Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Jamaican Introverts Lessons on Stoicism

"it has always been easy to get to my heart. there is no other way of stating it. the best poets are lovers, are receptacles for pain, joy, injustice and the innocent smiles of children... we read potential in the countless faces of evil, we carry many, many wounds... to always be this way, to care too much can damage one's spirit yet... "
~ Haki R. Madhubuti, A Poet's Call

Do you know what the secret of every stoic is? Do you know root of why a person would want to remain as a statue or mannequin in anger and in happiness? Stoic people are introverts... well kind of. Stoics are cold mechanical robots or unfeeling egotist trapped in vain self adoration... no, nope, naah! I tell you the secret. They are ultra sensitive empaths, subject to all of the feelings and energies around them. As a consequence of not wanting to become overwhelmed with emotion and the vulnerability that comes with displaying emotion and letting people know too much about your feelings, psychological weaknesses and triggers. Yes the stoic is sensitive to emotion and his or her environment and very aware of the risks and opportunities for exploitation that portraying emotions and being betrayed by emotions can bring.

As a child... I had always admired Data and Mr. Spock for their stoicism but never knew what the word was to describe the trait, it wasn't I was reading a Captain America comic and as the Red Skull continuously confounding him but he remained un-irritated by his assault and onslaught and pressed on relentlessly in pursuit of the Red Skull. The Red Skull then asked how did he remain so stoic... he then went on to tell him his presence was ubiquitous. Both words were too much for a Grade 6 student at Mt. Alvernia prep, I consulted my Mother who then sent me to consult the dictionary. My mind was then forever emblazoned with the meaning of stoic and stoicism as a philosophy. I also learned Ubiquitous but we are talking about stoicism.

A stoic in philosophy is a proponent of a school of thought, from in 300 up to about the time of Marcus Aurelius, who holds that by cultivating an understanding of the logos, or natural law, one can be free of suffering. In ordinary terms it means a person indifferent to pleasure or pain... I wouldn't meet Marcus Aurelius until I was doing a philosophy degree and coincidentally met Xeno and Socrates... both said to be stoics. Before that Socrates has just been a learning game I played and a Brazilian footballer I admired in the 80s but I digress...

I adopted the concept of stoicism upon meeting it, but not known its name when I grafted it from Data and Mr. Spock. But as a student of stoicism I know why I thought I needed to adopt it... it was as a response to relentless teasing and assault on my psyche, by an aunt who told me I was ugly when I ate, who told me I was an underachiever, I would walk and sell newspaper on the roadside, who said I dig my nose constantly and I was ugly when I did it, an aunt who blamed me for even her own child's errors sometimes. I realized quickly in some way that she seemed to enjoy my sadness or unhappiness and when she reprimanded me it seemed to embolden her when I wilted. Stoicism the approach that Data and Spock seemed the only answer. To remained stone faced and unflinching in spite of emotions.It then seemed the only response to my problems with my father. For when it seemed to me like my ideas, my expression of honest thoughts, and expression of self was something that seemed to anger him, irritate him and annoy him. And so in the interest of avoiding conflict, to avoid confrontational situations I defaulted to stoicism around him, I feared my least opinion would offend him, I wouldn't say much or do much, simply to be compliant. I know now that maybe, that tactic may have done some harm, as my stoicism was interpreted as being, nonchalant, antipathy, apathy, egotism and maybe an attempt to put a rift between us, when my only intent was to avoid disagreement. I haven't figured out perfectly the nuisances of navigating that relationship and ones like it. For the women in my life with the exception of my daughter I think stoicism has probably subtracted some of the warmth that may have been injected into our relationship. For my wife stoicism and years of practicing it means I never let myself be fully lost in the feeling of being in love or high on love, for to love too much is to invite the greatest potential for pain... it means to be forever grounded in reality and never wholly lost in the clouds or the moment, to anticipate disaster even when it may never come.

For my mother it will mean in response to not wanting to pine for her as child as it was hard to have her at my disposal. She was the emotional reservoir for everyone in the family, it seemed she was either being my grandmothers pillar of strength, my aunts assistant, the family accountant, the shoulder to cry on for every child in the family and all my cousins. It led to me not wanting to lean on her and so never really employing her as my secret bearer or pillow. It meant that having to see her surround in bed by everyone and no room for me... meant practicing to not need that comfort of mother. For her it meant interpreting it as a he is strong enough to do without that much attention as everyone else. It meant maybe I wouldn't be as huggy and kissy as she would like... it meant that my emotions for her would be penned up in some cranial chamber and whenever they ran free they would appear as letters on her desk.

As much as I had watched Star Trek, I realized I had been seeing the stoicism, but as I had needed it as an tool to filter my constant emotional sensitivity and an empathy that would allow me to feel for everyone. A weakness that could be exploited. However after years of re-watching Star Trek I realized Data was made emotionless and was on an eternal quest to become emotional and understand emotions, which filled him with a child like wander and awe at humanity. Mr. Spock was half human and half Vulcan which was a logical race averse to emotions yet they had the mind meld which was meant as a mechanism to facilitate greater and deeper communication with each other. Also in one of the major Star Trek movies Spock gave his life to save his ship in some radiation chamber etc... but his justification for the act was the utilitarian concept "the good of the many out weighs the good of the few" and went on to commit what he logically saw as necessary, yet to me it was a selfless act no matter how masked as logic it was, it had been driven by the emotion of love or and care.

This concept took me into something I read by another philosopher and Poet... I will close with Khalil Gibran who posited... "But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully."

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


The history of Jamaica is littered with the legends of a pioneering people, hence it ought to be no surprise Jamaica has had a groundbreaking part in the fight to dismantle the evil regime of apartheid. Yep, this little island was the first country in the western hemisphere and second in the world to India which officially banned trade and travel with the fascist apartheid Government which practiced a brutal form of racism in South Africa. Former Premier Norman Manley officially banned trade and travel with South Africa in 1956 when Jamaica was still a colony of Britain. Our involvement began in 1901 when Pan-African committees were set up in various parishes by Robert Lowe and began to hit out against the trials of the South African people and educated Jamaicans about the Boer war. Our leadership was of such a bold and daring caliber at one time we drew the ire of then American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for our refusal to condemn Angola's independence which was won in January 1975 when the Portuguese Government, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, and the National Liberation Front of Angola signed the Alvor Agreement. So then when I see a similar crisis not the same crisis but similar one, unfolding in the Middle East, in Palestine, and I can hear not even one voice of descent in our media today, I wonder where our revolutionary vim and vigour has gone.

The Jewish and Black communities have long danced around one another, at times feeling solidarity and at others, opposition. Both groups have developed a self-understanding rooted in a history of oppression and struggle, often in solidarity with others in need. Jamaica has a history with Jews starting not more than three decades after Columbus’ arrival here. As a matter of fact Jamaica was sanctuary for Jews fleeing Spain and Portugal because of the Spanish inquisitions.Jamaican Jews include the Matalon family, Gleaner co-founders, Jacob and Joshua de Cordova. Jacob went on to found the city of Waco, Texas. Common Jewish surnames in Jamaica are: Abrahams, Alexander, Isaacs, Levy, Marish, Lindo, Sangster, Da Silva, De souza, DeCohen, De Leon, Barrett, Babb, Magnus, Marley, Messado, Pessoa, DeLisser, Codner, Decosta, Henriques, Tavares and Rodriques.

A recent study has now estimated that nearly 424,000 Jamaicans are descendants of Jewish (Sephardic) immigrants to Jamaica from Portugal and Spain from 1494 to the present, either by birth or ancestry. Then there are theorists who contend that West Africans are a tribe of Israel that fled west and if Jamaica’s African population came from West Africa, then we have a possible double connection. Consider now that Haile Selassie is said to be the 225th descendant of King David, and Ethiopia is home to Jews sometimes called Falashas… it seems we are more bound to the Jewish story than we knew. Now imagine the other day when I went to the Kosher Restaurant on Gloucester Avenue, there was a picture of Andrew Holness praying at the Wailing wall in a Jewish cap.

Now with all that has been said above, throw this next but of info into the mix. The origins to the conflict can be traced back to Jewish immigration, and sectarian conflict in Mandatory Palestine between Jews and Arabs. It has been referred to as the world's "most intractable conflict", with the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip reaching 51 years.No wonder there are as many positions on Israel within the Jewish community as there are Jews, including many who adamantly oppose the country’s treatment of Palestinians or its erection of the security barrier. On Tuesday 6 June 2017 edition of the Independent a UK publication, in an article title “The Israeli Occupation is a Jewish tragedy – it's our responsibility to make sure it comes to an end” a Jewish writer penned the following: “The Occupation is systematic. It necessitates daily indignity and violence towards Palestinians in order to maintain a status quo that prioritises Israeli sovereignty. It’s numbingly bureaucratic, overwhelmed by permits, checkpoints and court orders. It’s a 99.75 percent conviction rate of Palestinians who are tried in the military courts. It’s Israeli teenagers in uniforms with rifles, roughing up elderly men who just want to live on their land. This is not the Israel I learnt about as a child; these are not supposed to be the actions of ‘the most moral army in the world.’ But it is the reality.”

Sometimes it seems in the mass media that to critique Israel or to disagrees with Israel is to court allegations of anti-Semitism. To be clear, this is not about hating Israelis, or hating Palestinians. It isn’t down to individuals, though often this conflict feels deeply personal to some of us as most of Jamaica’s major religions are Abrahamic in origin. But at the end of the day, this is about systems. Systems that create a dual state of the powerful and the powerless. Again, it is a structural problem. So know that you and I are part of that broken system when we fail at moral courage, when we just shut up and keep our head down; especially when we do not speak truth to power, and worse we don’t get power to acknowledge the truth.

I was surprised by the amount of Jamaicans who thought Israel was in heaven or thought so when they were small. Israel was always a place on Earth in my understanding at all times. Maybe that is why Israel seems so surreal or ethereal in the Jamaican psyche. When I was born 1981, I came into a world where it seemed war was eternal. Jamaica was n political and tribal wars. JBC used to have a news intro that would whisper names like Yitzhak Rabin, Saddam Hussein, other names that quickly occupied my world were, Qaddafi, Anwar Sadat, Idi Amin, Yasser Arafat, Ariel Sharon, Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin and others. So for the better part of 4 decades, I have been watching wars and hearing rumors of wars. I say this to say one simple truth thing. The conflicts in the middle east have run long passed  a reasonable length of time. It is time to simply FREE PALESTINE!

Guntego Bay 2017 The Economics of Violence Guns and Murder

"Yuh nuh have no weh fi run, when mi rise up mi demons and shoot dung di sun"
~Tommy Lee Sparta
Welcome to Guntego Bay; city of luxury killings... We pull up in criss cars and slippers and shorts with criss guns, nonchalant and with blatant disregard for those around, we pull up at gas stations and execute, at Moscino or at the court house, or simply leaving a funeral... we are the murderous legends. Monsters unleashed!

In a crime climate like this I wonder how is it the police or government expect to end crime in Jamaica with a NEW LAW and rushed bills and special zones. They shrink away from their political responsibility to fix the economy the heart of our social lives. It takes cash to care and the people have no mney anywhere. Haven’t felt the increasing beg-xtortion in the communities. If the political leaders don’t fix the economy there will continue to be a void or zone or habitat where there is an economic imperative that says money at all costs (get rich or die trying) and a system that fostered a thinking that worked out this logic: I can buy rifles and the biggest and hottest guns in foreign fresh and crisp in a plastic for below $500 US as the real US Market prices are actually very cheap! An AK, Glock or Berretta, can all be bought for less than $500 US, yep that cheap for that much firepower. After which I can send this gun down to Jamaica disassembled and packed in hair gel, in computers, appliances etc and when they get to Jamaica I assemble the guns and sell them for upwards of $1200 US. With super profits on death dealing and selling and warmongering, what economic imperative or logic do people and the profiteers have to stop this new deathly economics? Fear and economics rule the day and the death dealer is now the economic master.

The arithmetics of criminal commerce is a better bet than Cashpot and Just Bet… Guns for drugs and Haiti are the least! Do you really think a man in Montego Bay is going to try to peddle guns for drugs everyday down in Clarendon and Vere and Portland for rusty gun from Haiti, when his filthy scamming lucor can buy him a visa and a ticket to fly out, buy guns throuh Scamazon and E-bay, or some dispossessed and down on his luck US citizen, then finally ship the weapons to Jamaica, then keep some and sell the rest. After that it’s just $$$$$$$$$$$$$$!

What I am trying to get you to understand is that crime can't be solved by a new law or bill to fix crime and our social circumstance we must fix the economy and reinvigorate our authentic Montegonian and Jamaican culture.

Now we hear of civic pride and social fabrics... Only when the killings get absurd! We mourn the death of community groups and civic activism... Only when there is an execution in front of the court house. Now Jamaica looks at us with the 9 day memory and  microscope, will zoom and then soon forget the disasterous epidemic of crime in Montego Bay. Where was the media while Zuggy died last year rifle shots middle road in Paradise by youth carrying rifles in umbrellas... After years of the efforts people put in Youth club, Residents Association, Senior citizens association, etc. The government puts honest everyday heroes and trying citizen them have to jump thru hurdle and loops to get anything done due to bureaucratic red tape, policies unfriendly to small business, to citizens cooperatives, community cooperatives.

Look at all that... Then consider the struggles of black businesses; extortion, taxes, thieves etc.. then we wonder about crime and scamming. The weakness of the black business community and crime are directly related. In MoBay it’s about a Freezone for foreigners, a Duty Free area for Indians, Chinese businesses get tax free breaks hence the out break of supermarkets, but what of black business… No Free Business Space for the Black community with robust support and help. Vendors are criminalized, bureaucracy and red tape stifle the poor man in business. When one considers the prospect that we are bound to slim incomes in MontegoBay FreeZone, in Supermarkets, in Inbond stores and Hotels in a world of inflating billls and expense. The rumour that crime doesn’t pay seems a myth as flashy scammers or gun traders and drug dealers pass you in flashy cars and captivate the women, and throw up impressive concrete castles. What is the resut we see today… a nation in chaos and havoc. A city beseiged by crime. How do we escape the economic algebra of crime with its lucrative commercial dimensions???

About the author: Yannick Nesta Pessoa B.A. is Jamaica’s first blogger, a Community Activist and Law Student at Utech Western Jamaica. Follow Yannick on Twitter at @yahnyk |

Pot Holes: Filling in the Gaps

Infrastructure investments lead to jobs. And quality of life starts with a good job.
John Hickenlooper 
When I am driving my car down the street, I try not to go down the potholes.
Philip Green

The potholes in the roads are a problem, the political ones, the metaphorical ones, but I'm talking about the literal ones now… they are one of if not the biggest headache we have right now on the road. It seems like every year we complain that potholes seem worse than they have ever been. But this year, they really do seem worse than they ever have been. I haven't seen any part of the city, or peripheral town or village that is immune to pothole pox, and the rains of the last few months has really made for brutal rides on many many roads. It seems that the busier they are, the worse they are, particularly because the city has been cheap with their paving budgets. Even though Jamaicans depend on this infrastructure to go about their daily lives in safety, our mayor has been relatively quiet on the need to revitalize the city’s roads, bridges, sewers, dams, and water treatment plants.

I am not saying we need an ambitious and expensive plan to modernize their city’s infrastructure, however, a competitive city simply cannot have sewers backing-up into basements and streets flooding every time it rains. The savvy voters and taxpayers in Jamaica today are looking to get the biggest bang for their buck when it comes to the cost of government. That includes the cost of building and repairing streets. For that reason alone, our municipality should require bids for both asphalt and concrete pavements. And those bids should include a life cycle cost analysis for road construction or repair projects. Doing so helps them determine whether using asphalt or concrete materials is the more cost-effective, sustainable investment.


A possible solution could be, using old vehicle tires as a long term solution for patching the number of potholes on roads across the city and possibly the country could easily be piloted in Montego Bay. The process of using rubberized asphalt to pave roads has been working well in the US and Canada. This process can fix both the stress and damages caused by the poor quality of the roads and cut down on the large quantities of old tires. Rubberized asphalt is made from asphalt concrete and mixed with crumb rubber from recycled tires. The city can look into at taking our old tires, which is another headache to us, and turn them into rubber the steel and the fluff from the tire itself it can pave the roads. The roads become softer and you wouldn’t skid or slide on the roads. Maintenance solution waste removal solution, safety solution, financial solution… all rolled into one. It can work. We can take our tires and turn them into crumb rubber and pave the roads with them. There is so much more use for old tires. It is for our municipality, our city to decide the way forward, not follow the tides of time as usual and get left behind.

Experts claim the road requires less maintenance and still allows for drainage, while tyre recyclers claim the technique will also save money because the new material is thinner than standard roads. Rubber roads were first built in the 1960s in the US, where today there are 20,000 miles of road made of recycled tyres. Rubber roads are also popular in China, Brazil, Spain and Germany.
Another solution that came to me is tied to social enterprise. Wikipedia defines social enterprise as an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in financial, social and environmental well-being—this may include maximizing social impact alongside profits for external shareholders. So what do potholes have to do with social enterprise? Well I have been thinking… why doesn’t the municipality hire the men who already go around patching the roads informally as a side hustle to officially operate as road maintenance personnel. I think it ought to be fairly easy for the municipality to employ them give them a minimum wage stipend, negotiate with the chamber of commerce or the hardware businesses directly to provide them with propatch asphalt and cement to help alleviate a road crisis, at the same time encouraging motorists to donate to the cause by tipping the road patchers. The social benefit is the road patchers receive official pay and employ, the road is not as bad for motorists and commuters, improved safety, a good public relations look for the municipality. Maybe the plan could be tweaked in some places but you get the picture we need to be more innovative about the road that lies ahead, it is filled with ruts and potholes, to fix them and navigate them require a new outlook.

Future Change 

Our city needs an intensified island-wide road works programme. You would think that with all of the technological advancements we have seen in our lifetime, someone would have figured out a better way to fix damaged roads. There is a ton of money to be made, and I'm sure the insurance companies and municipalities that pay out claims for damaged vehicles would be happy to see it. Of course, the municipal corporation could spend more money on routine maintenance and paving that would prevent a lot of these problems, but that ship has obviously sailed. I can only hope that one day someone in public office might begin to take responsibility for genuinely solving this problem, as they say nowadays “own it”. If not and we continue to dither, delay and propose inadequate measures , we will leave a bigger problem for Montego Bay’s children.

About the author: Yannick Nesta Pessoa B.A. is Jamaica’s first blogger, a Social/Community Activist and Law Student at Utech Western Jamaica. Follow on Twitter at @yahnyk. Reply to