I’ve got a position, so I’d better do something: official idiocy on the rise

I’m going to react. What do we have to do to get some of those who are in leadership positions to realise that they are acting foolishly?

Just over the past few days, I saw and read reports of how a Pakistani politician (a former interior minister) was given the bum’s rush by the passengers on a plane that he had delayed for two hours so that he could fly. They reacted wildly when he approached the air bridge and told him he was not going to board, and that he needed to learn “humanity”; they had had enough of such high-handed disregard. Then, in the Ukraine, a politician (former adviser to ousted Ukrainian President Yanukovich) was thrown into a dumpster by an angry mob. Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 2.09.16 PM

Whether you see this as citizen power, or just the reaction of people fed up with those in power, it’s not clear which is right. The truth in that the ‘leaders’ are often a sorry bunch. Let’s look a few examples of this in Jamaica, as they affect ordinary lives.

Girls students at a Kingston high school were barred this week because their dresses were deemed to be too short: the high school’s rule stipulate that the length of the uniforms should be two inches below the knee. The girls decided to protest outside the offices of the Ministry of Education yesterday. The permanent secretary of the education ministry agreed that the uniforms met the stipulations, and that if the rule had changed it needed to be rewritten clearly, for all to see.

You’d think that there would be every effort to keep life simple in a country whose population has limited financial resources. Giving each school latitude on things like length of dresses is the recipe for anarchy masquerading as policy. People like having power, but few know how to exercise it well and with good discretion. Have your school colours, but if dress length matters, then it should matter the same for all, not so? But, does it really matter to how children learn, rather than pandering to some person’s view of what looks right? Some girls school children look like tents on legs as they billow around in skirts fitting to the 19th century. They try to look gainly, but it’s not working.

Chikungunya is not as worrying as the intemperate language being used by some politicians. One of the clear problems in countries like Jamaica, is the effect that a little knowledge has in the face of widespread ignorance. Chik-V is the thing that has gotten the imagination in Jamaica, as many viral infections spread around the world. It’s also our season for mosquite-borne infections, and of course if the symptoms are more severe, then it must be the ‘new thing’. (I heard people discussing yesterday whether Chik-V really existed or if it was dengue given another name.)

When people (and it’s politicians in the lead) use words like ‘epidemic’, that conjours up images in people’s minds of widespread sickness, suffering and deaths. They also start to think that treatment must be something very elaborate, to deal with this ‘terrible’ thing. So, when medical experts recommend their simple treatments people start to feel ‘cheated’, when it’s the following (as stated by the CDC):

  • There is no medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection or disease.
  • Decrease the symptoms:
    • Get plenty of rest
    • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
    • Take medicines, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain.

If people are going to pay a lot of money to be tested or just get a doctor to diagnose, they want to feel that money is well spent. They want remedies that are something sophisticated or exotic, or revert to ‘bush remedies’ because all the fuss must warrant something more than a few over-the-counter medicines. That’s where the intemperateness comes in. By all means question the figures, but they are calculated on a particular basis so that they can make sense over time. That’s in the nature of developing reliable data, rather than “My doctor told me that he saw 20 people who all had it…”. But, we need to let people really understand what they are dealing with, in terms of numbers, and real sickness–symptoms and consequences: it’s not Ebola, or bubonic plague, but a virus that results in pain but whose ‘cure’ is really simple.Chicken little Gloating about numbers of ‘suspected’ cases, and starting that that dwarfs ‘confirmed’ cases, is a sort of school boyish, “Nah, nah, nah” utterance, and just confuses people. (Being a suspect in a case is not the same as being convicted of a crime.) But, maybe, that doesn’t suit the objectives of those yelling “the sky is falling”; maybe  Chicken Little is gonna get you.

So, today, I’m in my “You huh ha fi like me mood”. I’m tired of silly people holding responsible positions and acting like they’ve not a clue what to do.

Modesty becomes ridiculous at Tivoli Gardens High School (Courtesy of the Gleaner)