Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Dear Paradise II: Another Love Letter to My Community


As long as I breathe, I hope. As long as I breathe I shall fight for the future, that radiant future, in which man, strong and beautiful, will become master of the drifting stream of his history and will direct it towards the boundless horizons of beauty, joy and happiness!
-Leon Trotsky


Dear Family, friends, community members, associates one and all,

You may be a parent, teacher, police officer, young person, community activist, or someone angered by what you see wrong in Jamaica, Mobay and Paradise. I would like to invite you into a space of uncompromised honesty. Let us engage each other in conversation, not primarily as scholars wanting to defend a theory, or as politicians seeking to win votes or advance a public policy agenda, or even as activists fighting for a cause, but instead, just as human beings trying to understand, as clearly as possible, our situation and condition at this turbulent moment in history.

As activists or community member I am sure your anger is sparked by gun violence, youth unemployment, classism, social justice or inequality — or you simply don’t understand why some people are upset — you are not alone. Like many, you might feel helpless, thinking, “I could never make a real difference or lasting change.” But you’d be wrong. Humans are such a complex species. We could not figure out the mind of a human, no matter how hard we tried. Psychology touches on some of the behavioral and thought processes that are experienced by a human, but Psychology will never be completely factual because the human brain is far too complicated.



We want the world to be a happy and just place, maybe it will or won’t be so. But you must know that change comes from parents and teachers who instill the power of critical thinking in children and teens. It comes from leaders who build relationships between diverse people and organizations. It comes from everyday people who think deeply about problems and solutions. How does this happen? We cannot begin to make effective change in our communities until we recognize how we are intricately connected to the people and issues we want to change.

Community is like family; and like all families, we may not always get along or see eye-to-eye. But just like my daughter likes to say, ‘family sticks together and helps one another.” Community is about people who care about one another and are willing to be united for the betterment of the greater good.

Now the other day a community member, one Teacher P/QP picked my brain with a question or more like a quote he had read, it went like this “Of all the follies in which man indulges there is none greater than the folly of thinking one can change the world!” He said he shared it because I was one of the few people who could fathom it in the immediate environment. I wondered if it was that he thought that my activities trying to better the community were in vain. I think he expected me to contemplate and give him a response. The quote did blow me away for a few days.

But a few days later the universe it seems gave me the answer. I don’t remember what I was watching on Youtube but some speaker had said, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, is to offer you something you already have. He would have you believe you are nothing and insignificant and unable to affect your destiny or impact the world without his help. But therein is the lie, for from the moment you enter the world it is already fundamentally changed, your presence has already impacted lives, for you life has altered your mother and father, the spaces you inhabit.

Now to be honest I haven’t shared the answer in person with Teacher P but ironically I found our dialogue mirrored in an episode of Star Trek… yeah I am a trekkie… especially seeing one of the characters was called Q, but the conversation went like this:
Q:
Hear this, Picard, and reflect: "All the galaxy is a stage."... "Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Q:
Perhaps maybe a little, uh, Hamlet?

Captain Jean-Luc Picard:
Oh, I know Hamlet. And what he might say with irony, I say with conviction: "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form, in moving, how express and admirable! In action, how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god!"

Q:
Surely, you don't see your species like that, do you?

Captain Jean-Luc Picard:
I see us one day becoming that, Q. Is it that which concerns you?
I put all this to say that, granted much is wrong with the community I am truly grateful for stilling having a space where discuss my love relationship with the community. I believe when we lift others we rise together. Through discourse, discussion and debate. It is no coincidence Paradise has a spot called debate corner, it is not for the faint of heart. More than ever we must remember to help others. We are all where we are because someone helped us along our journey. I wanted to share a letter of thanks to the community for all you’ve done and meant to me. When all is said and done, I hope I will have done more than I said. As I remain optimistic and realistic in this gloomy and slow times, I close with the following:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.



The New Socialist and the Pillars of Modern Socialism




Just a decade ago, “socialism” was a dirty word in politics. Debates over its merits were mostly limited to obscure blogs, niche magazines and political parties on the other side of the Atlantic and a few in Latin America. But more recently Bernie Sanders in 2016 and then in the New York district last year by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is indicative of socialism trending and being trendy. In 2017, fifteen members of the Democratic Socialists of America won seats in local elections in thirteen different states, in addition to the 20 members already holding elected office nationwide in the U.S.. It has been especially appealing in the wake of Trump's narcissism... an ethos that speaks to more than individualism which capitalism and fascism speak solely and exclusively to while touting meritocracy and backhandedly being nepotistic. Jeremy Corbyn in the UK has been a socialist boon and if we look at Finland, socialism is doing wonders. I began learning of socialism not through politics but through one Mr. Reverton Bailey’s Sociology class in 12th grade at Cornwall College. From then on I fell in love with a concept that was out of fashion, but stuck with it and have been watching and following socialist pages and memes on Social Media and have watched its global resurgence. Today’s new Socialists are more progressive Democrats than “Castros” in waiting—and their rise poses more of a challenge to the national political discourse than to capitalism.

Modern Jamaican voters and politicians should remove the veil from their eyes and engage this new democratic socialism must apart of its redefinition within the 2019 local and international realities. People centeredness, people power, empowering people is what is being put to the fore in this new socialism. Socialism historically has been associated with the concept of public or collective ownership of property and natural resources and has long been associated with Marxism and communism. In 1949, with the Chinese Communists just having taken control of China, and with the Communist Soviet Union creating fear of an aggressive effort to spread their ideology around the globe, that compunded by the U.S.’s cold war with Communist Russia, Jamaicans' view of the term embraced the classic elements bound up in these types of movements; things like loss of freedom or state control. Now, decades later, Jamaicans' views of socialism have broadened.

Socialism, to me, means ensuring that our government policy puts human needs before corporate greed and that we build communities where everyone has a chance to thrive. It is the radically simple idea that democratic values should guide our economy toward the maximization of human flourishing, rather than the accumulation of capital. One way to implement socialism in Jamaica would be to emulate many of the economic institutions found in the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway. These countries, which consistently rank near the top of the world in happiness, human development and overall well-being, have highly organized labor markets, universal welfare states and relatively high levels of public ownership of capital.

To move in the Nordic direction, Jamaica would have to promote the mass unionization of its workforce, increase legal protections against arbitrary termination and allow workers to control some of the seats on the corporate boards of the companies they work in.

A practical form of socialism in the United States in the 21st century would occur when democratic ownership displaces and supersedes the current, dominant extractive corporate model. There is no single, ideal form of democratic ownership, but an enormous variety including full state ownership, partial state ownership, local/municipal ownership, multi-stakeholder ownership, worker ownership, consumer cooperative ownership, producer cooperative ownership, community ownership and sustainable local private ownership.


The lynchpin of the new and modern socialism are:
  1. Public ownership ,
  2. Citizens cooperatives ,
  3. Civil society organisations ,
  4. Open government ,
  5. Open source ,
  6. Universal basic income
  7. Social enterprise / social entrepreneurship.
A socialist Jamaica would be democratic, decentralized and participatory. It will be rooted in racial, gender and social justice, recalling Langston Hughes’ “and that never has been yet—and yet must be.” It will be about living safely, wisely and well within a flourishing commons. This will be actual socialism, because it will have socialized the means of production—although in plural forms that do not all center on the state. Instead of concentrated wealth, it will have broad dispersal of ownership. Instead of frictionless global markets, the rooted, participatory, recirculatory local economy. Instead of extractive multinational corporations, the worker, community and municipally owned firm. Instead of asset-stripping privatization, myriad forms of democratic public enterprise. Instead of private credit creation by commercial banks and rentier finance, the massive potential power of public banks and sovereign government finance.

The problem with capitalism is not just that a system fueled by a wealthy, profit-hungry elite is inherently unstable, or that it leaves whole layers of society starving in the streets. It is that it relies on the dictatorship of the rich. The fundamental difference we expect from a socialist society is that we will all have a voice in the decisions that impact our lives. It is social and sociable. Workplaces will be owned by the workers who run them, rather than an authoritarian boss.

The political system will be truly democratic, rather than run by those who have bought the politicians. Family life will be more democratic, and no one will have to depend on a breadwinner to survive because public services like health care will be available to all, and will be run with community oversight. Finally, government investment will be democratic, rather than decided by corporate donors or financial gamblers. In other words, we will have true freedom, not just survival—the choices available to us now that depend on the whims of the few.

I am about trying to create communities where the education you have access to, or the jobs you’re able to get, don’t depend on your complexion, last name, race or gender. People aren’t looking for a “progressive” or a “democratic socialist” representative, necessarily, but they also aren’t scared of those words—they’re just looking for a fighter who will put their needs ahead of corporate profits and never back down. I am fighting for public goods that make us all better off. I define myself through my own unique lens—I’m a father fighting for justice for all. Ultimately, I’m trying to build coalitions and inspire activists to create a society where everyone has a chance to flourish. That’s the socialism I’m interested in. Are you?

About the author: Yannick Nesta Pessoa B.A. is Jamaica’s first blogger, a Community Activist, an Artist and Entrepreneur. Follow Yannick on Twitter at @yahnyk | yannickpessoa@yahoo.com




Unpopular: Political Revamp



“Any realistic vision of change must be based on the notion of empowerment of people.”
Michael Manley

Today the People’s National Party’s position is quite unenviable. PNP’s elected officials have struggled to find a clear and compelling message that speaks effectively to the whole of the country. General principles and values are one thing; a succinct and up-to-date message is another. For too long the political mantra of the PNP though not explicitly said is that: “we're out to beat Jamaica Labour Party, and not help poor people.

The PNP hasn’t found the formula that both bridges these internal ļ¬ssures and appeals more broadly to a bigger electorate. If you look at it from the outside, it’s not so healthy. The People’s National Party is not very popular today with a lot of people, and that is truly a problem. If you look at it in absolute terms and just look at where the PNPs stand today: not very good. You look at where the leadership stands, you look at where the party stands in terms of the public, it’s just not good. There’s no way to call it good.

Party leaders and stalwarts are always fearful of leadership contests, as they know the vitriol, malice and even violence normally reserved for rival political parties will turn inwards and the true nature of party politics will be revealed. There are those in the PNP who would say it’s an overstatement to suggest the party is in the midst of an identity crisis. Yet after years of political observation and watching strategists, elected officials at many levels and grass-roots activists, it’s clear to me that for all the anti-JLP energy that exists, especially on Facebook — is energy that will invariably help to bind PNPs in common cause come 2020. However, the party’s challenges are serious. Ideological differences are only part of it. This is a party of rising constituencies demanding not just to be heard but to be at the table of decision-makers. It is a party in flux, moving from one era to another, with no obvious leader and an identity yet to be fully shaped.

One reason factions of the party and electorate has moved left is that much of the power and energy has shifted from establishment leaders toward the grass roots, whose strength was highlighted by the presence of FHI360, COMET ii and USAID, programs and grants that are boosting Civil Society Organization as well as community based groups. Hence through their own cooperation and movements people have seen the value or socialist ideology, but not necessarily the value of political groups, which are subject to the whims and fancies of Delegates, political hierarchies and bureaucracies. So as communities see viable alternatives in forming Social Enterprises, Social Entrepreneurships, CDC’s, Benevolent Societies, Neighbourhood Watches, conversely political groups which are reliant on hand out and scraps or scarce benefits and spoils. It then seems incumbent on the party to engage these groups, join them, boost them, rather than solely or explicitly soliciting hands and hearts to your individual political aims or goals.

If one failed to notice globally, Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Occasio Cortez and Kshema Sawant prove that socialism is alive and well even in the heart of world superpowers. It is fervent in Latin America. The Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway have implemented socialism in their economic institutions. The Norse countries consistently ranked near the top of the world in happiness, human development and overall well-being, have highly organized labor markets, universal welfare states and relatively high levels of public ownership of capital. Yet the PNP drifts ideologically and philosophically here in this 21st century. Then when we see candidate choice and selection for both local and central government elections are riddled with egomaniacs on both sides who treat the electorate as secondary or non-essential till election day while always courting the delegates of both parties who are stuck as die hearts to each party or victims of some kind of political Stockholm’s syndrome.

Here are 7 topics which are hot globally and in the streets of Jamaica with civil society organizations, community activists, USAID, the youth and the Rastafari community, yet I have never heard PNP mention:
  1. Public ownership ,
  2. Citizens cooperatives ,
  3. Civil society organisations ,
  4. Open government ,
  5. Open source ,
  6. Universal basic income
  7. Social enterprise / social entrepreneurship.

These questions of leadership, identity and philosophical outlook unnerve the PNP, because the party has no scaffolding. All the dominant leaders of the last two generations—the Manleys, PJ Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller—have receded. The myth of PNP country is discredited and defeat has shaken the party’s foundational strategy—or, at the very least, exposed it as a wishful description of a more distant future, rather than a clear plan for victory in the present. The PNP has in opposition an illusion of unity, but the reality is deeply conflicted. The establishment in the party want the disgruntled to disappear, but reality doesn’t work like that. Two of the party’s largest concerns—race and class—reside in an increasing state of tension, a tension that will grow as the party turns toward the next election. To produce a governing majority, the party will need to survive an unsettling reckoning with itself. The JLP didn’t just prevail over the PNP; they called into doubt their old truths.The party’s must begin sensing the emotional landscape of the people they are selling the vision to, not delegates, but its general membership and the wider electorate.

About the author: Yannick Nesta Pessoa B.A. is Jamaica’s first blogger, a Community Activist, an Artist and Entrepreneur. Follow Yannick on Twitter at @yahnyk | yannickpessoa@yahoo.com




Sunday, June 30, 2019

Party Reformation: My Struggles with PNP

“We'd all like t'vote for th' best man, but he's never a candidate”
Kin Hubbard



For some time I have been uncomfortable with the inner workings of the People’s National Party. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between the PNP and the JLP. This to me is an issue of ideology and personality. Ideologically the PNP used to a socialist party and governed by a social democratic ethos, that is no more. Socialism used to be unfashionable so the party abandoned it somewhere in the 90’s while subscribing to IMF edicts. However Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Occasio Cortez and Kshema Sawant prove that socialism is alive and well even in the heart of world superpowers. Yet the PNP drifts ideologically and philosophically here in this 21st century. Then when we see candidate choice and selection for both local and central government elections are riddled with egomaniacs on both sides who treat the electorate as secondary or non-essential till election day while always courting the delegates of both parties who are stuck as die hearts to each party or victims of some kind of political Stockholm’s syndrome. This cannot continue.

Well the monomania media election blitz will soon be in full swing, and everybody will be vying for votes. Tribal politics has taken to social media and the factions there are always in electoral fever. In all this Mobay, the government’s bastard child always neglected for the media pet Kingston, it seems silly that we, major contributors to the nation’s economy, via tourism, foreign currency and remittance dollars (legal and via lotto scam), have so little say. I say we hold candidates to ransom; each community ought to kidnap the MP, until the community’s demands are met. Until there is a community centre in every community, till the roads are addressed, until drainage is solved and so on.



Dr Peter Phillips’ viability as party leader is in question, it is one of the central issues to the undecided voter. The party is confronting new questions about who it is and what it stands for. The more important question however,  is how this plays out in our next election. PNP hopefuls will need to test the “articulate minority’s” and the grassroot’s wish list on the stump and might feel pressure to outbid each other on how far left they can go. Those apparently pursuing an “adult in the room” or  “trying to stay tame and sound normal strategy,” such as the PNP has been fumbling along with, will not only face opposition from the modern PNP base and the unattached voters, but will also find the free media oxygen sucked from the room by the more colorful radical opponents.

The ideologically driven members of the party make for good television but bad politics where the conservative party members and delegates are concerned. But the ideas that are talked about by civil society organizations, popular movements and political radicals in Jamaica are neglected by the PNP extablishment. In a May 2016 article entitled “Portia Betrayed” O. Dave Allen contends that the PNP and Portia was betrayed by the country, I contend that it is the PNP that betrayed the voters and even he seems to admit that when he wrote in the article that:

“The opposition was broke, starved of donor funding from the private sector, the leadership of Andrew Holness was in question; and the JLP fractious. For the first time in the history of Peoples National Party, the party enjoyed the full and explicit support for its policies by the formal private sector, the international donor community and local and international financial intermediaries.Yet not much could be shown by way of social programmes in keeping with the historic characteristics, policies and programmes of previous PNP administrations.”

Grassroots leftist insurgency that has sprung up across the country, including in spots far from PNP strongholds. Today, ultimately, the most profound progressive leadership for the PNP is not being embraced at all. It’s in communities and movements across the country—nurturing diverse progressive political strengths in many aspects of social change, including at election time.

No matter how intense the top-down pressure gets from Party hierarchy, we should insist from the ground up that members of Parliament and Councillors stand their ground for progressive principles that the man in the street is seeking. If party members aren’t willing to fight for those principles, then the grassroots will mobilize: to create an outcry, to lobby and to consider launching challenges as is evidenced by Peter Buntings hat being thrown in PNP’s political ring. I think it is a good thing and no elected officials should be immune from scrutiny and accountability.