Caribbean political sex scandal shocker

Clearly, one of the best ways to get people’s attention is to tempt them with content, or the promise of content.

France is apparently in political turmoil because its president might have had a relationship (presumably involving a bit of nooky) with a lady other than his girlfriend. François Hollande is about to get into sauce for his own sauciness. Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 12.00.05 PMIf you read some of the press, you would believe that his private life may derail his political career. His Hollande days may be turning sour.

Meanwhile, in the Caribbean–pick your island–politicians are spending time in the arms of lovers other than their wives/significant others (or husbands, for the few females who are elected officials), and the world is not missing a beat. Most people are about as exercised by that as are likely to walk barefooted on a wall of barbed wire and broken glass.

In the USA, UK or Europe, the media seem obsessed with sex ‘scandals’. They get all frothy and talk gibberish as soon as they get a whiff that some elected official has fallen foul of something that a huge number of electors have also done–have a bit of panky with someone else’s hanky. Why not get all a dither about the men–eating fried chicken or taking a few extra beers? Don’t give me all that nonsense about moral compass and what politicians stand for and fear of bringing institutions into disrepute. Politics is dirty business. Politicians are full of nasty traits. They lie, connive, cheat all the time. So, why go goggle-eyed when they get caught like flies on sticky paper?

Some have argued that sex scandals make us feel better about ourselves. That may be true. But, it’s interesting that a group of people who are usually free with their opinions–Caribbean folk–should miss a chance to just feel high and mighty and take all their angst out on unfaithful politicians. Instead, it tends to draw a yawn. Is it that the Caribbean voter is actually a lot smarter and not fooled into thinking that politicians are somehow superhuman, but full of all of the same frailties?

When ‘scandal’ hits the Caribbean, it gets that term attached because some foreigner is invovled and his/her national press feel that it’s a big matter. Caribbean locations feature in a lot such misdeeds, it appears.

Whatever it is, Caribbean citizens seem to be happy to know that the man got his bit of pleasure on the side and has now returned to getting contracts for his friends, having his home renovated using government funds, and to slugging a litre of rum. Our politicians are strangely human and we’re happy to live with them that way. Let’s save our outrage for the water not flowing and the lights that keep going off.

What doesn’t kill you…

Friedrich Nietzsche is credited with saying “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Kelly Clarkson has made the phrase popular, in recent times, and I would not be surprised, if over time, she gets more credit for the quotation than its originator. 

I listened yesterday morning to a BBC interview between Justin Rowlatt and Nassim Taleb, a professor/economist/former hedge fund manager. He’s written a lot about financial risk, especially, his book The Black Swan, which is about the extreme impact of certain kinds of rare and unpredictable events (outliers) and humans’ tendency to find simplistic explanations for these events retrospectively. He has extended his analysis and was trying to explain his notion of ‘antifragility‘–something does not merely withstand a shock but actually improves because of it.

What went through my mind as I heard his comments, and thought of Nietzsche/Clarkson was that Jamaica (and many Caribbean islands) must be on its (their) way to becoming the most resilient economy(ies) in the world. Jamaica has faltered badly over decades, buffeted by natural disasters, bad economic ideas, poor implementation of good ideas, and more. Should this have been building institutions and people who are able to withstand rough economic times very well? That latter part may be true, in the sense that people have figured out how to survive in an environment where economic gains are slim, even dwindling. But, if true, would we choose that as the way forward? Keep on failing, because it will make us better. I’m not convinced.

Taleb talks with great animation about how Silicon Valley is successful because it embraces what is the ‘natural’ order, of much more failure than success. He argues that any economic activity that has never had the need for government bailout was indicative of areas that would be very successful. He cited restaurants, as an example. Well, Jamaica is full of eating places; I have no idea what the rate of success has been. But, if we assume that most of them have failed, what does that give us? Another good example would be the sports or music industries: we see the few successes and marvel at them, but we often do not see the pile of talented or untalented persons who have tried and failed. Jamaica’s reggae music industry is riddled with failures. In other words, the few who succeed do not or cannot carry the many who fail. (For some, that is precisely why you have government and social programs, because the vast majority of people will be failures.)

We know that luck plays a great part: the right break (a chance to play–baseballer, Cal Ripken got a chance then never missed a game in 2,131 outings, breaking a 56-year old record); someone influential in the audience getting excited; the right time, simple accidents, etc. Christoval Colon ended up in The Caribbean, otherwise, who knows what might have happened to Hawaii?

Rightly, Jamaicans are all agog at what happened to Tessanne Chin. But, she’s almost a perfect example of the ‘hard work pays off, eventually’ maxim. ‘Hard work wont kill you’ is another maxim. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But, it was not hard work alone that got her to where she now stands. Fresh from a wonderful ‘homecoming’ in Kingston, including getting the keys to the city. Hard work can get you there. But, hard work is no guarantee that you will get there. She was a good singer, from a family of very good musicians, who had not gotten ‘the break’ she needed. She got one, and so far, is running with it.

Is the case that Jamaica needs it lucky break? Legalisation of marijuana could be it. Right time? Right place? Just speculating. It may not be.

The failures from which some individuals seem to grow blinds us to what is left behind. Is this why economic failure does not seem to offer the prospect for general economic success? Economic fragility seems to foster greater fragility.