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**

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The World is Bigger and Smaller Than We Realize.

One of my subscribers decided that this blog was no longer relevant, and ended her subscription. I wanted to know if there was something offensive or otherwise inappropriate about what I might have written that could be corrected. She replied that there was nothing of the sort. Phew!

What I discovered was a very interesting insight into how people see things Caribbean. She said that I could use any of her remarks and I will use mainly the words of the lady concerned, whom I shall call "Galina". She wrote:

"I have enjoyed reading your blog but noticed that I just don't read it anymore. I began reading it when I was dating a man from Barbados and it gave me glimpses into the culture he had grown up in. I also learned to cook coucou and conkies and also the curry and vegetarian dishes he favored. Unfortunately, my caramel-skinned Caribbean man turned out to be very married. Now, I am dating a Cuban, belong to a Cuban cooking website, and have moved on with my life. By the way, the Cuban is a much better lover. And a much better person."

Well, I said to myself, Cuban cigars seem to be better liked than Bajan sugar cane. This is the kind of inter-island rivalry that could make it hard for Caribbean people to live in harmony, even forgetting linguistic and cultural differences. 

It was great to see how people make many adjustments to make love work. You have to go at least half way toward your partner. It's a personal investment that does not always pay off in the short term. But, in the long run, I think the investment in better personal understanding always has a good pay off in the long term.

It was a little awkward for me to know that my blog had been involved in a love triangle, and also that because of me, a woman had been pushed away from love of a God-fearing English-speaking democracy into the arms of a socialist dictatorship. I have never been to Cuba, but have serious concerns about what has happened to that country and its people under President Castro. I also know, however, that Cuba has been one of the best friends of many Caribbean countries, for instance, by providing resources, plus medical, educational, and technical sporting support and staff to many countries such as Jamaica. My only contact with Cuba was that my maternal grandfather used to travel there to cut sugar cane when I was a very small boy in the 1950s.

Now, I have learned that one of my former readers is "a native Texan. Born in central Texas near Austin, lived almost 25 years in the big city of Houston and am now back in the Austin area. ... Texan all the way." But, "Galina" adds that she likes "a little spice in my life as well. My Cuban tells me I am not like most American women and alluded to my intelligence and my open mindedness. I enjoy living close to where I grew up in semi rural Texas. But I also enjoy a little international flair." 

She tried to rationalize her choice of "regime:

"Maybe it's all the suffering at the hand of Fidel Castro that they have experienced, but Cubans try harder. They don't rest on their laurels (or think that genetics...er...uh...size...is enough). They are very skillful lovers. The best tool in the world is wasted in the hands of an amateur. (sigh) Most men in this world are amateurs. I am a lucky woman."

She seems to be an American ready to embrace foreigners, literally and figuratively.

Over the weekend, I also had an extended exchange with the reader who had been concerned about coming to the Muslim hotbed of Barbados--about which I wrote a few days ago (see "You Cannot Be Serious")--and she confessed to being very unaware of places and people outside the US, even fearing them in some sense. She has been seriously misinformed about this island and I tried to set her straight, and I think she is now at ease about her coming holiday here in a few days' time.

What I also learned from this other reader, "Daphne", who lives in South Carolina, was a lot about her political views and also what were forming those. She has concerns about all the candidates, but also feels that the media has given Sen. Obama an easier time than merited. Our exchange showed that a lot of misinformation was being absorbed as fact. For example, "Daphne" felt that President Bush had been hampered by a Democrat-controlled Congress. But, the fact is that Congress was led by Republicans from 1994-2006, when the Democrats gained control. I don't know why an American would not know that. Maybe we outside the US follow events there much more closely than those who live there. But that's part of why the voting issues are of such concern. Ignorance abounds. Accusations stick, and many have seen how a move to more negative campaigning by the Republicans has a good chance of working, though at the moment there are signs that it is backfiring.

These contrasts are not shocking or surprising. I always find it hard to accept definitive views about people in a country. So much is framed by what you know, what you think you know, who you've met, the experiences you have had, etc. But, you also don't know what you don't know.

I'm an internationalist by experience so find it much easier than many to absorb differences as positives rather than treat them as threats. I've had the mixed, but I think, good fortune of being born in a region like the Caribbean. I was then raised in a different country and culture, in England. I had to adjust from living my life as part of a racial majority to being part of a feared and disliked minority. I moved to live in another country, the USA, where black people were still coming through a long period of horrible institutionalized racial prejudice. That had never touched my life before, and like many Caribbeans, I found it hard to feel the bitterness that black Americans carry like a ton weight on their shoulders.

I have had the benefit of extensive foreign travel, which showed me that differences are contextual: the Chinese and Japanese find white people with red hair stranger than black people with black hair--because most Asians also have black hair. I have a facility with languages: I speak French and Russian. I try to learn at least simple greetings in the native language of countries I visit. So, I feel comfortable trying to speak Welsh or Latvian or Estonian or Turkish.

I'm now back almost full circle, living in the small world of the Caribbean islands. From here, I see that "globalization" is a myth. Having fast and extensive abilities to connect and contact has not made the world one. We can transmit things rapidly, good and bad: a disease from one part of the world only needs one plane with a carrier to become a problem elsewhere. But cultural differences do not move that fast. We have moved so far and yet have so far to go.

1 comment:

Jdid said...

lol, cuhdear she juss had to get in dat dig at the bajan lover too. :-(