Earlier this week, my daughter and I were listening to the radio on our way to swimming practice. I was listening to Irie FM’s ‘The Art of War’, hosted by Mutabrauka. Muta is always prodding us to think about what we do and say. You don’t have to agree with his views or arguments, but be engaged and provoked. He mentioned how some Jamaicans have an odd logic. For instance, he noted how people will throw trash in the roads and say that’s the right thing to do, otherwise garbage collectors wont have work to do. Yes, the trasher has a point, but misses a point. Muta also said that Jamaicans wont walk to a crossing when the place to which they want to go is directly across street. True, and the way our society is physically laid out that has a lot of sense. You can’t fault the logic, but it poses problems for the rest of us that people think in such a way.
But, the odd thinking is not confined to Jamaica. A friend posted on Facebook the following account: ‘I met a lady yesterday in the bank who said she voted against the FNM referendum in 2002 to give Bahamian women the same rights as Bahamian men, and when the PLP bring it she will vote NO again! I was confused and could not understand why women continue to vote against their best interest. So I asked Why? She said “It’s not about my daughters, it’s my sons…this is the only place in the world my sons have an advantage over other men when it comes to employment for the high-paying jobs and I plan to keep it that way! My daughter marry some “high hot shot man” and he comes and take my son job from him….HELL NO!” The logic we use sometimes…..gets me everytime!’ Many commentators took the woman in the story to task about her lack of foresight, insight, etc. but, that’s how she sees the world.
In Jamaica, people often talk about ‘the system’ or ‘Babylon’ and how it oppresses. Some of what people use for reasons and reasoning come from interesting places in their physical and emotional lives. We know that people with eyes too close together are…
We know that religious conviction can lead some into ways of thinking that defy sense for many of us. I am not going to tackle any individual’s view on religion, but some of the thinking leaves me gasping, and it’s often more disturbing because the people concerned clearly do not hear or listen to the voices and opinions of others.
Muta was also interviewing a pastor, in relation to new efforts by the national bus company to improve service by imposing its already existing ban on people preaching on buses. The pastor argued that he was spreading the word of God and that those who did not want to hear it would suffer, etc. He also saw no problem with disturbing the peace of those who were on the bus for their journey. If they did not want to hear him preach, they could get off the bus and take another. Muta tried to get the preacher to see that as being unreasonable: people were not on the bus for sermons, but to try to get to work or home or play. Why should they have to use hard-earned and scarce money to avoid something they had not bargained for or demand? The pastor was unmoved.
I did some quick unscientific research, and searched Twitter using ‘Jamaican logic’ as my terms. I found the following:
‘Drink tea. Broke your leg? Drink tea. Just got HIV? Drink tea.’ Some joked about the naiveté of Jamaicans, for instance, with a meme that showed people lined up at a polling booth to vote for a TV show–not knowing that there are many different types of votes and places to make them. Funny, but…We get the point.
The logic is clearly not that just exercised by people who live cut off from the rest of society. I read a short story this morning about children growing up in Jamaica in the 1950s, and how they would hide in the bushes when they heard a car approaching. They had seen few cars, but were afraid that they would be kidnapped and taken away by pirates to be slaves. Oh, the mind of a child, we think.
Jamaica has a very colourful and voluble MP, Everald Warmington. He thinks in a very different way to many and has little hesitation in sharing his thoughts. He has just proposed that registered voters who fail to exercise their franchise be required to pay approximately $705 (US$7) each, back the national Treasury. There are 1.7 million people on the voters’ list. Only 52 per cent of the electorate voted in the last general election, which ‘cost’ $1.2 billion. “If you have 48 per cent stay-home-and-don’t-vote, you need to establish a system where that 48 per cent pay back to the Consolidated Fund the amount that it costs.” Mr. Warmington does not entertain the idea that in a democratic society not voting is a legitimate option at elections. He feels that whatever the choices available people should vote. Some have said that ‘write in’ votes could deal with people’s dislike of the options for candidates; in other words, spoil the ballot, but turn out and vote, anyway. Mr.Warmington also does not see that persons like himself may be the reason some do not vote. He may not see the logic that says people may actually not approve of the government spending money on electoral systems ahead of spending money on say health and education or sanitation. Some people feel that ‘bad’ politicians should also look to pay back the nation. The parties are engaged as I write.
My simple suggestion to Mr. Warmington would be a first step for Jamaica to change its voting system. Now, if one party gets 51% of the vote in every constituency it ends up with ALL of the seats, all of the representatives, even though the nation said there’s only a small margin more in favour of that party. The ‘winner takes all’ system is patently unfair and unrepresentative. Add to that, clear evidence that MPs are vindictive or favour their supporters rather than the opposition, and we have plenty to concern us. Maybe, we should move to proportional representation, where at least the balance of support is reflected. If we try something like that and the numbers who vote remain low, then we can think about what else is wrong. But, now, we have a broken system and also a set of candidates that clearly does not get much support from a large swathe of the nation. But, that’s just my crazy logic at work.
We have to accept that we do not all think alike. What we find odd in the way some think may not have much impact, if we feel that the views are limited. We have no way of really controlling how people process the world they experience and translate that into how they should react and live their lives. Those of us who have received well a lot of education may lament and hold our heads in our hands and wonder what to do with ‘these people’. We have to get on with them. We may be the ones who have gotten it wrong.