Jamaican Diaspora Conference

CONFERENCE NOTES: DRAFT/REVIEW COPY

FOR REVIEW AND COMMENT ONLY

To: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, The Conference Preparatory Committee, Conference teams, Volunteers, Sponsor Partners, Endorsers and Exhibitors of the 6th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference 2015.

As a conference participant, I can only thank you again for the opportunity to learn about the efforts to link Jamaica to the Diaspora for the purposes of growth and prosperity. You may, with one exception, consider your final conference objective of delivering a memorable, well organized and hospitable experience for all attendees, a complete success. We participants, were well fed, well entertained and received impeccable service by conference and wait staff alike. My experience, however, leads me to beg the question-whose growth and whose prosperity?

As an overall comment, I would say this conference was largely a one way conversation – a subtly and not so subtly guised pitch for that 5.4 billion dollars of transferable Jamaican Diaspora wealth that currently resides abroad. For example, though I am a former law school classmate of your Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, MP and looked forward to the opening Business Leaders Power Breakfast where I would take the opportunity to remind him of the fact that some of the members of the Georgetown University Law Centre’s class of ’83 could, alone, increase Jamaican investment and trade, that opportunity sadly did not occur because it was an INVITATION ONLY event. A little fact NOT PRINTED in the ‘well organized’ conference directory which states in the Vision statement on the cover page “To execute an INCLUSIVE and proactive foreign policy in a dynamic international environment aimed at maximizing Jamaica’s national growth and development.”

My JUTA taxi driver, upon learning of my conference attendance, asked that I remind Jamaica’s leadership class, “what about us? The rural heart and the developed periphery of Jamaica is equally an issue for Diaspora linkage, growth and prosperity and may well be the underdeveloped root of ‘Borderless Jamaica”.

UNDERDEVELOPMENT

Jamaica is a politician country, if yu not in de right track, yu nah get nuttin”

An encounter with a Jamaica Granny in Boston’s South Station in her determined search for the train to Framingham, MA.”

Our technology is the dirt”

Alexander Stubbs aka “Chinaman”

That more Jamaicans currently reside abroad than ‘on the island’ is a constructive vote by ones feet of no confidence in the GoJ as currently configured. I support this contention ‘anecdotally” by virtue of the blank screen and the pre-recorded music to the Jamaican national anthem. Even if some may have learned the words, there was no attempt to sing them. This was surprising to me for a conference that in all other instances was very assiduous in its observation of protocols for introduction and address of dignitaries and panel members.

Underdevelopment is by definition “the inability of a nation to sustain itself economically”. That could mean any combination of a failure to industrialize, a dependence on the importation of consumer goods, acquisition of loan debt, currency devaluation, structural adjustment and a further dependence on a global system over which one has no control. On an inter-intra personal level, underdevelopment is a psychological phenomenon denoting a lack of agency, a psychic disconnect from the world of infinite potential and possibility. Most often this psychological tendency is reinforced at the point of a gun or threat of military invasion. On a cultural level this phenomena reveals itself amongst the Jamaican people as a certain ‘doggishnness’ born of desperation. Given this aspect of Jamaican culture, the all-inclusive hotel is less a brilliant business innovation than an expedient means to avoid ‘the masses’ while pursuing the need for foreign exchange..

Without going into the history of imperialism, slavery, colonialism, post-colonial independence and neocolonialism, any background on a National Policy and Plan of Action on International Migration and Development must refer, at least nominally, to this past as a causative factor in the phenomenon which is “the Jamaican Diaspora’.

The global financial and economic crises which commenced in 2008, brought to fore the linkages between international migration and development and the potential impacts, during economic downturns, migrants are often the first to lose their jobs or suffer deteriorating working conditions. “(p.1)

Even as ‘draft’ language, the vagueness and lack of specificity of both policy extracts denotes a projection of a world that has never existed and will never exist no matter how much neoliberal economic (technical assistance) language (leveraging this and maximizing that) it is couched in.

When the United States ‘schooled’ as in destabilized the Manley government of the 1970’s over it’s alignment with the Cuban government and the cause of International Socialism, Jamaica was brought in-line with neoliberal capitalist policies and practices where it has remained ‘as a desirable tourist destination with an ‘undesirable population’ to be structurally adjusted out of existence if not comfortably ignored at the bottom of the neoliberal food chain. When attempts by the Manley gov’t to redistribute the wealth of the resource extraction commonly referred to as the ‘Bauxite Industry”, were met by the ‘global shock’ of multi-national corps. (MNC’s), dumping their bauxite reserves on the market to depress bauxite prices, the message became perfectly clear.

Every ting inna Jamaica did mash up, an everybody tun cruff”

As Maggie Thatcher would later say in response to the fall of the Soviet Union: “TINA”-There is no alternative. Exhortations as to Jamaica’s latest ratings by the World Bank in its ‘good place to do business’ index is in actuality, how willing you are to give away the store. The irony, of course, is that the conference centre and schools were built by Communist China and Cuba respectively. The guns, ammunition, equipment provided by the U.S./CIA to effect ‘regime change’ created a serious threat to tourism foreign exchange. JAMAICA: NO PROBLEM only put on a “smiling mask’ problems remain to this day.

The financial capital crisis hardly commenced in 2008. Third wave capitalism, midwifed by the Reagan revolution of the 1980’s, by siphoning the accrued economic surplus from mercantile (slavery), industrial and financial capital, imploded in 2008 under the weight of its own computer driven speculative orgy of greed and mendacity. Economic migration is the way of globe not just former Banana Republics.

Stateside, the expatriate Jamaican, now Caribbean American/Black British/Afro Canadian often did not fare much better than their island kith and kin. The arena of racism and discrimination only expanded. Under systems of European domination and the subordination of black and brown peoples, madness on the part of those dominated becomes a socio-political necessity. (Wilson, 1993); Colin Ferguson, the Maryland sniper (s) politically protected ‘Dudus” Coke are a few extreme examples of this phenomena.

Generational alcoholism and depression being the norm. Joint Stock Company, rum and slaves; MNC’s, World Bank, IMF, rum and debt peonage, the names change the underlying structure remains the same.

True to form, these Policy extracts attempt to follow the money, they attempt to promise to the Diaspora what they have failed and been made incapable of doing for the island bound. Third Wave capitalism (information), however, will ultimately make Second Wave industrial capitalism and its institutional bureaucracies obsolete. It begs a closer look at the Jamaican Diaspora.

THE JAMAICAN DIASPORA BACKGROUND

When direct aid in the form of ‘remittances’ began to fill the space left by the reduction of ‘guns and butter” to just ‘guns’, The World Bank was the first to notice this realignment of power in the 1980’s ‘development’ agenda. No longer was the center developing the undesirables in the periphery, the periphery to periphery aid and support supplanted some of the traditional roles of now ‘structurally adjusted’ government. The ‘Western Unions and Moneygrams were positioned and ready.

The critical mass of migration in Jamaica is that 65 year period beginning with The Windrush generation of the late forties, early fifties, followed by their generations up to and includingmiddle class education migrants and Kingston yardies exploiting their commonwealth status. It includes every and any combination of visa overstays, born, grow and leave, go-and-come and send-for, retirees, returning residents and deportees. Expedience has always taken precedence over any loyalty to a nationalist agenda. Regardless of the category, assimilation into the host country, may accompany a loss in status or have to wait for the second and third generation fulfill the promise of a better life often at the cost of the family itself– for lower, criminal and criminalized class of Jamaicans there is a pipeline to jail and deportation.

The life of a migrant was and is one of turning a disadvantage (foreigner) into an advantage (educational achievement, property and business ownership) via constant re-invention and fluidity of identity. The roughly 65 years and four generations of emigration encompasses a spectrum and differing depths of allegiance, from birthright to heritage, to ‘everybody ‘ded off and gaan’ to Jamaican by choice. To Jamaicans who cannot demonstrate enough ‘ties’ to persons living abroad —we are all, of course, ‘farrina’.

THE METROPOLE

Host countries are experiencing their own problems that adversely impact all citizens- Jamaican’s included.Wage stagnation, extremes of wealth and poverty, a shrinking middle classmake thefirst world, in many instances, resemble the third world. This is the window of opportunity GoJ may rightly try to leverage and capitalize on. The transfer of wealth, however, is currently mired in, an often, obtuse, dense, opaque administrative Jamaican bureaucratic world of confusion that can make one want to head straight for the Medicanja booth. Economic relationships are built on trust, because integrity is not necessarily part of the equation. More than report cards or even returns on investment, the establishment of trust may shape the success of stated goals, objectives and action steps.

BRAND JAMAICA

It was ‘yard boy’ music-Reggae and Bob Marley that put Jamaica on the international map. To be accurate, there were fits and starts from the ‘colored elite’, but it was Rastafari that closed the deal and made the ganga smoking, roots and culture Rastafarian an international household icon and, I maintain, has more claim to Brand Jamaica than the Jamaica Tourist Board or JAMPRO. Being anti-establishment and roots and culture, Rastafari did not, until fairly recently, seek the protection of its image/merchandise from ‘Babylon” trademark, patent registration and copyright laws. As a result, anything remotely denoting “spicy and exotic” can and has been labeled “Jamaican”.

South Korea currently manufactures ‘Rasta World’ red, green and gold and gold, green and black tourist ‘tchotchke’: beads, bangles, buttons, flags rasta caps, clothing etc. etc. The cannabis industry caricatures Rastas as a ‘ ‘yeh mon stoners’ and not as participants in a religious sacrament. Thailand and Taiwan are selling ‘Jamaican” coconut milk. Were Jamaica/JAMPRO promoting Jamaican natural products, herbs and spices in trade shows such as Natural Products Expo West, the case for Brand Jamaica could be made to potential buyers directly. It would require development and an appreciation of a diversity of agricultural produce as opposed to mono/ cash crop for foreign exchange/export. It would promote more internal trade, which would increase the circulation of currency where it is needed most.

As such Jamaican “farrina” are routinely accosted in urban areas to buy from erstwhile artisans with carvings not for their intrinsic value, but for the fact that they are not trying to ‘rob and tief’ you, but trying to engage in legitimate economic activity, as far as they are able under the current the neoliberal economic dependent paradigm. This requires more than Supporting and Protecting Brand Jamaica by action step

5.e. Offer Jamaicans and those in the Diaspora greater protection, as well as more authority in making complaints and prevention against misuse or unlawful use and benefit from Jamaica symbols and trademarks.

Statements such as these are a vision of the blind leading the blinded; they are self-serving and illusory.

THE MEANING OF WORDS

In addition to background, policy process, principles, goals, outcomes and actions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and the Planning Institute of Jamaica, given the complexity of the many jurisdictions the Diaspora is beholden to, would do well to clarify the use and meaning of certain words. Chief among them are social protection, sustained vs sustainable vs sustainability. The term sustainability in the US and in the minds of US/Jamaican members of the Diaspora refers to the ability of the planet to sustain itself given current levels of carbon emissions, global warming, climate change and pollution in general. The term environment in England refers to the human environment and may include basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and psychological well being; in the United States the term environment is use strictly in regards to the natural, physical world. Social protection is anyone’s guess.

THE JAMAICAN GOVERNMENT, THE JAMAICAN DIASPORA AND THEIR RESPECTIVE HOST NATIONS.

Jamaica: Out of Many, One People; Jamaican Diaspora: Out of Many, even more hybrids.

Globalization drives migration and there are changes occurring in this sphere of action that have implications for the future of ‘Borderless Jamaica’ The end of the age of fossil fuels (oil) will require all nations to explore alternative energy sources such as, solar, tidal, geothermal and wind on a nationwide integrated multi-platform basis. Entrenched interests and institutional inertia will resist, but this is the essence of sustainability and efforts of institutions to sustain themselves without embracing this transition will increase unnecessary human suffering and ultimately will come to naught.

It is easier to buy bammy in Florida than it is to buy it in any parish outside of St. Elizabeth. The political parties that comprise the Jamaican government would do well, therefore, to prioritize and uplift the living conditions of the least amongst us: children, rural populations and the aging as the core of the Vision 2030 Jamaica – National Development Plan. This population- the engine that drives remittances and which the Western Unions and the Moneygrams, unfairly capitalize on may hold the key to Jamaica actually coming out ahead of the game as opposed to the usual day late and dollar short.

A VISION OF 2030

Moore’s law and Third Wave Capitalism

Moore’s law is an observation that over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years. Moore’s law describes a driving force of technological and social change, productivity and economic growth in the twentieth and early twentieth century. (Wikipaedia). Information, it’s access, processing, processing speed and dissemination (and in Jamaica its monetization) will define the productivity in the developed world of the 21st century. Science is driving new mental models of organization. Technology is not labor intensive, it will and has created massive unemployment, it is the basis of a fictitious global financial system that has imminent collapse as a built in feature.

The downside/or upside of achieving this trans-human technological singularity (or there is no App for happiness,) is that Nature its appreciation, immersion and study (as in bio-mimicry) will become more prevalent as the need for balance becomes more necessary for those of us who treasure our humanity and become less enthralled by the consumption paradigm the planet is currently suffering from.

BRICS and Global Immigration

By 2030, the equivalent of four U.S. election cycles, the end of the American exceptionalism and the rise in influence of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will become increasingly apparent. Elections and American foreign policy are one and the same. Essentially the jury is still out on what 2030 may look like, the future is very much up for grabs; one thing for sure it will only marginally contain the goals and action steps of a problem-reaction-solution planning model for what should be strategic readiness. BRAND JAMAICA could play an instrumental role in these times of global transition.

In addition to realignment of global power, demographic changes within host countries may be an additional, significant driver of return migration, deportation and the need for re-integration into Jamaican life and culture regardless of the perception of backwardness, criminality and hopelessness. Again in the United States to quote the actress, America Ferrera in her response to Donald Trump’s negative and derogatory depiction of immigrant Mexican’s and Chicanos.

Because Latinos are the largest, youngest and fastest-growing constituency in the U.S.A. The Latino population grew by 49% between 2000-2012. What’s more we are the future. The median age of the average Latino is 27 years old, compared to 42 years for white Americans….’

The Latinos have organized for this new United States of Latin America, African-Americans and the Caribbeans who are included in that designation are still in the position of asserting that #BlackLivesMatter. By 2050, the U.S. will be a brown nation; the headlines are filled with the terms and tragedies engendered by this negotiation of ‘unfinished business’.

CONCLUSIONS

The ‘Jamaican Diaspora’ is Jamaica’s ‘unfinished business’. The fact that Jamaica did not achieve high levels of industrialization may ultimately prove to be its saving grace. Because Jamaica has, for the most part, clean air and a clean water supply. The question for the international community of the 21st century will be will energy be made free and not confined by the exigences of profit maximization of entrenched financial capital interests or will sharing the fruit of technological innovations such as free energy become a new standard for the benefit of all nations? Energy determines prices, price/currency fluctuations drive remittances, remittances drive Jamaica.

Jamaica still has non-GMO seed supplies. Food security and plant medicines that can cure not just do no harm in the management of chronic disease and illnesses due to processed food and their genetic modification will be decisive in Eco-villages and eco-tourism were glaringly absent from the Jamaican Tourist Board agenda. For future conferences, I would like to see a Rural Development Corporation in addition to an Urban Development Corp. This would include a report card on the paving of rural roads, road signage, the naming of villages on maps, island wide waste and water treatment policy, and more representation and discussion at the parish council level.

As the US under the Obama administration re-establishes diplomatic relations with Cuba, the damage done to Jamaica via destabilization and criminalization of the electoral process should be addressed to increase the level of trust and confidence in GoJ. These policy extracts and the 2015 Biennial Diaspora conference have done little to engender thus.

The issues/opinions I have presented here are for the purposes of engendering a two-way conversation. Conferences by their very nature structure a certain kind of discourse that often denies reality. The luncheons should recognize the need for randomness and networking amongst conference participants. Your current evaluation methods will not capture that which is not data, research and information driven. BRAND JAMAICA: ONE LOVE; ONE HEART.

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