Dogged determination and admitting failure

Sunday, August 12, 2018

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You must act as if it is impossible to fail. — Ashanti proverb

One of my readers who lives in Canada — she left Jamaica some 23 years ago — took me to task last Sunday for my now familiar close: “Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!” Her e-mail outlined a litany of negative business and personal experiences that she said forced her to leave Jamaica. She ended her missive,“Don't bet on Jamaica, you hear me.”

I hold out great hope for this country. The lead story of this newspaper last Wednesday further solidified one of my major reasons — the super resilience of our people. Fire destroyed the Ray Ray Market in downtown Kingston in the early hours of last Tuesday.

This was the fifth time in recent years that the market was being razed. This was the emphasis of one media house. I had no challenge with that.

Another media outlet hinted that the fire may have been deliberately set. I readily understood why.

And a third media entity stressed that millions had been spent on basic clean-up and related operations after each fire. Just over two million dollars was spent on clean-up efforts after last November's fire. This was quite in order.

I believe, however, that this newspaper's razor-sharp focus on the indomitable spirit of Tamara Coley was just superb. I am not attempting, here, to curry favour. Trying to curry favour is not one of my foibles.

The decision of this newspaper, to 'big up' [showcase/highlight] the invincible determination of Coley a, Ray Ray Market entrepreneur — yes, she is an entrepreneur — was just heart-warming.

Unfortunately, 180 years, after Emancipation, there are still some among us who feel that certain words which have been assigned particular positive connotative value are reserved for a minority, irrespective of honest investments of blood, sweat and tears by a majority. I don't join that crew. That and related matters are for another piece, however.

The lead story in this newspaper, last Wednesday, should have pricked more than a pimple in our collective consciousness. I hope it reminded all of us that the human spirit is unconquerable. These, our fellow citizens, have lost most, if not all their worldly belongings, their livelihood. An estimated 145 stalls, containers, and shops, along with the contents, were completely destroyed. To begin to imagine the ballpark economic impact you can multiply 145 by four.

Coley says she is: “Not giving in.” The tear-jerking piece by Jamaica Observer Staff Reporter Racquel Porter said, among other things: “Tamara Coley repeatedly sang the lyrics of reggae artiste Chronixx's hit single Ain't No Giving In as she skilfully parked a handcart she had used to transport her barrels of goods from the neighbouring Redemption Market that was gutted by fire last June.

“The mother of two, who was initially reluctant to speak with the Observer, said she was on a mission to obtain US$2,500 to pay her daughter's university tuition.

“ 'Uniform pants and shirt! If I don't have it, I can source it!' Coley shouted as she unpacked the seven barrels. 'Come, mi have school blouse with skirt! Mi nah give up and I ain't giving in!'

“Coley, who said she was at home when she received word of the fire minutes after 4:00 am, told the Observer that despite the tragedy, the tuition for her 18-year-old daughter, a second-year tourism management student at The University of the West Indies, had to be paid.

“ 'Mi just waan sell something. Uniform pants and blouse!' she shouted has she held her younger daughter with one hand while using the other to take school uniforms from the barrels, hanging them to a makeshift stall across from the burnt-out market.” ( Observer, August 8, 2018)

Coley and her colleagues deserve our respect and help. Tangible assistance from the Government and the private sector is needed and fast.

The dogged determination of Coley reminds me of the extract by Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, which all students who attended the Mico Teachers' College had to learn, at least that was the case when I attended: “The longer I live, the more I am certain that the great difference between men — between the feeble and the powerful, the great and the insignificant — is energy, invincible determination, a purpose once fixed, and then death or victory! That quality will do anything that can be done in this world, and no talents, no circumstances, no opportunities, will make a two-legged creature a man without it.”

The blood of national heroes Nanny of the Maroons, Marcus Garvey, Paul Bogle, and Samuel Sharpe is running through the veins of Coley: “ 'Mi nah give up, ennuh. Something have to sell today, today. If mi go home go sit down with my hand at my jaw and start cry, mi nah go sell nothing, 'cause this is my source. So if mi go home right now nuh problem nah solve. And if mi sit down here so with my hand on my jaw mi only get depress and end up at hospital, and then dem give you my baby,' she said.

“Coley explained that she was at church four weeks ago testifying about last year's fire in which she lost two of her three barrels of goods.

“ 'Just as I was getting back on my feet, here burn down last November, so I was just telling them that my daughter had just started UWI, US$2,500 is the school fee, and mi nuh know weh it come from but God,' she said. 'Mi nah give up now; a six years mi deh a church now and mi rooted and grounded.' “ ( Jamaica Observer, August 8, 2018)

I believe the Ray Ray Market needs to be rebuilt quickly, but bigger and better. Security and a sensible insurance scheme must also be given priority. The few fringe elements among us who seek to kill the dreams of others cannot be allowed to achieve the upper hand in any department. The vast majority of folks in this country are hard-working, honest and decent. The miscreants are not the majority. More of us need to recognise that, “Ye are many; they are few.” — Percy Bysshe Shelley, English poet

Maduro admits failure

I came across a most interesting article in Forbes magazine last week, titled 'Socialist Venezuela falling apart as President Maduro shockingly blames party', written by contributor Kenneth Rapoza. It said, among other things: “News flash! Socialism in poor, closed-door economies is a failure. So says Nicolas Maduro, who happens to be the president of one: the biggest failed state in the Americas, poor ol' Venezuela.

“In a surprising twist on Monday, Maduro went against the Socialists United (PSUV) playbook of blaming Washington (especially the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA) for Venezuela's troubles.

“ 'The production models we've tried so far have failed, and the responsibility is ours — mine and yours,' Maduro told the PSUV party congress.

“Venezuela's economy is a disaster. The country faces a massive brain drain, with middle-class people leaving in droves to Madrid and Miami. Lower-income Venezuelans are trekking across borders into Colombia and Brazil.

“Inflation is off the charts, up thousands of percentage points over the last few years, and up hundreds of per cent this year alone. The currency is useless. Some towns have taken to bartering.

“Venezuelan GDP [gross domestic product] will contract by more than 10 per cent again this year. For this oil-rich country, once the richest in South America, the reactionary socialist policies enacted under decades of PSUV rule have been completely ruinous. The fact that Maduro finally admits it is telling, and no small feat on his behalf. Maduro should be commended for it. ( Forbes magazine, August 4, 2018)

Where have we heard similar admissions of the failures of socialism before? Recall democratic socialism was declared dead by its premier, local lieutenant Michael Manley at a National Executive Council meeting at The University of the West Indies in the 1990s. Manley also publicly rejected democratic socialism in Washington, DC. This was after he became prime minister for the third time — 1989.

According to Forbes, “In a rare moment of honesty, Maduro blames himself and his party for the country's crisis.”

But, where did Maduro make these revealing admissions on the failure of socialism in Venezuela? Maduro made the comments at a “left-wing Latin America Forum of So Paulo held in Havana on July 17, 2018”. ( Forbes magazine, August 4, 2018)

The People's National Party (PNP) had three representatives at the forum: Dr Peter Phillips, president of the PNP; Julian Robinson, general secretary of the party; and Lisa Hanna, the party's spokesperson on foreign affairs and foreign trade. So how come, they did not broadcast such important news on their return to Jamaica? I wonder if it is because of egg on their faces.

Recall that despite the incontrovertible evidence that the national election in Venezuela on May 20, 2018 was anything but free or fair and/or free from fear, Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition Dr Peter Phillips and the PNP came out in support of Maduro. A release from Norman Manley's party on May 28, 2018 said, among other things: “The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) has extended congratulations to Nicolas Maduro on his re-election as president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela at the national polls on May 20.

“ 'Please accept my personal congratulations and those of the People's National Party on the occasion of your re-election,' PNP President Dr Peter Phillips wrote in a letter, which the party said was delivered to the Venezuelan Embassy on May 22.” ( Jamaica Observer, May 28, 2018)

By any credible system of measurement the Venezuelan economy is in a sorry state. The Guardian newspaper, in England, among other things reported on August 5, 2018: “The International Monetary Fund predicts inflation will reach one million per cent by the end of the year, and shortages in basic goods and medicines are widespread.”

In a previous article I presented wide-ranging data from The Economist on the deadly impact that hyper-inflation is having on ordinary Venezuelans. The British Broadcasting Corporation says 5,000 Venezuelans are fleeing each day. Countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and others are having varying challenges [from emerging to serious] with refugees from the Bolivarian Republic.

According to Forbes of August 4, 2018: “Power blackouts are a daily occurrence in parts of Venezuela today, despite PSUV's redistributionist policies designed to help the poor. Help them with what, exactly? Surely not help them keep the lights on, or pay for medicine, or [buy] food, or a ride on the bus to work.

Running water is scarce in some towns. ATMs are empty in some towns, too. Public transportation in smaller cities outside of the government hub of Caracas is unreliable.

AFP Reporter Alex Vazquez visited one such city recently — San Juan de los Morros — and talked with the locals. He said it has become a city where “nothing works”.

“ 'They send (running) water once a month. The rest of the time we have to buy it,' Vazquez quoted a woman named Florimar Nieves, a schoolteacher, as saying in a story that ran on the AFP wire yesterday.

“ 'There have been times where we've had no electricity for 24 hours.' ”

The PNP, when confronted with the truth of the consequences of another socialist regime failure say, oh, the information is from western-controlled media and, therefore, suspect. I believe all right-thinking Jamaicans fully support, love, and appreciate the people of Venezuela, but not the Maduro regime. There is a huge difference. We need to “tek sleep and mark death”.

Socialism means slavery, said English historian, politician Lord Acton.

Seeds of hope

Last Wednesday The Gleaner reported, among other things: “Total revenues at Jamaica's largest airport, Sangster International, increased six per cent to US$52 million over six months to June, based on an analysis of disclosures by controlling partner Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (GAP). The intake translates to $7 billion in Jamaican currency at current exchange rates.”

We need to hear similar good news on the Norman Manley International Airport soon.

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

Have a vision. Be demanding. — Colin Powell

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or

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