From the way we carried on, you’d have thought it was Tessanne Chin inside the blue-and-white Boeing. President Obama’s two-day visit in April, for him an expediency, was for us a brush with divinity. Reflecting the mood, this newspaper became a cover-to-cover paean to the quiet American, with rhapsodies from correspondents and columnists, academics and ambassadors. Devon Dick wanted us to rename a highway. The state-run JIS released a YouTube video titled ‘Barack on the Rock’, as if we were hosting the lead vocalist from a boy band instead of a man with nuclear launch codes.
In a perfect world, it would have been his swan song. Two home games against archrival Australia, echoing the India tour only eighteen months earlier, in which he and the sporting world said goodbye to Sachin Tendulkar. On recent evenings, he might have recalled the electric joy and sadness that filled Wankhede Stadium, and allowed himself a similar daydream — the cameras, the press, the handshakes, the interviews, the guard of honour led by Michael Clarke, and above all the cheering, jeering, gyrating crowd in Sabina Park, all gathered to witness his final walk from pavilion to pitch.
On Thursday, some lucky Jamaican won the biggest Lotto jackpot ever — US$3.4 million. Someone else clinched the US$1 million Super Lotto last week. Huzzah — if they’re good with money, these two nouveau riche can buy their dream houses, his-and-hers German cars, extended vacations at Couples, set aside American-college tuition for all their children, and still have a tidy sum for the retirement fund. Sadly, that fiscally-responsible utopia is unlikely to emerge, because when they had far less, the winners were already wasting money on lottery tickets.
If we didn’t lie to ourselves, life would be unbearable. An honest appraisal of our bellies, billets and bank accounts would lead most of us to depression, so we enchant ourselves with comfortable falsehoods. We say that inner beauty is what matters, despite studies showing that attractive people are more successful. We insist that someday we’ll make it big, even though income inequality in Jamaica is worse than in Haiti. And we continue to believe that we live in a democracy, in the face of dispiriting evidence to the contrary.
Once, no rain fell for a very long time, and Anansi couldn’t find anything for himself or his children to eat. There was a place not too far away with a thousand banana trees, but Anansi was afraid to go. Bredda Rat went there two weeks ago to get food and never came back. Bredda Mongoose went there last week to get food and never came back. But now his children were too hungry, and Anansi decided to take a chance and go.
“The question of the purpose of human life has been raised countless times; it has never yet received a satisfactory answer and perhaps does not admit of one.”
— Sigmund Freud
In the film ‘The Invention of Lying’, an old woman lies in a hospital bed, terrified and clinging to life. Her son, seeing her fear, whispers through his tears, “Mum, you’re wrong about what happens when you die. It’s not an eternity of nothingness. You go to your favourite place in the whole world, and anyone you’ve ever loved and who’s ever loved you will be there, and you’ll be young again. There’s no pain. Just love and happiness. Say hello to Dad for me. Tell him I love him.” And, with a smile on her wrinkled face, the old woman passes.
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
— Coco Chanel
Imagine an algorithm — let’s call it Voxbot — that scours the web, scooping up editorials, interviews, blogs, posts and tweets. Voxbot figures out what people are talking about, and when it finds a cluster of similar opinions, it generates content with the same slant. So it might plant a pro-abortion piece in the New York Times, for example. It’s a kind of barometer of prevailing windbags.
“Usually what people don’t understand they try to destroy.”
— Damien Eckols, one of the West Memphis Three, at age 18
High-fives all around. Thanks to our dogged persistence, homophobia is now a part of our global brand, a little smear of hate across smiling images of Tessanne, Shelly-Ann, Laurie-Ann and the gang. While America and Europe move with haste towards equality, we’ve cemented Jamaica on the list of places with terrible human rights records — countries like Egypt, Uganda and Ghana. According to a recent study by Pew Research, this split is no accident — richer, developed nations are generally more tolerant of gays. In addition to poverty and geography, they found one other attribute to be a ‘strong’ predictor of prejudice — religion.
Not so long ago, a group of concerned clergy published ‘A Call for Unity’, an open letter urging their communities to obey existing Jim Crow laws. Fortunately, the letter was smuggled into a Birmingham jail cell, where Dr Martin Luther King penned his famous response, since translated into 40 languages and transmitted around the world.
We’ve all seen a rat in a glue trap. An awesome and gruesome sight, watching a living creature struggle against the inevitability of death. At first, it is certain of its escape, and tries to rip itself loose. But that only entangles it further in the lethal paste. Now the fear comes. It sets to work gnawing away at anything it can reach — the glue, the plastic, its own limbs — desperate for freedom. Then panic washes in, palpable and recognizable. Using its last reserves of strength, it thrashes about — violently, recklessly, and in vain. It is now hopelessly trapped, stuck in the tiny spotlight of its tiny stage until the final curtain falls. And so it stops. Its last moments are that of pathetic, paralysed terror, silent and still, unable to move, barely able to breathe, slowly succumbing to its exertions and exhaustion.