I recently reviewed Jermel Shim’s Whom God Has Blessed, Let No Man Curse. I now have an interview for you that I have done with Mr. Shim.
Hello Jermel, Welcome To Seize The Moment. How are you?
Hello Nassem, I am fine, thanks for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to do this interview.
You were born in Jamaica. I am interested in the Jamaican culture, and so could you tell us a bit about growing up there? Does your belief in equality come from any injustice you saw there? Jamaica became a sovereign nation in 1962, so do you have any memories of when you were very young of British colonization of the island?
I have very fond memories growing up in Jamaica with people who cared about each other and with friends, relatives, and plenty of outdoor activities. Back then there were no social or political problems to worry about – life was wonderful.
The Jamaican culture includes a diverse group of people that reflects its history as a British colony. With a population of just over two million people, the largest group are of African descent, with a smaller percentage of Chinese, Asian Indians, Lebanese or Middle Eastern, and whites. This diversity is reflected in the national motto “Out of many one people.” The large black population originated from slavery and after the abolition of slavery, Asian Indians came to Jamaica to work as indentured servants on the sugar plantations. Later Chinese people who were working on the construction of the Panama Canal came to Jamaica after the canal was completed.
Despite the diversity of the Jamaican population, Jamaica has not experienced any significant conflict along racial lines. During the time of the British colonization when I was growing up, there were complaints about lighter complexioned Jamaicans getting employment preference over darker complexioned Jamaicans in banks and other governments agencies. That practice changed after Jamaica gained its independence from Britain in 1962.
Although social class bias exists, there were no real issues with equality or social injustice like you have in the US. This does not mean these problems did not exist but certainly not to the degree where they became social and political issues. Class bias used to be an issue with Jamaicans being conscious of class status. Many Jamaicans held people in the upper class with high esteem and as a result, the elected political leaders and government ministers were usually members of the upper class. That has since changed in recent years where Jamaicans from various social backgrounds now hold political office.
During colonialism, the British influence manifested itself in various aspects of Jamaican culture. For example, I was educated in the public schools with English textbooks. The high school exams were administered from England. We observed the traditional English holidays and we played English games like cricket, soccer, and netball. The political and judicial systems remain the same as the British system.
Jamaica today like many Third World countries faces economic, social, and political challenges. Because of these challenges, some older Jamaicans who have lived through the British colonial system believe that Jamaica was more disciplined and better off under the British system
For a small nation Jamaicans have excelled and gained international recognition in athletics (Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser – two times Olympians), reggae music (Bob Marley), The Voice champion (Tessanne Chin), a Spelling Bee champion, and many others in other fields.
Did growing up in Jamaican culture influence the faith component in your book Whom God Has Blessed, Let No Man Curse? I know there is a Christian following in Jamaica, but what inspired your Buddhist Eight-Fold Path component?
Yes, as a child growing up in Jamaica I was raised by a white Englishman who was very religious and a deacon in the local Congregational Church. I attended Sunday school every Sunday and studied the Bible as part of my preparation for Bible examination that was administered island wide by the executive administrators of the Congregational Church.
During my early adolescent life, I became interested in Indian spiritual knowledge that came from gurus. I even remember going to a meeting held by a guru who came to Jamaica. I also was interested in Transcendental Meditation (TM) and yoga. At the time, these things provided a different perspective of life and understanding of mind consciousness. Following this, I began reading series of book by Lobsang Rampa. His books were primarily about Tibet and their Buddhist customs. Lobsang Rampa books like Wisdom of the Ancients and The Third Eye influenced my life and gave me a whole new perspective on religion and other social issues.
I understand that you were an engineer for 29 years with 2 different companies. What sector of engineering did you specialize in. Did you ever draw up technical documents, satisfying your love of writing, at least during your career?
I studied mechanical engineering at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada where I obtained a bachelor’s degree.
During my career, I worked in various engineering groups that included mechanical engineering, procurement engineering, and field engineering (working in nuclear power plants doing modification work to plant systems or equipment). Working in these different engineering areas, I consider myself as a generalist engineer rather than a specialist who worked in a single engineering area.
The assignments that I worked on included preparing procurement and installation specifications, prepared technical reports, reviewed engineering drawings, prepared systems descriptions, calculations. With my last employer, I worked mainly in design control engineering for the company’s nuclear power stations. Specific tasks included preparing several design control procedures and standards that governed the design change process, and technical reports to support the maintenance and modification of power plant equipment and systems.
My love of writing made it easy for me to enjoy doing technical writing. My experience in engineering and technical writing equipped me with skills to be analytical and research oriented. These skills have helped me tremendously in my new career as an author.
4. While we are talking about your penmanship of technical documents during your career, did you find it challenging to change from a technical writer to nonfiction?
It was challenging because with technical writing you have to be specific and precise to communicate effectively. You also need a good technical knowledge of the subject and a good understanding of the technical jargon.
With nonfiction, you also have to write with clarity and preciseness. However, there is more freedom for creativity and style. The challenge for me was to try to break out of the mindset of expressing myself as a technical writer. I hope I am making progress in doing this with my books and articles.
In your author bio, it stated that you have voted in every presidential election since you became a US citizen in 1988. What in you fueled this love of exercising the right that we are all entitled to as humans in a time when many do not?
I have a great love for the political process and this love along with the right to vote is a good opportunity to participate in the political process. I believe it is the civic duty of every citizen to vote. In a democratic society, we elect people to govern us. The failure to exercise the right to vote and elect the right people often results in poor governance. I understand that the political process can sometimes cause people to be cynical or delusional about voting. However, voting is a significant right that a citizen has, and I believe people should use it in all elections.
When was the first time that you heard of Barack Obama? What about him made you realize that he is a “blessed” man?
The first time I heard of Barack Obama was when I watched the 2004 Democratic convention on TV. He was one of the keynotes speeches and I remember his eloquent and powerful speech about “We are not a red state, we are not a blue state, we are Americans.” His charismatic personality and eloquence made me recognize that he was going to have a bright future in politics. However, I certainly did not envision that he would be a prospective presidential candidate.
After reading a few books about President Obama I was convinced that he was a special man who was destined to become president. What convinced me was the many challenges he faced during his childhood, his early political career, and then in his first term going into his second term. What struck me about his relationship with his mother was that as a child she never told him anything negative about his father despite the bad relationship she had with him. To me this is a blessing for him.
Later on in his political career up to the time of being elected president, he was able to overcome many challenges- some of course historical and related to race. These challenges include events that occurred and could have thwarted his political career and his presidency.
Being able to overcome the obstacles and challenges he encountered – sometimes with unexpected events occurring at the opportune time to help him – made me realize that he was a blessed man. His other blessings include his remarkable ability to treat even his detractors with respect and understanding. In my book, Whom God Has Blessed Let No Man Curse, I describe in detail some of the characteristics that only a blessed person could have. We shouldn’t forget also that his name Barack means blessed.
Your book is in defense of President Obama, and that his detractors will never succeed. Do you believe that he many become one of the greatest Presidents to ever serve our nation?
I do believe President Obama is destined to become one of the greatest presidents. We may not see him get this honor in our lifetime. However, when the historians look at what he was able to accomplish as president despite relentless attack on his character, and obstruction of his policies throughout his two terms, people will recognize that it was amazing that he was able to perform his presidential duties and accomplish the things he did.
His accomplishments during his two terms include implementing the first health care law that many presidents before him failed to do. Other accomplishments included rescuing the economy that was on the verge of collapse when he took office in 2008, signing the Equal Pay Act, and many other things that he has done hardly gets any recognition. It is unfortunate that because of the crusade by the right to destroy him he does not get the credit he deserves. I believe historians will vindicate him and recognize his legacy as that of a great president.
In a time when, as I experience it on almost a daily basis and will for the rest of my life as a minority, racial separation and discrimination is at almost an all time high, so what is the civil rights issue that needs to be undertaken in our time now?
America still struggles with racial problems and a lot of work needs to be done to fix these problems. I was optimistic that with the historic election of President Obama in 2008, America was on a path of transcending its racial past and becoming a more racially tolerant country. Unfortunately, there are some people who do not like President Obama and by their actions, behavior, and words want to maintain racial dominance and inequality.
I believe all people should live freely and without having to bear the burden of racial inequality. Racial inequality was the civil rights issue of the 60s and although progress has been made since that time, it remains the civil rights issue today. Great effort is still needed to pursue a process of racial understanding, tolerance, and reconciliation. Only when these things are accomplished will people respect each other and treat each other fairly.
I understand that you are married. Could you tell us a little more about your family, and where your greatest support comes from?
I have been married to a wonderful woman since 1972. I met my wife when she was a nursing student in Jamaica and since that time, we have enjoyed our accomplishments and cope well with our disappointments. We have two grown children – a son who is a jazz musician and a daughter who is a psychiatrist. My greatest support comes from my wife and my children.
What are your current writing projects, including books and other literature?
Currently, I am working on my third book, A New Perspective on Racism – Issues with Morality, Spirituality, and Other Social Problems. I hope to get this book published this fall. I also write political articles for my website blog.
Thank you so much Mr. Shim for allowing me to interview you. I enjoyed having you here, and I look forward to our new friendship to grow. Thank you.
Thank you Nassem, it was a pleasure doing this interview with you.
Jermel Shim- Author
Jermel Shim is a retired mechanical engineer who has launched a new career as an author. Writing is not a new experience for Jermel. In his professional engineering career, he authored many technical documents. In his new career as an author, he has faced the challenge of switching from a technical writer to a nonfiction writer.
Born in Jamaica, Jermel was educated at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where he graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. Following his graduation, he moved to the US, where he began an engineering career spanning 29 years with two major engineering companies – Gilbert Commonwealth in Reading, Pennsylvania and Dominion Resources, Inc., in Richmond, Virginia. He has voted in all Presidential elections since becoming a citizen in 1988.