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Not too long ago Vincentian politics was a harmless process filled with virtuously fun- filled activities for the whole family, but today it is literally lynching or killing the very humanity that it seeks to govern.

A decade or so ago we used to have some pleasant motorcades. Both parties used to tour our small island in peace. Until one incident when a lady got hit in her eye from a stone thrown by a supporter of the other party.

Two things happened on that day. The lady never saw from that eye again, and St Vincent never had another political motorcade.

We probably need another political party in the mix here in St Vincent and the Grenadines because it seems this two-party system is driving a clear line of malice, hatred and damning injury left, right and centre.

The last two or three general elections have been splitting our usually friendly and happy citizens further and further apart. Put simply, our two-parrty politics is teaching Vincentians to see only colours; we are technically colour blind now.

I have had the actual experience of driving a red vehicle and slowly becoming conscious that people at the side of the road are actually “throwing words” (cursing) at me because they automatically think I am a supporter of the Unity Labour Party which is the governing party at this time.

On the other hand, during a general elections in recent history a gentleman was driving his yellow passenger van and attempted to drive through an intersection where the Unity Labour Party was having a street meeting. According to the driver, a supporter from the Unity Labour Party threw a stone and smashed his front windscreen to pieces.

For those of you who don’t know, yellow is the colour of the New Democratic Party which is currently the Opposition in parliament.

The most serious charge against our modern Vincentian politics happened last Saturday at the funeral of a political activist within the New Democratic Party, but who was a one-time political colleague of the Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves.

Elwardo “EG” Lynch was a member of the Ralph Gonsalves Movement for National Unity (MNU) before he crossed the political divide and took up arms with the New Democratic Party (NDP). He was the Opposition’s voice in that he was moderator of the NDP’s daily radio call-in programme.

According to the Prime Minister, he was invited by the family of the deceased to not only attend but to make some remarks in so far as paying a tribute to his long time friend and colleague in politics.

No sooner had the Prime Minister been invited to the podium than there was immediate heckling—long, loud and livid. One woman, who must have been a magician,  seemed to have pulled out of nowhere a yellow bell. She rang it for all its worth.

To “ring the bell” is a political jargon which means that the Prime Minister announces the date for the next general elections. So these “mourners” were challenging the democratically elected leader to call elections. What a way to respect the dead and the bereaved family—not to mention the presence of God.

bell

And as if that was not enough, she passed it on to another who continued in the fiasco. The daughter of the deceased tried to no avail to put out the fiery political fire.

A funeral was transformed into a political town hall meeting for the Opposition.

A sacred place of worship was dishonored in a most unapologetic manner.

Everyone has been airing their views on the matter. Like with other national issues involving politics, those on the opposition support the action while those supporting the governing party has condemned the assault on our leader and on a holy institution.

And I think this is the problem slowly eating out the inner societal organs of our political and human identity. As soon as a Vincentian has formed a political opinion and supports a particular party it seems to be a vote of no return. Apparently our politics has no escape clause. No one is allowed to retain an independent mind and vote for a different party than the one they supported in the last elections.

As a people we are learning to hate and destroy our own family, neighbours, friends, colleagues and associates. It is no secret that the fierce campaigns we witness in these times drive an intolerantly cruel rift between persons who at other times were getting along as the best of friends.

Members of the same household stop sharing rooms or amenities; patrons stop riding with certain vans or stop buying at certain shops; worshipers stop sitting next to other “brothers and sisters” in the House of the Lord because of a difference in opinion on politics.

So critical has become the Vincentian political warfare of the twenty first century that I am pretty sure if the volcano were to erupt during the next political campaign, many Vincentians would prefer to stay in their homes and die than to go to a shelter and share residence with people who support “the other political party”.

Even without the fuel of politics the Vincentian society is falling headlong into a new abyss of moral and social decay. There is a very visible increase in gun violence and homicides by gun; some bold and daring robberies and drive-by shootings are becoming the order of the day.

Just a fortnight ago a prominent businessman was held at gun point, forced into the trunk of his own vehicle, driven to a remote location, beaten, stripped naked, robbed and tied up. He was left for dead. Police later found his vehicle with some damage.

Fortunately, that businessman lived to tell the tales.

It is clear to me that St Vincent and the Grenadines has a disaster in the making which is far more destructive and costly than the flash floods of Christmas 2013, than a hurricane, earthquake or volcanic eruption. With the steady rise of the temperature in our political thermostat, we will soon be our own worst enemy and reason for extinction as a civilization worthy to inhabit this part of the peaceful world.

Will Vincentians ever rise to the political independence and maturity to stop politics from lynching our identity and the little dignity we have left?

 

 

(picture courtesy Searchlight newspaper)

SMSS today

With the death and burial recently of one of my high school teachers, Ezekiel “Scatter” Butcher, I started to purposefully reflect on my times at St Martin’s Secondary School in Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines. It was the best a boy could get in terms of a quality education at a conducive and learner friendly environment.

I entered St Martin’s in September 1987 and I can honestly say that the next five years were among the very best years of my entire life. They were really golden years. This is a sentiment being echoed by many of my classmates and schoolmates who were privileged to be enrolled at the institution in that golden era.  Prior to 1987 I had never known or heard about St Martin’s; however, it was after I was only one of two boys from Evesham Methodist School lucky enough to pass the 1987 Common Entrance exam that my teachers told me about St Martin’s.

I was immediately excited and thrilled about the prospects of attending a “town school” because it would mean that I would be riding vans every day. Vehicles and rides were scarce luxuries in the Evesham of 1987. I can still vividly remember jumping up and down when I got the confirmation slip from the Ministry of Education that said I would be going to St Martin’s Secondary School.

One of the first challenges was having to be in “town” on my own. So far, the only place I went to on my own was the village next door. So my brother and mother accompanied me to the school on registration day. That event happened in the library. It was my first time meeting the Christian Brothers—Br. Alfred Marshall was the principal and conducted the exercise himself. Up to that point I had only seen “white people” on TV and so it dawned on me that my world was really expanding.

That summer we were invited to attend Math classes being taught by Mr Bradley Brooker. I shall always remember walking out the gate after the first session and realizing I was lost because I had not memorized the immediate street. Panic gripped me but then a voice said to me just follow the other students and see where they go. That idea got me back on the right track.

I would never lose my way again.

The rest of the summer was a new adventure everyday. As I began meeting the other boys I realized that I was meeting children from all over St Vincent and the Grenadines. We shared our respective memories of our various primary schools at every chance we got.

Then the 1987 school year began. During the summer there was just a handful of us new students—about twenty or so—but on the first day of school I felt totally lost at the awesome sight of literally hundreds of boys in blue and white. It was like I walked into an ants nest of blue and white. I had no idea what to do, where to go, who to talk to. So guess what I did?

I followed the students who were in front of me when I entered the gate. So I stayed in that bright blue and white traffic. I kept climbing the steps. On the second flight of stairs, a friend I made at the summer lessons, Clinty Joseph, was on his way down. He said to me, “Is you I coming to look for you know. Come see where our class is.”

If there ever was a Godsend, that was Clinty right there!

He told me to check on the door to see which of the two form ones I was in. Back then the class lists were placed on the doors. I scanned the first list and found my name. Clinty could not be happier because he, too, was on that list.

Even though I had been at summer school, the classrooms looked quite different. They were cleaner and shone just as brightly as the uniforms and book bags of the new students occupying them. As the years went by I would later learn and see that it was Mr Butcher who used his summer to lead a school painting taskforce every year.

One of the first things that struck me about my new class was that it was so roomy and clean. It had louvers on both sides and so very well ventilated. I smiled to myself. I already loved my new school. When I later heard a man speaking over a speaker I was astonished. The school had a PA system. I automatically gave the school two thumbs up and all five stars!

St Martin’s Secondary School (SMSS) was a family. I saw that in operation every day. There was a real sense of caring and sharing. Looking back, nobody seemed vexed with you or having “bad mind” as the youths say of themselves these days. There were 38 students in my Form 1 Set 2 and I honestly can say there were no “haters” in that large group.

St Martin’s taught me a lot about friendships from day 1. I had met Marlon Roberts who lived in Questelles and had attended the Petersville Primary School. I tried sneaking up behind him one break time to cover his eyes with my hands. It was a game we played. But somehow Marlon must have known I was there because he turned around just as I was about to clamp my hands over his eyes.

What happened next I would never forget. The plan backfired in that my finger got in his eye and he was immediately upset. He said: “Alyo man always a do stupidness you know!”

I felt so guilty and embarrassed that I ran away and tried my best to avoid him from then on. Then a day or two afterwards it was Marlon who sneaked up on me and actually apologized to me. That showed me who a real friend was. It was the first time in my life another person was apologizing to me.

Marlon did one other thing that year to make me understand friends are really people who care about your best interests. It happened when our Algebra teacher, Mr Best, had given us the option of attending either algebra or camera lessons after school. I went in the camera group, which had upper form students.

After a while Marlon came over to me and he said, “Ashford, you can always learn to use a camera you know, but you can’t always learn how to do algebra.”

That struck me to the core.

Never before had anyone analysed my actions and given me advice for my benefit. Additionally, because it came from somebody my own age, I was totally impressed and realized I had a real friend. Without saying a word, I left the camera group and joined my friend in the algebra lessons.

In those days we used to have what we call a “Special Schedule” on Fridays. Classes lasted only 35 minutes. There was no break; however, lunch was from 10:40 to 11:15. School used to over at 1:25 PM every Friday.

Our Form Master, Mr Kelly, used to stay back with us and do fun activities. Often, we would join with the students from Form 1 Set 1 and their Form Master. That is how I learned to make and fly a kite.

Other notable experiences that first year included getting licks for doing home work in class. Mr Sarkar was the Dean of discipline. Homework was to be done at home. The first time Mr Sarkar came to teach us Geography, he wrote four Ss on the board. The first S meant “stand up”. The second S meant “shut up”; the third S meant “Sarkar”,  and the fourth S was for “Sir”.

It was not that he just wrote and told us about these Ss. He bellowed them to us new terrified students. I could have sworn I was in the military! I won’t be surprised if some boys with bladder problems did wet their pants that morning.

But Mr Sarkar also wrote four other letters on the board. H.A.R.P. That would prove to be his motto for teaching. The letters stood for Honesty, Ambition, Respect and Pride.

We enjoyed Geography class after that unforgettable introduction.

St Martin’s Secondary School gave us local boys a chance to meet people from around the world. Mr Kelly, for example, was a young American who was volunteering a year teaching us English. There were different volunteers each year. We also met other boys who were in St Vincent but citizens from overseas—from Caribbean islands to America and Canada.

As we did our work we soon realized that our teachers wanted us to also have fun. There were times when all we did was just tell jokes and old talk.

And we did not just learn about the academic syllabus. I remember the first time I experienced a sex education lesson was from Mr Butcher in his form four Social Studies class. Up until then I didn’t think teachers ever talked about sex or relationships in class with students. But it helped us. It was a real life lesson.

In a Form 3 Religion class, Br Robert made us all sit up with mouths open and eyes popping out of our heads. He began his lesson: “What does somebody really mean when they say fuck you?”

No body slept in that class.

St Martin’s Secondary School made a name for itself in sports as well. Apart from the usual inter-House and Iinter-School athletics events, we were a force to be reckoned with on the football and cricket field as well. In 1990 the St Martin’s football team won the finals of the secondary schools football competition after beating the Bethel High School. I still can see students like Curtis Greaves (now principal of the Emmanuel High School in Mesopotamia) stamping the wooden stands at the Victoria Park so passionately that I really was expecting the stands to collapse.

In 1991, the St Martin’s football team was back in the finals of the secondary schools football tournament. We faced off against the Barrouallie Secondary School. The match went into overtime and the boys had to have penalty shootouts. Christmas came early at St Martin’s that year because we won the game and were football champions for two years in a row! We all left the Victoria Park pretty hoarse that day.

That same year, in 1991, Mr Brooker led the St Martin’s cricket team to the finals of the secondary schools cricket competition. NBC Radio, back then known as 705 Radio, broadcasted the match live. I remember clearly, sportscaster Mike Findlay asking student Grant Connell (yes, he is the lawyer of today) who he believes will win the match. And Grant simply told him that St Martin’s already has it wrapped up. Mike was just impressed by the smarts of the St Martin’s student.

St Martin’s secondary School did win the 1991 secondary schools cricket championship. So in that year we were both football and cricket champions of all the secondary schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines!

But it didn’t end there. In 1992, guess who was back in the finals of the secondary schools football competition? Yes, St Martin’s. And guess which school we came up against? None other than the St Vincent Boys Grammar School. Now this was poised to be an interesting and historic match indeed. You see, there was always this unspoken competition between the Grammar School and St Martin’s to see which of these two all-boys schools was really number one. Because the match was played at the end of the calendar year, my group had already graduated from St Martin’s. In fact we were now in 6th Form (what is now called Community College).

The sole Sixth Form on the island was attached to the Grammar School. Nonetheless my classmates, Ronnie Daniel, Harold Lewis, Sheldon Venner, and I, all came to support St Martin’s that afternoon. Now our Sixth Form teacher came and sat among us in the section with St Martin’s students. As if that was not odd enough, she had the Grammar School flag. I just felt she was “in enemy territory”. She made the mistake of waving the flag when Grammar School had made a goal and all I saw was the Grammar School flag flying in mid air to the ground at the front of the stand. Almost immediately someone ran and tossed it into a green garbage bin nearby.

The entire stand erupted in an uproar that would have drowned out any Carnival Monday jam.

By the end of the game St Martin’s Secondary School had created history by winning the secondary schools football championship for three years in a row! And we did it by beating the St Vincent Grammar School. Coach Gary Thomas had really worked very hard. Players such as Rohan Keizer, Dominique Stowe, Terry Anderson, Jimi Jack and Maxion Richardson, among others on the team, really were top football players in the country, even though they were teenagers.

Now, just before we had graduated in June of 1992, our graduating class also did something that I don’t believe any other graduating class has done. We re-enacted the finals of the football championship between the the champs, St Martin’s, and the opponents in the finals, the Barrouallie Secondary School in a floodlight football match at Victoria Park. The moon was out in all its glory. We had students picking up ticket monies. We had students in charge of Bar be que. We had students manning the bar. It was an unforgettable night. Oh yes, I was responsible for getting the event advertised and so Chester Connell, a past student of St Martin’s who was a top radio announcer at 705 Radio at the time, did the ad for us.

There are so very many other precious memories from St Martin’s. It struck me during times when school was closed that other students who were not from my class would actually say hello to me whenever and wherever we met. That comforted me so much. I knew I was not just a student in a school. I was a brother in a large family.

Up to this day those of us who grew up at the school in that era, refer to each other as “Brother”.

And we saw it even as the news spread of the death of Mr Butcher. Old boys came to the funeral dressed in their St Martin’s uniform. I was one of them.  Seeing all the other people associated with the golden era of St Martin’s made tears come to my eyes.

butchercoffin

Mr Butcher’s body leaving the Anglican Church in Kingstown

We were mightily blessed to have been at St Martin’s in those times. A lot has changed over the years. The Christian Brothers are no longer in St Vincent. That wonderful cadre of men and women that comprised the teaching staff has long since disbanded to various other endeavours in life.

I know many of us past students wish that our St Martin’s was still engulfed in that magical atmosphere of love, hope and excellent academic pursuits and results.  We may not be able to wave a magic wand and reverse the hand of time but what we can do is let the spirit of SMSS live in all of us.

St Martin’s role was to prepare us for life. That is what Mr Butcher was eagerly doing over all those years of his life. So it is up to us to live out the life lessons we learned within it’s happy walls. It was encouraging this year that the child who came first in the CPEA—the exam that replaced the Common Entrance exam, is the son of a past student of St Martin’s Secondary School.

Let us all use whatever talents we have and make our mark. We can still change the world. I believe in doing so, the present crop of students and teachers at St Martin’s will see the rich legacy of the school powerfully at work and that will keep inspiring them to up their game as well.

I end this lengthy but necessary post with the very words Ezekiel “Scatter” Butcher wrote in my graduation souvenir book when I graduated in 1992:

“Go placidly amidst the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. All the best. May your inspiration come from the Lord at all times.”

SOCCER-WORLD/M61-BRA-GER

 

Yesterday, Brazil took the beating of a lifetime as destructive Germany pummelled them 7 goals to 1 in a semi-final of the FIFA 2014 World Cup. To add insult to injury, it happened right at home on Brazilian soil right in front of their countless die-hard supporters. Brazil’s only goal was scored in the very last minute of the game’s regular time.

I watched the game online and, I, too, could not believe what was happening. All of us from the Caribbean were generally backing Brazil. We wanted them to be the 2014 champions.

The Germans must be congratulated; however, for taking the game from right under the host’s nose in such spectacular fashion. In so doing, they also broke a Brazilian record, Renaldo, for the individual scoring the most goals in a World Cup competition.

When it rains it pours.

Today must be such an emotionally distressed day across Brazil. But I want to leave them, ad their global network of supporters, some timeless encouragement.

Every great winner experiences one or two great defeats.

It is very interesting that the very word “defeat” has the word “feat” as its origin. And those of us with prior knowledge of this word will know that a feat is the accomplishing of an extraordinary outcome.

Just as the sun shines after the rain, this epic defeat will one day empower Brazil to win a FIFA Championship in a colossal manner as was not seen before.

Such a victory will not necessarily come by merely scoring a large number of goals but by the demonstration of highly articulated, calculated and professionally organized talent and skills.

So let your defeat, with all its sorrow and shame, soak in, Brazil. Let it soak in well. For tomorrow you are going to need today’s pain as your impetus and fuel for your football and national glory.

Never write off or condemn a winner. Indeed, the greatest glory consist not in never falling, but in rising each and every time you fall.

Defeat is the base nutrients of champions. I am convinced that Brazil’s defeat will inspire their greater feats.

Christmas in St Vincent and the Grenadines over the years have been an idyllic symbol of life in paradise so having a Christmas Day with floods, death and mourning was unthinkable until today.Eight persons are confirmed dead so far; I am writing this blog at 6:45 PM on Christmas Day. Residents living between Layou and Prospect are to expect no running water in their homes before Saturday December 28, 2013. sixty two persons are homeless, five persons are still missing and there are about five other persons who have sustained injuries.

Vincy Christmas Day 2013

 

This all started with those iconic words “the night before Christmas”. It was at that time yesterday, Christmas Eve that rains started pouring. The villages to the north of the island seemed to have been most critically damaged or devastated.

The overflowing of the rivers became the driving force of the havoc and displacement that have been experienced. A river in Vermont overflowed its banks and flowed into the streets. It further invaded the homes of residents and swept away household items such as clothing, appliances and Christmas amenities.

The Buccament Beach Resort was damaged very badly. In fact, one of its female employees was washed away in the night and her body recovered early Christmas morning.

The capital city of Kingstown was not spared the raves of its rivers, with many streets and businesses being gutted by persistent waters. There was an early report of a vehicle being washed away along the North River Road in the vicinity of the Kingstown Catholic Church.

Elsewhere on the island other vehicles suffered a similar fate as vicious rivers overtook pathways and roads on their unstoppable journey to the Caribbean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean.

The main hospital, the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital was flooded as well and some information indicated that there were patients who had to be relocated from some wards.

The sole functioning airport, the ET Joshua airport in Arnos Vale had to be closed until mid day on Christmas Day because of the flooding of the compound as well.

One of the truly sad events was when a landslide came crashing down on a house in the leeward village of Rose Bank, killing all five family members inside. Never before had Vincentians have to deal with multiple deaths under such simple circumstances.

And to have it happen the night before Christmas made it even  more painfully unbearable.

There were major landslides in places such as Cumberland, Barrouallie, Park Hill, South Rivers and Georgetown. Many critical bridges on the Windward side were rendered impassable or structurally unsafe for heavy vehicles to use.

A male relative of Prime Minister Dr Hon. Ralph Gonsalves died when a stone rolled into his dwelling house in Park Hill. The Prime Minister happened to have been in London at the time but he rescheduled his return flight to come back home on Boxing Day.

Kingstown

 

This made Christmas a Christmas to remember. All day long Vincentians and relatives were calling in to the on-going interactive radio programmes to share and gather information.

The only other time that the country was traumatized so close to Christmas would have been twenty five years ago, when on December 21, 1988, Vincentian recording artiste Walter Porter died when Pan Am flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 persons on board and 11 on the ground. That tragedy was the work of terrorists who placed a powerful bomb on the plane.

The Christmas carols and music virtually became non existent. What a Christmas Day 2013!

Military coups and other political warfare are generally uncommon in the Eastern Caribbean, but thirty years ago when Bernard Cole and cohorts rebelled against the Maurice Bishop government  in October 1983, killing Prime Minister Maurice Bishop by firing squad, the whole Caribbean sat up with panic in their future expectations.

I was just a child back in 1983 but the event still stands out in my mind. One reason it stands out is that Grenada is my neighbouring country, so that uprising was like bad news coming home.

Another reason it stands out is that my mother had come home after spending the night by a friend, telling of the news footage she had seen on television of the American troops landing during their invasion of Grenada on October 25, 1983.

Thirty years ago few Vincentian families had television so anyone who related TV news or any related experiences were esteemed very highly. The phenomenon of viewing and hearing simultaneously was still a delightful hypnosis.

Maurice Bishop

 

From what I have been able to garner, Mr Bishop had sided with communist philosophies so his government was a good friend of Russia and China. However, even as his country was benefitting from the building of the international airport through communist financial assistance (via Cuba) it seems Maurice Bishop began to sense that looks were deceiving.

He began to have a change of heart and wanted to sever ties with his communist allies. But members of his government such as Bernard Cole and his wife would not entertain any back pedalling on political philosophies.

Effectively, then, Maurice Bishop was thinking of the future welfare of Grenadians rather than any immediate personal gains.

So things came to a head in October 1983. Reports are that Maurice Bishop was overseas when he heard of the planned rebellion against his leadership. He was told not to return to Grenada. One of the main reasons he was in the USA was to beef up support to avert any military upheaval in Grenada.

However, Maurice Bishop was determined to lead from the front and to be on the ground in his country to face whatever crisis was in the pipeline. He flew in unannounced.

He was subsequently arrested as he tried to go about his governing business.

On October 19, 1983, Maurice Bishop and a few members of his cabinet were taken to the colonial fort in the capital city of St Georges.

There he was put in front of a firing squad and shot to death.

His body was taken from the fort but to this day has never been found.

On October 25, 1983, United States President, Ronald Reagan, ordered US military forces to invade Grenada so as to restore democratic rule and governance.

Bernard Cole and his followers were subsequently arrested and prosecuted. They were sent to prison, but given no death penalty.

October 25th is now a public holiday in Grenada to commemorate the invasion for liberation by the US military on the island.

The international airport was renamed in Maurice Bishop’s honour.

You know, five years ago, I was in Grenada. On that particular visit I went to the fort and saw the place where Maurice Bishop last stood alive. It’s an eerie feeling standing in a spot where you know someone as important as a Prime Minister was killed in cold blood.

Some bullet holes and marks are still evident on those fort walls.

In the Caribbean we are washed in so much democratic freedom and civil liberties that we don’t have much connection to civil unrest or death from political struggles. Such things for Caribbean people are really only lived through the movies.

As far as I know, Maurice Bishop has been the only democratically elected leader (Prime Minister) who was killed in office.

And it happened so very near to my home country!

Maurice Bishop and the historical events of October 1983 in Grenada must never be forgotten whether 30 years or 300 years after.

 

choices cover

 

This blog stands on the premise that readers are world changers and Eldon Taylor’s latest book, Choices and Illusions, is a masterpiece which beautifully reinforces the truth in this statement.

Over the lifetime of this blog I have voiced opinions and perspectives on a variety of real life issues and developments which affect the quality of life of all my readers, no matter which part of the world they live. While I have attempted to sift through the labyrinth of issues that represent the maize of life all of us are chosen to walk in life, I have come across a writer who has done a quintessential job of helping the average reader understand how to unlock their real and full potential.

Eldon Taylor’s book reminds me of the treasure maps of yesteryear films which, when followed, lead to a rich trove of endless delights that is the desire of all living people.

The simple truth is that all of the seven billion men, women and children on this planet are searching for their individual happiness and sustainable fulfilment. choices and Illusions is the best human prescription with a universal appeal that I have seen in a very long time.

This is a book that is not only worth your read but also worth your application of the simple and profound ideas indicative of the life changing power of the mind.

Every change in life begins in the mind. that is, if your life is to change then your thinking has to change. One of the things that this book brought back to my consciousness is the scientific knowledge that we use a small fraction of our mind’s powers. If humans have been able to accomplish so much while using so little of their brain power, how much more can we amaze ourselves by unlocking even an additionally small amount of our unused mental capacity!

My message here is simple: you don’t need to incur the loss of an arm and a leg in order to get fairly good advice to make your life better. Just read Choices and Illusions. The only prerequisite is that you approach it and read it with an open mind.

Even though I am an individual with grounded faith and spiritual values, I was refreshingly inspired by Eldon Taylor’s ability to incorporate he potentially controversial religious issues of life into Choices and Illusions. And he did it with charismatic success.

For every child seeking a reason to have self esteem, for every adult who is struggling with intimacy or isolation due to past hurts, failures or rejection—Choices and Illusions is the clearest way to get you to the place where you are fully and freely empowered with no strings attached.

We use gadgets such as our smart phones and tablets without understanding exactly how they are able to do what they do. If we were to get an inside look at their unseen processes and how they achieve their mesmerizing performances, we will love them even more.

Well, that is what Choices and Illusions has done for us. It removes the veil from our subconscious so that we are able to for the first time able to understand what we thought was impossible about the workings of our own brain.

This is critically important for all those of us who are trying to aspire to a new and more meaningful life every day we wake up. We have to be willing to be different. We have to be willing to change. Indeed, we can only change what we believe can be changed! It is a lesson that rings loud and clear in Choices and Illusions.

I choose to end with a quote from actor Sylvester Stallone in one of his Rocky movies. After defeating a Hercules of a Russian boxer, a feat the media thought was impossible, he says quite confidently: “We all can change.”

And that is the message of good hope that I believe Eldon Taylor wants all of us to know from reading his book Choices and Illusions, “WE ALL CAN CHANGE.”

KFC & Our Environment

For quite a few years now I have realized that KFC containers litter our environment from the city to the most remote sceneries. If there is one business entity which should lead the way in safeguarding our environment, it should be KFC.

Their management might say that the company provides adequate litter bins at its fast food joints and it cannot regulate what its customers do with their containers after eating. initially that might be true but KFC is a mega million dollar franchise. It is luxuriously expensive. When I have stood in line and looked at the cashiers being paid for orders, the smallest bill I see is a $20 bill.

Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, I have said that if you want a quick on-the-ground check to see if people have money to spend, just wander by any KFC restaurant. No matter the time of day, the day of the week, or the season of the year, KFC restaurants always have customers plugging out their $20s, $50s and $100s.

The franchise prides itself on delivering a unique and consistent taste which has propelled its global market share in the fast food industry, It is now time that KFC accepts its corporate environmental responsibility and increase its market share in environmental consciousness.

Because the patrons of KFC transcends all age, race, political and socio-economic classes, the company is really ideally positioned to help educate the population on the importance of keeping the environment clean. Accepting this responsibility will make KFC a humanitarian leader rather than a mere universal supplier of cholesterol and chronic-developing lifestyle diseases.

Since the average Vincentian feels a sense of financial pride in being seen with a box or glass of KFC, they can also feel this same pride in knowing that they are helping to maintain a clean and healthy environment.

So how can KFC go about looking at the man in the mirror and make the change for a cleaner environment? well, for starters, here are a few suggestions:

1. Encourage consumers to recycle. Distribute or set up recycling depots across the island.

2. Gave incentives to customers to bring in their used containers. the incentive might be in the form of a cash refund or it can be a discount for the next KFC purchase.

3. Team up with schools and have a best school or class competition. give attractive prizes such s electronic gadgets, free meals or school supplies. Since many students eat KFC every day, this can be a big hit among adolescents and younger children.

4. Organize and sponsor an official Environmental Awareness Week. By so doing, NGOs and other stakeholders can get on board and help spread the word on cleaning up the environment.

5. Lobby with the legislative to help enact a no littering law or policy, first in the capital and at all official hang out spots and tourist attraction sites.

KFC has the finances, physical assets and legal frame-work to take care of our environment but I am waiting to see if KFC lacks the human backbone to do something about it.

 

huntin

Protesters outside the Florida court house after George Zimmerman was acquitted of the shooting death of unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin

 

Trayvon Martin’s death, followed by the calculated acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, has become a powerful searchlight on the perennial issues of ethnicity, demographic residence and social stereotyping in the “greatest country” on planet earth.

Like many people, I have been told that prevention is better than cure. No matter your take on this issue, the events of that February 26 evening in 2012 has forever changed the lives of the two individuals and also the rest of the world’s tolerance for racially imbalanced murders.

A professionally trained 911 dispatcher distinctly advised George Zimmerman to desist from following or intercepting Trayvon. George obstinately refused to comply with the instruction.

Now another innocently unsuspecting black youth is dead and will never breathe under the sun again.

Supporters of George Zimmerman are anxious to voice their understanding that George is the person being unfairly treated and even hated in the whole tragedy. They say that Trayvon is the one who started the altercation and the fighting. They say that Trayvon Martin was much taller, faster and stronger than the captain of the elite neighbourhood watch in this gated community, where such good neighbours refused to even show their faces outside upon hearing—what George Zimmerman’s friends say—was their neighbourhood watch captain yelling for help as his head was repeatedly being bashed against the concrete!

I don’t dispute that Trayvon may have passed some blows on George Zimmerman. But if you were a young black person, walking all alone in a neighbourhood where you do not live and you are approached by a mysterious stranger who infers that he thinks you are up to know good, wouldn’t you automatically go in defensive and attacking mode?

What are the words George Zimmerman used to open the dialogue at their ill-fated meeting? Or, did Trayvon spot George Zimmerman stalking him and attempted to tell George to stop following him. That probably happened, along with a not too racially nice comment from George Zimmerman, who for all intent and purposes had already concluded that Trayvon Martin was representative of the undesirable people in his socially upright neighbourhood.

It was probably upon hearing the remark, that the skittles-toting Trayvon Martin decided that he had had enough of strange white adults treating him like an ineligible American citizen. Instead of apologizing, George Zimmerman probably repeated what was said and the rest became a cause for a 911 call.

I believe in this scenario Trayvon did use his comparative advantage and  would have given this neighbourhood watch captain a superior lesson in who and how to watch for alleged suspects. When George realized he had barked up the wrong tree, he went for his gun. At this point Trayvon Martin would have raised his hands and said words to the effect of “you got me”.

An embarrassedly enraged George Zimmerman still pulled the trigger after reflexively pointing the gun at Trayvon Martin’s heart.

Martin Bashir, the famed reporter whose exclusive documentary of Michael Jackson resulted in the arrest and trial of the pop star, has now released a most critically balanced video on the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman hapless meeting.

You can view the video by clicking the url  at the bottom of this blog post.

If only George Zimmerman had been an obedient captain. It is a tragic lesson in learning the importance of following orders before one is elevated to a position of giving orders.

It is ironic that George Zimmerman was acquitted because of an obedient jury who were given a push in that direction by the judge and the evidence which focused only on the mental state of George Zimmerman the moment the trigger was pulled: it was to spare his own life.

How many more must die? How many more must be acquitted because of blind spotting evidence for the sake of following unjust laws written in state law books for the preservation of traditional human welfare?

It seems not likely that George Zimmerman will be able o resume an average Joe’s life but he might be gaining access to silent transactions for works of literature and other productions. We could not prevent George Zimmerman from meeting Trayvon Martin but we had, and still have, a right to make sure no racially clouded murder becomes a speck of oblivion in our history.

 

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151774324452329&set=vb.102477856463099&type=2&theater

For generations in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Common Entrance Examination was the sole determinant of which primary school children would get a secondary education. In its hay day, only the successful candidates who passed the Common Entrance Examination (CEE) were chosen to attend a secondary school. As there were very few secondary schools, competition was stiff and many primary school children were left without a place in the secondary school system when the new school year began.

The top students in the CEE were automatically selected for the top schools on the island. The top school for boys was the St Vincent and the Grenadines Boys Grammar School. It’s female equivalent was the St Vincent and the Grenadines Girls High School. Both of these schools were—and still are—located in the capital city and adjacent to each other.

The CEE was therefore a life changing event for many children, especially for those who lived in the country side. Once they passed well and were selected for a “town school”, it was a whole new life about to begin. For example, in my own case, my first trip into town on my own was only as a result of passing the CEE well enough to be placed at a secondary school in the town.

I can still vividly recall upon leaving the school premises after school one day during the first week of classes, feeling horrified because I wasn’t seeing the landmarks I had memorized. Luckily, panic gave way to calm as something inside told me to just follow the other students for a while. It turned out the landmarks which I had mentally encoded were on another street farther away from the school.

Forgive my enthusiastic running ahead of myself there. Let me resume the reflection on the topic at hand. Age played a significant role in deciding who would write the Common Entrance Examination. Most of my classmates in Junior 5 (Common Entrance Class, as we called it back then) had two and even three chances to write this exam. Me? I had only one.

So I told myself that I was going to either Form 1 or Senior 1. It was some kind of 1 for me. Now Senior 1 was the next primary school class after Junior 5, occupied by those who either failed the Common Entrance Exam or who were ineligible to write the Common Entrance Exam in the first place.

Besides one’s age, academic ability played a huge role in determining who would end up in the “Common Entrance Class”. As I was usually placing first in my primary school class (and I still have a report from my Junior 4 class to prove it) I was automatically selected to go to the Junior 5A which was the group who would be prepared to write the exam.

And even in this large Common Entrance Class (there were over twenty of us), the teacher split the class into a smaller group 1 and a comparatively larger group 2. Group one was seen as the group with the higher likelihood of passing the CEE.  Although students from both groups would eventually write the exam, only six of us in all passed: two boys and four girls.

My best friend and I were the two lucky boys that year. I can still remember that some days before the exam, he must have seen my worried looks, he said to me,”Ashford, don’t worry, If I pass you are going to pass, too.”

That really cheered me up because I knew he was just as bright as I was. (I was always fortunate in school to experience peer power rather than peer pressure).

In my time in primary school the Common Entrance Exam was sat on the first Friday in May. In my year the date was Friday May 1, 1987. As I lived in the rural Marriaqua valley and attended the Evesham Methodist School, I had to journey to the nearby village of Cane End to write the Common Entrance Exam.

And that was another life changer that the CEE facilitated. It was the first time in my life I would be sitting in a classroom with other students from other schools. You can imagine how utterly foreign I felt, never accustomed to being around strangers and suddenly having  to write the most important exam of my life in a room with strange classmates and equally strange teachers and invigilators.

I wonder if that made some students over the years freeze with fear and failed the exam?

Anyway, I left home bright and early that morning and walked with my older brother through the London short cut over to Carriere, a neighbouring village, through another shortcut called “Bottom Road” and then on to Cane End.

As early as I was, some of my classmates were already there, and that helped a great deal in calming my fears. That day proved to be a very fun day where socializing was concerned. Not that I made any new friends, but that day I discovered those long hot dog sausages that tasted like heaven to me. I remember buying at least three different ones.

That made me fall in love with that school (it was the Marriaqua Secondary School, now called  The St Joseph Convent Marriaqua). I told myself I did want to come to this school and eat hot dogs—if I passed the CEE.

My CEE number was 276. We had four exam papers that day. The first exam began at 9:00 AM and the final exam ended at 2:30 PM.

I think the exam papers were English, Maths, General Paper and Science.

One other thing I must mention about the actual exam day. I had developed the habit of bowing my head and praying before writing an exam (a practice I still follow today). At first, several of my foreign classmates joked and made fun of my silent prayer.

But after a moment I realized the room was very quiet. Thinking that maybe a teacher had entered the room, I opened my eyes, and found much to my surprise that many of the other children had their heads bowed in silent prayer as well.

For some reason that day, the girls from my primary school class ran on ahead of us when we were ready to go home. So I had only the company of my male classmates. It made me sad at first but then I forgot about it as we started to raid and pick mangoes like joke from the many mango trees that we met on our way home. We had taken a longer route home, going through Mesopotamia (also called Mespo), La Croix and then back to Evesham, passing our primary school on the way).

The 1987 Common Entrance Examination results were released on Friday June 19th. I know because up to this day I have a copy of the results which were printed in the sole local newspaper at the time.

I remember on that Friday morning while walking to school a female school mate of mine ran out of her home in a place we called “Tanchin” and said breathlessly to me: “Ashford, you pass! You pass Common Entrance!”

Well that took away all my nerves and fears. She also told me of two other persons from my school who had passed. I never found out how that girl knew I passed but I can only assume that there was an adult in her home who worked with the newspaper or with the ministry of education.

So by the time the teacher got to school with the results, I was no longer afraid about whether or not I had passed. However, that day proved the last day of my primary education because my mother decided it was not productive for me to go back to school after that.

But I can still see in my mind’s eye some of my classmates literally crying because they had failed the exam. I wept inside for them too, because to fail Common Entrance in those days was to fail at getting a secondary school education.

It has been many years since I wrote the Common Entrance Examination. Now this year, 2013, has been the last year the Common Entrance Examination was used. Since the year 2005 every primary school child who wrote the exam was being placed in a secondary school.

It made those of us who had to toil so strenuously feel a bit cheated; however, it is life and it seems many of the present day children do not appreciate this “free ride” to a secondary education. So many of them are unable to read well and still don’t care about how they perform, even though they know they come from poor families.

In our time, we tried hard to make something of ourselves in secondary school because it was clear to us that we had been given an opportunity which many others of our own age never got. But today’s crop of primary school leavers seems content with just  cursing F-words, playing with their electronically expensive gadgets and trying to find somebody to have sex with. My, how times and values have changed!

Finally, in June this year, I was saddened when Iheard the obituary of the man who was my head teacher at the Evesham Methodist School. His name was Bernard Williams. I still have his signature on my report card I mentioned earlier.

Last year he actually visited the church I attend (he was a Gideon and had come to promote the distribution of Bibles), and we had a very memorable talk—going back down memory lane. One of the last things he taught us was a simple poem. He just came into the class, wrote it on the blackboard and then left as suddenly and as quietly as he had entered.

The poem read:

“There are four things that come not back—a sped arrow, a spoken word, a past life and a neglected opportunity—H.E. Longfellow”.

I have never forgotten that poem.

But when I heard his obituary I was also pleasantly surprised that it also said “…better known as ‘Master Willie’ ”.

That was his nickname that we were all terrified to call him. But somehow I believed he smiled from heaven because he realized he was more than that nickname.

Interestingly, one of my primary school classmates who now lives in New York, came across my blog a few days after his death. I told my lost-and-found primary school buddy about our head teacher’s death and we quietly reflected on those good old days.

Oh yes, from next year the Common Entrance Examination is to be replaced by an examination called Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment, the CPEA.

 

 

In July last year  I wrote about a rather spiritually ignorant Hugo Chavez who said his cancer is not going to kill him. “It is not time to die” he had said at the time.

One year later, and many trips to and from Cuba, the same Hugo Chavez is right now battling for his life in Cuba. He is on a respirator, breathing through a hole pierced through his neck.

Not many days ago, our own country’s prime minister participated in a prayer vigil for the recovery of Hugo Chavez. It shows that even his regional counterparts are sensitive on the matter of his mortality and the inevitable end of every man born of a woman.

Below is an extract from Caribbean 360 which shows the critical nature of Mr Chavez’ illness and its political realities on the ground in Venezuela.

“We trust that, with the help of God, we are going to be victorious,” he said. “And that sooner rather than later, we will have our president here.”

The Venezuelan government did not say when Chávez will return home, or whether he will be ready to begin a new six-year term next month.

But Minister of Information Ernesto Villegas said the nation needs to be prepared for all eventualities.

“We trust that, with the love of millions, the Commander will respond quickly and return before January 10,” he said.

“But if not, the nation needs to be prepared to understand it,” he added. “It would be irresponsible to cover up how delicate the situation is now and will be in the days to come.”

Chavez undergoes tracheotomy in Cuba after fourth surgery – Caribbean360

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