Tuesday, 23 March 2010

So much for transparency, good governance and freedom of the Press

Speaker of the House of Assembly Michael Carrington said yesterday he was surprised that an alleged incident involving two parliamentarians in the chamber last Friday night was reported in the Press.

Carrington declined comment on the reported incident, and noted that matters relating to the rights and privileges of parliamentarians and events within Parliament were to be dealt with by the House.

He added that any such reported matter would be dealt with and an appropriate report submitted for action if necessary.

Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, at a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) constituency meeting last Sunday night, called for the sacking of Cabinet Minister Dr David Estwick, following a reported altercation between Estwick and St Joseph MP Dale Marshall.

The incident was alleged to have taken place within the precincts of Parliament.

Rights and privileges of parliamentarians? So are parliamentarians allowed to break the law without consequence? I'm sorry, but if ministers are putting each other in choke holds - in the House or anywhere else - I, as a voter, have the right to know. Shame on Michael Carrington for suggesting otherwise.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Stoopid stigma; doesn't work

In what will come as a surprise to no one at all, the justice system - with ardent support from the Nation newspaper - is still trying to establish some kind of connection between homosexuality and crime, suicide, murder, general death and destruction [emphasis mine; ridiculousness theirs]:

KILLER CURTIS JOEL FOSTER declared his sexual preferences to a probation officer, saying he will be a homosexual for the rest of his life.

"Despite the expected stigma," probation officer Roseanne Knight read, "Foster has maintained he will be a homosexual for the rest of his life. He stated that this was a decision of his, rather than influence from others."

The nerve of this man. Daring to remain a homosexual. Doesn't he know what stigma is for? We the people have carefully created that stigma. We have painstakingly crafted it for decades precisely for these very occasions. I mean...having no remorse for murder is one thing. But to have no remorse for homosexuality! Well that is just way past the boundary.

Knight, who read the report, said Foster - the eldest of five children fathered by Joel Erad Payne - started participating in homosexual activity when he was around 15 years.

He took to liming in Reed Street, The City, and hanging out with homosexuals.

She said Foster spoke of the mutually beneficial nature of a relationship he had with one Peter Wiltshire, saying it was only recently that he had been able to advance his literacy skills, while Wiltshire said Foster always tried to contribute to the household's finances.

I'm sorry. What? Does this make sense to anyone who reads English? Or anyone who doesn't? First of all, who is Joel Erad Payne? Is he a calypsonian? Does he read the news? What is this about? Why is the name of this man's father being read into evidence in court? Are they going to post his name and photo in business places like they do when you write a bad cheque? "Do not have sex with this man. He produces murderous homosexuals." And I love "participating in homosexual activity." I'm keeping that, adjusted of course to context: "Well since neither of us has a condom I guess we won't be participating in heterosexual activity." "Hey honey, get on over here let's participate in heterosexual activity." Do you know what "participating in homosexual activity" sounds like? "Participating in criminal activity." Do I think that's on purpose? Yes. Yes I do.

No good can come from hanging out with the homosexuals. Let this be a lesson to you.

And that last sentence is just generally confusing. Foster's partner helped him to read and Foster in turn contributed financially to their household? I think this report writer is one of those people who records all information and then sticks everything in the report in case it's important. I knew people like that at school. They did not pass their subjects.

The lone commenter below the article (at the time of reading) thinks the defense is trying to plead homosexuality. Well, not plead, because the man has already been convicted, but it amounts to the same: using homosexuality - along with the reference to the man's "low-functioning family" found elsewhere in the report - as evidence of mental defect and therefore appeal for a more lenient sentence. I suppose this is what it has come to.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Blargle [telephone blargles]

I am not important, at least not in the way people use that word. I hope I'm important to some people, and that my work is useful to several more people. But as Important People go, I'm not one of them. So don't take what I'm about to say as one of those self-important rants meant to offer instructions on how to increase your chances of accessing my fabulousness. I make that disclaimer because there are many such rants floating around the halls of the average, and they tend to make me snicker. No, this is just one of those "you know what's annoying...?" things that I'm sharing because it's far easier than reading some news and writing more meaningful thoughts.

People sometimes call me, on the phone, get my voice mail and decide to leave a message. I suppose the point of that is to share information that may inspire me to call them back. Something like "Hi Mar. This is Wendy next door. I found your pet elephant in my yard. She got out again. You really need to get a handle on this situation. My anthuriums are a mess now. Call me back." Or "I'm calling for Mar [Lastnamehere] from The Money Place. We have craploads of money for you. Just stupid piles of money with your name on them. Please call us back at 43GETMONEY."

Here is what will not inspire me to call you back: "Where are you? Why aren't you picking up? I've been calling forever [read, usually: all of 3 hours] and nothing. Is something wrong with your phone? I hate when this happens. [Angry noise.]" Right. First: I don't know who you are, which is part of the point of leaving a message. Second - the other key purpose of the voice message - I don't know what you want. And third: you've just succeeded in simultaneously freaking me out (is this stranger bleeding in a ravine somewhere and my phone is the only one he can connect to?) and pissing me off. All I've gathered from this message is that you've called before and that, ruling out the bleeding thing, you're pretty rude and demanding. Sometimes, of course, I recognize the voice, in which case you can skip straight to the freaking out about bleeding and the rude and demanding parts.

This kind of entitled telephone posturing isn't reserved for voice mails. Sometimes I do pick up, but apparently not soon enough, and hear this: "Hi. Your phone rang very long. You took forever to answer!" Why yes, I guess I did. And so now what? Am I meant to apologize for not having leapt to the phone? For having had to fish it from the bottom of my bag? For not keeping it tucked behind my ear while I shower? In any event, your call was successful. You now have me on the phone. Were you calling for some reason or just to judge me for my slow telephone response time?

Such questions might be part of regular conversation preamble, I concede. I'm not talking about those times. I'm not talking about the "Ooh your phone rang long. Were you asleep?" Or the "Where are you?! I'm teaching my dog how to roast a breadfruit! You should be here! It is the Best. Thing. Ever." openings. Those are an expected part of conversation. I'm talking about the people who scold you for daring to keep them on the phone 2 seconds longer than they deem you worthy of. Or the people who think they should be able to reach you immediately and always, because to not do so is clearly an insult to them and, in general, a very big problem indeed.

I live a reasonably simple life, in which I answer the phone when I am able and/or amenable, and don't answer it when I am not. When I don't answer, in most cases, I'm not nearby, or worse, I'm in the middle of an event, have forgotten to turn it off, and am trying with the sheer power of my brainwaves to deflect the sound so that the ringing seems to be coming from the opposite corner of the room and not from my purse. I tried that last night. It still doesn't work. In any event, I wasn't able to answer. There's no need to quiz me about it later. And what if it were the other thing? What if I was screening? Are you sure you want to trundle head first into this conversation when we run into each other later:

"I called you. Got your voice mail. Why didn't you pick up?"
"Well..the truth is, I hate you. Please refrain from calling ever again."?

There's one exception to this rule: my mother. (My father barges into conversation without so much as a hello and has stopped talking within 2 minutes flat, so this does not apply.) My mother can ask me any random silliness, and in fact does. It's part of the code when you're an adult daughter who doesn't speak to her mother nearly as often as she would like, and probably as you should. My mum has been known to start conversations with "I called the house today and no one answered. It rang 40 times. But I came by anyway because I thought someone might be home by the time I got here [5 minutes later]." And what can I say to that, besides "Oh man I'm really sorry about that. I told you I wouldn't be home remember...told you that this morning? But yeah...ugh...sorry."? So my mother can engage in the nonsense above. But if this describes any of you, and you're not my mother, please stop it at once.

Monday, 8 March 2010

International Women's Day

Last year, on International Women's Day, I wrote in support of the work of activists addressing Haiti's high incidence of rape. Today, the survival and well-being of women in Haiti remains high on the agenda of activists in the region and allies all over the world, especially in the aftermath of the earthquake. The women I've spoken to there are more focused than ever on rebuilding their country and their lives, and on continuing to work on securing safe, dignified, productive lives and livelihoods for all people. They inspire me not only to join them where they are, but to intensify my own work in Barbados and the Caribbean.

I see a lot of young women in my neighbourhood, on the streets every day, out and about everywhere, engaged in the business of growing up and figuring life out. And every day I'm reminded of how much there is to navigate, as a girl, and how overwhelming it can become if no one is creating the space needed to get through it all. That involves listening and encouraging their creative efforts and all these great things. But it also involves more tangible support, that has to do with their health care, their sexual and reproductive rights, their education, their safety and economic security. I don't have children. And even though I may at some point, and though I love my friends' children, I need not look that far into the future for my motivation to make things better now. I'm looking all around me, out my window right this minute, at the girls and women who depend on all our support to make their lives better today.

Happy International Women's Day.
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