Eroding our own future

Some news commentary on the radio this morning has been with me all day. Criminals have been evicting people from their homes, then forcing the persons to rent back the premises from them. Jamaicans have some strange ways of extortion and making lives of so-called fellow citizens unbearable.

Those involved in crime are finding new areas of activity. There’s really no limit to where crime can take place, in terms of what can be used as the lever with which to force people into uncomfortable positions. The idea of being able to get away from crime by living in certain areas or closing areas off from the general public is a fallacy. Living in gated communities or the other common practice of locked doors to business premises provide a degree of security only at those places–and it’s only a degree. A friend told me how neighbours in his gated complex had been held up and robbed. It seemed that what happened must have needed ‘inside help’.

Here is the crux of what seems to have happened to Jamaica. Crime has become a tourniquet. The recent newspaper article in the Gleaner about the existence of ‘death squads’ in the police force, who receive instructions from senior officers to kill criminals points to an unending circle. The extraordinary levels of killings of civilians by security forces now had a more sinister context. With a day of the press report, another police killing occurred, in downtown Kingston (Orange Villa) this time the victim might have suffered from ‘mistaken identity’.

Crime seems to be everywhere. Crime seems to involve almost any and everyone, including those who are appointed to fight crime and protect the rest of us. This is a maddening dilemma to face. Lawlessness is so ingrained in what passes for normal life that it becomes difficult to understand how the country can really function.

We hear reports of extensive gang activity. We hear and read about drugs trading. We are constantly informed about thefts, often with violence: nothing is safe if it can be moved. Livestock; electrical goods; money; cars; household contents. We are so aware of theft that reports of sand mining at Duncans (Trelawny) quickly brought concern that the beach was being stolen. Government sources indicate that the mining was all legitimate. But, our suspicions were raised quickly; it had happened before.

Crime has taken a deep hold of the society and much economic activity. It is inevitable, in many respects. People have had little hope for so long and have decided to ‘make hope’. The easiest way to make that hope real, is to take away the hopes and dreams of others. Nothing need be created besides fear. Then, extract. It’s a cynical way to live, but there we’ve gone.

I believe that poor economic performance over decades has pushed many Jamaicans to a brink over which they then tumbled. Others followed, thinking that the gains far exceeded the risks of loss. Things wont change much unless that economic malaise ends.

Another piece of news struck me today. The UK recorded much better than expected employment data. Britain’s Prime Minister (@Number10gov) took to Twitter quickly to record his reactions: “Biggest quarterly increase in employment on record. More jobs means more security, peace of mind & opportunity for the British people.”

Britain has high unemployment by western European standards–7 percent; with youth unemployment (16 to 24-year-olds) at 21 percent. Compared this to Jamaica’s 16 percent and 40 percent, respectively. That island economy’s leader understands what poses major dangers and what is needed to avoid that. To repeat: “More jobs means more security, peace of mind & opportunity“. It’s not that simple, but it’s that simple.

Talking trash

Some friends and I were out this morning when we came across a familiar site in Jamaica: the often-thrown-away plastic bottle. A pile of such specimens was lying in the grass, quietly basking in the sun. I went to look at them; they were quite young as they had fresh wrappers that had not been much affected by the heavy rain showers yesterday. I wondered if more of the specimens were nearby: I found a little group of them hiding in bushes close the pile. I pulled them out and put them with the others in the pile. My lady friend covered her eyes, and held her head. “These people!” she cried. Why can’t they keep their PETs at home?

I did not know the answer.

The website for Jamaica’s National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) contains the disarmingly clear statement about waste management:

The management of all wastes poses serious environmental problems in Jamaica. Solid waste collection and disposal operations present many serious environmental, public health, social and liability problems and risks.

The country has problems knowing what to do with garbage and actually doing sensible things with garbage.garbage jamaica In the same area where I saw the PETs, I know many trash collection bins exists. However, those that I found filled to overflowing on Monday morning last week, after a weekend of recreation, were still full on Thursday of the same week. Either someone responsible for clearing the bins does not see the problem. Or they see the problem and do not care to deal with it. Or they see the problem and have no means to deal with it. Or they don’t see the problem, because they have no regular process of checking.

Anyone, with good intentions, therefore, taking their PETs for a walk, may find they have nowhere to rest them when they are tired and used. So, they just toss them away. Of course, they could take them home and dispose of them there. But, that’s not how people here operate.

Whether it’s PETs or styrofoam food boxes, the results are similar.

NEPA notes that bad collection and disposal of garbage pose pollution hazards on air, in land and or sea. It notes that public ignorance of proper waste disposal.

It’s easy to see what’s wrong. Just go by a gully and take a look in. You will see the debris that flows around the city of Kingston. Much is material such as plastics (bottles, bags), foam (food boxes), appliances (fridges, other metal objects), foliage (cut and broken branches and leaves). When it rains, these float down the inclines and much ends up in Kingston Harbour. Lovely!

Like much in Jamaica that needs fixing, it’s hard to not see the problem. But, fixing it seems to have defied those in charge.

Garbage builds up in my home, much like anyone else’s and I am struck by how little I can avoid putting into a waste disposal bag. I admit to having been spoilt by living in the USA, and their new fangled ideas about recycling. Here’s what could go into the garbage each week.

  • Newspapers–nothing collected regularly for municipal or private recycling [But, a scheme to help a non-profit is getting these to recycle.]
  • Glass bottles–nothing collected regularly for municipal or private recycling [Beer bottles can be returned to regain their deposits. Other glass bottles? Nothing collected.]
  • Plastic bottles–a collection point is close to home
  • Food waste–nothing collected regularly for municipal or private recycling [Best efforts to save somethings for ‘doggie bags’]
  • Garden waste–nothing collected regularly for municipal or private recycling [Neighbour has built compost heap, but very selective about what goes into it, given concerns about vermin and other pests.]

So, most things go to the dumps, and we are people who try to minimize garbage.

I’ve stopped banging my head. Time to gear up on personal and community action.

12 years a slave is not the Caribbean story

As I left the cinema at the weekend, after watching 12 years a slave, filled with the usual emotional tightness that many black people feel when watching films, or seeing pictorial depictions, about the trans-Atlantic slave trade, a nagging question hit me. Why has this historical episode been captured by the United States? I mean no disrespect to those who came through slavery and find their heritage in the USA. However, the Caribbean slave history, and that of black liberation is vastly different. Yet, we have seen that story barely told. Part of that is a result of the film industry having gained a bigger foothold in Hollywood than in, say, Havana or Kingston or Port-au-Prince.

So, we get to look at slavery through the narrow eye of the passage that ended on the east coast of America. Not the story about the passage that ended on the shores of Barbados. Not the story of those who were transshipped to islands like Jamaica. Not the story of those who went to work in plantations in Brazil.

Many Caribbean people have some notion of our different history.Slaves_resting_by_Rugendas_01 Sugar plantations, rather than cotton. The abolition of slavery in the Caribbean was not after a civil war between ‘the North’ and ‘the South’. Our colonial masters at the time abolished it, some 30 years before Americans went at each other to try to settle the matter. While Americans produced their Ku Klux Klan, we did not have that marauding band, going around threatening black people and meting out justice. We can play guessing games about what might have happened had the American Colonists not decided to fight the British to gain their independence in the 18th century.

The question was too ironic, given that the director of 12 years…, Steve McQueen, is the offspring of Caribbean parents. He wanted to tell the American story, not the Caribbean one? Why? More familiar? More evocative? He hailed his Caribbean roots, yet chose to look at an ‘alien’ experience. Well, not truly alien as he says the majority of his family is in the USA. He was born in England, and rightly remarks that slave history is not part of the regular historical discussion that covers life. There’s the Angles and Saxons: Roman invasion; the Norman Conquest; the Elizabethans and Tudors, THE Civil War; lots of other wars, and all the elements of British history in the context of European development that would swamp the slave trade part of British development.

So, those empty feelings I had when I left the cinema, are somewhat misplaced. It’s about something that I presume affected my ancestors, but it isn’t really. It’s discomfort by a lot of awkward association.

Hollywood hasn’t paid us much mind in the telling of the slavery story. What have we done to fill the gap?

 

Accidents will happen?

My mind has been bothered by road safety issues in Jamaica for a while. I noticed headlines last week that showed an increase in road traffic deaths in 2014 over 2013 (12 to 10, as of mid-January). What struck me was a certain steadiness in the figure, despite official desires for the number to be lower (240 was the target last year, and the total was 304). car accidentJamaica’s road infrastructure, car ownership and daily activity patterns don’t change that much, so it would seem a difficult thing to see the number of accidents fall dramatically. That would imply a need for some major change in what goes on regularly in the island.

On any given day, we can see many forms of risky behaviour on the road. I’ll list a few activities I saw over the past few days just from random observations, with the regret that I could not take a picture of them all.

  • Boy (about 12 years old) standing on window frame of SUV, so that he was outside the vehicle as it was being driven by a much older man
  • Man riding motor cycle, clad in vest and baseball cap
  • Couple on motor cycle, with driver wearing helmet, while passenger wore swim suit and no helmet
  • Taxi overloaded: driver with no seat belt; passengers without seat belts; children on laps; children in front of vehicle
  • Driver with child on lap; neither strapped in
  • People running across busy roads without using designated crossings
  • Groups of school children running across roads in front of school to catch public bus; trying to urge oncoming traffic to stop
  • Vehicles stopping to let out passengers, without signalling or with little regard to position on road (sometimes blocking sight lines for passing or oncoming traffic)
  • Children playing on sidewalk, with no regard for fact that they were occasionally dashing into the road
  • Goats crossing a busy road

This is daily life on this little island.

What struck me about what I witnessed was that many of these apparently risky activities are not in play when accidents happen or lives are lost.

Few accidents happen during the heavily congested periods of rush hour. Vehicles can only move at relatively slow speeds. High speed is a major contributor to accidents. Traffic jams help.

Many, if not most, accidents in Jamaica occur because of speeding vehicles that run out of control and collide with other vehicles or pedestrians. ‘Overtaking truck collides with minibus, would be a familiar incident’.

We know that many deaths occur because a victim is unprotected, but the victims are not always the driver/rider or passenger, but a pedestrian. Safety belts would help some, but have also not helped victims in some instances (see testimonial).

Most traffic victims are young male drivers and pedestrians (30 percent of all fatalities)–of which, many are children.

Police department data (used in the Highway 2000 study) on causes of road accidents showed the following:

  • Error of Judgement/Negligence (15%)
  • Improper Overtaking (9%)
  • Following Too Closely (9%)
  • Turning without Due Care (8%)
  • Crossing Heedlessly (8%)
  • Losing control & excessive speed (7% each)

We could call that ‘bad driving’ in most cases. The impact of poor road conditions, or weather does not factor in that highly.

Education and signposts are important parts of the official fight against the number of road accidents. But, as my list above showed, what people need to learn goes to the core of how they see the life they lead.

Safety tips are clear and they have a good history of helping to reduce accidents. But, for all the signs about wearing helmets and buckling up, we have a nation that tends to not bother with that stuff. That has to change. We’re good at wailing about the deaths, but seem to be slow to take to heart the lessons. It’s interesting that the practices are as blatantly bad in so-called ‘upscale areas’ as in so-called poorer areas. It’s a national problem.

Pedestrian crossings are lacking and need to be increased. Proposals exist to increase these around schools. That said, wherever you see crossings, you’ll also see people crossing anyway they wish.

We have a society that is very lax when accepting rules. As regards road use, this has some serious consequences:

The notion of drinking and not driving is not one that people take that seriously. That said, official data show only 1 percent of accidents were due to driving under the influence (and we should include drugs).

As already noted, seat belt use is not seen as a must. Even scarier, is the fact that people seem to think that babies and young children can miraculously save themselves in accidents, so are often unharnessed in cars.

Head safety gear is not seen as a must by many riders. Some wear head-gear that is just impromptu or not really on the head as protection–the funniest I’ve seen is the Rasta with a helmet perched on his tam, like a football. Jah live!

But, we also have to understand that we have a society that lacks many of the support elements that go with a relatively high level of car ownership per capita (Jamaica ranks 73rd of 166 countries).

Many roads are single lane, raising risks that come with the need to overtake and judging that at speed. Highway 2000 should have reduced the frequency of accidents as it reduced the amount of traffic sharing road space with pedestrians and provided separate lanes in which traffic flows in opposite directions. But, the island is not filled with four-lane highways.

The island does not have enough overheard crossings to help people where communities have been cut in two by road developments–some are there, but not enough. People love short cuts and also love to do what they’ve done in the past.

Although Jamaica has terrible road conditions, bad roads are not often the proximate cause of most accidents. Jamaica has many hilly or mountainous roads, but they are not often the location of bad accidents. Bad or difficult road conditions tend to result in relatively more care and lower driving speed.

But, improving surface roads could reduce many accidents, at about the same rate as widening roads.

In rural areas, roads often lack sidewalks. In urban areas, more sidewalks exist, but many areas are without. So, people and car often mix in a lethal way. People walk a great deal and pedestrian interaction with traffic is high.

Jamaicans love to talk and text on cell phones while driving. Although data do not show this to be a proximate cause in many accidents, new legislation is proposed to deal with that. It’s part of a pattern of lax behaviour.

Whatever is being done in schools or workplaces is not enough to change what people do as a matter of routine. Whatever adverts are made to instruct are not having enough impact on what people do. Whenever transgressions occur, it is too easy for them to be ignored by police. What would one expect from a force that includes motorbike officers who use their phones while riding?

Our roads are dangerous. On top of the deaths, we have a large number of injuries– aAbout 2000.

Like the high number of murders, we are in danger of seeing the road accidents as part of an intractable problem that defies solution. However, unlike crime, I think what people need to do to overcome this problem is far simpler.

Those people who jump into their cars and just let themselves and their children ride along without belts need to understand what they are doing by not taking the simple safety step. It goes the same way with driving, though, it’s harder to judge what bad decisions are being taken as people hurry (needlessly, in many cases) to their destinations.

I’m sensitive to the messages, but are most people totally untouched? The carnage has become common place. It’s too easy to think that it wont happen. That action needed is personal, but as with many things about behaviour, it often takes a personal tragedy to force people to change. But, that’s always an expensive way to learn.

The good, the bad, and the ugly (January 19, 2014)

Good

PM Portia Simpson-Miller says that she’s going to open up again and engage the population through community/parish meetings.

Bad

More murders and road accidents in Jamaica in the first two weeks of the year than the same time last year. But, both sets of incidents reflect bizarre trends that seem to have become constants: three murders a day; one road death a day.

Ugly

If Everald Warmington had his way,

You did not vote? You have no say.

But, good for us, our system says:

No vote means say in many ways.

Becoming unaccustomed to public speaking

Many comments have been made recently about the Prime Minister’s relative disengagement from speaking to the public. prayer breakfastSo, I was pleased to read yesterday that Mrs. Simpson-Miller will resume holding community meetings. As reported, the meetings will be organized by the Social Development Commission, and are ‘aimed at bringing members of  the executive to the public to hear their concerns and respond’. I think much damage, though incalculable, has been done by the PM’s deafening silence on some major concerns in the country. A clear vacuum has been created in terms of popular expectation and public policy guidance. People–whether they voted or not–who are citizens of a country, have an expectation that leaders will lead–by action and words. Many people cannot see the ‘work’ (action) that politicians do, so need to hear from them to get a better understanding. Silence, therefore, is not golden when it comes in response to ‘cries’ of severe need.

When it is broken by remarks such as “I know that our economic programme, …has in some instances been hard on you. I feel your pain. I go to the supermarket, I know what is happening to prices”, in a New Year message, I think people just shake their heads.

For many people, I think that the long silence has been interpreted by a lack of concern.

I think many people would not have been surprised if the PM had one day said something like:

“You know, I am a total loss to understand what is going on in Jamaica. I cannot understand why so many people are being killed by guns or in road accidents.”

That would make many people feel that at least she was aware of two things that trouble many, if not most Jamaicans. There is no pretence of having some magic wand to deal with them. It implies also a need for ideas, and an openness to receive them.

Had she said something like:

“All of the money that the government has borrowed over the years has not been used to produce economic gains that are clear in terms of better roads, schools, health, more jobs, or a cleaner environment. Our inability to use that money wisely means that we owe more than the income we have every year and it’s crippling us at every turn.”

That would have suggested that she saw the seemingly intractable problem that many Jamaicans have to witness and live with on a daily basis. Wasted or inefficient spending, at every turn. Inadequate decisions at every turn. Despair, at every turn. The PM would have shown a consciousness of what is Jamaica’s economic albatross.

The comments demonstrate a recognition of problems, for which solutions have to be found, but are taxing all of our minds. They do not seek to apportion blame. However, by not saying things like that, many people have felt lost and abandoned.

Those two comments, or similar, would have meant a lot more than many of the vacuous and cliché-riddled offerings that have been flying around by other politicians.

I cannot believe that her reluctance comes from what I see often with children who wont speak when they are faced with certain problems: they are terrified and almost take the view that if they do not address the fears they will disappear.

But, maybe, I’m wrong.

Serve me right: Do we need to put our rulers on social media?

Most politicians that I have ever noticed are sensitive to being portrayed in a bad light. When that happens, they are often very quick to rail against ‘the media’. Those with resources are quick to marshal their resources to ‘manage’ their image, back toward the good.

The world we have today is one where information travels very fast–quicker than humans can move. We also have a world where information flows as far as it can go, with little control by its originators over where it goes. I’m sure that, without globalisation, many people would not know about the heinous activities going on far away from them–brutality in South Sudan; attacks on shopping malls in Kenya; corruption in Russia; political shenanigans in the USA, etc.

For some people, all of that international information is too much. They have a hard enough time getting to grips with what is or is not happening outside their door. A broken water main that has been running for 5 days; no lights in their town for days; schools without desks; children without food, etc.

I focused on negatives in local life because that’s what usually gets people more excited, as opposed to the good news such as the birth of twins to the lady next door; the successful yam crops in Mr. McFarlane’s field for the ninth year in succession, etc.

Many people don’t have mental space to deal with international problems when local problems are not fixed. I couldn’t care two hoots about Chris Christie and ‘bridgegate’ while I have garbage piling up in my yard since Christmas, and the stench and flies and dogs ripping it up are turning where I live into a daily nightmare. I’m not to be accused of being ignorant of uninterested in what is going on because I cannot focus on ‘abroad’ because I have to deal with so much in my yard.

That’s where I want to think about what we would like from our political representatives. We want responsiveness.

I believe that naming and shaming can be effective, where gentle persuasion has failed. I want to suggest that people demand more use of the best communication tools by their elected officials. My initial thought was that all elected officials should be made to use social media. When I had that thought, I quickly searched the Internet and saw that this had already been proposed in the USA. Many American politicians have already put themselves to that test, but through personal choice.

Politicians may be quick to argue that this is an undue burden on their time and energy, and for each in person that may be true. They may argue that they do not have resources to finance the employment of someone to do that for them. That may also be true. But, can they redirect their resources to make it happen, and fast? In Jamaica, when we have a rate of 40 percent unemployment for young people, I think we have a pool of workers who may be ready to do such tasks for little pay at first, and for exposure and experience. We can think it through better.

If you listen to radio call-in programmes in countries like Jamaica, you get to understand very quickly that many people do not feel that elected officials or bureaucrats serve them very well. Nor do they seem ready to respond quickly and civilly to requests for help. Would that change if it became ‘news’ very quickly? I think so.

We have a great danger, however. The world is also full of people who just get a kick out of messing things up for others. Those people who would be making malicious accusations rather than just sticking to what is true. The pests who want to use an anonymous alias to be rude and insulting. We need to have ways to weed them out fast and clearly.

We also have an age-old problem that people do not feel that they are equal to politicians and bureaucrats and if they make public their grievances, they will be left unprotected and helpless to retribution or other forms of penalty. It’s a great hope, I know, that this would not happen.

But, what is the risk of trying to start something like this?

I’m going to ignore the problems and challenge those who feel they are too great to find a way around them, rather than use the challenge as a reason to not try.

On top of that, I want to see us be able to rate politicians and institutions, in the same way that we are ready to rate schools, or restaurants, or hotels. I want to know, for instance, what at any time are the ‘favourable’ and ‘unfavourable’ ratings of public persons and bodies. That’s a big task, but the sentiment of it need not be covered by a massive database at first. Let’s say that it can be done every three months. If you come out with bigoted comments, get called out on them. If you act like a saint, get praise for it. Politicians should not be able to hide from their citizens.

The more I listen to people’s complaints and the more I listen to politicians, the more I think that cannot keep leaving bad things to fester for years just because that’s when elections occur.

 

Jamaican political rhetoric–getting warm and could get hot

I am still hopping mad about Mr. Warmington’s comments on voting. (Maybe, it’s subliminal, because some years ago, he lost an election to Dennis Jones–it wasn’t me :-))

At least, some bigger voices than mine in terms of public commentary have made it clear that this is not acceptable. Professor Trevor Munroe yesterday referred to Mr. W’s recent remarks as “political corruption”Observer columnist Mark Wignall today cites what I also find very disturbing–the tacit support given by the JLP leader, Mr. Holness, who was on the same platform as Mr. W, and said NOTHING against what he heard. We must take that as, at least, tacit approval. If so, then where do we go with that endorsement? You cannot transform what you are not prepared to change. You will be what you accept. Maybe, Mr. W. will get his wish at the next election, with a resounding rise in voting and the nice present of a lost seat.

Only 22 countries in the world have compulsory voting on their books and only 10 enforce those laws, according to information on Wikipedia. If Mr. W. wanted to argue for the improved legitimacy that would come from higher voter participation then he could have expressed himself better. Some of these countries make an exception for ‘very young’ and ‘very old’ voters. Others make exceptions for illiterate voters.

What still grieves me is the total disregard in Mr. W’s comments for those who have every right to full political representation through their participation in the financing of the State. The notion that voting confers rights to state benefits is the beginning of justification for political patronage. Some see it as more sinister because it implies perhaps the justification of party favouritism. How dare a politician think of only giving benefits to those who have cast their mark on a ballot and not think to support those who want benefits and have contributed directly to government being able to provide those benefits?

Since, starting to write this, I read that Andrew Holness has now made a comment. He is reported as having said. He signalled that the Party is not in favour of Mr. Warmington’s position: “The general secretary, I believe, responded to say that the party’s position has always been that state resources are available to all citizens, regardless of their belief and whether or not they vote, yes or no”. Well, let’s take that muted remark as distancing himself and the party from Mr. W.

Now, let’s clear up what Mr. W. means by arguing that if you do not vote you should be put in jail: “…you should lock them up if they don’t vote…”.

Mr. Warmington’s arguments are very confused, and I repeat ‘dangerous’–making it clear that he knows that those who did not vote are really below consideration and deserve condemnation: “48% sat home and didn’t vote and they have the loudest squeal and the loudest talk and everything is bad for them in government and they don’t participate in anything and those people are going to say that I must apologize?”

Let’s see if the talk is another nine-day wonder, or if something is done about something that is supposedly unacceptable.

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.

I need a sponsor: Jamaican life blood

Jamaica runs on corporate sponsorship; it runs on sponsorship, more generally, too. You cannot go to any private event of any size and not see the logos and brands of major corporations. They provide actual funding; they provide products and services; they provide organizational knowhow. They are needed to get things up and running. They get recognition for the help they offer. It’s a competitive environment. One corporation does not want to have its recognition blurred by the appearance–legitimate or not–of a competitor. If you are getting Digicel to help, with their branding festooned over the place, they don’t want to see LIME logos all over the place, too.

But, apart from events, people in Jamaica depend on sponsors (outside of government support programs).

  • Going to school or university? Can someone help with fees?
  • Making a trip? Someone can help with the fare?
  • Have some service workers? Expect to be tapped for some financial or material help.

Jamaica’s not unique in this regard, but one feels that sponsors are more important for every day activities, than say in the USA. They seem to feature more than they do in countries that are very poor. That may just be impressionistic.

But, that’s not to say that people can find sponsors easily. Someone commented yesterday that sponsors are out there but people do not know how to apply for their help. Sounds as if a new activity needs to come into being as ‘sponsorship finder’.

I’ve just been in some meetings about school fund-raising and much of the time was taken up discussing who would sponsor; whether the sponsor could be more generous; how to balance potentially competing sponsors.

People tear into private corporations and their alleged failings. But, what about their discharging of corporate responsibilities? It’s not something they are compelled to do, but it’s done often without much recognition.

Among the many ways that people have managed to survive the decades-long recession that has been the Jamaican economy has been their ability to get someone else’s dollar to work for them, largely through sponsorship. The question that raises is how can corporates continue to be such good sponsors in an economy that seems to have been in decades-long recession?