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**

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Power Of Boycotting

I know that by refusing to give my custom to an entity I can bring it to its knees. If I can get my foreign friends to do likewise, the knees will stay buckled. If my foreign friends persuade their foreign friends to do likewise, then the legs will drop off. If the foreign friends' foreign friends persuade some Barbadians to do it that would be a miracle. I have the proof. Look at what has happened to the restaurant business since I started my boycott nearly two years ago (see Boycotting restaurants). The weekend Sunday Sun showed the trail of restaurant closures, some with stellar reputations and ratings in the Zagat guide (see Crisis eats into restaurants). Restaurants in Barbados have learnt the hard way what economists mean by 'income effect' and 'substitution effect'. I am not sure if I started it, but I was a part. So, I have to take responsibility for the job losses that have occurred as a result. But, they were ripping money from me. They also had things wrong with how they did things. I had to get back and I will take care of myself. Eat me? I will eat you!

Now, voices are being raised to boycott The Nation, and to boot, maybe The Advocate too. Many reports indicate that circulation of the national dailies is dwindling; their online offerings are neither timely nor very interesting--some are barely in existence. Somehow, with a bevvy of staff they manage to produce not much at all. I alone am churning out articles as if I were Rumpelstiltskin at his spinning wheel.

Black Americans mounted effective boycotts to help speed racial integration, most famously in Montgomery, Alabama. Going my way? No way.

One of the longest-running boycotts is of Nestlé products. During the 1970s, consumer groups working in developing countries became concerned about the lack of breast-feeding and rising infant mortality. They concluded that 1.5 million infant deaths annually were due to unsafe (unsanitary) bottle feeding. These groups targeted Nestlé, the largest seller of infant formula in the developing world. The boycott is still on. Now, there is no membership card so we do not know who has stopped naturally, or who has newly joined, etc. I know that Nestlé felt the pain: one of our good friends in Guinea was their managing director in the country, and he explained. boycotts of fast food have also occurred, though I wonder where is the sacrifice in not eating what some call "artery clogging" cardboard.

But to boycott effectively you have to have self-sacrifice.You cannot say even with your deepest voice, "I'm going to boycott just as soon as I have a last...." No, it must be immediate and it must be sustained. The call regarding the papers means what, though? For those who read the papers online but like to feel the inky print, they will still get their fix of news from those 'despicable' sources. Phaw! For those who then upload and send around links, they are still promoting what some call 'diabolically biased' organs of national downfall.

Is the fuss really well focused? Screams were heard as far as in Sascatoon, Canada, that The Nation is biased. Well, hello. Newspapers express opinions. Duh. Oh, I get it. I must hear how much yu lerv me? I want to hear you whisper in my ear "Come here, Sugga." You need to understand the right answer to "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?" You look me deep in the eye and say (no coughing or spluttering, or looking away now). "You, oh, heart felt sweet dumpling one." No, you may not leave and go to the bathroom. Say it again!

With my youngest child I say "Do not start a story with 'He was mean to me'. Tell me what you did first." So, she backs up and stiffens her back and starts. "I pushed Matthew, and then he was mean to me." Sometimes she gets it and says "...mean to me back." So, we may need to look a little deeper, deeper.

How did this all start? Who hurt you, sweetie? Tell us the names. He forced you to do what? He made you tell what stories? What did you do, honey? You just did as you were told? Then you must feel really terrible about that. So, what do you want to do now? Lash out at anyone who looks and sounds like him? I understand, baby. But, you know. that wont make things better; it just spreads the pain. Not all people that look like him are like him. Understand? You need to be a little more trusting. I know, baby. Life IS short. Anyway, you're both hurting, that's clear. He's gone and says he wont miss you. You say you don't care. All the best to you both, then.

An international perspective always helps and you can read from the World Press Freedom Committee site. I was also fascinated by the reports of how things were under the previous government in Barbados, and skimmed passages of a few books online. Not pretty reading at times.

The proposed local newspaper boycott is rather odd as one of its main proponents purports to uphold freedom of expression and wanting freedom of information and looking to avoid muzzling of its rights to write what it wants. It is extremely biased. But, I guess if you are biased you do get crinkly when others are also showing bias. Maybe it's the mirror. Maybe it's the 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' situation.

It may be worth rereading what I had to say about this 18 months ago (see What do people think of the press?). Also worth a read is Freedom of the press 2007: a global survey of media independence, By Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Eleanor Marchant.

I am not clear why you need to bother what one private newspaper writes when you own the national TV channel and have major broadcast rights through three government-owned radio stations (out of 11). The other private newspaper is normally very favourable to you, including running weekly articles from the main government advisor. I am not sure either why one would bother when one has the Internet and one's own blog. The means to deal with any bias from others are firmly there in your hands. Why bother? It draws attention, sure, but normally not favourable. International opinion will at the least register on the negative side. Domestic opinion will be mixed at best, maybe net negative at worst if one has misjudged the people's sentiments. It's also interesting to see what international company one keeps with certain actions.

Whether one likes it or not, US political opinion is important. I recall the US government's 2008 Human Rights Report: Barbados. Its general message was:

Although the government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, problems included excessive use of force by police, poor prison conditions, and societal violence against women and children.

On the pertinent area discussed here, Freedom of Speech and Press, it reported:

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.

There were occasional incidents involving police altercations with the press. On December 19, police arrested two journalists who were attempting to cover the arraignment of a police officer charged with drug possession and trafficking charges.

The government restricted the receipt and importation of foreign publications deemed to be pornographic.

The 2009 report will no doubt make interesting reading.

1 comment:

Cutters said...

I met my hero yeserday while going to undertake one of the many requirements to secure a legal identity here in Barbados. We got to talking about the Bolt phenomenon as soon as he heard my jamaican accent and of course we expressed our deep disappointment at the absence of CBC coverage.

He then informed me that he packed up his MCTV box and gave it back to CBC becaue if they couldn't cover the world championships he didn't want it and wouldn't pay for it. Can you imagine if all of us did that!