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Yesterday, the world was supposed to celebrate International Day of Happiness. Jamaica was there, too, although in no nationally visible fashion. We’re not miserable people at heart, just living in a woefully disorganised state for far too long. That leads many to feel unhappy when the opposite would be easy to achieve.

I joked yesterday that I was happy because I had full water pressure to take a morning shower. A friend replied that I should be ecstatic because I had water in my pipes.

Water everywhere and none to drink?

Water everywhere and none to drink?

Many communities don’t have that–in the ‘land of wood and water’. Should we call Jamaica ‘the land of would and whatfor’?

Last week, many Jamaicans got excited because a long court case concluded with a verdict that surprised them because ‘the system’ seemed to work. But, so often the daily grind is to get through so much that does not work. Or, living through consequences that result from responsible persons not fulfilling their responsibilities.

We saw that in a near-disaster this week. The main garbage disposal site in the country had a huge fire, which started in a pile of used tyres.

Riverton Dump on fire

Riverton Dump on fire

The agency responsible for managing the waste, does not manage that well. National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) bow your head in shame. The agency which oversees NSWMA, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), does a poor job of oversight. A few weeks ago, we learnt that NEPA was allowing NSWMA to operate illegally, without licences. Part of the reported rationale was the dire financial state of NSWMA. Give us a break! Let’s all cry poverty and see who lets us ordinary folk off our obligations. I think some have loans they’d like eased. Then, have a few days of smoke-filled air and…NEPA issues licences to NSWMA. What makes situations like this doubly annoying is the wall of stony silence that passes for communication. I have seen not one statement from NSWMA about either the licences or the fire. Maybe, the Minister responsible has heard something, but if so have the people heard a peep.

The word that comes to mind is ‘disdain’.disdain-2

That, sadly, is a status word for many things in Jamaica. My father, who used to be a mental nurse, often talks about Jamaicans’ love of silent insolence. Mix that with disdain. … Toxic!

Examples of daily ‘unhappiness’ below focus on the ‘broken’ Jamaica that comes from that sorry admixture. None of them are excusable or hard to fix:

  • Broken car axles … from driving over potholes: visible problems, simple solutions. Who cares? Who should do?
  • Interminable waiting for simple administrative tasks.
  • Landlords who ignore tenants’ complaints.
  • Extortion activities that prevent normal activities. We see people assuming ‘powers’ that no one has given and no one seems ready to take away. The police are reported to be ‘stepping up the fight’ against such things.

    Car parking extortion in Kingston

    Car parking extortion in Kingston

  • Praedial larceny: it’s not just farmers who suffer. A friend told me about her yam hill near her house being reaped by thieves, after she’d waited nine months for her harvest. Adding insult to injury, they roasted the pilfered yam in her yard. Taking people’s hard work and using its rewards for your own benefit without permission is perhaps one of those truly despicable acts.

These examples are not unique to Jamaica, but demand more attention because of the brazenness with which the corrections are ignored or avoided. Also, we often see frenzied action ‘to fix’ things that have been left to ‘get rotten’ over months, years, decades. Take a hard look at downtown Kingston. Take a look at the entrance to the ‘coastal resort’ of Negril. Take a look at downtown Montego Bay. Take a look at Ocho Rios. Take a look at the National Stadium Complex.

Take a good hard look at it all. Ask yourself why has any of that been allowed to happen.

Wheel of misfortune

Wheel of misfortune

Why have Jamaicans repeatedly given position to people who demonstrate clearly and repeatedly that they cannot do a good job?

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