STOP (The War)

Today is the sad anniversary of the Russian invasion of its neighbour, the Ukraine. Eight million refugees spread mostly across Europe and an equal number internally displaced, mostly women and children. The majority of those who fled do not want to go back. Life in places like Switzerland and Germany seems a lot safer then back home and the war is far from over. 

            ‘But the Ukrainians need their people to return and rebuild,’ I said.

            ‘All this talk of rebuilding is futile when the Russian army and the brutal Wagner group are still destroying towns, infra structure and killing people with impunity and no respect for any international agreements nor basic human rights.’

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Carnival (Carriacou)

Carnaval was first introduced to the Caribbean in the 1700’s by the French bourgeoisie. It was then a festival witha series of masquerade balls with elaborate, expensive costumes, house and street parades signifying the start of lent. In Carriacou carnival is officially celebrated in the week preceding Ash Wednesday. The former slaves parodied these festivities by covering themselves in ashes and oil and their orchestras consisted of conch shells for brass and biscuit tins for drums.

  We were ready and primed for the much anticipated and promoted Carriacou Carnival, famous all over the Windward Islands for its authenticity and fervour. This is not Rio, New Orleans or Cologne, it’s only a small island at the bottom of the Caribbean. The week-long super-party officially starts on the Thursday of the preceding week with the Queen Show but in reality it begins weeks earlier with several village road shows all over the island; meaning all night street parties with massive boom-boxes, hectolitres of beer and rum fuelled revellers. On the days leading up to the epic weekend, hundreds of partiers invade this small island. Many come from the mainland – Grenada – or other nearby Islands including Trinidad and St. Vincent and they are referred to with a disparaging sneer as foreigners, as opposed to us tourists and snowbirds who are more or less welcome here since we bring money and stay a while. Also, a lot of ex-pats from England, the US and Canada, make the long trek to this tranquil Island for the festivities, turning it into a party mayhem haven. The daily ferry from Grenada was mobbed and overloaded with standing room only, with many of the beer swilling passengers hanging over the railings in the rough seas. 

            The first official event is the crowning of the Carnival Queen on Thursday night. We arrived early at 9PM and got prime seats for the well run and entertaining program. Six young women showed off their sequined, feathered and glittery costumes, then each contestant performed a short drama or a musical number and then they displayed their ball gowns and answered a short quiz. Five local judges picked the winner at about 3AM in front of a jubilant and festive crowd consisting mostly of local women done up like New Year’s Eve, in stiletto heels and showing off their bling and super fun hair, braided, coloured, woven or piled high. The six girls representing their parishes, displayed a surprising amount of moxy and confidence with their ribald social commentary one-act-plays and songs, ranging from incest to their African heritage to the environment. There were only a handful of us white people in attendance but we didn’t at all feel out of place or uncomfortable. In fact, we were welcome to witness the local young women showing off their traditions and talents with pride. 

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Carnival Queens

            I saw her the first time at Cuddy’s rum shop on the corner of Mainstreet. She wore a red and yellow plaid dress, a Redsox ball cap and large, golden hoop earrings. Her shoulder length hair was frizzy and stiff and twisted into dreadlocks. On her feet she wore plastic sandals that had seen better days. Her hands were like roots and her face was like Sonny Liston after his fight against Cassius Clay, with amber teeth and a flat nose. Her charcoal eyes looked into the distance and her head nodded to the incessant beat of the jab-jab trucks rolling slowly up and down Mainstreet, followed by gyrating partiers dressed in colourful carnival costumes. 

            She sat by herself but talked to everyone in a low cackling voice like rocks rolling up and down the beach in the surf. Obviously the locals all knew her. She held a beer in her gnarled hand and sat there like a schoolgirl with her legs dangling. 

             “Who is she?” I asked Cuddy.

            “That’s Stella,” he said. “She used to be the Carnival Queen for many years, leading the parade of bands in elaborate costumes, different every year. She is in her nineties now, a legend really but her mind has gone.”

            “She looks like she is still enjoying the carnival.”

`           “Yep, you’ll see her around for the whole three days and then she disappears again from sight. Not sure how she knows what day it is but she sure knows when Carnival starts. Everybody knows Stella, the Carnival Queen.”

            When the big steel-band truck rolled in front of Cuddy’s, she hopped from one foot to the other, in time with the music just like she was half a century younger.

*   *   *

            From the back she looked like a twenty year old. Slim, with lovely muscular legs, tight buttocks, a long back, and skin like polished Mahogany. She was dressed only in a sequined thong and glittery bra. Her black hair was braided and augmented with red extensions and loosely tied into a ponytail at the nape of her shapely neck.  She stood with one hand on her hip in stiletto heeled red pumps, swaying to the beat of the jab-jab music that pounded out the incessant rhythm and bass line louder then a 747 taking off. Then she turned around and looked straight at me as if she sensed my appreciation of her lovely body but inwardly I recoiled because the face was that of an old woman, at least sixty but maybe even older. It was not a wrinkled countenance but one of infinite sorrow, her bright red mouth drawn, her bottomless black eyes recessed, high cheekbones and an aquiline curved nose. Her all knowing eyes lingered on me until I averted mine, taking a sip from my beer, but I felt like a schoolboy who had been caught out peeking under a skirt but then she nodded and smiled at me, forgiving me for my trespass. She slightly bent her knee and barely inclined her head towards me as if in a curtsey. I could not but do the same in return and then she turned and blended with the crowd.

            “That is Marybel,” Cuddy informed me. “She is a grandmother many times over and used to work the streets in her working years. She’s probably known every man on this island and they all still respect her, as do the ladies.  She is a good Christian and goes to church regularly. She was also one of our former Carnival Queens.” 

*  *  *

            On the sidewalk, a few rows back from the front, my eyes were drawn to a very large woman with a billowing blue polka dot dress, a white blouse, covering her water melon breasts, and a head crowned by sculpted black curls like an early Oprah Winfrey. Holding on to her skirt were a half dozen children of various ages. This woman and her slew of kids reminded me of mother Ginger and the Polichinelles from the Nutcracker ballet, the larger than life fertility figure whose crinoline dress hides all of her children. 

            I could not tear my eyes off her but nobody else saw anything unusual about this imposing woman. She just belonged like all the other characters on display. Carnival is after all the one time of the year when everybody can be what they want to be and let it all hang out. 


Instead of my usual conversation with Camp I am posting this article below. It appeared in the Tagesanzeiger, a Swiss newspaper and they encourage sharing. You can also find it in the Guardian. It’s real news. It’s an eyeopener but not unexpected in this manipulative new age of electronic communication where AI avatars are about to replace real people and The News is an electronic soap box, accessible to anybody with the tools and some skills.  As you can see from the article below, manipulation is everywhere. Scary? You bet. Real? Absolutely? Effective? You’ll be the judge? 

Destabilize a democracy? Team Jorge does it for 6 million

The suspicion: A secret troupe hacks politicians and manipulates elections for money. For proof, three reporters visit the group’s command center in Israel, disguised as customers and with hidden cameras. Ein Recherche-Krimi.

Cécile Andrzejewski, Bastian Obermayer, Frederik Obermaier, Oliver Zihlmann

Published today at 05:00

Jorge greets the undercover journalists who pose as potential clients – and then the Israeli shows what his team can do: With a hidden camera in the headquarters of the election manipulators.

His name is Jorge. Or George. Actually, he has no name, says the man in the blue shirt. “That’s who we are. We are nothing. We are air.”

It’s towards the end of 2022. Jorge is sitting in a desolate office in the industrial area of the Israeli city of Modiin. Here, between a scribbled whiteboard and a screen, he receives customers to offer his product: “Suppression of voter turnout”, for example, is written in English in a PowerPoint presentation of his company.

It is a kind of “manipulation AG”, but it is not in any company register. No wonder, because it also offers services such as the “disruption” of elections or “accusations” of political opponents.

Jorge and his partners are Israeli ex-agents. The office is part of their command center. They laughingly talk about how they hack politicians, in which countries they have already been active, how they proceed, what it all costs. They talk casually, because they think they have new customers in front of them. In reality, they are undercover journalists of a research team, equipped with a hidden camera. In total, they record six hours in exchange with Team Jorge.

Any politician, any country in the world, including Switzerland, can be the target of an attack: “Jorge” at the meeting in Israel.

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            I met Kelly when in the Windward Island where she ran a small beach side restaurant called the Wayward Café. When I say ran, I mean she shopped, cooked, served, managed and handled complaints and compliments with the same sunny grin and shrug of her small narrow shoulders. Kelly was a tough old bird, probably quite the looker in her day when her hair was blond instead of grey and her large owl eyes were not looking through thick lenses and when she still had all her teeth. Her skin was leathery and weathered like the skin of a lizard, wrinkled, sunburned and transparent at the same time and held in place by her girl size skeleton which was protruding in all the pointy places, her knees, elbows and shoulders. Her hands were calloused, her fingers long and slender, with yellow nails that bent like claws. She never complained about her arthritis or her aches and pains of which she had many, I could just tell. ‘No point in complaining, it wouldn’t change anything,’ she said when I pointed out the burn on her arm.

            ‘Getting burned is part of cooking,’ she proclaimed in her Kiwi accent, laughing her throaty laugh which shook her whole slender body. 

            She had trained her local girls well and they made the best fruit smoothies and cocktails and they knew what white people from across the water liked: strong coffee, crusty bread, unsalted butter, crispy potatoes, creamy or sautéed mushroom sauces over their meats and white sauce on their fish except for the tuna which she served seared with a wasabi sauce. Even though the Wayward Café was just that and not a fancy eatery, Kelly’s food was the best on the island. Every Tuesday she baked her famous sourdough bread, which tasted more like a French or Swiss loaf than the usual island variety of white and soft wonderbread. I would line up for a loaf of her bread to take home and the dozen loaves she baked for sale were all reserved and coveted like slips in the marina. If somebody wasn’t going to be around for their weekly ration, they would pass the privilege to a friend or relative.

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I told Camp about a recent conversation I had at the post office the other day with a woman I’ve known for years but never really had any interaction with. We were both waiting in line. I said something about Biden shooting down the Chinese balloon, trying to make small talk. I was not ready for the unusual response. It went something like this: ‘You do know that Biden is dead and the guy you see in the news and on TV is an actor, put there by the deep state.’

            I didn’t know how to respond to that. ‘Where did you get that information?’

            ‘I do my own research since the media cannot be trusted.’

            ‘Research? Like scientific, peer reviewed and fact checked?’

            ‘Don’t tell me you’re sucked into that science crap. You know it’s all mumbo jumbo to hide their real agenda.’

            ‘Which is?

            ‘Taking over the world and making us all into obedient slaves without any personal freedoms.’

            I tried to humour her and said: ‘Like making us believe the earth is flat and the cosmos does not exist.’

            ‘Exactly,’ she said in a conspiratorial tone with her eyes darting around like looking for enemies in the jungle, except we were in the post office.

            I thought I had made a joke but it was obviously more serious than that, telling by her haughty look. ‘Ok, but you are aware that we are all here on our own free will, say, read and watch what we want, move about and go where and when we like,’ I said.

            At that point it was her turn at the counter which was the end of the conversation. After she was done, she marched out, without another word.

            ‘Lucky you,’ Camp said.  ‘At least she left.

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Rich and Poor

              ‘A new report by Oxfam says that since 2020, or over the span of the pandemic, the richest 1% of people have accumulated close to two-thirds of all new wealth created around the world.’

              ‘No surprise there,’ Camp said. ‘The rich get richer and the poor stay poor.’

              ‘According to the report the pace at which wealth is being created has sped up, as the world’s richest 1% amassed around half of a new wealth over the past ten years. Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International, called for taxes to be increased for the ultra-rich, saying that this was a “strategic precondition to reducing inequality and resuscitating democracy.”

              ‘Tell that to the new US Congress,’ Camp said. ‘They want to reduce spending on social and health programs and give the rich and corporations another tax break.’

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