Cocaine, Calypso - and traffic Frankly Speaking
By A.A. Fenty
Stabroek News
February 20, 2004

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I really wanted to keep this week-end's offering light. Then I'll confuse you by revealing that I'm not yet an Internet person, as I'm not computer literate. (Ovid would declare I'm just illiterate!)

So it was during the one week-end I spent in Caracas, Venezuela I read a little more on cocaine. Actually, I read about the coca leaf. Bear with me on this pre-Mash day.

It transpires, historically, that the indigenous peoples of the valleys and mountains of South America - Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia et al - grew the coca leaf which they would chew or brew into tea.

This item, for centuries, provided these "Amerindian" folks with energy and physical sustenance and resistance with respect to the cold of those higher regions which touched the clouds.

Then came the Europeans who took possession of Latin America, colonised everything, including, of course, the innocent fields of coca. Discovering and learning of the properties and qualities of the coca plant, the white settler and their successor soon experimented with the plant to "package" it to suit their own various purposes. Cocaine-base, a cruder coca-based drug was soon being manufactured in rudimentary labs.

Soon, from the fields and valleys, began the production of the deadly commercial narcotic - cocaine - crack in all its forms and names.

For lucrative export to the Americas and Europe. Since it was illegal, it was and is an underground agricultural product. But coca-products now rival all the other South American agricultural products as the export of choice - including coffee, cocoa, corn, yucca, rice, sugar.

Resisting fiercely and violently, governments and American efforts to eradicate coca farming, drug barons have protected the continent's willing farmers, used traditional uses as an excuse, paid much more for the produce, promoted the narco-trade and all its attendant evils, including the undermining of governments, good order and funding rebellious terrorists. With the giant American/European market, cocaine, it seems, won't go away any time soon. Despite billions being used in various "wars against drugs".

Against all the fore-going, my simple, perhaps simplistic question is this: why is cocaine still the narcotic, the prohibited substance of choice? In these parts? Especially in the USA? In front of marijuana, heroin and other narcotics? Apart from its early use in medicinal anaesthetics, coca is now used to provide highs for young and old who need to "get away", who need Dutch courage to do particular things or just to drop out. Is that the answer? To me, the answer to just what is the need or preference for cocaine can provide the solution to the diminution or elimination of the trade.

Of course, I am well aware of the wealth and power provided by the lavish takings from the sinful and illegal industry.

That wealth has corrupted some of society's best professionals, politicians, police and priests and alas, the youth.

In our own Guyana, it is argued that the narco-trade provides an important buffer - if not base - for our beleaguered legal economy! We are nearly a major transshipment location, located as we are between the producers in South America and the market in North America.

The results are all around us - drug couriers at the lower level, the new rich with wealthy assets, the now-accepted immorality amongst even the formerly righteous which now makes taking and using drugs money quite O.K. I use rum and vodka, beer and wine for my "highs".

Cocaine producers would go out of business over people like me. So I repeat my simple query: why is coke preferred by the idle rich and the ghetto poor? Merely because of the superior high - that makes them fly? Assist me here.

Calypso tonight...


Just my final word for now, on calypso, for this "season". Yes I repeat my conclusion that this year's offerings were of a decidedly higher standard than some previous periods. This year calypso and soca lovers can choose about ten songs to create a lasting collection. Despite who or whatever wins at the various competitions.

Which point prompts me to repeat my question: could our worthy "calypso" judges be swayed by crowd response? Especially if the judging criteria provide no points for crowd "popularity"? So even if a finalist campaigns in Bartica or takes the largest following to "support" a popular issue-oriented calypso, should the judges be influenced by numbers?

Long after the competition and its winners, we will see which songs last the longest - purely on quality. Happy Mash.

Road traffic as indiscipline


Look, these days I feel so impatiently upset over this subject, I'll leave the gist, the substance for next time. Compared to other road users elsewhere, I think that the Guyanese pedestrian, jackass-cart driver, motor-cyclist and some drivers are among the worst in existence.

Don't abuse me for that. I promise to develop all that soon.

But from a bus, truck or taxi, look up the roadway. What do you see? Pedestrians on the road, donkey carts, scooters, and bicyclists weaving in and out, schoolchildren, indisciplined and uninformed about traffic safety. After studying traffic safety for years, teaching road safety patrols, going to numerous seminars and just being a responsible road-user, I give up.

The gross, perverse road use by the indisciplined, non-conformist and ignorant will ensure continuous tragedy on our highways and streets. Much more next time.


Happy Mash!

1) Welcome President Chavez. The poor at your home still love you. There are many poor here. But proud and patriotic.

2) Will write of Pan next week, Oscar.

3) Today is Forbes Burn-ham's Birth Anniversary!

4) Uncharacteristically, I'll support this week-end's Mash Queen Pageant.

5) D'Ivan, Charmaine, Coody, Tempest - you all sing more ballads!

6) Even if you're going to protest by waving black rags, black is beautiful! Cele-brate the Republic. Happy Mash!

`Til next week!!