I was connecting with someone who ran into me while I was having some naan and other things in Maraval, Trinidad, after the fact – through Facebook messenger.
And emojis came up. I use them quite a bit in quick communications, and it’s because people who don’t know me can’t always judge my mood by what I write. The same holds true for anyone, really. They serve an important use.
It’s because body language, in person, is such an important part of communication. In general, I prefer communicating with people in person because of this. Things are more clear. Personable.
But I have spent half of my life without an Internet. There’s generations that have been born since. Emojis are their a big part of their ‘body language’ now, in this new sort of intimacy – a digital intimacy.
Not too long ago, I watched a mother and daughter sitting at a coffee shop in a mall. I took a picture of them.
That’s how they looked the entire time. I find myself doing this at times with people close to me as well – that mutual searching for something somewhere else.
They’re probably using emojis.
The world has changed. There are some who say for the better, some say for the worse. It doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it has changed and that I have witnessed it. That I am witnessing it.
I’m not talking about the early adopters. I’m talking about how mothers and daughters used to talk to each other and make eye contact instead of sipping coffee at a coffee shop and staring at their phones. I don’t know the quality of their relationships. I can’t judge.
But this all has created voids of understanding. Yesterday, a young man I know asked on Facebook about why people would tell him that if he had an anime profile picture his opinion didn’t matter. I explained to him that people saw an anime picture and saw someone who preferred to be identified as something that they aren’t as opposed to someone they are.
I don’t care too much about anime pictures. I take issues with people on social networks that don’t have pictures of themselves. That’s really the whole point, particularly with people like myself who are great with faces and bad with names. If I could draw beyond stick figures, I could probably use facial recognition to find that person I was thinking of.
…Yet, for all the convenience that the shorthand of emoticons provide, they can also land users in hot water. After all, the meaning that one person associates with an emoticon can be lost on – even completely different to – the reader’s understanding of it. The ambiguity of emoticons can lead to undesirable misunderstandings, particularly when two parties are not familiar with one another – for example, when cross-cultural work emails are interpreted differently.
I’ve seen it. I’ve reacted to it. I’ve done it. It’s this fumbling through with fingers that can make any sort of communication awkward.
This must be very confusing for these newer generations. Everything they see is posed online, from duck-lipped selfies and photobombed pictures of great landscapes to streams of video.
It’s all staged.
And that’s all they see.
I imagine a genuine smile might be confusing to someone raised on that.
I’m sure this was all a revolution of sorts. I’m not sold on it being an evolution.
I’ve never written about the oil and gas industry. I’m certainly no expert – there are plenty of people claiming to be with or without credentials, and I don’t wish to intrude upon their space.
Oil and gas, after all, is a messy affair. In Trinidad and Tobago, even more so since it has and continues to depend so much on this sector for income – something that I do write about in the context of diversifying the economy through technology, which in turn could finance further development in those areas. That’s crazy thinking in Trinidad and Tobago for anyone in a position to do anything about it.
So first I’m not going to write about Trinidad and Tobago. I’m going to write about a place few from Trinidad and Tobago have ventured to before I bring it all back to Trinidad and Tobago.
The nearby GM assembly plant was open in 1919, and lasted until 2009 – 90 years. So it was pretty much settled that as children grew up, they’d get a job at GM. In 1970, the peak employment of that plant was 7,000.
When I got to Beloit in 2010 or so, it was a very different Beloit. I didn’t get to see it on the upswing – I am too young for that – and I didn’t see it dwindle. I saw the results – a small economy within Wisconsin that had high unemployment and all the stuff that goes with it.
An interesting and unrelated thing to note is that the city fines people who don’t keep their lawns mowed or their houses painted. This had resulted in even small time criminals maintaining nice lawns, and some pretty annoyingly colored houses as a form of rebellion.
The economy was hyper-dependent on GM. And I expect that even now, the recovery from that weaning was difficult.
Now, Beloit was in a quandary when GM shut down operations in the area. They likely still are.
Yet, they have one of the most highly rated Main Streets, and in 2015 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index ranked the Janesville-Beloit metropolitan area #4 by how well they created and sustained jobs and economic growth.
I don’t know much about what happened when I left – what I do know is that Beloit was in trouble. And I saw opportunity for technology companies there – and some showed up, though I’m not certain how that all worked out.
But I do know one thing. Beloit’s still there.
Back to Trinidad and Tobago and Petrotrin: There are parallels with Beloit, and there are some things that are not. For example, Petrotrin is only a part of the oil and gas sector in Trinidad and Tobago – and also, it’s government owned – though the Wikipedia article presently discusses Petrotrin in a past tense.
Now, some people talk about this as a business – as they should. Still, the government buying the refinery was a risky proposition for the long term. But politics requires jobs – and every political party that has been in power has kept that ball in the air.
That ball in the air is now a can being kicked around on the ground now.
And so, the conversations about privatization I’ve seen have been lacking in understanding that it’s simply a bad business proposition for a private entity to run. The cost of production is, from most reports, too high.
Now, to be fair, I didn’t dig into the financials – I could, but if I dig into the books of any company, I’m only looking at what is reported – and no one has reported anything good.
So the question is whether it’s worth keeping at all. There’s enough inefficiency that it should be a wake up call; to me it seems an indictment of a culture that allowed it to happen – something no one in Trinidad and Tobago wants to hear.
But if they look carefully, they can see it.
I will point out that Beloit, Wisconsin has found ways to recover – and I’m pretty sure there are at least parts of it that are unpopular. Beloit survives. So will Trinidad and Tobago. But there are necessary differences between what they were and what they must become.
The time for thinking about economic diversification is over. With a lowering interest in oil and gas technologies, it’s time for the Government of Trinidad and Tobago – as well as it’s stakeholders, every citizen, to start working on that diversification.
Want things to change? Read more. Think more. Think about repercussions of actions at even the most personal of levels – there is opportunity in even the most dire of circumstances, if only the Government and people would get out of their own way.
Or you could paint your house a bright orange in protest – an appropriate mix of red and yellow political filters – and hope for the best.
This meme is making the rounds – and while it is funny, for those who have seen ‘The Princess Bride‘, it really hits an issue that…
Well, it bugs me. It applies to so many things beyond phone calls these days.
Maybe you can blame your parents if you don’t do these things. Maybe it was your peer group. Maybe you were underprivileged and had no access to other humans. Or maybe you just were raised by feral wolves, and you want to go around sniffing other people’s poo. I don’t know. But when dealing with humans, get a few things right instead of wrong.
People, for example, will call and not announce themselves, immediately asking for me (hopefully, or not), assuming I know who it is.
Assume the person you’re calling doesn’t know who you are. Always.
The relevant personal link can be omitted if the person receiving the call knows the personal link. If you don’t know them that well – a good way to judge is whether you know what color their underwear is when you call – assume they don’t, and remind them. If you do know the color of their underwear and they still don’t know who you are, hang up. They have larger issues than you, and you probably sound creepy to them. Expect a visit from local law enforcement.
Managing expectations is a good idea – or, simply getting to the point so the receiving person knows what this is about. I’m the person who doesn’t respond to messages that start with, “Hello”, or, “Hi”, or, “How are you?”. You’re messaging or calling for a reason, get to the point – with some caveats.
Also, assume they don’t have a lot of time or are busy. “Are you busy?” or “Do you have a few minutes?” lets people have a chance to tell you that maybe you should call back when they can focus on a conversation that you think is important enough to interrupt their time for. If they thinkit’s important, they’ll handle it then. If they have immediate things to deal with, don’t be an idiot – let them deal with those things. Unless you’re dying and the emergency phone operator puts you on hold. But then, what can you do?
Getting to the point is a big thing for me. When you interrupt my life, I expect you to have a point unless you’re a very personal part of my life (I will know the color of the underwear, or will be interested to know).
I don’t care if it’s hard for you to get to the point. Get to the point. Don’t dance around it. Don’t give me your life history.
And for the love of all that is human, if you don’t get a hold of me, don’t keep trying immediately. Leave a message. Try in a while. Maybe I’m too busy dealing with something. Maybe I’m in the toilet. Maybe I’m talking to someone. Maybe I’m in a meeting. Maybe I just don’t feel like talking to you right now. Maybe you’re not as important as you think you are (there’s a reality check). For whatever reason, when people don’t respond immediately, it doesn’t mean you should keep pestering them immediately, unless it’s an emergency.
An emergency is life or death. I’m not a doctor. If you’re dead, you have no business calling me. If you’re in the process of dying, you should probably see a doctor. If you were just born, I will get to you – you should have a while for that to happen.
We’ve all encountered it. We post an article on some social network and someone comments without reading the article, or not reading it properly.
As someone who writes, I went through the stages of grief about it. I can apathetically report that I don’t care as much as I used to about it. Many people tend to skim headlines, sharing them without thought, and then blaming the Russians or whoever the headline targets for everything.
…As work in neurosciences indicates, the acquisition of literacy necessitated a new circuit in our species’ brain more than 6,000 years ago. That circuit evolved from a very simple mechanism for decoding basic information, like the number of goats in one’s herd, to the present, highly elaborated reading brain. My research depicts how the present reading brain enables the development of some of our most important intellectual and affective processes: internalized knowledge, analogical reasoning, and inference; perspective-taking and empathy; critical analysis and the generation of insight. Research surfacing in many parts of the world now cautions that each of these essential “deep reading” processes may be under threat as we move into digital-based modes of reading… — Maryanne Wolf
The bad news is that anyone who read that didn’t skim it, and therefore doesn’t need to understand it on a personal level. The good news is that there are people thinking about it.
But there are other things, things that also need to be addressed. Some people don’t even skim articles, they skim headlines – and in a rush, for whatever reason, they share it. Before you know it, things with no actual truth to them, or just enough to be shared, inundate the entire web.
And what it really boils down to is that, aside from how much we might like to think people who are demonstrably susceptible to all of this are ignorant, as a society we generate a lot of things to read. Publishers understand the need for sticky headlines and ‘cover art’, and are good at it.
People don’t have enough time to deep read things, and they don’t want to be left out of an accelerating world – but are proud of themselves when they can type out the 4 letters, ‘TLDR’.
People who figured all of this out long ago have capitalized on it. Fake News, coupled with Big Data analysis of what people are interested in, allows some impressive amount of sharing of information that should probably be tossed in a pyre of literacy.
So, what to do as a writer? Well, the answer to that is simple: Keep writing.
And, as a global citizen on the Internet? Deep read. Don’t skim. Encourage others to do it.
One of the things that makes the rounds in the blogosphere as a ‘truth’ is that you have to blog every day.
In a niche, if you follow another ‘truth’.
This leads to all kinds of crap content. Really. People reblog other people’s blogs, trying to capitalize on something someone else wrote in the hope that they can write it in a more popular way so that their blog can get traffic so that…
Take a breath.
That’s the newspaper business model. That’s the 24 hour news business model. It’s driven by advertising, as many blogs are, and that incentive can actually cause a decrease in quality.
An example: I picked on sex toys in Trinidad and Tobago recently. The story the newspapers carried was rushed, was not well researched, and of course provocative. When Finance Minister Colm Imbert called it fake news the next week, I laughed – because, of course, he pointed out that there’s no definition of what a sex toy actually is. In the video interview, it was even said that a woman had her edible underwear seized by Trinidad and Tobago Customs. The joke from the peanut gallery was that it was a snack. My joke would have been that Customs didn’t know how to use edible underwear- you don’t seize it.
As it turns out, a company named Websource had simply sent out a circular stating that imported sex toys could be confiscated, and were not permitted through their service. The government’s alleged ban was hearsay. Hearsay is heresy in factual reporting.
Waiting, sometimes, is the best thing to do. You don’t have to be the first to publish. You can simply aspire to getting it right before you publish.
So it is with any kind of writing, any kind of social media posting, any kind of sharing of information – even in person. You don’t have to fill what you perceive as voids with inaccurate or incomplete information.
You can wait.
More often than not, you should.
Write frequently, write well, and don’t focus on being first.
This will be a long post, so come back with coffee, tea, something else, or not at all. It’s meant to be linked from the ‘About‘ page.
I’ve been going back and engaging some of Renard Moreau’s ongoing conversations – it’s a nice blog Renard has – and it’s healthy to pause for a bit and think about what, how and why I write what I write.
But I’m more than that now, as people who follow can see. There’s a story there that, as much as I hate writing about myself, is a good story and one worth telling as I begin to connect different writing I have been doing in different ways.
I had some poetry published while I was in my teenage years – nothing particularly great, I think. Writing was something I did every day – we all do, some more than others – but I was focused on the way out of my own prison, which at the time was computing. So I wrote logical code for systems that did exactly what I wanted.
As training goes, that’s pretty horrible training for a writer.
It did, however, get me out of Trinidad and Tobago and out of a house I wanted no part of. It got me to Irving, Texas, where… well, let’s say I enjoyed parts of the childhood I did not have while growing up. While paying my bills. While going to college. And then, while not going to college.
Then, as a sailor, I wrote logs where creativity was not considered… appropriate. No one found it funny when I logged in a Soviet Submarine into a lake at NTC Orlando, and they did not let that pass. They did, however, allow me to log rats in and off the compound without complaint.
Then, there were the SOAP notes in hospitals as a Corpsman – good training on observation, but again, creative writing was frowned upon.
It wasn’t until I got back into software that creative expression was allowed – not so much in the code (oh, the comments I left!), but in that new thing that they had come out with. Email. Not everyone enjoyed my emails, but those that didn’t were usually on the receiving end of some acerbicly made point.
Around this time, I restarted creative writing, largely as an attempt to reconnect with my late mother. We read our poetry at various places in St. Petersburg, Florida – I may even make it up there in 2019 for a CAMs reunion party. And there a conflict began within me – to pay the bills or keep writing. Pragmatically, I continued doing things to pay the bills.
Poetry was fun for a while. Then short essays. And so on.
Later in the 90s, I was able to do some creative and technical writing for a site called Brainbuzz.com, which later became Cramsession.com, and now I think it’s in the ether with study guides still floating around. And in those very late 90s, I began on a new platform.
I began blogging back in 1999. Almost 2 decades ago.
The Blogging Years – Present.
Writing at first in the medium, I was focusing on a lot of self promotion – as many bloggers do. However, I had a heavy distaste for self-promotion – I believed then, and still do now, that content should stand on it’s own. That it doesn’t is an entirely different topic.
Later, I would tire of that. At the request of my father, I returned to Trinidad and Tobago – and it was a time ripe with opportunity. Trinidad and Tobago was to be an Internet hub for South America and the Caribbean. Internet businesses had proven themselves, and my memories of Trinidad and Tobago were optimistic. Too optimistic. The infrastructure wasn’t there, the cost and quality of bandwidth at the time was below reproach, and people I thought I could count on were instead people who wouldn’t spit on me if I was dying of thirst.
So I did what I always did, what I still do with a more mature outlook: I tried to solve the problem. Call it an exercise of futility if you will, I call it an exercise of youth – much the same thing. And so I learned about why all the problems I did not think I should have were there, and tried to bypass them – to no avail. This took years. It introduced me to very quality people inside of Trinidad and Tobago and outside – as well as some people who only recently I found out were the people ripping off my ideas and selling them as their own. Mea culpa. The difference is that they were selling the golden eggs; I am the duck.
I wasn’t making enough money to feed my reading habit. I read a lot of Gutenberg.org back then, and it broadened me some more. The humanities I had kept from myself came flowing in. The world as I saw it shifted into something broader, with more meaning than silicon.
Before I knew it, I was being invited to conferences on culture and ICT – which I honestly thought I had no business going to, but even when I said as much, they still paid for me to go. With their confidence in me, I dedicated myself to what we discussed, and ended up broadening myself further and further – enough so that even years later, I still get messages asking me what I think about things.
WorldChanging/Alert Retrieval Cache.
I was writing for WorldChanging.com for a while.
Then the South East tsunami hit, and I had an idea, the Alert Retrieval Cache (ARC) – one guy, Dan Lane, fleshed it out in amazing ways. That idea later became more of a problem than a solution because of humans and distrust and reasons why humans should distrust.
It also made me leave WorldChanging.com – don’t let anyone fool you, that was a very odd place to communicate with people. There were disputes with the third party involved who also wrote for WorldChanging.com – I simply wanted it to work, he wanted to capitalize his ego with it. The powers that be were Canadian about it, wanting peace instead of progress. I left. Screw that Utne.
One thing became clear: I wasn’t just a technologist anymore. I had been given the opportunity to see the world in more ways. It was very exciting, and I ended up traveling in Latin America and the Caribbean afterwards – not the tourist stops, but in the homes of people who lived there who showed me not what their tourism boards wanted me to see, but what people there wanted me to see. I had traveled a lot before, but every place I stayed gave me new insights into a world that so many of us take for granted.
Another thing had become clear: I had unrealistic expectations of people. They weren’t motivated by the same things as I was, and my world unraveled before my eyes. I put it back together again, every international disaster another stitch in that fabric as people asked me – pleaded with me – on setting up that ARC. There was anger. There was distrust in humans.
And I wrote. Mostly unpublished, in journals on a shelf not far from where I sit. My distrust in humans became more of an acceptance, and I became better at dealing with people and their quirks – their motivations. I grew. The alternative was simply not worthwhile.
The Land Period.
When my father died, I returned to Trinidad and Tobago to settle his estate. That took years. And then I tried to do things with some land I had inherited which required me to deal with people on it. This was another growth experience; even more writing on a shelf – and it was enough to get by, what I did, but it was not enough to get ahead.
I tried my hand at agriculture, which I wasn’t terribly bad at, but it just wasn’t enough.
The Return to the U.S.
I returned to the United States with the idea that I could make enough money to get back to that land and do something of worth with it. In the downturned economy, with the shifts in technology, I made ends meet. I saw very clean parallels between, as an example, Beloit, Wisconsin, and the Caribbean as far as not advancing and why.
I learned a lot more about the world, but in the end I broke even. I was getting to that age where people weren’t sure whether they wanted to hire me, I was at that age where I wasn’t sure I wanted to be hired by them.
Long gone were the days of the code monkey for me, but everyone wanted a code monkey so that they could play their silicon organ. Attempts I made to get past that failed. Honestly, I could probably be doing code for some company in the U.S. right now if I really wanted to, but I don’t – I turned down one huge company twice, and a slightly smaller company twice. They’re names you know, but they’re not names that will make a difference here. They’re not important to me, and that’s the point I’m getting at.
There was more to technology. I’d already been reading everything all this time. It was all beginning to make sense, and I read then – as I do now – to get the language to communicate things. To make simple what seems so complex at first. To see things work.
I made my way through jobs – even getting to work at a company that did Emergency Communications, learned more about telephony than a sane person should, and left.
To return to Trinidad and Tobago, to finish some things with the land, and ultimately, to write full time.
And Back To Trinidad.
Agriculture again, and dealing with land issues – pushing hard, harder than others. Adjoining landowners were useless despite being related. So I changed the paradigm.
And now I’m back to writing – connecting things beyond just technology, looking at things and seeing what needs to be fixed. I write about it. And also, I’m writing other things, unpublished…
That there’s a common theme is not a mistake. On a planet where we now can know almost instantaneously know what is happening on other parts of the planet, we as a whole aren’t really that good at communicating across the very same planet. Beyond the obvious, where lack of internet connection is a problem, we face other human challenges.
Language remains a barrier. There have been strides in automatic translation, but it’s still far from perfect and may always be. Our language evolves, enough such that ‘figuratively’ and ‘literally’ mean the same in our newest dictionaries – both figuratively and literally. Colloquialisms defy translation because they are so easily misinterpreted in other parts of the world.
‘Paw paw’, using Google Translate today, translates to the Spanish ‘garra’ – which translates back to ‘Claw’. In Trinidad and Tobago, ‘paw paw’ is a colloquialism for ‘papaya’. A green paw paw is not a green claw, at least in Trinidad and Tobago.
Babel. It’s all meaningless babel. And in a world that makes more and more use of Natural Language Processing, such that large amounts of information are analyzed and presented to a human without human interaction, there could be a human at the other end of that software wondering why people in Trinidad and Tobago eat claws.
Then we get into different acronyms – there are so many acronyms around the world.
Now, one can argue that other people need to learn everything. One can spend a lot of time doing that, and being insulted by people who don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate – or worse, insulting people who don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate. Is the goal to fight over these things or is it to be misunderstood?
For me, it’s to be misunderstood. For corporations, it’s about being understood. For governments… well, maybe not, but at least some of us think that the goal of governments should be to be understood.
‘Think Global, Act Local‘ doesn’t make as much sense on a planet where we actually do act globally by sharing information.
We need to think global and act global – and still act local.
This is a hard thing to think about. It’s alien. Our societies evolved as much through distance from other societies as other things – in fact, the distance was a large part of helping define a society. Immigration departments have taken over that job, and while they do serve a purpose, I have yet to hear someone happy about immigration. In fact, if they were happy, immigration would probably detain them.
But what does that mean for writing in particular? Honestly, not as much as one would think if writers adhere to some good practice developed over the course of the 10,000 year history of writing. Things like, when using a potentially unknown acronym, expanding it the first time. With technology that is now a few decades old, we can link to a reference.
We can give appropriate context. We can tag our content, and for the sake of the space-time continuum, we should have dates and times instead of simply, “yesterday” or “Tomorrow” or… These have been standard communication guidelines for centuries, if not millennia.
There was a time when I was considered to be a blogger from Trinidad and Tobago. Geographically, right now, I would have to agree to the fact that I’m blogging from Trinidad and Tobago. And I’d also have to agree that I’ve been writing a few posts lately that are about Trinidad and Tobago, because I happen to be here and I happen to notice things.
GlobalVoices once thought I was a blogger from Trinidad and Tobago, but then they realized I lived in South Trinidad and that I didn’t write incessantly about Trinidad and Tobago.
I lost clique status, quietly, and my feelings were not hurt. That’s just not what I write. And I also don’t write about places where unicorns dance around rainbows with leprechauns, for that matter, and much of what is written about Trinidad and Tobago seems to be that. Just like everywhere else I’ve lived or experienced. That’s just not what I see.
I believe writers are witnesses of a sort. What we witness defines what we write, be it science fiction, be it fiction, or be it obituaries.
“I see dead people”, said the obituary writer.
There are more places to list than a single nation, and to define me by one nation is a little insulting.
But back to these borders, these boundaries that people want to neatly place other people in when their sock drawer is likely in need of more attention instead. I write. Others write. And when people write, certainly they color their writing with what has made them… them. Yet, unless they marched around under a specific nation’s flag all the time, it’s hard for me to imagine a writer to be from anywhere.
What writers write, though – that’s something completely different. If you write solely about Trinidad and Tobago, I’d say you’re a Trinidad and Tobago writer (small market). If you write solely about the United States, I’d say you’re an American writer (big market). If you write solely about Jamaica, someone’s going to annoy you with a poorly done Jamaican accent and tell you they love Bob Marley.
It’s the way of it.
So, while there are boundaries in this world, writers that I read are not limited by those boundaries.
Stories practically write themselves everywhere. Recently in South Oropouche, a man was dismayed to walk into his own wake – and I know the fellow. The sex toy ban has everyone murmuring with friends, laughing and joking, but the ineptitude related to that government and media conversation is something out of a Pink Panther graphic novel.
But that’s not what defines me as a writer. That I am a writer has taken over a decade for me to admit, even after having published through O’Reilly publishing, writing numerous articles, and so on. But I’m a writer.
And that’s enough, really. I’m not out there flying a flag for a nation. I’m writing what’s on my mind. Nobody’s paying me at this time – feel free to send me money – but don’t expect me to change what I’m writing.
It’s my thing. It’s what I do. And I’d like to think that writers themselves are larger than the borders they live within.
I found yesterday (21 Aug 2018) that I had made an error in this; the Customs Act does in fact have something on obscene materials. The mistake I made was in assuming that they had searchable text. They do not have searchable text in the PDFs they have online, something worthy of note – but not an excuse. Lesson learned.
When the Great Ban on Sex Toys in Trinidad and Tobago was announced, I was both slightly amused and curious. It’s not that I write about such topics, it’s that I’m human and that Trinidad and Tobago in it’s entirety doesn’t cease to surprise me when it comes to odd things.
You see, there were articles written as if it weren’t a developing story – there was no notation, as an example, that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s Customs and Excise Division website did not make mention of ‘sex toys’. Of course, maybe it just wasn’t updated, but a search of the Trinidad and Tobago Gazette didn’t reveal any new changes either. That took me less than 30 minutes to go through as an uninterested person, not a journalist. And I’m not a lawyer. So it seems to be a spurious claim, one that doesn’t jive. Update: Section 45 l of the Customs Act does mention things that can be related to ‘sex toys’, but not directly.
The law being quoted is Section 46(g) of the Criminal Offences Act which says: “Any person who offers for sale or distribution or who exhibits to public view any profane, indecent, or obscene, paper, print, drawing, painting or representation may be deemed a rogue and a vagabond and if found liable, to imprisonment for two years.” Update: They were quoting the wrong law in the article. The Customs Act was the appropriate Act to quote, which would have been 45 L.
So I’m writing this, despite my misgivings about the topic, because to me the topic at issue is not sex toys, but instead appropriate research for an article that is supposed to inform the public. There is a big question here that, sure, Ministers should be able to answer – but they’re ducking it.
Selling the items is one thing. Importing for personal use seems to be quite another.
And while I wouldn’t want to know what the government would tax on sex toys, given how much I paid on a simple book recently, I don’t know that anyone would think it worthwhile – but articles that are about an alleged ban of importation of sex toys doesn’t make sense to anyone who bothers with a short amount of research.
And can someone, please, give a legal definition of a sex toy that isn’t subjective?
This is a failure of the media, in my eyes, though my eyes see the world differently than others. I view the media’s job to inform and question appropriately. The very first article should have been able to say that no one has mentioned the laws related to customs and excise, that the law quoted was about the sale of the items.
This has blaring questions attached that are so apparent that they might as well be painted bright neon pink.
And made to vibrate.
Now, if they start dealing with Internet Enabled… devices… and privacy issues, such as this data breach, I’ll write more about it. But to me, this is all about improper communication from the people we depend on to communicate.
While we live in an era where digital books are prevalent, and I have many of them, there are certain books that I like to have physically. And I like to have them in hardcover because, if a book is worth having physically, it’s worth having the hardcover.
So I ordered the book on the right through Amazon.com- the Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. It’s somewhat rare as seen, so it ended up costing me $58 U.S. from a third party vendor through Amazon.com. I got it today, after Aeropost covered customs for me – which cost an additional $24.39 US (or $164.35 TT).
Still, that is a little pricey, isn’t it? If it wasn’t important to me, I wouldn’t bother.
I recalled that Nigel Khan’s bookstore used to do special orders years ago, and I thought maybe it would be worth exploring – they do, after all, import books. So I wandered into Southpark and asked the lady about it, and she said ‘yes’. I provided her a few titles I wanted in hardcover, English translations… and started off with ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ (Paulo Freire).
She dutifully tapped away at her keyboard, then asked me to come around and choose which edition I wanted. When I wandered around, my mind’s internal jaw dropped.
Then, she whipped out her calculator – because no one uses the calculator on the computer they access the Internet on (there’s money down the tubes) – and she started working out the pricing.
Now, I paid about 30% markup on the Douglas Adams book myself, which is pretty steep for any book – but let’s work with a 30% markup. So, at $64.47 US, I should be looking at about $84 US to bring the book in. That’s about $566-570 TT. In my head, I averaged roughly $575 TT, which wasn’t too far off as I write this.
That solar powered calculator had other numbers in mind.
It spoke with the woman’s voice and told me $1200 TT/$180 US.
For a $65 US book. For something I could bring in myself for roughly $84 US.
What?! For one book? That’s effectively buying the same book almost 3 times and getting only one copy. I buy the government a copy they don’t get, I buy the bookstore a copy they don’t get, and I get one.
I’ll bring it in myself when I’m ready. Or, at those prices, maybe I should fly to the U.S. and bring in a suitcase of books.
Everybody knows it.
But people in Trinidad and Tobago, largely, know this. And this is one aspect of living in small economy with little purchasing power, subject to pricing necessary to maintain a business presence in Trinidad and Tobago based on importation. I can get screwed by the government alone by bringing it in myself, or I can get screwed by the government who subsequently screws a business that’s screwing me.
Yet not everyone can order the books off of Amazon – foreign exchange is a commodity unto itself in Trinidad and Tobago. So if you want a book and you can’t get the foreign exchange together, which is just about everybody these days, you get charged about 3 times the book price for a special order.
And can everyone afford that? No.
Reading in Trinidad and Tobago seems to have become a luxury. We live in a global information economy, and these prices for books in the Trinidad and Tobago Information Fiefdom do not bode well for the future.