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**

Friday, May 23, 2008

What's Mr. Golding really saying?

I must admit that I don't find anything startling about the recent revelations about Jamaica's PM, Bruce Golding. When pressed by the inteviewer on BBC's "Hardtalk", he said he would not have gays in his Cabinet, as is his prerogative. It is worth listening carefully to what he says (see link). He prefaced the remark by saying that he wanted in his Cabinet people who could discharge their functions with independence and without being influenced. For him, the political calculus is that an openly gay person is a risk--and it is that way in many countries, even those who proclaim to have more liberal views than Jamaica about homosexuality. In the Caribbean being open about homosexuality is suicidal or an invitation to serious violence, with Jamaica right near the top as places where that is likely to be the case.

Mr. Golding's remarks could easily be extended to a range of sexual preferences, such as pedophilia or bestiality or consorting with prostitutes--the latter being a sexual activity that is indulged in by many heterosexuals but nevertheless seems to send politicians packing their bags hastily when it's exposed. What is Eliot Spitzer doing these days? In fact, open sexual activity is political dynamite. Remember the popular US president who was impeached recently, after claiming "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" and then the political dancing after she produced the semen-stained dress?

So, in that sense, I have no problem with what Mr. Golding says as it pertains to homosexuals. I recently watched a heart-wrenching interview with a senior UK executive, who had to not only handle being a lone female on the board but also had to deal with that after she declared that she was a lesbian. The US congressman, Barney Franks (the first openly gay congressman), is a rarity in having the courage in America to declare his homosexuality. Britain's Peter Mandelson, former Cabinet Minister in Tony Blair's government, now the European Union Commissioner for Trade, who had been cited by another prominent openly gay MP, Matthew Parris as being "certainly gay", now does not stand accused and condemned. Mandelson's has been in more trouble politically for dubious financial dealings--and had to resign from Cabinet twice due to that--and for being part of a so-called "Jewish cabal" that supported PM Blair.

Others, not just politicians, have spoken like Mr. Golding about many groups who now find themselves standing tall in politics, even at its very summit--women, blacks, Jews, Catholics, etc. Some still do, with flourish, such as Italy's "colorful" PM, Silvio Berlusconi and his pejorative remarks about women in his Cabinet. Though, as an aside, what is the normally Alpha-male-ultra-macho PM Berlusconi trying to tell us with him mimicking of anal sex with a female police officer in the video? Italy is used to a lot of swing politics but, come now.

Thinking about how PM Golding reacts when in a closed room with either Mr. Franks or Mr. Mandhelson will make me titter. I laugh out loud till I have a belly cramp at the thought of him and either or both of these politicians having to share a toilet or his being asked by them about the size of his majority. I can see him now hastily cancelling any one-on-one discussions with PM Berlusconi. But, I run ahead of myself!

In the landscape of human progress and development, Jamaica may see changes so that a future PM does not feel that he needs to say what Mr. Golding did.

I am more uneasy about whether he truly believes that gays are equal under the law in Jamaica--that to me is "being economical with the truth", to borrow the words of Britain's former PM, Margaret Thatcher. Finally, on the matter of sexual preferences specifically, though it may not be the preferred option, those who want to go a certain way and find that there is no room to do that where they are have the option of going elsewhere. In this case, there are many more tolerant and accepting places, maybe not in the Caribbean, such as San Francisco or Holland or England. Those who sought religious freedom, for example, have carved out that route many times in Europe, and from Europe.

I am also more uneasy about whether he can craft for me and all Jamaicans a society that is much less prone to murdering each other and one where police brutality is far less common place. I am also more concerned that he may be unable to exercise his functions independently and free from influence because of corruption and the role of organized crime.


Anonymous said...

I am really glad that Golding is not Barbados' PM, because historically some of our best, most able, most effective cabinet ministers have been gay. Unfortunately for Jamaica Mr. Golding is merely pandering to the lowest common political denominator. Mr. Golding should lead his people from the front, not follow the foolishness of the most ignorant. Don't expect Golding to be able to reduce the murder rate or to reduce corruption. Both would require more courage and more leadership that Mr. Golding has. Frankly Golding does not have the balls. Truly, truly I am sorry for Jamaica. Jamaicans deserve better.

Anonymous said...

How can Jamaica improve when its leader continues to pander to the very ignorant...from what I understand Golding already has gay people in his Cabinet

Anonymous said...

i usually enjoy reading your blog but i couldn't even make it to the end of your post (so i apologise if i have perhaps missed your point).

i don't see how anyone can defend or seek to explain the usefulness, political or otherwise of Golding arguing that gays don't have a right to be! we're not talking about people swinging from chandeliers here but about their participation in a democratic society.