Saturday, April 23, 2011

One Angered Caymanian (anti-expat in Cayman)

Three weeks ago I got an abusive email in response to a blog of mine back in December headed “More Immigrants, Please”; the email’s subject-line was “More Natives”. The body of the email, following an obscene greeting, was as follows. All the emphases are as per the original; I haven’t changed a thing.

Caymanians are already OUTNUMBERED... how about some more NATIVE Caymanians? Huh?
It is MORE than clear to see that you are ALL ABOUT keeping and importing "More Immigrants...". You have ALWAYS been about the EXPATS/IMMIGRANTS and to HELL with the Natives and what opportunities are LEFT for them of our SMALL Island Nation. WHERE oh WHERE is your ADVOCACY for the Native Caymanian you Status-Granted Foreign Fucker??? Where is the JUST 'human rights' you so self-proclaim??
Do you NOT understand the ATROCITIES and VICIOUS CYCLE of what happens in almost EVERY country that has been OVER-RUN by your fucking Gods, the "IMMIGRANTS"??? Reminder - There is always UNREST and WAR that is the end result when the natives of those respective countries are disenfranchised, suppressed and pushed aside as the 'White Man' has done GLOBALLY for CENTURIES upon CENTURIES. When are fucking CALLOUSES like YOU going to STOP the CYCLE???
May I suggest you STOP trying to AIDE in our Country's DEMISE by keeping your BIASED advocacy to YOURSELF. I think our Governments are doing QUITE WELL with the demise process and DO NOT need your assistance.
Thank you very much,
One Angered Caymanian

Angered, indeed.

The writer has confused my being pro-immigrant (true) with being anti-native (false). It would have been more logical to blame the native-Caymanian politicians and their cronies for allowing so many immigrants into the Territory, and for promising the voters a return to high rates of growth for the local economy. As that December blog noted, if Cayman is to extend the benefits of its current prosperity to all Caymanians, it will need more immigrants. I would like the present Caymanian “have-nots” to share the wealth.

The fact that they are not doing so already is the fault of the native-Caymanian politicians- not of any “Status-Granted Foreign Fucker”, at all. For the have-nots to participate more fairly in Cayman’s prosperity, radical changes are needed in each of the education system, the immigration system, and the political system. Those systems are what are holding Cayman back. If the writer of this email agrees with me on that point, then he should have the guts to go public with a call for change. As long as he doesn’t favour the bullying of low-paid immigrants, I will back him. But if he is one of the bullies- and the tone of his email hints that he is- then we will never be on the same side.

I wonder if he has written to Dr Shetty and Mr Hon and Mr Dart, and told them what he thinks of their plans for Cayman’s future. In case he hasn’t, perhaps some reader of this blog would bring the email to those gentlemen’s attention. If Angered Caymanian is predicting “UNREST and WAR”, all existing and prospective investors had better be prepared. Unrest and war are not good news for businessmen.

The email’s address (which I won’t disclose, just now) suggests it was sent by or with the approval of some kind of Caymanian protest-blogsite. Interesting, if true. A friend of mine used to pretend to belong to “The Expat Militia”, an organisation that existed only in his mind. I sincerely hope we don’t have to form one for real, to counter an army of Angered Caymanians, bent on unrest and war! (I’m joking- I think...)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Glass Ceilings, Again (protectionism in Cayman)

According to a website I came across the other day called Trading Economics, Cayman’s literacy was 99% in 1997, and no change has been registered since. It’s good to know that government’s Statistics Unit actually does produce some figures in exchange for its generous annual budgets, although one must wonder just how accurate its work is.

That 99% is of all residents aged 15 and over. Were they all literate in English, do you think? Or would Tagalog and Jamaican patwa warrant ticking the “yes” column? Or, is the 99% an out-and-out guess? Ah well, it looks good on the charts...

The dividing line between literate and illiterate is generously drawn at any time. How literate is “literate”? What exactly is “functional illiteracy”? It is hugely disappointing that Cayman’s educational authorities have been (apparently) so dismissive of the need to raise the standards of literacy in our Islands. And “need” is exactly the right word.

Our politicians’ position is that employers’ prejudices are responsible for the contentious glass ceilings that limit the promotions of true-born Caymanians. By their silence, the education authorities support that position. Whereas, in fact, it is the mindless protectionism of politicians and their cronies that creates the ceilings. If they truly cared about Caymanian children instead of the preservation of their bureaucratic empires, they would have abolished the ceilings long ago.

How? By working to a sensible definition of literacy- not the minimalist definition of persons “who can, with understanding, read and write a short, simple statement on their everyday life.” That’s not nearly enough. Cayman’s sophisticated offshore financial services industry requires a level of literacy that bears no relation to the levels in communities of subsistence farmers, for instance. Do our bureaucrats understand that? If so, why do they settle for the false comfort of the minimalist definition?

Cayman’s businessmen operate in the real world. The glass ceilings are put in place to block the advancement of persons whose literacy levels are inadequate for the jobs they are paid to do. And, regrettably, despite all the bitter complaints by Caymanians, the hated glass ceilings are too porous by half. Most customers of local businesses are regularly shocked by the number of barely literate individuals (in the context of the sophisticated language-skills expected in a rich little community like ours) who have somehow managed to burst through the ceilings.

For an alarming number of Caymanians in relatively high administrative positions, even such basic grammatical constructs as past participles are terra incognita (as, indeed, are such relatively common foreign-language terms as terra incognita). “I have learn the lesson”, we read; to which the only meaningful retort is, “no you ain’t!” Conjugating verbs is a minefield, too. “The boats is loss at sea.” “No they ain’t!” Spoken, “boats is loss” may grudgingly receive the benefit of any doubt; written, it is unforgivable. Yet mistakes of that kind are written every day, in letters and e-mails.

It’s a sad situation. Correct grammar and usage are second nature to those of us who were taught well. The credit belongs to our teachers; there is no inherent ability to speak or write well in any language. Those who do, have no right to look down on those whose language-skills are inferior. And yet it’s human nature that they do; and when barely literate clerks are in the presence of Offshore Clients, for instance, it matters.

Poor language-skills signal low intelligence, however unfair that is. It’s a cruel world. In a small and intimate community like ours, there is no reason why Caymanians need be handicapped in that way. Our education strategy must take the blame for the glass ceilings.

Friday, April 8, 2011

After You, Cecil... (Cayman's social tensions)

Last week, my Cayman Net News column noted that crime will always flourish in a society in which half the people don’t cooperate with the other half. On the same Friday, the Caymanian Compass’s editorial wondered whether it might be a bit dodgy to let non-Status expats sit on juries passing judgment on native Caymanians, “...given the current tensions between the two groups”.

Well! My, my! I can’t recall the Compass ever before acknowledging that tensions did exist between native Caymanians and expats. It’s a relief to see the paper finally coming out of the closet on the topic. It has always been an excellent small-town newspaper, but its editorials were always desperately wishy-washy, up until just a few months ago. Nobody of my acquaintance can fathom the reason for the change of attitude, but everybody welcomes it. Long may it last. The Net News is a less substantial newspaper, but its editorials have almost always been far superior to the Compass’s.

It used to be said about Cayman’s news reporting, in former times, “Brian covers it up and Desmond makes it up.” The joke may not even be half-true, any more.

Our communal tensions affect every facet of law enforcement. Most dangerously, they affect the Police’s ability to identify the bad guys. At the moment we have four unsolved bank robberies, the unsolved disappearance (abduction, we assume) of the Caymanian woman from the Dump office, and several unsolved savage assaults on Work Permit expats.

What is striking about the caseload is the division of concern in our little society- a division that exactly follows the fault-lines in the society. Expats are mostly concerned about expat victims, Caymanians are mostly concerned about Caymanian. Not always, but mostly. Posters on the Cayman News Service forums argue back and forth about the most likely ethnicity of the robbers. Caymanians want banks’ security guards to be armed; expats wonder how many Caymanians would put their lives on the line for four or five dollars an hour.

There is some reluctance to use the word “tribal” in relation to Cayman’s societal divisions; but what other word fits? If you count all the various expat ethnicities and national origins as a single tribe, then “tribal” it is. Our need, as a society, is not to unite the tribes; that’s not going to happen. One demand to “love us or leave us!” from a Caymanian, and one mention of “birthright entitlement!” from an expat, and the tension is exposed in all its ugliness.

But- that said- surely we ought to be able to agree which crimes to take seriously and which not, and to cooperate in tackling them. Police and Immigration would have to commit to acting in good faith. Would that be too much to ask? It’s actually the only positive option we have besides ceding the nights to the street criminals. There is no third option.

The division isn’t going to go away, so we must learn to live with it. It will be fascinating to see which party (i.e. which tribe) will make the first move towards the common ground. It could develop like one of those old music-hall comedy turns. After you, Cecil. No, no, after you, Claude. No, after you... and so on ad infinitum.