In the Jamaica Observer of Thursday, January 22, 2009  Michael Burke Joined columnist worldwide commenting of the swearing in of Barack Obama:

“So Barack Obama is now president of the United States of America. Whether we like it or not, the president of the USA is the most powerful man on earth. The way in which the US presidency impacts on all mankind is sufficient reason why the US presidency cannot be dismissed as an American domestic issue. Will the presidency of Obama signify the final leg of the journey for emancipation from mental slavery? In any case, the mere fact that the current president of the USA is an African American is enough to empower our people mentally.”

On Thursday, January 15, 2009, I was perusing the online versions of the Jamaican newspapers when I ran upon his column which began as follows:

“When I started writing for newspapers nearly 21 years ago, it was with the unwritten and unsaid understanding that I would be writing for Jamaicans in Jamaica. I understood that with a weekly overseas edition, I would be writing to Jamaicans in the diaspora. Today with the online edition of the newspaper, I am writing to everyone in the world.”

I foolishly anticipated and imagined that it was going on to state, ‘But now I have to be more in tune with the global sphere and be much more cognisant of the world and the complexities of my larger world audience and their right to glean of the different cultures and experiences of different nation states of the world such as Jamaica through writings such as mine.’ However, I was to be disappointed.

The thought and anticipation were to be proven as just my sheer imagination! As I read the last line of this column’s first paragraph, a sudden awakening blew me to the ground, grasping for breath, in shock. It read, “This includes those who have not got a clue about the local situation or the local culture.” The column went on to state, “I still cannot get used to foreigners living overseas emailing me about local issues that really should be of no concern to them. Indeed, I should respond, “Excuse me, but I was not speaking to you and what you are really doing is eavesdropping.”

I cringed in deep disappointment in the apparent dislike, near phobia that this columnist displays to foreigners. The reality is that this world is getting much smaller because of technology. One must either adapt or gallop. If you want to be a writer, you must be able not merely to take criticism but be able to provide the required information that most people worldwide crave in this our shrinking world community.

This columnist fails to comprehend that time passes in a flash like a hundred metre dash! If you fail to have a global outlook, you’ll be left in the trash! The old ways of doing things will never return. He also fails to realise that it is for this very reason that the Jamaica Observer of which he writes, chooses to spread its message via the internet. This is a means to remain competitive.

The Gleaner and all the other newspapers with any means will more than likely, continue to lean toward an augmented online readership moreso than its traditional hardcopy readership locally as in the case of Jamaica. This will likely happen due to the fact that the local readership is a miniscule composite compared to the broad online readership in the virtual world. Consequently, the market for advertising dollars will make the local media more viable and have not much choice in this direction for increased foreign readership.

 A sure and safe way to continue to create jobs for its writers, sales teams and executives is to include the foreign readership, not to exclude it.

In his most recent column of January 22, 2009, however, I, (and I am sure many residents abroad), are left somewhat confused. Is it okay for Mr. Burke to ‘push mout and tongue’ in the business of foreigners but the reverse situation deserves his chidings?! The fact that Jamaica has connections across the globe, coupled with the fact that it is a tourist destination does make it the interest of foreigners. It is usually from this background that foreigners, including members of the Diaspora, express interests in the local events of Jamaica.

Events associated with Mr. Barack Obama and the USA, as Mr. Burke insinuated, cannot be regarded as merely concerned only with local Americans. To a lesser degree, a similar argument could be furnished as a virtue of the the BIG ways in which Jamaica affects other nations by nature of of its talents in sports, music, other cultural matters and of course, its position as a great tourist destination.

In light of the foregoing, I would humbly advise that this columnist either resign from writing for Jamaica’s local newspapers that offer global readership online, or request that his article (Column) do not be published online or simply, ‘lip it’. If either the first, second or the last suggestion is adhered to by this columist, the newspaper will no doubt continue to establish its niche market, unperturbed in the slightest of form and less confused.

 Joshua Spencer is an educator, author and poet. He writes out of Toronto Canada

About Joshua Spencer

Joshua Spencer is an educator, author and poet. He writes out of Toronto Canada

Categories: Opinion

Joshua Spencer

Joshua Spencer is an educator, author and poet. He writes out of Toronto Canada

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Joshua Spencer

Kindly note that the following response to my article was received from Michael Burke on January 23, 2009 at precisely 9:34: 44 P.M. in my personal inbox.

Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Please read below:

Both of your letters to the Observer were forwarded to me and perhaps for all I know the Observer might publish one of the two. Your problem seems to be that you do not like my column of January 15 primarily because you are one of those who want to interfere with Jamaica’s domestic issues. Are you a Jamaican or are you a foreigner? The whole cliche and well worn line about age of technology and all that should not be used as an excuse for bad manners and butting into other people’s affairs. If you do not understand what is bad manners and what is good is bad enough if you are a foreigner. but if you are a Jamaican then shame on you. And if you are a Jamaicans I was not referring to you at all in the article eavesdropping on domestic issues”.

In case you do not know Barack Obama is an international issue, and I tried to answered the two idiots, you being one of them, who childishly responded that I should not comment about Obama. Grow up, Joshua Spencer!

How come you are a lecturer and you cannot understand clear messages? I browse foreign papers but I do not interfere in domestic issues, such as tow people ina community fighting over fence line. I write to Jamaicans and I will continue to do so. It is not everything that i dislike about the Internet, but I was highlighting one of them. Just like it is not everything that i cannot stand about you but there are some, such as your naked support for McCain over Barack Obama using all sorts of excuses but the real reason being you did not want a Black Man in the White House.

If you are a foreigner I do not want you telling me what to do. As I wrote, Our leaders have fought too hard to have anyone reinforce us in mental slavery.

One of the many things that i do like about the Internet is the fact that when idiots like you write if the newspaper does not have space for a response from me i can answer you directly. And if I have any more nonsense form you I will clutter up your email with all the responses that I got re ëavesdropping”and most of them just simply loved the article and felt that it was time that somebody answered people like you who are nothing but busybody’s using the online as an excuse to give your unwelcomed interference’s.

In case you do not know, the regular paper edition is the online edition. I am not resigning from the paper and if the paper does not want me then i will go because there are several media houses, particularly on the internet that want me. Incidentally, the Observer has kept me on until now almost 11 of my almost 21 years of writing has been with this paper, because i carry the Thursday edition. Maybe you want me to go so that you can get the spot. You would probably be dropped in no time because you could not replace my following. You see my knowledge of history is respected worldwide , yes, thanks to the internet.

But that does not mean that i cannot criticize it. Maybe you want me to go so that you could get the column slot. But perhaps you would be dropped in no time because you probably could not replace the following. And as I implied in that eavesdropping column, you have to be on spot in Jamaica to understand certain things. And how come you Americans claim to be Democrats and then you want to silence me just because your disagree and jsut because of your prejudice in believing that you are better than Jamaicans?

I have a cell phone just like you perhaps do but do you like everything about it? Do you like the fact that people can call you any time and do you like the fact that cellphones go off in public places even in church? It is the same with the online edition.

Like I said, you are offended because you are a nosy person. perhaps you didn’t not have the good fortune of being trained to know what is your business and what is not. And as an adult it is difficult to teach you because after all one cannot teach an old dog new tricks

Michael Burke

Joshua Spencer

I responded to Mr. Burke advising that I was 100% Jamaican. I also advised that I was an acquaintance of his brother Comrade Paul Burke in the eighties, then President of the National PNPYO and that I was introduced to him by my then friend and comrade, the Late Dr. Norman Buchanan.

I have not heard from him since.

Joshua Spencer

Trevor Dawes

Read your article, Joshua, and I’m in agreement with its thrust. However, it’s not just Mr. Burke who thinks like this. There are any number of writers for the Observer, who like Mr. Burke, reside in Ja. who seem to get offended when Jamaicans in the Diaspora write articles that would seem to be critical of the way things are done in Jamaica. Like you, I once lived in Jamaica and I try, as best I can, to keep up with the happenings there. One way I do that is by reading the online editions of the Observer, Gleaner and visiting the website of Radio Jamaica. I have written a number of articles that have gotten published by Abeng and a few letters that have been published in the Gleaner and the overwhelming I’ve gotten is that the sentiments I expressed are in line with those of the average Jamaican. These are responses from folks living in Jamaica! If I were you, I would not worry too much what Mr. Burke thinks.

Joshua Spencer

Thanks Mr. Dawes for your commentary. I find Mr. Michael Burke’s e-mail to me quite telling in many respects. Firstly, he stated in that e-mail that I am anti Obama. This allegation is just downright crazy. Firstly, apart from the article to which he was making reference, I had never written anything that even alluded to Barack Obama in the past. I think what had happened is that Mr. Burke had probably received a few critical letters to which he responded in the past. To respond to my correspondence sent to the Jamaica Observer, he might have just used an old response and inadvertently included the part my being not supporting Mr. Obama (poor editing of his old letter) who happened to be one of my favourite persons in the world! I actually stayed home on November 3 and 4 just to follow the elections uninterrupted. Anybbody who knows me know that I am a BIG Barack Obama supporter for more reasons than one.

I find it interesting also that my correspondence was forwarded to Mr. Michael Burke (as he said) even though up to the time of my writing this commentary, the Jamaica Observer did not publish my commentary in its newspaper. The questions, therefore are; Is it the policy of the newspaper to forward contributors’ views to others even when they had no intention of publishing those views? This is indeed a quite interesting situation. How ethical is such an approach, if the response to this question is in the affirmative?

Some time ago, I had an article published in a local medium of which I included my cellular phone number. Even though my cellphone number was not published in the paper and my cell number is private and unlisted anywhere at the time, a disgruntled reader was able to call me from Jamaica and hurled threaths at me for my commentary in that medium.

So even as we endeavour to get involved in the discourse, etc., at the place we call home, we have to be extremely cautious. We could be made targets easily.

One love.

Joshua (Spencer)

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