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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Funny things about where I live

No traffic lights on island. sweet
No cinema. Not sweet.(well maybe not actually)
rivers to dip in after you go to the sea. sweet
no indoor sports courts, bball, football, tennis...anything. Not sweet
fresh fruit, and vegetables. sweet
the most punitive import duties you can find. not sweet

The result is that there is a wonderful opportunity to build a sports arena, a cinema and to spend alot of time driving around island.

Would not like Dominica to end up like Barbados, but, there is a halfway house we can reach.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Island Intellect

The egos of men drive most development. It also leads to their demise. When I moved here I took a risk. Its not a risk quantifiable in dollars. Its far greater than that. Whilst there are real benefits to living in a small tropical paradise it insulates you from so many things in the real world.

Your parameters for growth are limited. Its almost mathematical. The range of people you can meet on an island is extremely limited.

When you then have to interact constantly with someone for example who has never worked anywhere but on an island you face real challenges. It doesnt mean people cannot be briliant or groundbreaking, and it certainly doesnt mean they arent great. But it does mean they can be extremely narrow in their thinking.

Its why I guess the more tangible forces for change anywhere are those who are insecure about their knowledge and are eager to learn. And it also works that those most likely to be agents of stupidity are those who are closeted in their own little enclaves, thinking they have reached the apex and are only interested in functional knowledge that enables them to make money and curry favour or try to manipulate people.

These are the people who are convinced that their risks and their effort are the greatest of all. Put them on an island and you have Napoleon meet Hitler. Give them a few disciples and you have Jim Jones too.

Do you know someone like that second model ? Run from them very fast. You could waste time building them into even bigger beasts than they really are.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Caribbean oddity

I dont think its a Dominican one, but I am sure we do it more than other islands.

Its both a very serious thing (which it is) and a total joke (which it is as well).

I refer to how the government calls a signing ceremony complete with speeches and hushed tones to launch everything from a public convenience to fixing a road to building a sea wall to giving a scholarship.

Imagine if after a surgery procedure a doc comes out and calls a press conference to announce that they had successfully stitched your forehead. Well...the irony of this is that these are things that governments are SUPPOSED to do, yet somehow they turn it into a back slapping self congratulation complete with odes to the PM and accolades for all.

Its so funny its sad.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What to do....

Dominica doesnt need much.

1. sustain itself food wise. All the talk of exporting food ignores the fact that we import way too much food. If Dominica concentrates on simply feeding itself we can achieve serious success.

2. take control of our geothermal resource. this means more than government expropriating the the resource but actually engaging in exploiting the resource in two definite ways. first in reducing the cost of electricity in such a way as to revolutionise the cost of living for the local population. second in creating a real opportunity to sell energy to the rest of the region and to create a competitive advantage for business to be located in dominica.

3. get rid of income tax and become an indirect tax jurisdiction. this is always controversial because like all small caribbean states we have been taught that ttaxation is our way of life. unfortunately our infrastructure is still one of the poorest in the caribbean and consumption is dropping like a stone. its a double whammy we dont need. by leaving vat and corporate tax and eliminating base income tax, we can sell the perception of a tax free jurisdiction which frees up everyone mentally. The population needs to dream.

4. engage in community planning. for too long new communities in dominica have developed organically without any support or guidance from government. the nightmare in picard is evidence of what happens when you leave a population and new arrivals to simply make their way.

thats a decent start.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Marijuana

There is something fundamentally wrong with the criminalisation of a whole heap of young people for smoking small quantities of herb when we have a serious social problem caused by alcohol in the Caribbean.

That is not to say we want wholesale smoking everywhere but marijuana is the least of our concerns.

Incest, child abuse, domestic abuse, corruption, political victimisation.

Yet there are kids in jail for being so idle as to have the time to smoke a plant. A social problem it is yes...but not a criminal one.

The Tip

WIll be returning. Its going to be more interesting this time round actually. And it will still be free.

Cant say much more except that I am tired of people asking me about it :-)

Tough times

These are tough times for anyone in advertising. In a region where the idea of the value of an advertising agency, is just below that of a photographer (or picture take outer).

We are pitching to more accounts than ever though because tough times brings about a need to differentiate, or die. Therefore we are talking to people who would traditionally skip over us.

Its interesting. In a market where distributors and wholesalers have cannibalised marketing and advertising and have created the standards of cheap n dirty that allow any con man with a few dollars to appear to be doing so much, we need change.

Long live introspection and fear. It creates a need to think.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Perspective

In a meeting of our ad agency network in Miami, everyone was trumpeting new wins in 2009. The consensus is that small independent agencies will do generally well this year because for the first time companies will look beyond cushy relationships and actually start questioning how much they spend on marketing.

Of course the numbers are relative to markets. My indian counterpart, Atul from Ignitee was talking about a huge account with the Indian Board of Tourism. Kinda humbled any thought of relative success some of the other agencies had.

But anyway, listening to some of the agency stories gives perspective on success or failure. Its always funny to return to Dominica after those meetings. Love it more than ever though.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dont touch the Pastors Rod

The name of a Dominican calypso which satirises a pastors role in screwing the wife of a colleague who he helped counsel, along with the same wife he was peppering, about rescuing their marriage.

Its a funny story because of course being human, there is something very scandalous about a man of the cloth being that devious.

The truth is pastors and priests screw around. Very much like their congregation and most often with them. Its normal and its good for calypso. And ultimately if it helps people have some Jim Jones eureka moments before they drink the koolaid, then great.

The pastor screws, you get saved.

CSME

A region distrustful of itself.

Trinidadians empowered by resources and feeling proudly first world in their wealth even as they murder and kidnap themselves into third world paranoia. And even when they are poor. Nothing like a man who can declare his country to be on a better path even as he himself struggles to eat.

Bajans who drink caffe lattes and play golf even as they have to serve the traditional masters to earn their daily bread. But all the indices point to an ordered society....except for those damn Guyanese. Nothing like an S&P report which declares you to be a stable nation.

Dominicans who declare independence and strength as they travel to superpowers like Anguilla to be able to have a decent job.

Jamaicans who declare that they belong to a Caribbean that they dont know or never travel to.

My experience of CSME is leaving Dominica having taken a security check and then coming off the plane to have the same check done in Antigua. Distrust.

My experience of CSME is of travelling with my Dominican passport and being asked what I am doing in Barbados, and travelling with my UK passport and being asked where I am staying in Barbados.

My experience of CSME is being asked by a Jamaican if Dominica has cellphones.

The issue of Caribbean ness is of a deeply fractured people. lacking in confidence, suspicious of each other, and desperate to mimic the same people who they wanted to grow up from.

There is a ground of comfort. Those who went to UWI, to Lodge , to the same boarding school, the middle class who see the same goals for themselves in their....we are better than this way, the merchants who share the same skin tone even as they sit in this unhealthy state of belonging only to those they do not really like.

It is why LIAT cannot produce anything of substance. The people dont really like Caribbean people even as they are Caribbean people. It is why the immigration and freedom of movement only worked during World Cup 2007. Because foreigners needed it. Once it became only about Caribbean peiple, it became irrelevant because of course we do not like each other that much.

I am dissapointed because this region has gone from slavery to freedom without actually experiencing freedom.

Abandon this mistaken game and call it failed so we can salvage it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Tip Revisited - 2

Continuing...

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Not in My House

Its not often that we deal with controversial topics in Dominica outside of politics. There is often an embarrassment with talking openly about things that shouldn’t be happening in a laid back Caribbean island.

But like our front page on Domestic Violence, many people know someone or has heard of someone who has been abused sexually in their home.

The strange thing is that it is relatively commonplace in the so called first world to the point that it has become almost over sensitive. We in the Caribbean do not second guess our reactions to both our and other peoples children. In the US or UK there is often a nervousness of being too affectionate with children.

In Dominica it is often said that incest is a rural phenomenon. Again, like all ‘under the carpet’ problems, this is a myth. It happens in a wide range of households and starts with either an insecure or ignorant man and a woman who turns a blind eye to the point where even their children are afraid to confide in them.

Part of the problem of talking openly about it is the cast of so called respectable characters who could be implicated. However the silent cries of children in homes across the land cannot be ignored. Women usually are the guardians of the household and where they relegate their responsibility to keeping peace with the breadwinning male, or decide that they are picking the side of the family name rather than the side of a childs dignity, then we face the prospect of serious damage being done.

Another common scenario is where parents entrust the parenting of their children to a relative who turn out to be the invisible monster who is both helping the absentee parent and damaging their childs life at the same time. What a dilemma for a child to communicate !

But more critical is how do we find a solution for this. The most painful answer is communication. Painful because the prospect of being whistleblower on someone in small communities is both dangerous and also not exactly common. However, whenever we close the doors on small children, we are helping perpetuate serious crimes.

Ironically in a culture which seemingly has so many avenues for communication, people rarely talk openly with each other, and certainly children communicate less than ever to their parents or other family friends.

It is by keeping channels of communication open that we can rescue lives from being damaged before they can even bloom. And critical to our understanding of why we must intervene, it is the overwhelming statistic that the abused can easily become the abuser, in an adulthood which is racked with rage.

It is not enough to be a guardian of our home in that sense. We must become guardians of our society because slowly but surely, the problem that we reject as being someone 'elses’ will rebound to become ours. We are seeing it happening already across other social values.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Tip - Revisited

Some time ago I used to write the articles for the Tip, a free publication in Dominica.

I am going to repost a series of my favourites for online consumption. Here is the first.

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Hard Truths


The environmentalists across the region are fighting a losing battle. It is not difficult to understand why they are losing but the level of honesty that must be practiced is extremely difficult for most to negotiate.

Let us start with a Caribbean fact that sums up the problem. Jamaica has the highest per capita churches of any country in the world. Jamaica also features the third most murders per capita in the world. What that statistic says is pretty much what one of our favorite quotes highlights. “Your religion is what you do when the sermon is over”. There are other huge contradictions between what Caribbean society projects and what it is, but let us make the linkage with Dominica and the environment.

Many environmentalists work with the assumption that Dominicans love the environment and want to preserve it. Like the fact that many moralists perceive the Caribbean to be a Christian society, the reality on the ground could bring a different conclusion. The massive migration outwards, the reaction of ordinary people to ‘development’ employment, and the hunting of whales is a clue to a harder truth.

Many( if not most) Dominicans do not care much for protecting the environment beyond random verbal support. Some will doubt our line on this but we would encourage self examination. How many people believe that without foreigners intervening that Dominicans would stop hunting turtles ? Indeed, the scarcity of turtle meat simply made it more of a delicacy. Political correctness has a whole generation of people claiming they love turtles, but the reality is, without laws to protect turtles, the turtle would probably be extinct. The simple reason being that the average Dominican does not see the big deal. And it tastes good, horror of horrors.

The losing battle on behalf of the whale watching industry vs Japans dollars forgets the reality on the ground. Dominicans in the main make no connection with their ordinary lives and protection of animals. On top of that, add in commercial incentives from one side, and it’s a battle lost. No matter that fishermen are still using the same methods they have always used and that the facilities themselves have not changed the culture of fishing.

Consider the average Caribbean, much less Dominican, treatment of pets, such as dogs and you get a clue as to difficulties faced. We have a functional view of animals, which can only be massaged by law or by funding. Again this viewpoint may seem harsh until you really think about it.

Given all of this what should be the approach for the environmentalists ? A just cause is one thing, but that cause needs to market itself not only as the moral cause (it doesn’t work for Caribbean people) but as a cause which will impact our lives beyond things like cleaner air and fresh water. Dominicans have shown a willingness to run to every polluted developed country on earth .Why should we be afraid of a polluted Dominica if the price is the very development we seem to crave?


It is time for the environmentalist movement and its backers to understand that the battle for hearts and minds begins with the pocket and the stomach. And this is a battle which they are losing, no matter how noble the intent and the cause.