#COVID19Chronicles-203: October 31, 2020-The art of diplomacy-Tapia: “It wasn’t me!”

It could be a shaggy dog story if Shaggy hadn’t already made “It wasn’t me” the go-to excuse for men not named Guiliani caught with their pants down. But, how Donald Tapia found himself in hot water is a bit of a shaggy story. 

The US ambassador to Jamaica, Donald Tapia, is not a career diplomat; he’s a businessman rewarded for supporting the president. His profile is shown on the US Embassy in Jamaica website, stating he was chairman and CEO of ESSCO, the largest Hispanic-owned business in Arizona. He took up his appointment in July 2019. It’s no secret that he donated generously to Donald Trump:

‘Tapia is a big Trump supporter who, during the 2016 election, sported a Trump T-shirt at a baseball game and attended a Trump rally wearing a pro-Trump “Make America Great Again” hat.

Since 2000, Tapia has donated more than $1 million, almost exclusively to Republicans, a review of Federal Election Commission records show. More recently, Tapia gave $100,000 to Trump’s 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Tapia said he has donated an additional $11 million since 2008 to charities…he became a powerful donor to Republican politics [in Arizona].

His political donations include $126,000 to former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and $125,000 to President Donald Trump.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 GOP nominee, took in $31,000 from Tapia over the years.’

Since taking up his post, he has frequently warned Jamaica about its relationship with China, prior to his latest warning this week about Chinese 5G technology, in August, he was critical of a new lottery company whose technology is backed by a Chinese company. This was overstepping the mark, in my view, getting into the business relationship of a local business, especially one that was not in a bilateral relationship with US government entity or enterprise, which might have given some excuse. Perhaps, the minister of foreign affairs should have called the ambassador in for a chat then. By not doing so, one could argue the precedent was set. You are what you tolerate!

In February, Tapia told a meeting of the Rotary Club of Kingston Jamaica that the Chinese Government does not share the values shared by the USA and Jamaica:

“The values include governance, free press, religious tolerance and respect for human rights.”

The Jamaica Observer reported he argued that Jamaica is being courted by the Republic of China, which has falsely claimed that it wants a relationship built on mutual benefits:

“Ask yourselves one question, why would a communist dictatorship want a democracy to thrive and prosper? This is a good question to ask.”

Tapia alleged that if unchecked, China would export some of its worst political practices to Jamaica, “including corruption, mass surveillance, and the repression of individual and collective rights.”

The US ambassador pointed to then-recent events in Hong Kong, where a mass protest has been taking place, as proof of the oppressive nature of the Chinese Government and charged that the Jamaican media has not highlighted these issues. This is actually untrue and to the extent that Jamaican media should respond to world events the way that another sovereign government does, then they have. But, even if they had not, it’s their business judgment about new coverage. 

It wouldn’t have taken a genius in politics to have pointed out that the US government is quickly getting a reputation for repressive attitudes towards its citizens protesting its actions, especially on anti-racism matters. It could easily have occurred to the ambassador to have at least acknowledged that his government’s reputation is far from lily white. Well, if he were trying to be objective, he would do that, but…

Back in November 2019, the ambassador warned Jamaica of the two-headed Chinese monster. The Gleaner noted then:

‘Tapia, who arrived in Jamaica in August, has shelved the diplomatic subtlety of recent US ambassadors, even using his Twitter account as a launching pad for invective against Chinese neo-imperialism at least four times last week, much in the mould of his boss, President Donald Trump.’

“China is a dragon with two heads. If China came to Jamaica presumably with no strings attached, then why did you negotiate 1,200 acres of the most prime real estate with them? Because they need a return on their investment,” the ambassador said during an exclusive interview with The Gleaner.

“There is no way that you will be able to fund that highway in 50 years. The negotiation was 1,200 of the most beautiful acres on the water that you gave to China, and they said they would develop it,” he added, referring to a land swap deal agreed under the predecessor Simpson Miller administration.

Tapia also cast Chinese financing at a rate of two per cent, through its Export-Import Bank, as contrived, arguing that no bank in capitalistic societies offered such uncompetitive rates. He also denounced as unfair the Jamaican Government’s concessions to China Harbour Engineering Company – and other construction firms aligned to Beijing that engage in major infrastructure projects – a missive that will hit the Holness administration and find favour with local engineers and developers who have lamented that they are often unable to bid for contracts because the Chinese have a leg up on the market.’

If the Gleaner had done its homework, it could have pointed out to the ambassador that US Ex-Im Bank has minimum ‘commercial interest reference rates’ are under 2 percent. Tralala! 🎶🎶🎶

Tapia warned Jamaica about Chinese 5G technology at the start of the week. Again, some would see this as overstepping the mark as far as diplomacy goes. 

The remarks drew the ire of the Chinese Ambassador:

It also rankled some Jamaicans, who vented on Twitter. Then the stuff hit the fan. Tapia’s Twitter account was trading insults and this was picked up by Reuters, and then some other media houses:

It had the smell of a hacking job. But, it wasn’t.

The Account of US Ambassador to Jamaica Insults Jamaicans on Twitter

On Thursday morning, foreign minister, Kamina Johnson-Smith, let the public know that she and her government did not like what they had seen and she issued a terse ‘dressing down’ on Twitter:

Quick off the mark, Cliff Hughes and Nationwide arranged an interview with the ambassador to get more insight to what had happened. Well, he quickly fessed up that it was one of two assistants who had access to ‘his device’ and offered a full some apology.

That said, he was back on the bashing Huawei track within hours of leaving the interview:

Maybe, I should hold off and make sure it was the ambassador himself, this time.

My tweets during Cliff’s interview are below–I found the interview fascinating as Mr. Hughes didn’t hold back in trying to set the ambassador straight that he needed lessons in diplomacy:

🙂

@cliffnationwide and @AmbassadorUS_JA sparring over “objective”, which Tapia misunderstands (ie objective as aim vs being objective). Tapia: “Do your social distancing…” (is that shade? If so, not bad). They kiss and are BFF again  Score: Cliff 7 Tapia 3 (10 points to share)

— DGJ “I’m speaking…I’m speaking.” (@dennisgjones) October 29, 2020

The Chinese embassy hit one more time on Friday, basically saying that Tapia should have been told to pack his bags by his home government (if not by his host):

https://twitter.com/nationwideradio/status/1322190256951709697?s=21

Society under threat from social media and computers? Not buying it.

Another exercise is looking at dots. First, a few bold assertions:

I do not believe that social media or access to computers and the Internet by children is destroying society. Why?

Less than half of the world’s population has ever been online. Contrast that to the smaller proportions that have no access to radio or television (about 80 percent of households worldwide have access to a television).

I believe that society changed most dramatically, worldwide, with the discovery of how to transmit sound, so that people could hear clearly what was going on elsewhere without moving from where they were. The invention of the radio seems to have brought the world to within nearly every person’s fingertips, or ears, at the turn of a dial or the pressing of a button. Now, on February 13 each year, UNESCO celebrates Radio Day. Radio is the most widespread communication medium. Just look at the summary statistics for 2013, some of which are highlighted in this image.

Beyond radio, the invention that radically changed how people perceived the world and got most information, was the enabling of visual images to be transmitted broadly and quickly. So, the camera lay at the foundation of that, despite people being able to draw and share images from long before. The camera meant life anywhere could be seen anywhere else, in a short period of time, and it was a more accurate depiction than through a drawing or painting–without getting into the interpretation that any photographer could do. From the camera sprang films (documentary or fictional) and from that television.

Putting sound and images together was a profound invention. Adding mobility to those possibilities is really what computers and later mobile devices have developed. Society was already well into changes in how it interacted long before the notions that inlay social media came into play.

The true human memory is weak and easily manipulated. If you disagree, read about how memories are constructed.

A classic example of this is represented by what we may regard as nostalgia. Christmas is a good time to observe that in action. I wont say much but suggest you listen carefully to how people view past Christmas events. I wager that they will look back at most of them with fondness, including how people used to behave differently. For example, now looking at young people playing on electronic devices and suggesting that in the past people talked and interacted more. Utter rubbish!

My Christmases are not definitive so that is as good a random sample as any, I’d argue. But, I recall (since the early 1960s) people seeking to regain some rest after a long period of work or school since the summer break/holidays. They mostly got up late and broke fast in whatever way they could, when they were ready; balance and nutrition were not important. Those who wanted exercise took it, walking alone or with pets or other people. People read, books, magazines, newspapers, articles. People played, alone or in groups, some games requiring a lot of interaction (like football or cards), others little or none (such as crosswords or jigsaws–I regard those as playful activities). Phones rang, sometimes the calls took up many minutes, sometimes they were brief, often they were not about anything much other than a quick check by someone who could not be with the group on how things were going, including details of their plans to join. Music played on machines (including radios), and could be one person’s choice (often a parent, or at least an adult) or some sort of group taste (eg carols). As children grew, they exerted their influences and might have dominated mostly or given a bigger say in the choice. If circumstances allowed, those whose tastes did not suit the group, were found away from others enjoying their sounds (in the days before headphones, this could be far from others or at low volumes). Coming together tended to be for major meals (lunch or dinner). Conversation was often most animated around the dining table. The rest of the time, conversation happened around activities, often food preparation or when decisions were to be made about what the group might do.

Fundamentally, I’ve not seen any of that change, with the exception that we can share our tastes with others more easily than ever before. In the past, we might have needed to take a physical sound or image file from place to place (exchanging originals or copies physically). Now, that can mainly be done electronically, though not necessarily. Now, everyone can listen to or watch their choices without others having to be subjected to them. That’s the element of choice at the extreme for all things.

But, some want us to think that something sinister is going on with the latest turn of the technological needle. Like modern concerns about bullying, I’ve yet to see recently things as devastating as what I witnessed or learned about as a child. Some of the tools or means are different, but the motivations, perpetrators and victims are all generally familiar.

I’ll accept that the current technologies allow things to be shared much faster and therefore with less chance to verify than before. But, in the past, with things moving slower, those who chose not to, or were unable to, discern were in the same place as now. People have always had reasons to fabricate information. Ignorance has long been an excellent control tool.

Maybe, each generation wants to feel that it has moved on from those of the past, and that may seem easier than to accept that things have continued rather than changed.

It’s really all fake, in Jamaica: new news for old wives’ tales

I wanted to write something about the trend of fake news that is sweeping many countries. Social media and the spread of Internet access has made sharing information and misinformation as easy as breathing in and out. I am not going to rationalize why some people would want to spread things they know to be false. They’re mischievous at the very least, and downright nasty and malicious at worst. But, there are many things that go on in the world that are plausible, and unless one knows a lot about a lot, then it’s easy to be caught out.

So, I’m not going to town on people who believed the USA was going to ease visa restrictions on Jamaica, when we have a new US administration that is dead set against most forms of immigration. I will not lampoon those who thought the story of Jamaica becoming a part of the USA like Puerto Rico was real. Some of these stories pander to what people hope would happen to ease lives that are perhaps set in a fragile way regard their legality.

Let’s not knock it! Elvis lives!

Just looking around what passes as ‘news’ in this island is baffling enough. I decided to just look at random at some of our daily papers, especially those known for more exotic stories. Look at what I found as the main story in one–the ‘star turn’, one might say.

The Star: Condoms being used to apply make-up – Jamaican beauticians reject new trend. Should I believe the report? Do I care? If I had a stock of condoms, would I be concerned that they may start disappearing as the lady in my life strives for more beauty? In the absence of a major loss of memory, would I start to panic if my supply, stored in a discreet place, started to dwindle? Would I wonder if I had wandered a bit too much? Let’s leave it there, with a look at the lovely image the Star put with the story.

Condemned to ugliness unless you use these to rub away the warts?

When the rubber hits the road…

 

What about last summer’s story that wasn’t, of Elaine Thompson being dated by Prince Harry? That was too silly, especially as the pictures used were always of the two ‘lovers’ side-by-side only in two separate pictures. You never noticed?

Princess Elaine of Banana Ground?

We were so besotted by the thought of our new sprint queen being in line to become Queen of England? Princess Elaine of Banana Ground. Let’s invite the Royal Family for a tea party…’Ganja tea, anyone?’ 🙂

 

Then, we had our own ‘fake food’ story just a few weeks ago, with rice ‘made out of plastic’, which seemed to be a rehash of a well-known hoax, but all of a sudden, Jamaicans were finding reason to believe the island was awash with bendy and stickier-than-normal rice. We banned imports. We tested batches of rice. But, nada. Not a grain of truth? But, maybe people just didn’t know how to cook rice! My suspicions were raised when I heard the lady from Manchester utter that well-known Jamaican word ‘spatula’. Yes, the rice stretched…the imagination…for sure 🙂

People are often unsure about news coming from other countries, that seem plausible. Imagine waking to read headlines like ‘Trump wins!’ After sucking back in the mouthful of cereal that morning, how many thought this was a true story? How many thought it was–surely–a hoax set up by the so-called ‘alt right’? Time to pinch yourself and open your eyes. Surprise! Now, anyone who watched the new US president’s first, impromptu, solo press conference this week–which lasted over an hour–will be rubbing their eyes and asking ‘Is this real?’ It quickly became the stuff of highlight reels. 

“It’s all fake news…The BBC…Quiet!…I’m not ranting and raving…This administration is running like a fine well-tuned machine…”

But, the Chinese, who are often the butt of fake news stories are only one silly story away from being blamed by Donald Trump for the flood of fake news that seems to be sweeping his new administration off its ‘well-oiled-machine-machine’ way.

Jamaica, of all places, though! This is the land where people are making new grief out of old gullibilities, by telling mainly older people in the USA that they have won money in lotteries. How more fake can you get? Well…Our Minister of National Security invoked the spirit of his uncle, whom he claims is an Obeah Man–call that a ‘Witch Doctor’ in standard English–in his fight (or is it ‘fright’) against crime. For real?

Maybe, like The Donald, we should just keep yelling “Your organisation’s terrible…Quiet!…Dont be rude!…You are fake news!”

Heaven help us the next April 1.

My word! A day is a long time in politics? Orwell, strap in.

I’m not a great student of politics, but I do love language. What the new US administration has done for language is something quite extraordinary and we must embrace that we are living in such times.

Not telling the truth is now a linguistic art form. In less than a month, we have had some gems.

KellyAnne Conway gave us ‘alternative facts‘, when the Counselor to President Trump,

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-7-49-19-am
So, Steve, you and I are not actually walking side by side. That’s clear, right?

appeared in late January on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd and uttered the now famour (or imfamous) phrase “alternative facts” when pressed about the falsehoods uttered the previous day by White House press secretary Sean Spicer regarding the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration. Do we need to explore the oxymoronic properties of this phrase? I thought not. Anderson Cooper, clearly could not contain himself

 

But, such terms have spawned counters that embrace it. Last night, I overheard a CNN commentator, talking to Anderson Cooper, who gave us ‘fact-free statements’, referring to utterances from the White House.

Hours later, the administration lost its first Cabinet member, when National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned,

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-7-42-27-am
Michael Flynn, and his guiding light

after telling Michael Pence some huge pork pies about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador, and lifting of sanctions on Russian, which for a while he’d been reportedly been unable to recall.

 

In his resignation letter, Flynn gave us “I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information”. screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-7-45-49-amThis stands tall, compared to ‘being economical with the truth’.

If you’ve never read ‘1984’, I suggest you do so before the week is out.

What are good friends for?

Jamaicans say that good friends are better than pocket-money. I believe it. But, do most Jamaicans have and want good friends, or are they driven in search of other kinds of relationships? To me, that’s an important question any time, but more so as we wrestle with some clear cases of searches for unfriendly relationships: abuse, crimes against persons, and actions that generally disregard the needs of others are on what my eyes land. So, I see the rapist, child abuser, gangster, loud party-keeper, speeding taxi and minibus drivers, insolent or obdurate employee (and that includes the guardians of citizens in the form of the police, mainly, but the security forces overall); and others too many to mention as in the same bag. They all need behaviour correction to give others the space to do well, and stop trying to stop others doing well. It’s too complicated to go into why they do what they do, but that does not mean that it’s ignored.

I may not answer that question directly, but I am going to do a little bit of introspection, and it’s really to test myself and see how I stack up.

A friend, whom I met about a year ago, asked me this morning ‘How goes the month?’ I started answering by saying that I had lost two dear uncles in the past week. Loss of life is something that brings burdens that may last for a long time and I am barely in the process of grieving for them, yet. But, I am staying on the positive side that comes with change and plans for change. We moved house, recently, and the process of creating order and a pleasant living environment is very gratifying. I am not a perfectionist, so I know I can function with things partly done, so long as they are done properly. My ‘office’ has its desk, computer, printer, and accessories all in order. The surrounding space is a mix of boxes and books that are awaiting placement. Bedrooms have beds. We have all our clothes. Our kitchen is well-stocked, so we can cook and eat with relative ease, subject to not yet agreeing where everything will go, and how to flow through some spaces. The garden is full of fruit trees and some have already given gifts, and I was happy to share those Otaheite apples with a friend who lives about a mile away. I got in return some grapefruit and a pot of soup. Friends and pocket-money.

I added that I had fixed some summer travel with my teenage daughter to spend 10 days with long-standing friends in Europe, pass some time with cousins, and catch some former friends in London at the same time; some other friends will come from France to find me in London for a weekend. That’s really nice. Friends and pocket-money.

I’m trying to organize a ‘Thinkathon’ for this weekend, so that some people I know can get to meet me and each other and chew over whatever we feel like for a couple of hours, in the peace of my home somewhere–garden, most likely. I hope we get to know each other a little better and that our sharing of ideas will lead to some changes, because we are also action-oriented people. Friends and pocket-money.

Outside of people, I know, I have much faith in what I know is still a major part of every day life in Jamaica: mutual respect and a willingness to do the right thing. Examples at random from the weekend:

  • My saga with Flow and getting my mobile number ported was completed by the process being done partially, as promised by Digicel, on Friday evening and then finally on Saturday morning. I am good to go. During that process, I had chance to see how Jamaican people are patient in the face of seeming provocation and do not resort to loudness or violence. Thank you, Digicel staff at Loshushan.
  • My daughter is a competitive swimmer. Hydration is important for her. She asked me to get her some coconuts so that she could get that hydration and enjoy the jelly. I passed a man on the road selling coconuts on my way to Digicel on Saturday morning. I asked him to prepare 6 coconuts and I would pick them up on my way home. I got the price and went on my way. Forty minutes later, I got back to the stall. The man was not there, but my coconuts were and ready. I paid, went home and my daughter got a good drink, not long after she had done her early morning practice. I chopped the coconut and she devoured the thick jelly.
  • Sunday was a day full of rain and greyness, and I had no plans to go anywhere, except to get gas in case I needed to go to the country. I headed to Heroes Circle in the early afternoon, after my family got back from church and their impromptu lunch. They brought me a meal and I grabbed a bite before heading out. The young man at the gas station began pumping, then started to clean my windows (not standard practice, in Jamaica). We joked about how Sundays were quiet, but also that Jamaicans don’t like rain. We exchanged pleasantries and I headed home, but had to note the men working on the new perimeter fence to the park. Men doing heavy labour on Sunday is a rare sight in Jamaica. 

So, we have good will. That is well displayed, literally, all around us in the carefreeness of many aspects of our daily life. Look at the images I captured this morning.

Typical roadside vendor

Not a care in the world

This is the Jamaica where you expect to just go about your business.

But, how do we account for those who want to disturb all that and impose mayhem and the carnage that also now a part of daily life? 

A friend took issue with the seeming lack of coverage of a murder in Cherry Gardens a few days ago. I pointed out that coverage was plentiful, if one looked in other places: local papers, Indian papers (the man who died was an Indian citizen), India’s High Commissioner and Jamaica’s PM and senior Cabinet ministers made remarks about the incident, including about the safety of Indian nationals, that I saw on social media, and India’s foreign minister had also commented. My friend then changed his tune to say that it wasn’t on the front pages (whatever that means in the world of electronic publishing and social media). I presume he wanted to see a prominent reference to ‘uptown’ in the pages of murders. There’s a bizarre sentiment, for you, in the mould of ‘uptown lives matter’. But, I also thought that the essence of the murder was not such as to make it a crime of locality: people in the jewellery trade, as Rakesh Talreja was, are often targets of crime, for clear reasons. He could have been robbed anywhere between his work place and his home, depending on opportunity. But, that’s not to excuse the crime in any way.

Finally, I look back at the measures the PM announced to tackle crime. People have focused on ‘preventative detention’ and efforts to get taxis to remove tinted glass. I wont say much on either of these points. But, the latter exposed how unfriendly we have become. Put simply, the taxi drivers oppose being ordered to remove the tinting, in part with good reason–the law allows some level of tinting. So, the taximen have to decide if they should lose all tinting for the sake of safety or press to keep some tinting for the sake of protecting something the law allows. To me, it’s a question of the greater good versus the good of a few. I think that most people would go for the greater good. TOday, the taximen will discuss the issue with government. But, my beef with them is that, rather than deal with their many transgressions themselves (overcrowding, loud music, inconsiderate road use, speeding, breaking road rules, etc) they seek to defend a ‘right’ when it seems it may be lost. In other words, they do not really care for the rest of us but are focused narrowly on their own satisfaction. Taximen are not friends of Jamaica, it seems.

Their self-interested actions offer an uncomfortable lesson. How far can we go if we are only going to move if dragged?

 

#Griefporn: Jamaican media exchanges ideas with the public 

I wouldn’t expect a three-hour public discussion to conclude too much about big issues, and so it was with last night’s session organized by the Press Association of Jamaica, and sponsored by the US Embassy in Jamaica. The discussion on grief porn was good and animated, and gave us ‘a raising of a number of relevant issues, a sharing of perspectives, a highlighting of some of the ethical questions/principles journalists can/should use to guide their decisions’ as my friend Susan Goff stated on Twitter. You can watch much of it here.

If we go with one of the definitions of ‘grief porn’ or ‘mourning sickness’, we have ‘collective emotional condition of “recreational grieving” by individuals in the wake of celebrity deaths and other public traumas. Such traumas may be linked to hyper-attentive, intrusive, and voyeuristic media coverage…’ (my emphases). That really sticks it to the media, and tends to see the problems as one-sides and feeding a reluctant eater. But, we know the appetite for such material is there, and sometimes almost insatiable. We should think about the unpleasant aspect of that reality for a while. I would adjust this definition for Jamaica to cover many instances of private trauma, which begs many questions about how much time and space must be given to those who want to grieve.

Answering some of those questions is only possible when one also considers how the society or elements of it see and treat death. Caribbean people (and many African cultures) do not treat death and dying and bodies in the same way that many European countries do. For example, we generally revere the dead body, death is celebrated (even to stress that it is a transition) and we do not shy away from looking at it. Just go to a regular funeral in Jamaica to see what I mean: coffin open for people to pass and look at the body. If this is not done is may be deemed a mark of disrespect. If people are late to view the body coffins can and will be reopened to all that viewing. So, it’s not such a big step to say that the sight of death in any form or at any time is not appalling in our society. But, that does not mean that portraying the dead can be done with wanton abandon. Therein lies the space for much debate.

Though much as discusses last night, I have several things still rolling around my head, both as take-aways, but also as unresolved issues.

Take aways:

Media coverage is full of class bias: That was well stated by Gleaner journalist, Erica Virtue when noting that ‘downtown’ (lower-class) scenes were often up-close and personal, while ‘uptown’ (middle/upper-class) scenes were from further away. Some of that reflected, in her view, better control of personal space, including by having money and other resources with which to thwart intrusion, whether that is the threat of legal action or the inevitable web of connections. Such bias also comes across in the language used. For instance, stating that someone or some school is ‘prominent’ is value-laden, and leaves us wondering if the rest of society or the education is just full of ‘no counts’. I can’t speak to the origin of this, but must ask why training doesn’t work as a better filter in pushing out such treatment.

Media exposure is high value: We know that people often relish being covered by the media, with television often being better than radio being better than print. Actions speak volumes, so the advent of moving pictures was a boon to the ego of the ordinary person. To be ‘featured’ is not a trivial thing to many people, as it offers many levels of social validation, and bestows, even briefly, some ‘importance’. As people say cynically about politicians, all publicity is good publicity. So it has become for the ordinary person. With the advent of electronic devices that can take and share high quality still and moving images, we’ve seen the birth of many previously hidden ‘stars’, as can be seen in some of the viral videos that circulate. But, another aspect of this publicity is that its value may be high for what we may see as wrong reasons–notoriety. In the world of criminals it may be that exposure of the results of crime has value that can be measured by the intangible of ‘bragging rights’. So, much like graffiti can be important to demonstrate reach of people or gangs, then the images or stories that are the outcrop of crimes can have cachet. We know of stories where criminals have bragged about their crimes on social media, even posting footage from the events in some bizarre instances. Read this article about how much incriminating evidence is posted on social media. I have heard of instances of perpetrators alerting associates to watch the news or read the papers to learn what they did recently. So, if the media are in the business of looking for gory stories or just doing their routine reporting, they can easily be feeding unwittingly the egos of those whom they do not know committed offences. This may seem perverse, but so what? Society is full of perverted people.

Unresolved issues:

Newsworthiness: Many times what is bothersome to the public is what passes for news. Joshua Polacheck, Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Kingston, lamented last night that certain important stories in Jamaica were pushed out of sight for other items that seemed less newsworthy. I noted at the time that not all newsworthy things can be reported easily, especially if the principals would rather avoid than encourage public scrutiny, now or later.  

Politicians are an interesting study, as they often crave publicity, especially when it’s favourable, but also show the other side when the media cudgels are flailing around to beat them with criticism. In that sense, certain topics are easier to cover (going back to my earlier point about the value that many place of being ‘in the news’).

But, an inconvenient truth is that ‘newsworthiness’ is not something on which we can all agree, and those ‘weighty’ topics that may have major social or economic or political implications often do not capture the public imagination. I would take a bet that people could cite more ‘gossipy’ things about the new US president-elect than they could about his policies, and I don’t think it comes down to which set of topics was covered more. In our neck of the woods, the recent rant by a party leader against members of her own party has more people gripped than by what is going on around the local government elections that what either party is hoping to achieve.

The five features of newsworthiness are listed as:

1. Timing–the new wins. Old news quickly fades in interest without something to keep it fresh.

2. SignificanceThe number of people affected by the story is important. So, in smaller societies, like Jamaica, that significance can be high for many events.

3. Proximity–Events that happen nearby have more significance. Again, in smaller societies, nearness is almost everywhere, and once things can be personalized that ‘nearness’ is even closer. 

4. Prominence–The ‘famous’ get more coverage

5. Human Interest–Such stories can stand the test of time, and revolve a lot around touching people’s emotions (hence, the appeal of dwelling on grief).

Grief is not just related to life and death in its usual form: I commented last night about how much media coverage looks to the highs and lows of life and events. That goes into many facets of society. I noted, for example, how sports reporters often draw no distinction in seeking out losers as well as winners, though the emotions of each is often very different. Losers are often in one of the early stages of grief, and really don’t need to have their performance examined in public immediately after not succeeded. But, just as the emotions are raw immediately after, so too in the media interest. We often see athletes holding back tears or anger when pressed in such circumstances; more so, when the trophy or cash prize that has gone is of major importance. To my mind, this is equally pornographic as far as grief goes. It may be much more appealing, of course, because you have the chance to hear directly from the ‘victim’. I don’t know how the ethics of media practitioners feeds into their treatment of subjects in various fields of activity. 

It was good to open the door to interchange between media and the general public. Some of what I heard as media policy seemed to be untested on the general audience, and as is often the way, may have some internal logic for an organization but can easily miss the mark when presented to customers. Part of the media’s problem, however, will be that the customers are not homogenous or consistent. 

I was not one who went into the session upset at too much gory coverage of death. I was exercised by how such things were portrayed, and had concerns about how the tension between relevant details and unnecessary intrusion was being resolved. I have a better understanding of that, but don’t see that the choices will be easier, especially as more people are willing ready to be ‘citizen reporters’ and ready to take images to make their own stories or offer them to others. 

Finally, I recall the movie Nightcrawler, which looks at how the search for the gory can become perverse beyond imagination. Take a look at the teaser, but make sure you have a strong stomach if you want to watch the full film. 

Madness in the air. Madness everywhere. Jamaican Whackos and Wakka.

It’s been said so often, but can be said again. Jamaica defines insanity. Why? An inmate is allegedly beaten to death in a lock-up by another inmate in Montego Bay. So, what do the police do? They put said accused inmate into the same lock-up. Result? Said inmate is also allegedly beaten by other inmates. Read the story. The Minister of National Security has called for an audit of the island’s lock-ups. He needs to have the force undergo evaluations for their mental faculties.

A Minister of State has over recent days apparently been ranting on social media about Jamaica not being pleasing to God. It’s public space, but does decorum or other features of being an elected official place an onus on said minister and his like to behave in a certain manner? My basic feeling is that given that all such utterances are on public record, should these be what the public, electorate, or rest of the world have as their image of an elected official. Clearly, Damion Crawford has become uncomfortable in his elected skin: he has already announced he will not be seeking re-election. Draw your own conclusions from a small sample from the past 24 hours.IMG_1328.PNG

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The screen shot above of the account purports to be the same as the true account of the Minister, so the possible out that the account has been hacked may not fly. But, let’s be generous and see if the Minister distances himself from these online remarks, the latest of which seem in keeping with reported remarks made recently in Canada. Rock on, Tommy!

I will leave under consideration which God he may have in mind, given that he purports to be a Rasta, or maybe he just wears dreadlocks.

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Emancipendence time

A fellow (female) blogger stole my sentiment this morning. This period between Emancipation Day (August 1) and Independence Day (August 6) is awkward. People really don’t want to slide from one holiday to another with a few days’ break; this time, the first holiday was on a Friday. Most people who can think want to straddle that to the next holiday on Wednesday, especially as schools are closed and many kids may be out with grandma or at camp. It’s good adult peace time.

But, I’m not convinced the media struggle at this time, as Jamaica is so full of foolishness that the slow summer months seem like the rest of the year.

It’s beyond fiction that a ‘man of unsound mind’ can disarm a police officer and then go in a shooting spree in the busiest part of the country. But, in Jamaica that’s what we had at the weekend. Only to find out that the gun was in a ‘non-standard’ holster. Was the budget busted so the officer had to go to a flea market for a replacement? Or, as a commentator said, the officer wanted to have a ‘cowboy’ holster? But, in the Jamaican way of ‘ah so we dweet’, where we do what we want, we should be grateful that the gun had real bullets. Though, maybe, a set of blanks would have helped.

I rarely read what passes for court reporting, but now and again a story catches my eye. Yesterday, I read of a man choking a woman to steal her cell phone. In his defence, the man said he just “took it from her”. The judge had little time for this nonsense and slapped the choker-non thief with six months in jail. Was that worse, though, than the man who fought a woman though her car window to steal a chain, then hide it between his toes in his shoe?

If I believe what I read and hear, then the world health authorities are getting to terror levels in their concerns about the Ebola virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in recent days that the disease ‘is out of control’. But, in Jamaica, where all is cool and Irie, our Ministry of Health is going the extra step…not. They noted, proudly, that they are monitoring the WHO website. Are you serious? Better than playing Candy Crush, I guess. I hear the sound of deep snoring from behind the minister’s door…But, Jamaica has at least mastered the lingo of international boo-ha-ocracy: We are not yet in ‘the category of at risk countries’, but “we continue to ensure that our systems are strengthened so that we can have an effective response if the need arises”. Our “surveillance system has already been heightened”, we will be “sensitizing staff” and “monitoring of the situation.” Well, blah me down!

The spokeswoman said “public education is also an important feature of the Ministry’s strategy and stressed that there has been no change in the position of the Ministry as it relates to facilitating interviews and providing information through the media about any health related matter. As part of our communication plan, we will continue to partner with the media through interviews and other methods of disseminating information so that the public is kept informed and understand their part of the responsibility to deal with these types of diseases.” Hold on! Is this the same ministry that refused to give RJR interviews last week on this topic? Can’t be, right. 20140805-071203-25923807.jpgThe spokeswoman, Dr. Marion Bullock DuCasse is entitled Director, Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services. Is that ‘DEADMESS’ in acronym speak?

Finally, we heard that the Minister of National Security–fittingly, at this time, Mr. Bunting–will be giving more beef to the fight against corruption by merging two agencies and having them called MOCA (the same acronym as one of the old agencies, which some find a bit confusing). I’ll give MOCA a bly for at least putting itself into the world of miner communication with a vengeance. It took to Twitter and Facebook to try to explain the new moves, thinking new followers, and being all social media-friendly.

Maybe, someone should look over the partition and tell those security officers who can be seen bundling a girl in a wheel chair into a police vehicle that evenhandedness and respect for citizens starts with understanding that we are all now watching carefully every move. Maybe, MOCA can do some outreach and explain how the modern world works. Don’t let the rest if JCF make mockery of crime fighting. In fact, fight less and deal with crime more.

Meantime, I’m going to take a slice of that wonderful new bun made by Morhers, specially for Independence.

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Life is just one big circle

Every day is preparation for the future. I have a hard time always keeping things in their separate boxes because I often see how stuff flows out of one and into another. It can be quite amusing sometimes; other times, a little distressing. I’ve been on ‘holiday’ with my daughter for the best part of two weeks. Many people scoff when retired people mention ‘holiday’, as if only certain forms of activity: time away from home and travelling are pleasures we can all enjoy. I love getting to mix up the many ingredients that have gotten me to this point in life and know that more gets added all the time. So, I am rolling with the moments.

My daughter and I spent a nice day yesterday being tourists and then getting to dislike them. I took her to visit my former grammar school, in part, because it’s just five minutes from Buckingham Palace, which she really wanted to see. “Will the Queen be at home?” was her first question. We saw how my school had changed physically: much of the interior design is untouched, and I could feel myself back 40 years as I walked up and down stairs; but modernity is there in full with iMacs all over the place and a new underground gym.

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Old school, new look

The old gym is now an art room. The school was rare in that it had courts for playing Fives, a game like squash but played with bare hands. The playground is still the same and I explained to the caretaker taking us around how we used to play several games of football at the same time going both lengthwise and across. Skills were honed by not getting mixed up by other games, and not colliding with other people. We were nimble. But, I did not dwell on the past there, and we headed on to see the palace.

I used to walk past it many times a week, heading to St. James’s Park for lunch, to read, sometimes to kick a ball with friends. Rarely, did we spend time looking at the palace or thinking about the Queen. I always noted the throng of tourists. Now, I was one of them.

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Cooee! Queenie!

Their faces were pressed against the railings and they filled both sides of the Mall, as they waited for the guards to change. I explained to my daughter, who had a hard time getting a view. “How do they see with those furry hats over their eyes?” Good question. “Why are they riding down to the palace on those horses?” I explained about the changing of the guards. I was not taken with the spectacle, and I’d seen it many times before, but noted that Britain does pomp really well: centuries of practice.

We talked about how I spoke, and that my accent reflected where I had gone to school, in an area where most people did not speak like Cockneys, but ‘proper’. We also talked about the fact that we must have been carrying some Jamaican ‘vibes’ because people came up to us and spoke with Jamaican accents as we walked aloud: ‘Bless up!” the security man said as we walked past a building. Strange. Maybe, we had an aura.

We moved through the throng and walked through the park, taking in the geese and pigeons. It was a not-glorious summer’s day in England: skies were overcast, wind was blowing slightly, people were on the grass, deck chairs were laid out empty but ready.

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Deck chairs, ready for summer

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Trafalgar Square, filled with visitors, and Nelson sees all

My daughter sat in one for a few moments: I explained that she had to pay to use it. We headed on to Trafalgar Square, and more tourists, who were clambering onto the base of Nelson’s Column and mounting the lion statues. I urged my daughter to do the same. It’s a kind of rite of passage. I did it when younger, sometimes when not completely sober 🙂 She did, and then waited patiently while a group of girls took their pictures by a lion’s mouth, taking about as much time as it does to make a movie epic :-(. We did our photos in about 30 seconds, then decided to go to the National Gallery, just the other side of the square. The whole area was full of people sitting and walking and hearing explanations in many languages.

The area was also now a place for open theatre and we took in some of the performances. We then went for the quiet of the paintings. Lots of children were there on school trips; English schools have another three weeks, or so. Many were on the floor drawing or sketching. We decided to look a little, then just take a pause in front of a Canaletto. I’m no art buff, but I know relaxing when I see it.

Canaletto - Venice: The Basin of San Marco on Ascension Day
Canaletto – Venice: The Basin of San Marco on Ascension Day

My mind wandered to matters Italian. I immediately thought of the Italian footballer, Cannielini, who had the day before been the victim of an apparent dental attack during a match. Luis Suarez, the alleged gnasher had been doing some ‘damage control’ during the day trying to make light of his latest biting incident. I had been flabbergasted at the incident and seen the replays many times. It’s clear to me: he bit the Italian, then made it seem that he had been struck. Low down. FIFA were supposed to deliberate on the matter and it had become quickly the subject of much online banter. That’s the power of social media.

We were due to have lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant, Prezzo, so my wandering mind was not on a random walk. I thought about sport and cheating. I had to condemn Suarez. I later read some articles trying to defend him: ridiculous, I thought, and said in comments. Friends I visited later put it clearly: barbaric, unhealthy, animalistic, childish, unthinkable. It was not the subject for good adjectives. But, what will FIFA do? That is what concerned me. I went back to thinking about caneloni and Canaletto.

We headed on to lunch, with aunts of my first daughter. My little daughter was again having to deal with new people, some of whom knew her, but she could not recall. Anyway, she sat happily and thumbed the book she had grabbed in the morning: Tuesdays with Morrie. It happened to be in our room where we are staying. A challenging book and I am intrigued what a 10-year-old will make of it. Anyway, it had become the love of her life during our morning Tube rides. We had a great lunch, full of reminiscences, and including some pictorial evidence that was amusing but not damaging.

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Posh pepperoni

I looked great with a beard and lots of black hair. My daughter giggled at the sight. We enjoyed the memories and we enjoyed the food.

We caught up on where the various cousins were, now grown up and able to decide for themselves what to do. Live in Paris. Work in Virginia. Stay at home. Get into relationships. Usual stuff. We talked about being retired. It came with many benefits, not least time to do what you wanted, like go into central London for a long lunch, or travel for a few weeks with one of your children. It also came with fringe benefits, such as free transport and discounts at restaurants. Satisfied and amused, we all left and headed on to our next venues.

We rode the Tube with the husband of one of the aunts, as we headed up the Northern Line to Highgate. We talked about his life after teaching. His wife, my former sister-in-law, was still working, near Trafalgar Square, hence the choice for lunch. She was getting into athletics, and had taken up field events such as hammer throwing, discus, javelin and shot putting. That was quite intriguing. She was not into masters competitions, but representing a club at regular meets; their son ran middle distance events. The husband had not ventured back into sport, leaving his rugby days behind. He had thought about writing, after being a school headmaster. I shared thoughts on that, and suggested he give it a go. It’s his ‘piece of paper’ to fill. We parted and then my daughter and I sauntered up Archway Road to find more friends.

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The Woodman, Highgate: always a nice spot

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A dog and his favourite chewy toys

We reached a little close and were greeted by a man holding back a yapping dog. That was unexpected. The dog was a relatively new arrival, from a shelter. He carried a squeaky rubber duck. Touching. He liked us, judging by his desire to lick our legs.

We headed straight to the TV. Another round of World Cup matches were due on at 5, and I wanted to get a little sight of tennis, first. Friends understand such things, and we’d set out the afternoon in that way. My friend gave us drinks and my daughter gave up on us, once she had been offered a computer on which to play. We talked and caught up on a few years’ absence. One of his sons had just come back from a long trip abroad. He had slept, but then woke to realise he ‘needed’ to go to meet someone. He said a quick hello and goodbye. My friend’s wife came home from school earlier than expected, just as her son was leaving, before the football was due to start. She greeted us, then headed off to do some other stuff. We settled in for the football.

The game between Argentina and Nigeria had plenty of action. The commentators were all over the greatness of Messi and comparing him to Maradona. My friend alluded to the tainted greatness of the latter. “I can’t forgive him for 1986,” he muttered. We were one on that, and then went on a tour of football incidents that seemed to define players. We ended up talking about Suarez and his repeated desire to bite people. We agreed that he needed help. Would he get it and accept it? He’d refused it in the past. Are all great players and performers really badly flawed? Time worn debates were ready to be restarted. But, we let our arguments flow just a little, and focused more on the clear brilliance of Lionel Messi, who seemed more normal than many.

We talked about social media–my friends said they were phobic about it, or at least not very comfortable with it. We talked about how it seems to distort behaviour in some people. We agreed that some are fooled into thinking they are talking to the world and it’s listening, but that somehow they can do that and seem to be invisible. We agreed that it was not universally good and not wholly bad; not all happy, and plenty sad. A lot like football. A lot like life.

The road to Rio: Brazil 2014 is starting now. Let the magic begin.

Bill Shankly, one-time famous manager of Liverpool FC, once quoted: “Someone said to me ‘To you football is a matter of life or death!’ and I said ‘Listen, it’s more important than that’.” Today, we get to see how that view may be true for millions of people. The month-long tournament may be even more popular than the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which reached a global TV audience estimated at 3.6 billion people. In 2010, when South Africa hosted the World Cup, about 3.2 billion people watched at least one minute of the competition, according to FIFA; that was 10 percent more than viewed the 2006 tournament hosted by Germany. Media experts say Brazil will do better because of its large domestic audience, the timing of matches, soccer’s growing fan base in countries where other sports have dominated, and new technology. Brazil is the largest country to host a World Cup since the United States in 1994, with nearly 200 million people.

I will be glued to my television screen this afternoon. I will be shaping my activities to allow maximum viewing time. That will be interesting, because I will be travelling a lot during the tournament, including to Brazil. So, I look forward to juggling my activities, and seeing matches in ways and places that I can only imagine at the moment. My hosts in France are football fans, albeit French. I know they will go crazy when Les Bleus are playing. That’s alright.

My English family and friends will be even more fanatic, and I will understand their passion better, having grown up in England, and watched and played football there for decades. Chants of “Engerland!” will be filling many a pub.

I have no idea what fan madness I will meet in Brazil, but I think back to visiting Mexico during the 1986 World Cup. I was there on business, and my boss was a keen football fan. He’d shaped the trip to end  in Mexico in time for the final match, and ‘arranged’ tickets for himself through one of the banks that financed the tournament and rebuilding the stadiums. I was left to my own devices. Being a boy raised on the streets, I had no problem figuring that out. I bought from a tout and remember paying close to face value for my seat. (It was an interesting exercise in economics: the initial high value of the ticket is in danger of falling to zero s match time approaches. The tout must sell to recoup at least some costs. Wait long enough and the price can fall sharply, even to  below face value. I did not wait that long, but got a great deal. My bargaining power was raised by Mexico having a massive stadium and not enough people who could afford the tickets.) I still have the official programme. I also remember vividly the match and being able to see all the goals clearly as I was seated directly behind one of the nets.

The final was an epic match that had all that one could want: great technical skills (Maradona supreme), excellent goals from open play (Argentina) and set plays (Germany), drama (good lead, equalization, winner as time runs out). The best team won the match. The finals were flawed, however, by Maradona cheating his team to the semifinals by punching the ball into the net against England. It’s history now, but it left a black mark against a great player. I’m not fool and know all too well that many great sports figures are flawed deeply. But, there needs to be honour in the way that winners win. Ok, I will come down from my pulpit.

This World Cup will show whether another flawed football genius can truly redeem himself. Luis Suárez has been one of the game’s lightning rod for bad behaviour in recent years. His scoring prowess was already legendary going into the 2010 tournament. His commitment could not be questioned. He was doing what his team needed, but often do not get from a talented striker: he was a goal scorer standing on the goal line of his own team, as the last line of defence. His team was in desperate straits, holding on against a rampaging African ‘lion’, Ghana. The hopes of Africa getting to a semifinal for the first time were high and looked assured as the ball rocketed toward the net and destined to beat the last man, Suárez. The dying minutes were here. Then Suarez did  ‘A Maradona’: he played the ball with his hand, to prevent the goal. Penalty!

Suárez was shown the red card and ejected. Ghana missed the penalty. It was the last kick of the match! The game went into extra time. Ghana lost on penalty kicks. I cried so hard. I had been watching the game with a Ghanaian friend, my best man. It was too much. So much hung on that match and it was ripped to shreds.

Suárez went on to more infamy. He joined Liverpool FC. But in 2013, he was accused of making racist remark and served a long suspension. He culminated the season with a biting of a Chelsea player’s arm. He was given a 10 game ban from the start of the 2103/14 season. He returned from that to score some stunning goals, more than any other player. He was exemplary on the field. He scored his sixth Premier League hat-trick for the club, making him the most frequent scorer of hat-tricks in Premier League history. He won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, becoming the first non-European to win the award. Suárez also won the FWA Footballer of the Year, and was named in the 2013-14 PFA Team of the Year. As the Premier League’s top scorer with 31 goals he won the Premier League Golden Boot, and shared the European Golden Shoe with Cristiano Ronaldo. He was named Europe’s most influential football player in the 2013-14 season of the top 5 European leagues in the “Bloomberg Top 50 Power List“. He almost helped Liverpool to the title, but had to settle for 2nd place on the last day of the season. That is some comeback. Redemption is not necessarily the word all would use, but if ever the phrases about sinners who fell down and got up again meant anything, what Suárez did with his career fits.

The chance of getting to the World Cup final is an enormous prize and Maradona and Suárez both showed the lengths to which some can go to try to ensure that.

We hope for a clean, fair contest.

The tournament, however, is mired in controversy. Some of it lands on the organization. FIFA is flawed deeply. Brazil did not seem ready to handle the task and to the end that impression stays, with stadiums not ready, and pitches not ready. Brazil is in uproar over the cost of the games, and protests have been rife, culminating with airport staff striking on the eve of the tournament. In some senses, the football may seem to be a sideshow. But, the current sideshow needs to be spectacular. We are already looking at controversy over the next set of games, with the winning bid by Qatar shrouded in accusations of bribery and corruption, and FIFA boss, Sepp Blatter, under a barrage of criticism. He is likely to be booted out. Only someone who does not have the health of the world game at heart could have condoned the World Cup going to Qatar. Save your arguments!

The British media, who know the Middle East well, are on the hunt. The US media know a gory story when they sniff one. CBS posed the following points about Qatar:

‘How could the World Cup go to such a miserably hot place, a place so lacking in infrastructure that hundreds of thousands of desperate workers had to be brought in from Nepal, 2,000 miles away, to work in deadly conditions? The high in Qatar on Monday is expected to be 113 degrees. It’ll be 115 on Tuesday before a break provides a respite, with highs Wednesday and Thursday forecast at 105 degrees. With lows in the upper 80s.

Workers are dying over there, more than 200 from Nepal alone in 2013, with more than 4,000 migrant workers projected to die in Qatar by the time the football cathedrals and palaces are in place.’

Many shark are swirling around FIFA.

But, can we just have some football, please? I hope so I am not totally optimistic about the quality of matches. Teams are all well prepared. Many have players who ply their trade in just a few places at club level and know each other well. The dour midfield battle is now the order of the day. When I was a boy, playing with three forwards was the norm. Now, one may be a luxury. What?! We had 4-2-4 being a winning formation. Now, the desire to neutralise rules, and 3-5-1 or 3-6-0 formations are common. But, we know goals can come from anywhere and anyone.

We have the perennial battle for the best striker. Messi? Ronaldo? Who really has a good team in good form? That’s a tough one. Can a European team win in Latin America during the World Cup? Will Africa implode again? Nigeria and Ghana have shown now enough times that they have the talent, and now the organization, to take the trophy. Cote d’Ivoire have tempted and flattered to deceive.

Germany, normally all vorsprung durch technik, have been sputtering.

England, not really looking the part since 1986, but nearing a bliss point this year with some exciting young talent, some of it with Jamaican roots–let’s hail the diaspora.

Football looks like the world. Top club teams often have many more foreigners than nationals. National teams are no longer look racially homogenous. Black players pop up in almost all European teams, whether they are the offspring of immigrants (as in England), or the imports from former colonies (as in France or Belgium). Other ethnic mixes are there, whether from countries that have been part of the national blend for longer (as in Turkish-heritage players for Germany), or from new blending (such as ethnic Greeks and central Europeans playing for Australia). Looks tell litle: looks at the all-Italian Mario Balotelli; look at Sweden’s Henrik Larsson

Henrik Larsson, the dreaded Swede
Henrik Larsson, the dreaded Swede

Jamaica does feature on the field, but as noted earlier, we’re there in the shape of players with roots in the island. Jamaican fans have taken up their familiar positions, as jumpers on bandwagons. Flag waving is about as much as most people will do. Many want to show their pride with other statements, such as wearing other nations’ colours. In the world of social media, people have changed their ‘profiles’ to reflect team preferences, with name of picture changes. We are nowhere near the best in playing, but we may get close with watching. Our local TV  broadcaster, CVM, have the exclusive rights to show the games. However, they have had a lousy record in the past with transmission quality. I am not a tolerant person when it comes to televising major sporting events. If you mess up, I will take it to you. I did in the past about Caribbean coverage of the Olympics. It caused a stink, and rightly too. The US coverage wont be my concern. If we joke, I will look to choke.

But, let’s all get on the Kumbaya wave. I do not like vuvuzelas but that’s what we have left over from South Africa. I want to hear horns and drums as are often played by African fans, especially Nigerians and Ghanaians. I want the singing and chanting, now in different languages and with different tunes. Both Brazilian and Argentine fans are good at keeping that going for a whole game. English fans can too, but will be massively outnumbered. It would be great to be able to add chants from the comfort of my TV watching position.

Please, referees, remember that the rules are mostly simple and if applied consistently will make most people happy. No grandstanding. No need to wait for the 2nd harsh foul to issue cards: send signals early. Goal line technology will feature for the first time in World Cup.

Social disputes aside, we have the makings of a great tournament. May the best team at least make it to the final.

I want true memorable moments of great football, like Pele’s headed goal to open the account for Brazil against Italy in the 1970 final:

Forlan’s free kick against Ghana has to be there as one of the all-time great goals (see the video above).

But, give me one moment like Roberto Carlos’s free kick against France. Cynical foul gets dealt with by a free kick. Carlos takes the ball, and chooses very carefully the exact face that he wants to hit (watch the meticulous placement). He then takes a run up that is more like a cricket fast bowler, and the commentator is setting up the precise action. Then he arrives and kicks the ball. Watch it a thousand times and you will feel sad for the goalie, at least a little.

That’s all I want. A moment of magic.