Friday, July 30, 2010

My Review of "Jamaica Farewell" after we saw it last year

"Jamaica Farewell" is a magnificent production
See This Play
Basil Waine Kong

Last night, my wife and I were in Atlanta and took the opportunity to attend the fabulous one woman show titled: "Jamaica Farewell" staring Debra Ehrhardt and Directed by Francis McGahy. It is funny, it's original, well rehearsed and went off without a hitch. I could readily relate to the story line about a Jamaican girl who dreams of escaping to America during the Turbulent Seventies. Through many daring and hilarious twists and turns (Jamaican style), she averts disaster and achieves her goal. For good belly laughs and inspiration mixed with a great deal of back-home inferences, you will want to make every effort to see this magnificent production. I absolutely loved it and I am sure you will as well. Ms. Ehrhardt deserves an Oscar. To learn about play dates, please go to: Your soul will be enriched.

The play comes to the Theatre Place (8 Haining Rd. 908-0040) from Wednesday, Aug. 11 - Sat. Aug. 14.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Selling Worthless Pyrites for Gold

Basil Waine Kong

With all due respect, I believe our PM is under the illusion that a state of emergency (SOE)that authorizes our soldiers and police to be arresting officer, judge, jury and executioner is the answer to the crime monster. While the declaration of the SOE was absolutely the right thing to do to meet the immediate threat and the attack against the state, it is no substitute for day to day policing. He has, however, sold the public that a long term SOE will be effective and make us feel safe again.

Crime statistics reported by the government predictably show dramatic improvement but at what price? The killing of over 70 suspects or imprisoning over 4,000 compromises our rights as citizens without the requirement that they be formally charged and determine their guilt or innocence in a count of law. Apparently, more than 99% of those taken from their families and detained for up to two months under horrendous circumstances are never charged. An attack on crime in any society requires an investment in people, strategic planning and hard work, these do not seem to be elements of what is being done.

According to Hunmin Campbell: "The security forces and their admirers believe that the current crime problem can be solved quickly and easily. There is no quick fix to our crime problem. The Government must not be fooled by the facade of commissioner of police Owen Ellington or the eloquence of Colonel Rocky Meade of the Jamaica Defence Force."

Regardless of the pushback from the Chamber of Commerce, It was correct for the PNP representatives not to support the extension. The SOE provision in our constitution was never envisioned as a long term approach to crime. But our PM's great gift is that he can sell worthless pyrites for gold. While the Dons are on the run and we are focused on catching the bad guys and reducing the number of homicides, what is this doing to our basic human rights? What is the price of a crime free society?

With our culture of police brutality against poor people, we should be reminded about what they say about the path to hell. This usurpation of illegal powers is no substitute for a comprehensive plan to address not only crime but social development as well. The only money we are never short of is for law enforcement. When will we start redirecting some of these funds to education, jobs, and the rehabilitation of the criminals we are bent on putting behind bars?. As these are not life sentences, how will they be re-introduced into society? Most of these men who are being imprisoned are our youths. With five to ten years in prison, they will not only be more bitter, they will have gone to prison school and will have been indoctrinated into the criminal sub-culture. What will they do when they are released?

If you ever wonder about the plight of our young black men,I am envisioning two of them sitting side by side at the Emergency room at KPH waiting for a doctor to tend to their wounds---one a soldier shot by a criminal and the other a criminal shot by a soldier.

This is what a confessed criminal told me: “Wa me fe do? Me a desperate man and desperate men do desperate things. I am 21 years old and nutten a gwaun. Me can't read and me no fine no work. Every day me wake up from kotching and stress over how me gwan get a food. Me try to sell a little ting them pon the road but the police run me. If me don’t beg, tief or borrow, how me fe live? How me ever gwan have woman and pickney? Can me even dream of owning a car and house? Life hard. From the day me bawn, me have trouble. Life better in prison.”

Illiteracy is intolerable everywhere else but Jamaica. One third of our people cannot read. Where is the investment in their future? Our government close their ears to the cries of the oppressed and shut their eyes to the crimes of the rich. According to Mr. Lloyd Smith: "Jamaica has one of the highest levels of illiteracy and non-productivity in the Caribbean and Latin American region. This country is also one of the most undisciplined, corrupt and crime-ridden in the world. Education must be the means by which we change all that for the better, not just freeness or states of emergency."

Declaring a SOE says more about the incompetence of government than about law and order. We do not educate our people, tell them not to bother knocking at the door of government for help, deny them access to basic services and sentence them to a life of misery.

Leaders with a lust for power, once in fear for their tenure, cannot help but to be arbitrary and cruel. Today the gunmen and the poor. Who will it be tomorrow?

Personally, I live in fear, not only from criminals but from the government as well. What is to prevent the PM (under his emergency powers) from sending soldiers to extricate me from my home just because he doesn’t like what I write or say about him. Do we still have free speech? Tumultuous liberty is better than disgraceful peace. “I would rather be a dead man in my grave than living as a puppet or a slave.” (Jimmy Cliff) Ruling by fear is the worst kind of government.

To quote Mr. Stanley Redwood: “Expediency has often been used as an excuse for oppression. Let us be very careful what we ask for. We just might get it. And those of us who spring from an ancestry of oppressed people and who continue to live and work among our people, we cannot afford to be so cavalier with our hard-won fundamental rights and constitutional freedoms.”

Our PM is not only misguided, he does not think things through and is without the moral fortitude to lead the country. It never occurs to him that solving one problem creates at least two more problems to solve. I am going to guess when he ordered the detention of thousands of our citizens, he never thought about where they would be housed and how their physical needs were to be addressed. History will judge him unkindly because:

“Moral Evil is Falsehood in actions; as Falsehood is Crime in words. Injustice is the essence of Falsehood; and every false word is an injustice.” (Morals and Dogma by Albert Pike)

But then again, desperate men do desperate things. The end, ladies and gentlemen, does not justify the means. It is time to bring back the restorer of the trust and the builder of the nation.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's My Birthday

Basil Waine Kong

It’s my 67th birthday and I appreciated the well wishes of friends and family, particularly my passionate wife, our four prosperous children and our six gorgeous grandchildren who all called to sing “Happy Birthday” and bring tidings to warm the cockles of my heart. It was really special when my 87 year old mother called and sang to me. She cannot believe she has a 67 year old son! I feel really loved, and blessed today and believe my life’s work made a positive difference in the lives of a few people. Thank you all.

I often reflect on the fact that when I was growing up in Woodlands District in St. Elizabeth, I never knew how old I was and never even thought to ask. None of us children ever had a birthday party or was ever concerned about our age. When my grandmother was 60 years old, her children did assemble for a birthday party but that was the only one I remember. I understand that this was not the practice of those who grew up in Kingston but us country bumpkins did not annually blow our candles and eat ice cream and cake on our birthdays in the company of family and friends. I only found out my birth date when I had to get a copy of my birth certificate to apply for a visa to migrate to the United States at fifteen years old. Even now, it is an odd encounter when we do blood pressure screenings around Jamaica and find that about a third of the people we screen do not know their birth date.

When I migrated to the United States in 1959(Morristown, NJ), my mother was invested in making it up to me and spared no expense organizing a sweet sixteen party. The problem was that as I had only recently arrived and had not yet made any friends. So, I just went ahead and invited the entire school. On the night of the party, over 100 people who I did not know showed up. After admitting about 20 people, my mother locked the door leaving the remaining people wondering up and down Phoenix Avenue to my great embarrassment. Anyway, being the center of attention and receiving presents was a novel experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

As is her practice, my wife went all out to make today special and I appreciate her love, caring and attention to detail immensely. This was her e-mail to me this morning: “My darling husband:I wanted to be the first to give you a BIG BIRTHDAY hug!!!!!! I praise God for you and pray God’s blessings on your now 67th birthday. I love you because you are the fulfillment of my prayers and dreams for a man to share my life with. You are my proof that God exists and that He loves me because He gave you to me. You are my daily birthday present. I love you this day more than ever before!!!!! Your Wife”

Between watching The Open, lunch with my mother, an outing with some Haitian friends (Gee and Karen Douyon) in the afternoon and a lovely family dinner, it turned out to be a wonderful day. An old friend (Dr. Art Lee) who I have not seen in over a year showed up and contributed tremendously to the celebration. Seeing Luis Oosthuizen, the winner of The Open from South Africa, and his Caddie (Zack Rasego) walk down the eighteenth fairway on Nelson Mandela’s birthday was a heartwarming and emotional experience. Yes, I share my birthday with the great man himself.

But, I think we have things backward. Children love a lot of candles and older people hate them, so I propose that when a baby comes into the world, he or she should have 80 candles on their first birthday and each subsequent birthday is celebrated with the reduction of one candle. So, when you run out of candles, you will be reminded that it is time for you to go or at least when you get down to a few you will know that time is running out on you.

To be 67 years old with no aches and still able to play 36 holes walking,do 35 push-ups, having the support of a loving and dedicated family, and still making a contribution to the uplifting of mankind, is a blessing. I learned long ago the words of a wise man (Dr. Malcolm Taylor): “If you have God, family and friends, you may stumble, but you will never hit the ground.” Ladies and gentlemen, I have it all.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Our Breezes Vacation

Basil Waine Kong

We took the opportunity of my wife’s birthday to drive over from Kingston to celebrate at Breezes in Runaway Bay. My wife and I have been privileged to visit many resorts in Jamaica and throughout the world, many superior to Breezes, but absolutely none give you as much value for your money as this slice of heaven in Runaway Bay in our Island in the Sun. For a modest charge that is equivalent to about the food charges at other resorts like the Ritz or the Half Moon; you can play unlimited golf, unlimited tennis, receive unlimited entertainment, food and beverages, unlimited water sports and more importantly, unlimited hospitality. The staff (particularly Amoi Leon) is always at the ready to bring everything up to your expectations, assist you to book reservations, tours and to answer your questions.

Yesterday, for Stephanie’s special day, we woke up at six and helped ourselves to coffee that is available 24/7 and went to their fabulous beach to watch the sunrise and wade in the healing waters of the Caribbean. We brought our snorkeling gear as we anticipated seeing a variety of fish on a nearby reef within the swimming area. We were not disappointed. When I located a number of sea urchins, I went back to the beach, found a stick and destroyed several of them. My wife was delighted as the fish then swarmed to feed on the exposed sea urchins.

The sunrise was colorful; the water was warm and the company delightful. We learned long ago that there are no angry, frustrated or unsociable people on a beach in the early morning so we delight in engaging whoever we saw with “Mawnin”. It is just a wonderful way to make friends. Strangely enough, the aches and pains from playing golf and just being old disappear. My wife (a physician) believes that the salinity of the water provides buoyancy that takes the pressure off the joins. My grandmother (from St. Elizabeth) told me that the therapeutic minerals penetrated the skin and provided relief from whatever ails you. She often asked whoever was visiting the ocean to bring back a bottle of sea water to slap onto her arthritic knees.

We went back to our room to shower and get dressed for breakfast. We find that we shower several times per day after each swim, golf or other activities as well as in anticipation of our meals. At breakfast, we chose a table overlooking the ocean where we enjoyed a cool breeze while dining on a combination of American and Jamaican treats. As a roots man, I am one of those people who like to eat dinner for breakfast, so I take healthy portions of escovitch fish, liver and onions, Callaloo, boiled bananas, yam and dumplings. They ignored my request for corn pone. Stephanie loved the omelets lovingly prepared by Latasha Morris,(a real egg breaker), and we both absolutely love the variety of fruits in season. Our fruits man (Owen Anderson) makes a lovely smoothie with mangoes, bananas, melons, pineapple, yogurt, wheat germ and honey. That will definitely put lead in your pencil. Half way through breakfast, there was a downpour that created a pitter patter on the roof. Stephanie and I looked at each other, smiled and without saying a word, took each other’s hand and made our way back to our room. Nothing like rain on a zinc roof to put us in the mood.

On our way to the golf course, we got a flat tire and after putting on the spare, were sent all the way to St. Ann (10 miles away) to have the tire fixed. So, our tee time was delayed until 10:00 am. The Breezes course is in great shape but the real treat is to meet and even get a lesson from a true legend, Head Pro Mr. Seymour Rose, the only Jamaican to have played on the PGA tour. In his many years in Runaway Bay, he has eagled every hole. While the course is long and difficult, it only took 3.5 hours---walking. For the past four years, during the last week in February, Mr. Ken Wimberly from Atlanta , brings a group of us to Breezes for a week of golf and fellowship and we always find the accommodations and the golf course a great test of our golfing and social skills. A good time is always had by all.

Today, it didn’t matter that the scores were high as the wind picked up and the sun beat down from above, we enjoyed the good natured caddies. They started out laughing with us but they ended up laughing at our game. We finished in time to get back to the hotel, shower, have a quick lunch and meet the horsemen at 2:30 pm for a leisurely carriage ride (accompanied by Champagne) around the residential areas of Runaway Bay in the company of newlyweds from Chicago. Breezes is a popular destination for weddings.

On our return from the hill and gully ride, we took a nap, checked our e-mails, called friends and relations, caught up on the news and took a walk on the breach to watch the sun set and in the process buying two beautiful pieces of art from our local Rastaman (Chini).

We then went to the Japanese Hibachi Restaurant to enjoy hot sake, shrimp, beef and chicken prepared by a chef that neither spoke Japanese nor did the usual tricks with his utensils but cooked a marvelous meal. A birthday cake was brought out to the singing of “Happy Birthday Stephanie” and well wishes from the staff and seven other diners. She loved her cake and card.

Immediately after dinner, we got front row seats to hear “Tommy T and Craig” (wonderful singers from Montego Bay). They are really great entertainers and we danced the night away. We were tired but happy campers when we retired for the evening.

Every day at Breezes is sweeter than the day before. This is definitely a place you can come to get into healing water or ever hot water (hot tub), try a different routine like wake up when you should be going to sleep and sleep when you would normally go to work. Whatever time of day or night, there is always something fun to do. While we are too old to participate in the goat races and other organized fun and games on the breach, there is no shortage of things to do regardless of your age or interests. We look forward to coming back. Happy Birthday Darling!