Jamaica, where the sun sets in the east: Bitcoin, drag queens, voting rights

Jamaica showed off all of its frustrating peculiarities in the past few days.

One step forward: A company known as Kingston Open MRI was reported to have started using Bitcoin–a virtual currency–to facilitate “a cost-effective, easy method to pay” and taking advantage of free payment processing. I think an hip-hooray is in order for forward thinking, even if I have personal concerns about the long-term life of Bitcoin.

One step backward: Usain Bolt ‘stars’ in a recent commercial by Virgin Media. He portrays himself and several other characters, including a baby and a woman. Some people in Jamaica are frothing at the mouth about what he has done to mash-up the country’s image for masculinity by suggesting he’s not on the straight as an arrow line. If this is not real idiocy, then what is? The Jamaican inability to distinguish art from real life may be behind some of the more damaging foolishness that we get up to. Let me think of the many ‘stars’ who find it hasn’t hurt the semblance of their manhood by dressing in a dress: Wesley Snipes, Tyler Perry, Oliver Small, Eddie Murphy… I deliberately focused on black stars. Now, admitted these persons are called ‘actors’, so I imagine in the minds of some they are clearly acting. But an athlete doing it must be gay, right? Wrong! Take a look at the really stunning Charles Barkley. Hold back now, fellas! One of a long-line of clearly confused black, white or mulitcoloured athletes, who include known drag queens Oscar de la Hoya, Cam Newton and Leo Ferdinand.

Charles Barkley showing that he is all wo-man
Charles Barkley showing that he is all wo-man

Aieee! I guess that soon, someone will notice that Bolt dressed up as a baby and I cannot imagine what they will think he’s trying to be there.

Two steps backward: MP, Everald Warmington has not been known in recent times as a man who minces words. He is, however, someone whose words seem like they have gone through a mincer. His latest outbursts have really set tongues wagging. He said (my stresses):
“If you don’t vote; you don’t count. And at this stage if a person walk in the office and sey ‘Boss mi a Labourite’, and when I check the computer, you didn’t vote, I nah deal wid you. If you don’t vote; you don’t count and you can’t ask for Government benefits when you refuse to participate in the governance of your country.” 

I will let all the others who want to feast on the words. But, first, not voting is participating in your national governance: it can send a very clear message of the worthiness of those who have put themselves up for elected office. If I saw a dog and monkey on the ballot–and they have featured in some places–I’d hope that someone would not force me to vote for one or the other.

What is the MP doing checking the voting records to see who voted? I thought we had a secret ballot, so why would he want to violate that, if he’s so concerned about civic duty?

If an MP feels that he or she does not want to deal with those who did not cast a vote in the politician’s favor, I guess he or she has that right, but those who win ballots are supposed to address the interests of all their constituents. Yes, I know we love being partisan, and that politicians love being vindictive. Mr. Warmington went on to talk about the 48 percent (those who did not vote in the national election) in terms reminiscent of a failed US presidential candidate, Governor Romney. Very disturbing and disrespectful!

Many people will be quick to point out that even if persons did not vote, they have representation through their tax paying dollars, which so happen to pay the salary of elected officials. In case, it escaped Mr. Warmington, there is also a large part of the population who cannot vote, legally. Children and their guardians, whether they have voted, deserve the politicians’ ear.

It may happen today, but so far, Mr. Warmington’s party leader, Andrew Holness, has not voiced an opinion. Another member of the JLP, Daryl Vaz, did comment:

Vaz has argued that it is a right of Jamaicans to opt not to vote.

It is a constitutional right that they can exercise…The fact that they might not wish to exercise it because of what they perceive as the failure of politics and politicians should not disqualify persons from receiving genuine assistance.”

It’s not rocket science. But, if you are a war monger, Mr. Warmington, then I imagine none of that will strike a politician as relevant. When Jamaica has compulsory voting, I’d be happy to hear the comments made again. Till then, let those who want to vote vote; the others can do as they please and not feel they have no voice.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)