Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hurricane Sam was worse

"January 4: The Us secretary of State, Henry Kissinger , left Jamaica , unsuccessful in his mission to dissuade Manley from supporting the presence of Cuban troops in Angola. Despite this failure, he assured Manley that there was no CIA interference in Jamaica, but did not add that the CIA station in Kingston had just been strengthened by the arrival of a new chief, Norman Descoteaux, a man with recent field experience in Argentina and Ecuador where it was thought other destabilisation campaigns had previously taken place. "

I wasn't going to post today. But as I sit here in the comfort of my Northeast Philly home, one eye on my phone, and the other on CNN, I am scared for my country, my family, and my friends that are down in Jamaica. Hurricane Dean is making a bee line for the country I love like no other. It is intent on a path of destruction and mayhem. I am not a praying person, but for those of you who are;please do what you do and send up a request to whatever god you happen to believe in.

I was also thinking about something my man Chris-that increasingly angry black man, and Princeton grad-said in the comments section of my last post. Chris waxed poetic about the poverty and lawlessness which is at times prevalent in the island, and the politicians there who far too often line their own pockets at the expense of the masses. I am here to tell you that some of what Chris said is actually true. I am sitting here lamenting over 260 murders in Philly, a city of 1.5 million people, when I know damn good and well, that just recently, the murder count in Jamaica topped 1,000. And Jamaica is a country of about 3 million people. And I am, also aware of the gap between the have and have nots in Jamaica, which clearly makes it a Third World country.

But I have to respectfully disagree with Chris about all the real causes for Jamaica's problems, because I think that I am in a unique position to address it. In the mid seventies, I was a youngster growing up in Jamaica. I lived through the brain drain and the flight of the islands wealthy, and powerful financial class. Honestly, my family could have left too, but we didn't. Primarily because of my father's commitment to his work, and his love for his island home. But I saw it first hand. The destabilization, the CIA supplying guns and ammo to the gangs of the opposition Jamaica Labor Party, and the IMF's cruel, impractical, and unrealistic demands on the Jamaican banks and its government.

"But field why would the U.S. care about destabilizing the Jamaican government and bringing it to its knees? Isn't Jamaica just a happy go lucky tourist destination where we go to hear some reggae music, and if you are so inclined smoke a little ganja every now and then?" Good question, but the answer is a rather simple one. Ideology. You see, the leader of Jamaica at the time, was a man by the name of Michael Manley. A man, who contrary to what Chris alleged about the typical Jamaican politician, actually cared about his people, and their plight. Michael Manley was; gasp, a Socialist! He believed that the islands wealthy class should pay more taxes, and things like literacy training, and proper health care should be made more affordable to all Jamaicans. He believed that Jamaica should work closely with our neighbors to the North, the Cubans. He believed that Fidel Castro and the Cubans, actually had some good ideas that the Jamaican government should adopt. He cross trained Jamaican dentist and doctors in Cuba. (free of charge thanks to the Cuban government) With the help of the Cuban government micro dams were built, agricultural schools were started, and many of Jamaica's poor actually started to see their lives improve. But alas, America could not have that; nope, not another Socialist country so close to our shores. Michael Manley had to be stopped. So what did Washington do? Well, not only did they, along with the other G7 countries and the IMF, put some draconian policies in place to control the Jamaican governments spending, but they unleashed the CIA and its agents like Phillip Agee on the Jamaican political scene, and they wreaked their havoc from a street level. What followed were political gang wars and fighting of unprecedented proportions. Chris, I know of what I speak, I lived through it. Honestly, it's what shapes my views of politics to this day. The term politics is a "blood sport" takes on a literal meaning for me.

"In Washington they just looked at us and said, 'No, no, no. Your inflation last year was 18% and we are not allowing you to lend to your farmers at 12%. You must charge 23%.'" That's what Michael Manley said at the height of his frustrations with Washington. His hands were tied, and Washington wanted it that way.

So as another hurricane goes barrelling towards Jamaica to do unprecedented damage, let's not forget another metaphorical Hurricane that hit my Island home about thirty years ago. With all due respect to the National Hurricane Service, I will call it Hurricane Sam, as in Uncle Sam. We still haven't recovered from that one, and it's effects will be felt long after the clean up from Dean is over.

Thank you Mr. Kissinger.


Woozie said...

Jamaica is just one of far too many instances where the U.S. destabilized governments that dared to be even a little left of fascism, and god forbid they socialists or communists. It's a shame to see that same "you're with us or you're against us" ideology carried over into the 21st century, which tells me we're in for the same old Hurricane Sam crap again.

Woozie said...

*they were

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...


I am praying for your family in Jamaica as I type this.

Only those in the know can talk about issues like this.

And for a war criminal like Henry Kissinger to advise a country on anything is just like a field negro taking advice from a house negro. Everytime I see Kissinger, I wonder how a foreign-born individual wind up in the highest U.S. government position in the land, advising on foreign policy, when he gave his adopted country Vietnam, and now the Iraq invasion.

Then again, this is the same America that tried to amend the Constitution so people like Kissinger and Arnold Schwarzneggar can become President...

Caged Lion said...

Thanks for the history of your homeland. I the damage of the current hurricane is zero or not great.

Anonymous said...

I am praying for mines back home as well. I called last night and peeps seemed reasonably prepared, but I remain very uneasy.

Hurricane Sam is apt. Any ideas on how to get out from under?

Blinders Off said...

I learn something every time I come to your site; I am praying Hurricane Dean spare your homeland major devastation.

field negro said...

Thanks for all your concerns and love. I swear I can't get any solid info from the news reports ( I have three different channels on at once) One minute I feel better because it looks like the eye took a quick turn South, the next minute, I am worried again because they are saying there are TWO eyes, and the storm actually has storm force winds spread out over
200 miles. Geeez!

I tried calling Ja. and as is to be expected, I keep getting that "all circuits are busy mesge. Same with e-mails and faxes. I am e-mailing and faxing people, but no response.

Charles, I am not sure hoe we can get out under at this point. I wish I had some answers. We are so far in debt to the IMF,and there is so much competition from other islands for the tourism dollar that we really have to get innovative with ways to promiote and bring foreign capital into the island.

Then there is the crime problem due to high unemployment, a lack of proper education, and the proliferation of guns and drugs. (Thank you Mr. Kissinger)

So Charles, like all other Third World countries, Jamaica has some issues, but there is so much potential there, that I am actually optimistic for the future.

Ross said...

Long live the great Manley, Garvey, Marley, Maurice Bishop, and all of the courageous brothers and sisters who stood up and continue to stand up to US imperialism. Good luck to the people of Jamaica!

rikyrah said...

I will say a prayer for your family, FN.

As for Kissinger, I would be afraid if my mother ever met him. He's one of the few people that I think my ever polite mother would spit in his face. She DESPISES HIM, and whenever he comes on screen, all she'll say is - ' His ass belongs in jail.'

My mother doesn't curse.

Good thoughts and wishes of safety for your family, FN.

Anonymous said...

See Philp's post on hurricane aid to Jamaica, it's important. Kissinger, I know, it's all true, but bad hurricanes are also awful in themselves.

SouthernGirl2 said...


I'm praying all is well with your family in Jamaica!

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Offering prayers for your folks and the rest of Jamaica. May the storm miss the island and blow itself out at sea.

Your recollections of growing up there are eye-opening.

field negro said...

Thanks everyone! The storm has pretty muched passed, and there has been no casualties-that I know of-as yet.

The eye took a quick dip to the South as it passed the Island, so it could have been much worse.

You praying people came through big time :)

Christopher Chambers said...

All true. The tragedy is that everything I said is true as well. How could that be? That is the paradox of people of color in this imperialist world. In Africa, the Eurpoean powers raped and ravished. Then the black folks themselves raped and ravaged and continue to this day. In Jamaica, Mr. Manley labored to make a better life for his people. But the implicit subtext was every man a king, and that's just not realistic on an island in the Caribbean unless you are going to go ALL the way like Castro. No way the US was going to go for that, and whether you are henry Kissinger or Barack Obama, that's not an option. That's reality. That's our policy. So then what are you left with? A socialist state. Inherently evil? No--not if you know what you're doing. Now, the truly evil Kissingerism will charge back but let's hold off on that for a sec. On an island you cannot declare every man a king unless every man is invested in the economy, the polity, the culture AND you have some semblence of aspiration for middle class capitalism. I know I know--sound crazy, but either you commit to become a place like Singapore or even the Cayman Islands or you commit to become a Third World place of misery. You can do the former and have a Swedish styled welfare state because the resources are in place to help pay for it.

Long long story short that didn't happen in Jamaica. Show me a great man and I can flip it and show you a complex person with a lot of flaws and that was Manley. Then everyone was told they could be a king and damn capitalism but Lord have mercy did they all want to be kings and want the trapping of wealth by hook or by crook and very soon you had a welfare, soon come, do it fe me one, lazy, graft, robbery ethic. Of course the overlay is the oppression of the US, almost ensuring poverty on some level.

But yet again, poverty doesn't excuse nihilism and murder. Quite frankly, the best thing that could happen to Jamaica is a benign military coup, then Gestapo tactics in the gangs, then formation of a new civilian government that will provide infrastructure for the people and hell yes tha means telling the IMF we're committed to doing what's necessary, keeping the tourism industry strong (ever wonder why Jamaica's the all-inclusive capital? Because they dont want you wandering off the compound! That--and good advertising with the white folks). Then there MUST be a cultural change, just like here. First--invite all ex-pats and emigrants, all folks who left from 1945 or earlier to NOW to come back and lend us your skills. Buil a new island. Second--the people there, Jesus--no more "you owe me"/do it for me, sah. No more out of wedlock kids up in the country. No more murder and drug dealing.

Phew. It's tough. But the current state of affairs is eating the place alive. Damn Uncle Sam? Sure. But in Uncle Sam and the Brits and the rest of the caribbean there exists the resources to rebuild and re-direct. Hey author Colin Channer, a pal of mine, wrote a series of short stories imagining Jamaica if it had taken the uber tourism plus Singapore route. A tiny hi tech paradise in the blue water and orange sun. Some the same problems and bitterness persisted, but even in the fiction the point was that a spirit could be harnessed. I think Manley understood that. He was one of maybe a handful of leaders who did. His problem was he just took the kick off, ran the wrong way and spiked the ball in the wrong endzone...

Christopher Chambers said...

P.S. Yes the eye passed south and the reprieve was monumental.

I hope it doesn't spark the other extreme: "well we prayed and God answered, so we don't have to get our earthly sh*t together. All we need do is pray."

Lisa said...

Loathe as I am, as a child of St Lucian parents (who immigrated to Canada and then Boston) to admit it, but angry Mr. Chambers has some points. I do not think he's being right wing about this. I think he's saying that there is a duality and one side of this equation are things West Indians could've controlled? Otherwise what constitutes a reason for the talent drain? My father is a teacher and my mother is a retired nurse. They had absolutely no intention of staying back home. They are vehement about it even now, and do indeed label some people, even relatives, as lazy and even criminal. Yet they are fervently progressive citizens of the States. I really cannot say that is a paradox so I see Mr. Chambers' point. Nevetheless, I also understand very well what FN is saying, and I'm sure even my parents would.

More on Michael Vick?

Anne Rettenberg LCSW said...

Very interesting post; I didn't know that much about Jamaican history.

I did meet Michael Manley once in the 1980s...I liked him, but he did come across very much as a politician.

MartiniCocoa said...

please let us know if your family and friends are okay.

thank you for the history lesson on Jamaica and Michael Manley.
how i wish everyone could know this stuff.

field negro said...

thanks i am not star....Yes, every one is fine. Lots of property damage; but at least they are all alive.

Thanks again for asking!

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