Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Why are we here?

I came to France specifically to watch the French Open; not every match live at the stadium, but really to savour the atmosphere with French friends. We had tried to book tickets by Internet months ago, through the French Tennis Federation, but that had not worked, but we managed to get them through another option--not for the desired first Saturday but for the Moonday of the second week. The French were getting very excited because for the first time since most people were born there were 5 Frenchmen going into the second week.

Tennis is not much about patriotism, but as soon as a nation sees that a few of its own is doing well then out come the flags, the songs, etc. In tennis, it has become lopsided in the women's game with central and eastern Europe dominant, especially Russia, and now with Serbia. As I write, the Serbs are serving up at least one woman finalist, perhaps Ana Ivanovic (pictured) or Jelena Jankovic, famed for her splits, willbe vic-torious this year. Russia has already one woman semifinalist and may produce a second; but at least we will be spared the Neaderthal-like grunting of Sharapova, who has changed totally the meaning of putting some oumph into it, and more importantly the disgusting behaviour of her father, Yuri. Sport should not be about degrading your opponent, but Yuri does not understand that and given that I speak Russian I have heard his insults clearly and wondered how his kid puts up with him. So, I was delerious when Safina came back from near death and a point from defeat to beat "La Maria".

On the men's side, Spain has started to become dominant, not just through the tennis equivalent of a matador, Rafael Nadal, but through a lot of others who have come through a well-developed system. (Andy Murray, a Briton who went through this system, must have missed a few classes.) The south Americans from Argentina and Chile are close behind. At least one Serb, Djokovic, wants to break up the party for Nadal on clay. Switzerland, though, hopes that it has the solution. Known for little more than being little, having three official languages, yodelling, a very safe place to hide money, and a flag often mistaken for that of the Red Cross, it has one player who has upset the apple cart more than his historic countryman William Tell--Roger Fereder. If the Fedora had been named after Roger, then it would have been apt: he is cool, calm, collected, and clean in every sense in a sporting world that functions often in terrific heat, and so accepts sweat and grime. He is elegance and grace and charm and ability and talent and....Probably the most complete athlete in any sport at present, rivalling Tiger Woods. When I heard Andre Agassi describe RF with reverence last Fall during some commentary for the US Open I knew that the current number 1 player was special and regarded as such by his peers and better; and the comments put in sharp contrast the "he's lucky" remarks of Davydenko, who perhaps burdened by investigations of gambling on his matches must have "lost his bearings". So, now I am done drooling about Roger.

But, on that patriotic track, as is often the way, when you turn your back or relax that's when stuff really happens. I leave the Caribbean and have the bitter taste of my country's PM saying what I am not surprised to hear him say about not working closely with his fellow man if he is gay and feeling really ashamed that the island is so bigoted, other countryman help big up the country. Usain Bolt, lightning fast, blasts through the 100 metres record, with 9.72 seconds snatching it away from our fellow man, Asafa Powell.I know that Jamaican bickles are good, but come now, this thing getting embarrassing. Everyone now focuses on Jamaica for what is good about it, its athleticism has jostled to gain higher ground than its musicality; for a while people wont focus on us killing eacxh other more than ever or looking for the next gay person to burn to death.

So, back to my question. It was posed rhetorically not literally. Everone should find a reason to enjoy the life they have. Sometimes it's easy to live through all that you do. Othertimes, you need to live it through others--often through your children and preferably their successess; Othertimes still, it is lived through those you know or can associate with, especially your countrymen and women and your friends. I often think of something I studied as part of English Literture, that speaks for itself a quotation from John Donne (1572-1631), in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII:

"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

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