Saint Martin

I know Saint Martin – like the rest of the Caribbean – from the game Pirates! that I played for hundreds of hours when I was 13. Saint Martin was the most northern of the

I know Saint Martin – like the rest of the Caribbean – from the game Pirates! that I played for hundreds of hours when I was 13. Saint Martin was the most northern of the colonies of the lower Antilles (from here down to Trinidad). It was a small city of a nation that you seldom fought against (Netherlands) so it didn’t get tons of visits. But just like it’s the first when we come from Europe, it was also the first when coming from the west, maybe with broken ships packed with sugar to sell and gold to spend. I played the game so much that once my Commodore 64 broke the game with the automatic error message: “Illegal quantity error” because of all the gold I captured. On the hardest difficulty level of course.

After breakfast we went to the bridge to enjoy Land Coming. It’s amazing how great it is to see all the features of land coming after 10 days at sea. First, there were so many birds. We were like a bird colony. And they dived and caught fish that somehow followed our ship.

We even saw a turtle, although I wasn’t quick enough with my binoculars to see something else than a brown something in the water.

Land! It’s land!

And then, using binoculars, we saw land at the horizon. And, I didn’t know it then, but it was actually Saint Martin we saw. It’s a super-high island. Then there’s the island north of it, Anguilla, which is so flat that you hardly see it without binoculars even when it’s close. But when you do, you see all its houses and beaches. And on the south was Saint Barthélemey, with its capital Gustavia.

Saint Barthélemey

Might not mean so much for you, but as an old half-patriotic map-nerd like me it meant a lot. It was a Swedish island for about one hundred years. Given to us by France in 1784 and then sold back to France in 1878. It was more or less worthless without drinking water, but it got a short boom by offering a free port for slave trading. So 99% of all money Sweden made in the Caribbean was from slave trading. By the time, my genes were scattered among 100-200 people in Sweden and surrounding countries so I can’t say I’m sorry, but still, those were evil times and we’re trying to be nice now, eating beans etc.

Anyway, slowly reaching all these islands, watching them get larger and larger was an ocean of happiness. And the heat! I’ve been inside for most of this trip, but 30 degrees is what humans need to feel terrific.

So happy.
untz untz

As we entered land after lunch, we had to write our names in a book, and guess what we saw: the mysterious Marquands had arrived. They were currently on the inside of the ship. Daniel knocked on their door, but no response. Pure 100% mystery.

We walked out, and strolled towards the city. Chloe likened Philipsburg with ”Euro Disney”, and although I’ve never been at Euro Disneyland, I must agree that it was ridiculously touristic. But I didn’t mind at all. I love being a tourist.

The inhabitants were mostly black or Indian, and all very relaxed and friendly. We tried to find ”the board game store” of Saint Martin, but ended up in a department store where we chose between Scrabble and ”100 silly games”, and ended up with Scrabble. Then I sat in a restaurant and did Internet all day, while they went to swim at the beach.

nom nom

Then a lovely Indian dinner for 10 euros. Then we walked home, passing all kinds of night life, including a karaoke place. But it’s still my sober weak, so I kept to the flock. As we walked between the city and the ship, we heard very human-like animal noise from a steep slope right next to us. I thought it was a monkey, but they thought it was goats. And the animals we did saw were quite goat-like. Here’s what my camera got:

I was shit-scared though. For one second, or actually, a whole minute I was like: OMG, I will constantly run into scary human-like animals and I have no idea what they could be. Not like ”moose or someones dog” as it’d be in my corner of the taiga. But, good thing we were three. There is nothing like friends when there are scary animals. Or just two goats having a lovely evening conversation on a mountain.

Speaking of friends, we met a lot of Filipino sailors from our ship in one of the ”beer containers” that lie along the road. They were slightly disappointed with my sober week, but I like it. It’s always great to try soft drinks from around the planet. Had one from Trinidad earlier, and now one from Puerto Rico.

Too happy passenger with the sailorz.

We talked about politics, and one said that Philippines had gotten a lot safer after Duterte. Where I’m from, we see him as a manically evil president, killing his people for being close to someone who knows someone who once thought about drugs, but his support is very existent, since a lot of people have been walking around being scared of criminals. Although now they might be scared of the government instead. If there is a mistake or a ”mistake” then you end up squeezed with ten others in a container-sized jail for the next 10 years, if alive. Daniel has been talking to many Filipinos on the bridge, and they say the same thing. These sailors work for 6 months, spend 3 months at home, work for 6 months etc. So the two thirds they are not at home, their wives live alone with their children. Of course they want criminality down, at whatever price it might be.

This happens in countries with high inequality. The higher inequality is, the more the poor can earn by breaking the law. That leads to a ”tougher policy” from the government, and the people are more likely to vote for a ”strong leader”. That gave us Bolsonaro in Brazil, and in a way, Trump in the USA. And it’s not limited to democracy – if the poor vote for massive redistribution, the conservatives might strike back with the military, like earlier in South America, or presently in Thailand, another middle-income country famous for high inequality. Pinochet is very popular in Chile – a friend went to an exquisite high school and they still celebrated Pinochet once a year.

For this to work within democracy, however, you need the ”man on the street” to adept. That’s easy, since the ”man on the street” is not criminal themselves. For the left, the man on the street might be turned by labour union arguments (or ”general welfare” like in Europe), but they’re not turned by traditional welfare support, since the latter does not aim at the man on the street, but the poor, and the ”poor” are never that many to make a difference. (They might be friends/relatives, but even less so in ethnically divided countries with big differences.) Labour unions are losing in power though, the more the labour market becomes fractionalized into gig economics, which completely bypass whatever labour rules. So how do we turn the man on the street to vote sensible again, and not on the tough-man racist parties?

Basic income. It’s not welfare, since it’s not directed at the poor, but to everyone. It allows the sailor to stay at home for 4 months instead of 3. Criminals earn less on their criminality, since ”earns” here means the difference of the money they had with crime, and the money they had without it, and if the latter is zero, crime pays a lot in utility, but if the latter is 1000 USD/month (or whatever applicable), crime doesn’t pay as much in utility, meaning that it leads to less crime, and less votes for strongmen.

This is why Andrew Yang is popular among previous Trump voters, and why we really need him, as an example for the planet.

Anyway, we walked home and slept. Although before I slept, I ran 4.5 km.

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