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23 Jan 2011

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The Church of the Reef Savaneta by the Sea, Aruba

22 May 2010

Aruba Soul Beach Music Festival: "Where's the Beach?"

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Today is Saturday May 22nd, 2010. The Southern Caribbean island of Aruba is preparing for a Soul Beach Music Festival that will not be held at a beach. Where is the beach in “Soul Beach”? Good question!   This year the location for annual Soul Beach Music Festival has been designated to San Nicholas – better known as the “Sunrise City” and “Chocolate City” as it sits on the end of the island that greets the rising sun and is home to the islands largest population of Black islanders (the politically correct designation: Afro-Caribbean) who migrated to Aruba as the workforce demands increased at the expanding refinery throughout the late 3o’s, 40′s 50′s and 1960′s.

San Nicholas is also the home of the island’s first true economic boom as oil refining became the backbone of Aruba’s economy in the 20th century until tourism began to surpass it in the 1970′s and 80′s.   As the economic pendulum swung north and west towards Oranjestad, Eagle Beach, and Palm Beaches.   The area “Below the Bridge” slowly was pushed aside and forgotten, left to rust, decay and fade away as all focus and almost all development dollars flowed north and west.  San Nicholas became the “ugly duckling” only to be remembered in election years with hollow promises of rebirth swapped for votes, and an annual Carnival celebration that is constantly mired in controversy.

2010 saw hope rise like a Phoenix as the new Minister of Tourism Otmar Oduber gave the nod to “Soul Nicholas” as the rightful venue location for this high caliber and successful music and entertainment event.  Unfortunately, instead of staging the main events in the area of Boca Grande Beach and the escarpments of the Grapefields, or the area of Baby Beach, or in back of, or in front of the former Nanki Club of the old Lago/Esso refinery,  the choice was made to situate the venue in the San Nicholas Stadium.  Thus, taking the “beach” out of the Soul Beach Festival.

Major time, effort, and dollars are being invested in revamping the stadium when it could be better spent developing the public recreation and beach areas of Seroe Colorado, Boca Grande, and the Grapefields.   What a magnificent setting it would have been to stage the festival’s events in any of these areas.  With their stunning, sweeping, scenic seascapes and landscapes that encompass this underexposed end of the island.  A tremendous chance to showcase  Aruba’s new “Go Green” wind farm at Vader Piet.  Not to mention ease of traffic logistics, the boundless parking, spacious seating, expansive general audience area available, and endless opportunities for retail booths and refreshment stands.  A huge opportunity lost to display the majestic beauty of this southeastern island gem and begin a rebirth and open future economic doors to reinvigorate and refresh this neglected district.  Even the small businesses of San Nicholas and the surrounding area would have benefited more with the increased traffic flow over the whole time frame of the festivities.  Thereby directly increasing the  total amount of prospective clients and customers visiting on a daily and nightly basis.  Better business and better quality exposure, a surefire combination that will not be realized.

Instead, the crowds of tourists, travelers, locals, musicians, photographers , photojournalists, cinema photographers, and the world at large will be exposed to a bash in the middle of a standard uninspiring stadium, night after night.  People will be bused in, and those that drive will search for parking spots in a maze of unguarded areas that will become a thieves paradise. Parking and traffic will be a scene of chaos. Frustration and disgust will abound.  Tempers will flare.  And a tremendous advantageous moment to garner positive publicity and worldwide exposure will be squandered.

Yes, the stadium needs to be refurbished, and it’s use maximized, but not now, and not for this reason.  Years of mismanagement by the controlling stichting and former governments are responsible for the sad condition of the stadium. Yes, administration and management of the stadium needs to change hands.  In that there is no doubt nor disagreement.   But in the end, the island once again is left with a better, more viable economic alternative  never being explored and seized.  Nobody wanted to act intelligently and make an educated, outside of the box proposal.  A clean slate was and is available to be utilized, upgraded, maximized and exhibited.  And a new phenomenal venue for prospective concerts, events, and public use could have become a reality today instead of the same old hollow promises of tomorrow.  Economic opportunity and stimulation below the bridge could have been kick-started in May of 2010. Instead, stupidity and folly triumph once again in Aruba.  Shame on the the powers that be who concocted this stadium location decision.  It is just one more example of the short sightedness and incompetence that continues to flourish and be rewarded on Aruba.

Make no mistake though, the music and performances will be sensational.  A tremendous lineup and show has been put together as usual.  The disappointment will be in the venue itself and opportunity lost. ” Where is the beach?”  San Nicholas, festival attendees, performers, and the people of Aruba deserve better.  Aruba Libre!

Robert Gibson

15 Apr 2010

The Tea Party: A View from Aruba

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We hear so much these days about the rise of the Tea Party on the political scene in the United States.   As a citizen who has walked away in disgust with the government and politics of America, I still try to keep abreast of what transpires in the “land of the free”.  Aruba has an opportunity to learn from the few successes and many failures and follies of the U.S. and it’s electorate, and the Tea Party movement is a great learning opportunity in evolution.  On the surface it appears to this observer that the Tea Party movement is a positive development, in that it is a grass roots movement that is taking action and calling attention to itself and it’s message.   At the very least, it is a learning opportunity, a teachable moment if you will.  And as a teacher I should always take advantage of teachable moments when they arise.

The Tea Party, a movement begun in 2006, has a basic underlying platform loosely based on the principles of: 1. Lower taxes, 2. Less Government, & 3. Fiscal Responsibility (lower government spending as well as better quality management on how, what, and where the government does spend tax payer dollars).  It also appears to hold the ideals of free market capitalism at its core. This platform, as close as anyone can tell, has been drafted directly from the pages of the Libertarian Party which was founded in 1971(please take a moment to visit their website).   It also has it’s basis in the principles of the American Revolution and the constant battle and issues of States Rights vs. Federal Power that began with the original government under the Articles of Confederation, Shay’s Rebellion, and the illegal and secret actions that took place during the meetings held in a sweltering Philadelphia summer of 1787 that produced the end product of our present form of government- The United States Constitution (a tremendous tale that takes on epic proportions when one examines how this document was ratified).  This battle has never truly been settled though, and American history and politics has seen a constant shifting and struggle for control of power over this issue.  Patriots & Rebels, Federalists vs. Anti-federalists, passage of The Bill of Rights, Federalists vs. Democratic-Republicans, through all the turmoil of the issues and adventures in democracy of the 1800′s, 1900′s, and right up to the present. The name of the Tea Party movement itself has been adopted (and bastardized) from the famous incident in 1773 forever known as the Boston Tea Party that took place on the wharfs of colonial Boston, Massachusetts.  A close study of this historic event and it’s causation will best inform you of the very few similarities and many differences between this and today’s movement.

Now that just about covers the positive aspects of the Tea Party.  It as of yet has no true leader to emerge as it’s spokesperson or face, which may or may not be a bad thing (the principles should always override a leader figure if it is to be a lasting force).  Unfortunately, the movement has begun to attract: the ignorant, the unprincipled, the homophobes, the bigots, the corporate power elite ( greed/ win at all costs /whats good for GM is good for America) groups, the right wing militants, and naive nativists ( modern day jingoists), etc., of society. Many believe they have found a perfect outlet to Obama bash, (Obama rightfully deserves to be criticized and held accountable for his actions and his inactions, but intelligently and with facts and policy decisions) and vent their limited minds and perspective.  Where were these people during the Reagan years, the Clinton administration, or one of the saddest excuses for a presidential era in the George W. Bush fiasco?  The Bush presidency may not be the sole root cause of much of what is going on today, but it certainly provided the most damaging actions and policy blunders (criminal intent and negligence are two terms that immediately come into mind)!  But both the Democrats and Republicans alike must take responsibility for the ills of U.S. society.  Both the House of Representatives and the Senate (Congress) should be held accountable, as well as all of the people who put them there and failed to blow the whistle.  Proof that a two party system is a failure (America really only has a one party system with two factions) as both parties are firmly entrenched and controlled by Corporate America and the newly emergent global economy and new world order.  Lobbyist groups, led by the industries of: Oil, Insurance/ Banking/ Finance, The Military-Industrial complex (which outgoing President Eisenhower so rightfully warned us about), the American Bar Association, Pharmaceuticals, Healthcare, Multi-national/ Transnational Corporations, etc., have all conspired to hijack the American Political System & Government (although it can be rightfully argued that no hijacking has taken place since 1787-1789, and all is as it was meant to be as put forth under The Constitution).

Why and how can be attributed to many factors. A failed system of education and a corrupt and biased media and information system lead the way. History as well plays a very important role in understanding the other key players in this game that started when James Madison succeeded in his vision of a U. S. government based on power in the hands of the wealthy.  An improperly educated and informed people of a democracy are their own worst enemy.  As I love to constantly point out, “A people cannot be both ignorant and free”- Thomas Jefferson.  And today, both America and Aruba are living proof of the truth that rings through those words.

How does this all fit into the Tea Party?  Well, start studying history – real history! Find the unvarnished truth ( is is out there for all to find).  Ask hard and deep questions.  Learn to read and see between the lines.  Learn to draw connections and parallels.  Do not be easily swayed by simple rhetoric.  Stop being a victim of manipulation by those with an agenda that is not really hidden!  Try visiting Noam Chomsky’s website as a first step towards education and understanding.  Search out alternative news and alternative perspectives.  Under this point of view, the Tea Party’s basic tenets appear to be nothing more than hollow facades, Trojan Horses presented as gifts to the people.

Where do I stand? When I witness the idiocy of a Sarah Palin on the podium spouting nonsense to the cheers of Tea Party crowd, or Newt Gingrich placing the Republican party in close alignment with the Tea party, I see not hope, but reinforcement of failure in both a political movement and a political system.  Major lessons are apparent and open, to be learned by all, especially here in Aruba on April 15, 2010.  My disgust and disappointment with the American system and Americans is reinforced.  As is my concern of the continuing downhill direction that Aruban society faces.  Outside influences (many of which are American), Multinationals (many of which are American), and franchises (many of which are American), all aided by unscrupulous locals and corrupt, incompetent, and or crimially negligent former government officials and administrators have created a daunting task for the new government under Prime Minister Mike Eman to combat. Internally, the legacy of past administrations is too heavy for continued support.  The cost to the island and islanders is too high and climbing higher. The failure of democracy looms large in a land that is still small enough for an electorate and government to successfully institute sweeping, positive, necessary changes to avoid and escape the tides of history.  It is time for a “Tea Party” in Aruba, only this tea party needs to start not by dumping tea into the harbor, but by locking the gates of the Valero controlled Oil Refinery and nationalizing the rundown, outdated facility in the name of national economic security, thereby taking the first step towards true independence and freedom.  This one action would serve to act as a gauntlet and let others know that Aruba is willing to do what it takes to ensure a positive future for for its people and island.  The second step would be to move immediately toward the enactment of sweeping changes in the government of Aruba itself and the public and private sector in general.   Aruba needs to re-define the role and purpose of it’s government, and the direction it will take for its future, and  it needs to begin now.  Aruba Libre!  Today, tomorrow, and forever!

Robert Gibson

7 Apr 2010


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“The causes of events are ever more interesting than events themselves.” – Cicero

5 Apr 2010

The Road to Intellectual Emancipation

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The road to our intellectual emancipation begins with learning. Unfortunately, due to the existing political orthodoxy controlling our education system and society, most often what we read, what we see and hear, and what we are taught, has the effect of obscuring and engendering disinterest and misunderstanding instead of promoting enlightenment and encouraging curiosity, interest and the pursuit of knowledge.  Mass miss-education served up by a system with a corrupt agenda, and supported by political leaders, government officials, news and entertainment media, corporations, administrators, and teachers with limited minds, knowledge and education needs to be exposed and overthrown. Where and how can we begin?  A task of this magnitude can only be accomplished by an emphasis on the presentation and cultivation of perspective.

What we need to understand is that much of what we are taught, especially in the realm of mainstream education and history, has been distorted in ways that serve and or reflect dominant socio-economic interests.  As we are about to begin our voyage of enlightenment and discovery, a good thought to keep in mind is that it will be a struggle of political incorrectness.  And at this stage it is only the first step that counts.   And that first step should begin with understanding what is the role that a dissenter plays in society?   Dissenting views invite us to test the prevailing explanations served to us and open ourselves up to neglected ones.  In other words, what we are dealing with is understanding that dissenters are practitioners of critical thought.  As Michael Parenti stated in his book History as Mystery; “Heterodoxy always offers a better learning experience than orthodoxy.”  Parenti also reminded us that unfortunately, dissenters can always expect to struggle against the mainstream views and prevailing opinion. “Dissenters will constantly have to be prepared to defend themselves and argue closely from evidence. . . . While Orthodoxy can rest contently on understated axioms and mystifications.”   He also went on to emphasize that orthodoxy promotes its views through unexamined repetition that comes from monopoly control of major communication and education systems.

What have I accomplished so far in this first installment of statements of opinion?  I hope to have sparked the beginnings of an idea, mindset, and an approach that will eventually lead us to be able to comprehend the depth and relevance of a statement made by Thomas Jefferson over two hundred years ago in regard to the importance and value of a universal education to a democratic society in a capitalist economic system: ” A people cannot be both ignorant and free”.  Aruba Libre!

Robert Gibson


4 Apr 2010

Aruba Libre!

Posted by Robert Gibson. 1 Comment

As the first column in what I hope will be a long series of entries, I would like to introduce you to just a little of what is to come:

Throughout the history of mankind, from the unfortunate incident that led to banishment from the Garden of Eden , literature has recorded our ceaseless search to locate or create a perfect place to live; a perfect society.  Whether it has been called The Promised Land, Paradise, Atlantis, Utopia, Shangri La, the New World, El Dorado, or even Margaritaville, we have yet to succeed in this endeavor.  I embarked on my own quest back in the 1990′s when I arrived at the conclusion that living and life in the United States was no longer a viable option if I wanted to find true happiness and contentment.  Politically, economically, and socially, I found myself at odds with what U.S. society had become.  My expectations of a new home carried no thoughts of perfection though,  because lessons learned over the years reinforced the maxim that mankind and perfection will never merge, but I was hoping to come ashore on my version of Margaritaville when I accepted an offer to live and teach in Aruba.

In 1997, Aruba was a truly amazing Southern Caribbean isle, a land of promise and of paradox.  An island blessed with strong refreshing trade winds, never-ending sunshine, and a unique history of settlement and development.  It was just what I had been looking for and fit my own short list of necessary criteria.  Situated within kayaking distance, just a little over fifteen miles from Venezuela (the present day Land of Chavez!   An interesting tale in itself to be covered at another time), and historically a natural crossroads and melting pot.  Aruba was  like a pair of old dungarees- a soft, suave, custom fit.  Aruba was all I could ask for and more, and it was here that I landed.  Upon disembarking from my flight, as the sunshine, breeze, and heat from the tarmac of Queen Beatrix Airport greeted me, I felt like I had attained my goal of relocation in time and space- to Gibson Nirvana!  I felt I had found a place to live and love!  To fly-fish, dive, snorkel, read, write, recline in a hammock, golf, drink, dine, smoke, teach, and talk of nothing and everything with kindred spirits.  A place to take long walks on pristine uncrowded beaches, and short walks off old piers.  A place to embark on great adventures and journeys to other islands and the treasures of south and central America.  A place to bask in the beauty of mother nature, and indulge in the simple pleasures of life.  All at a pace that would allow the flavors of life to be savored to the fullest!  So this is how the tale begins, and what follows are the adventures, the successes, the joys, the disappointments, the lessons, and the folly- served up Aruba style.

But Aruba, like all places, has changed.  Now don’t get me wrong, I knew change was inevitable, yet Aruba today is not what it should be or could be.  The ramifications and associated resultant outcomes of many things – both internal and external-  situations, events, and actions that had over the years already been set in motion, began rising to the surface at an alarming rate.  The majority of which are now quickly spiraling out of control as development, folly, and population continue to boom.  The long list of island positives that made Aruba so special was and is being depleted exponentially.   What was once to me a land of beauty and promise, is now in danger of disappearing under a sea of asphalt, concrete, and public debt,  unless drastic changes in attitudes and stewardship take place.   Aruba still has hope.  It can still recapture it’s promises of a special, unique, way of living.  It still has potential.   It still has room to grow.  It still has the resources . . . especially sun, wind, and sea.  But Aruba and its islanders must be emancipated, set free from the enslavement brought on by a failing system of education, mass tourism, unplanned- unsustainable development, the legacy of the history of the Caribbean, decolonization, bureaucracy, nativism, discrimination, modernization, globalization, materialism, and the failures of Democracy in the 21st century.

Aruba’s people desperately need to be provided with the information and the tools to break the shackles of a master leading it on a path of self destruction and environmental disaster!  2010 finds a new government in power.  A last chance to reverse the flow of the tides of history!  Are they willing to take the steps necessary to do what it takes to right a sinking ship and set it on a new, safer and more productive viable course?

This is my motivation – enough not to leave, but to wield a pen, and raise a voice of dissent,  in this blog and in other venues.  I take it upon myself to inform , to educate, to call to action.  It is possible to energize a small community to see, to think, to question, and to take control of its future.   It is the hope – my hope- that 2010 and beyond will see the first true steps in a new and vital cause – Aruba Libre!

Robert Gibson