was also the town’s mayor; he admitted the town lost on the venture. “It’s a long-term investment”, he explained. “Of course we lose money on you. But when you’re older and in a good job, you might remember us kindly and want to come back with your family. Then, we’ll make a profit.” “I might not come back,” I said. “Maybe not, but most of you will.” He was full of confidence.

That’s what I had in mind for the Brac- a long-term investment in the form of a cheap hostel and camping ground, listed in every budget-travel book in the world, in forty languages. It was a big mistake for our Tourism man to rubbish the idea. Young backpackers in 1986 would be around fifty today- ready to come back with their families and rich enough to spend real money.

There are plenty of places where the idea has worked. In 1973 there were a hundred of us staying beside Kuta Beach in Bali, paying a dollar or two a night for simple rooms. Despite its fame as a hippy hangout, Kuta wasn’t much of a beach. Unless they’ve brought some clean white sand in since, it still isn’t. But now, there are 114 hotels listed, priced up to $200. The local tourism people knew what they were doing, back in 1973, and weren’t too proud or greedy.

As soon as we got back from Kuta to our home on an island near Fiji, Linda and I turned our backyard maids’ quarters into a simple, informal (and slightly illegal) hostel. We charged a buck a night (about $10 in today’s money) for a bed, toilet, cold water shower and basin, and no cooking facilities. The word spread gradually on the travellers’ grapevine. Hey, it was worth flying into Vila after all; there was a place that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Before, Vila was not on the backpackers’ list of places to go.

Embarrassingly, the situation was getting out of hand by the time we left. One night we had two in the tiny room, six in tents, and three in our house. That’s when we got rumbled for doing business without a licence. “Come on! A buck a night is a hobby, not a business!” Well, okay. So ruled. Case dismissed!

Would the concept work on the Brac? I don’t see why not. It’s not as though anybody has a better plan.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Not Enough Cake (Cayman politics)

It’s amazing how often Caymanians have to be reminded that we are a British colony. The CNS website is packed with protests against Britain’s insistence on a balanced government budget. “Imperialism!” “Slavery!” “Exploitation!”

In fact, our colonial status is secured by a contract freely entered into by our Caymanian legislators. All the terms are clear and out in the open. There are no hidden protocols. What you see is what you get. Britain is in charge of Cayman’s finances- and indeed everything else. It delegates some areas of responsibility to the local MLAs, but all legislation still has to be approved by our Governor before it comes into force. He is not the token figurehead some Caymanians think he is. Sure, he must do what he’s told by the FCO; our MLAs have no authority over him.

This reality is apparent in the current squabble over our government’s 2011 Budget. The FCO is withholding its consent until it sees evidence that government’s core operating expenditure will be less than its core operating income. For years, the British government has privately warned successive Cayman Islands Cabinets against over-spending. The warnings had no effect. It was like telling little boys that eating too much cake will make them sick. Well, our little boys did eat too much cake, and now they’re sick. At least, they’re sick with anger because Mummy has taken the cake away.

Most communities of our size in the world are constitutionally required to balance their budgets. There’s nothing unique about Cayman in that regard. Our figures are a bit bigger than the typical small community, but we’re not unique in that, either. There are plenty of communities of 50,000 people in the UK and US that are as rich as we are, per capita. Unfortunately, we combine high Public Revenue and Expenditure with a high level of governmental incompetence. Like the little boys and the cake, our MLAs’ eyes were bigger than their stomachs.

Now they must choose between higher revenue and lower expenses. Reducing expenses is the sensible choice, if they could but see it. (Let them eat less cake!) Our little boys have over-spent their allowances, and now Mummy is telling them to stop spending. Sigh. That’s what Mummies are there for, though, isn’t it? Raising their allowances would simply encourage them to buy more cake! Which they would eat! And get even sicker! And – ugh – I’m not sure where I’m going with this...

Unfortunately, our little-boy MLAs have never learnt to discipline themselves. They are self-centred and self-indulgent. It’s partly Mummy’s fault. She should have taken the damn cake away long before now. During the past forty or fifty years our local rulers have never had to pull in their horns. The money has kept pouring in as fast as they were able to spend it. They had to burn the midnight oil thinking up new and sillier ways to spend it. God forbid that they should save for a rainy day. The forecast was always bright. We are God’s people. He will never let us down; he will always make sure we have enough cake. Right, God? God? Are you there?

The temptation to build extravagant vanity projects (PPM), the excitement of unlimited First-Class travel (UDP) – “self-indulgence” scarcely does justice to the folly. We have a Premier- oh, my! Brighton Town Council has a Cabinet these days, so it probably has a Premier as well. Titles are depreciating as fast as currencies and college degrees. Generalissimo, that’s what we should write into our next Constitution.

You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Cry, is my advice.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Tribal Instinct (grandchildren)

Our two grand-daughters (aged ten and seven) are coming to visit in July for three weeks. It will be bliss for us. They’re lovely girls, and a joy to have around. Even if they were horrible kids, I’d put up with them just to have my son here; but they’re not horrible at all. I adore them, and would without hesitation die for them, if I had to.

It is surely some kind of genetic instinct, to love one’s grandchildren- a simple extension of the instinct that makes us protect our own children. Except that in my family’s case, the older girl was inherited. She carries none of my genes, or my son’s. My genetic instinct really should not allow me to love and protect and cherish her as much as her younger sister. Yet it does, and I do. Assuming I’m not deluding myself about that, my loyalty to the older one must not be genetic at all, but tribal.

It’s a fascinating distinction. Biologists in general believe that every individual gene is purpose-driven to keep its bloodlines alive. That drive first manifests itself in reproduction, and then in protecting the offspring. Those offspring protect their own interests to the extent they can. And so on down the generations.

But man is a social animal, with a tendency to suppress some of his own personal interests in favour of the interests of his society - his “tribe”. People who don’t do that are called sociopaths. Their loyalty is to their genes first and last, not to their societies. They are reckoned to be “not normal”, to be so obsessively self-concerned. The rest of us are “normal”.

Broadly speaking, it’s a huge ask, isn’t it, for human nature to require that we put society above our genetic instincts and above our families. Men do it almost without thinking. Despite the urgency with which they seek and grasp opportunities to spread their genetic seeds*, only the most wimpish of men will favour his children over his community. Perhaps the urgency and disloyalty are two sides of the same coin. If a man spreads enough seeds, he doesn’t need to worry about their survival.

Biology has mapped a contrary course for women. Mothers’ bonds with their offspring are longer in the binding, and their loyalty is much stronger than fathers’. Paradoxically, it is their genetic loyalty that drives women (in male-dominated societies - i.e. all societies) to permit their sons to conform to male social expectations, at whatever cost to the sons’ physical well-being or moral standards.

We see this clearest in times of conflict between rival societies. Mothers don’t like to wave their sons off to participate in wars of aggression, but they do it all the same. Not to do it would bring shame on those sons, and that would never do. Tribal instincts beat out genetic instincts every time.

In one of our family photo-albums we have a snapshot of our son (then aged seven) winning a sack race at a Prep School Sports Day. In the background is a girl cheering him on and obviously thrilled with his win. “Somebody was glad for you”, I said. “Who is she?” “I don’t know”, he shrugged; “somebody in my House.” Our tribal values begin with School Houses. Siblings assigned to rival Houses learn to value their fellows above family ties. It’s a practice run for the national and religious loyalties demanded in later life.

We accept adopted children into our families in the same way and for the same reason that most societies accept outsiders assigned to them either by their tribal rulers or by circumstances. Most societies...

* As a general statement, women need a reason to make love; men just need a place.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Osama bin Laden

The same day as the events in Pakistan, the Irish SAS carried out a raid on Debenhams Department Store in Dublin. Irish intelligence had reported that Summer Bed Linen was on the Third Floor.

Besides all the corny jokes, there is one good thing to have come out of the US Navy Seals’ assassination of an old man in his home in front of his 12-year-old daughter. That is, the American authorities have established their right to execute anybody at any time in any place, without trial. Well, it’s a good thing if you’re a US patriot who believes that the rule of law doesn’t apply to The Empire. Not if you’re not, perhaps.

Considering the number of professional torturers in the US Armed Forces and associated Agencies, it seems thoughtless of the Seals to have killed him immediately. Presumably the victim’s wives and children will be introduced to the joys of water-boarding and anal rape (and why not?), but surely it would have been just as much fun to do it to the old man. God help Osama’s former cooks, barbers and valets scattered throughout the American gulag. From Guantanamo to Bagram, the screams will thrill an entire generation of CIA thugs. What tales they will have for their kiddies at bed-time.

A man walks into a bar and asks for an Osama bin Laden. The barman asks, “What’s in it?” The man says “Two shots and a splash of water.”

Whoever was in charge of the Seals’ operation should have thought twice before imposing the cover-up, though. Didn’t they learn anything from the JFK fiasco? The thing that makes the official version of that incident so dodgy is the assassination of Oswald. Almost fifty years later, most people in the world believe that Oswald was a patsy, and that the government lied. If they had kept him alive, they could have tortured him and his wife and his mother and the fifty nearest crippled orphans until he confessed. Or until one of them confessed. If you snuff the man you identify as the criminal, you can never close the credibility gap. As one blogger put it, Barack Obama is our Jack Ruby.

Killing the man advertised as being the master-mind of 9/11 means that the official version will always have its doubters. Sure, they shot somebody, but who was it?

There’s a photograph doing the rounds showing a boundless sea with a black sandal floating on top. The subject-line reads “Proof of Bin Laden’s death.”

The same people who are assuring us that it was bin Laden that they assassinated once told us that Iraq had WMDs. A million dead Iraqis later and four million townsfolk living in tents in the desert- still no sign of WMDs. They also told us that the tightest national defence system the world has ever seen was bamboozled by nineteen barefoot boys with box-cutters, without inside help or connivance. And, that WTC Building #7 crumbled to dust in its own footprint under the weight of odd bits of debris from the Twin Towers. It might have been worth pulling a few fingernails to discover how Osama’s goat-herders managed that engineering miracle.

The scary thing is that they (“They”) don’t seem to care whether we believe them or not. I am not being anti-American here, by the way, just anti-thug. Oh, and anti-psychopath, I guess.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Politics in Education (in Cayman)

It’s disappointing what low priority our MLAs grant to educating Cayman’s children. It should be at the top of the list, but it’s not. Political control of the private-sector workforce has always been their top priority. Cayman Governments’ labour policy ever since the 1973 Protection Law has been to keep wages low for unskilled workers. That goal was inherited from the merchant-politicians of old, and has never been abandoned.

The goal is achieved by means of the indentured-labour system, which the British Colonial Office first introduced into the Caribbean sugar-plantations to replace slavery in the 1830s. It was discontinued eighty years later on humanitarian grounds, on the initiative of the Government of India. Yet today unskilled migrant workers are assigned to Caymanian employers who are permitted to set wages and conditions with no guidance beyond their own consciences. The only government monitors are the ruthlessly pro-employer Immigration bureaucracy and crony-Boards.

By the natural law of economics, low wages for unskilled foreigners result in low wages for unskilled Caymanians. It is no accident that so many true-born ethnic-Caymanian workers are frustrated with their lot in life. The state schooling system was never designed to educate them beyond a token level. The standard of the system’s graduates is so poor that without the birthright-entitlement written into the Immigration Law, many of them might never be employed- at least in the offshore sector.

Why do Caymanian MLAs allow this situation to continue, year after year? Don’t they care? Apparently not. Politicians, everywhere, work hardest at minimising the risk of being kicked out at the next general election. For ours, it’s much easier to play the birthright-entitlement card every few years than to even try to change the state’s schooling. The voters must be free to hire domestic servants on the cheap; and if that means low wages for unskilled Caymanians too - well, too bad.

Like politicians everywhere, ours enjoy the power. Who wouldn’t? Cayman is only a small society, but it is awash with money; and power attracts money. Controlling the entire private-sector workforce is an exciting objective and an intoxicating achievement. Nothing could give quite the same rush.

Then there are the portfolios. Being Chairman of the Board of an airline, or a seaport, or a tourism agency, a community health-service, a road-building program, a waste-management conglomerate - all those jobs are a thrill for people who are actually qualified to do them. Imagine their effect on excitable small-town politicians who owe their appointments to a mere thousand or so voters. Man! You talk about a rush?

Chairman of the Board of Directors of a school is a responsible position. Learning all the ins and outs is a challenge to even clever individuals. Being in charge of an entire community’s schooling system and strategy is so far beyond the competence of our Ministers of Education, it’s no wonder they freeze at the thought of changing it. Easier to throw money into vanity projects, and leave reforms for some other sucker.

Recent postings on the CNS website have expressed a lack of confidence in the MLAs of both political parties. Some have gone so far as to suggest that long-term immigrants could do a better job in some areas of governance. The Education Portfolio might be a good place to start.