Candid Cruising: The Caribbean

In a word, overrated.   With some notable exceptions detailed on respective location pages, the Caribbean isn't worth getting too excited about. Unless you value rum, watery beer, steep prices, shallow laughter, pushy bums, trophy wives and really loud music that wouldn't know a melody if one slapped it upside the head.   In that case, the Caribbean is for you.

The "culture", or what passes for it to the uncritical observer, amounts to loud people who despise work.  It's not a culture at all, but a subculture.

An entire people group that has mistaken volume for value added and can't figure out why the money everyone else seems to get for free hasn't landed in their laps.

Despite their firmly held convictions, Bob Marley is not a role model capable of lifting an entire generation out of poverty.   Unless, of course, you mean with gangi (marijuana), which is richly cultivated and used openly.   The fact that Bob Marley is the hero, tells you something about the depth of the hero deck.

Sometimes I just wanted to ask if there were any adults in the village.   There were, of course, and we met a few.  Gordon and Jean in Grenada, Jerry on Union Island, Nerville and Aggie in St. Lucia and others.   Polite, earnest people hoping and praying for a day when the business of government shifts from the back door (good ol' boys club) to the front door (transparency, accountability and impartiality).   May their prayers be answered.

It's no secret that I am not a fan of governments and what they do.  I believe history is crystal clear that governments in the name of "security" or "solidarity" have killed more people than all the criminals in the world combined, by a factor of 100x or more.  But, as we anchored in Martinique, a "department" of France, it just came out, out loud with witnesses, "Governments matter" blurted out on its own.

Dan overheard it and shook his head in agreement, "Yup, tough to admit, ain't it?"

The roads were straight and fast, the streets were clean, the people friendly but not pushy.   The cars weren't held together with baling wire.

The political evolutionist would say that the environment shapes the culture and political landscape, pushing it towards this or that value system.   Environments certainly matter, but the unavoidable reality is that expectations of governments and the standards they keep matter more.  

St. Lucia is 22 miles south of Martinique, virtually identical in topography and environment, and yet from another world.  Like two brothers from the same family.   One grew up to engage society productively, balance work with love and food and life.   The other smoked gangi from the age of 13, hasn't washed his hair in a year, lost several teeth in a fight and can only think about bumming enough change for another joint.

The simple fact is that the environment is so soft, the fish so easy to catch, the coconut palms so laden that a person really can live out an entire life here, father numerous children, neglect them and avoid starvation without having to exercise real initiative.  

Perhaps winters are a culture's best friend: severely punishing those whose attention span can't see past the next free meal and richly rewarding those who plan head and take action today to ensure tomorrow's success.