It’s not funny, so why are we laughing?

A journalist suggested that I focus my writing just on things economic in Jamaica. I responded that Jamaica is far too interesting in all its facets to limit myself like that, but I promised to try.

This has been a bad economic and financial news week for Jamaica, in the sense that recent indicators point to a dismal present, even though there are signs of a brighter future. Consumer and business confidence at near all time lows–this, after the government expectation that these would be improved by the country’s signing of, and good start to, an IMF programme.

I love the fact that Jamaican cartoonists lampoon important public figures with true abandon. Often, their images are far better than anything that can be written.

I am very aware of how many Jamaicans feel about the country’s relationship with the IMF. They see us as victims to an all-powerful, villainous and heartless institution, doing largely the bidding of a seemingly all-powerful nation, the USA. The situation Jamaica and many borrowing countries face is similar to that of the little ‘man cub’, Mowgli, in the cartoon version of Jungle Book, when he encounters Kai, the snake (a boa). “Trust in me…” Kai chants, while wrapping Mowgli in his coils and readies to eat the boy. For Mowgli, think Jamaica. For Kai, think IMF.

A similar image was in one of today’s papers,

All humour is at someone’s expense, so it’s healthy that somehow we can laugh at our own predicament.

The depiction of the Governor of the central bank, giving what seems to be his views on developments from a warped perspective is too vivid.

But, behind the humour is a tragic story, which for many does not seem to have any prospect of a happy ending. I wrote yesterday about how barter could perhaps go some way to ease economic problems for some who need work, or need goods but have no money. Immediately, after writing, I encountered the all-too-familiar roadside beggar, in torn and dirty clothes; unkempt and generally looking like the world’s worst dressed person. No hope of bartering for him, I thought. Yes, he’s a special case for being extreme. But, how special is he for having approached the economic edge and fallen over? What’s scary and not at all funny is that a lot of Jamaicans may be teetering near the edge. Who will fall over it may be just a matter of luck and chance. That’s not funny, at all.