Articulate minority? Stand your ground. Be like our national heroes.

Every Jamaican ought to think carefully about what Minister Robert Pickersgill said a few days ago when it was mentioned that opinions critical of the NHT and its purchase of Orange Grove/Outameni experience were being expressed on social media. “No ordinary Jamaican not speaking about it…Twitter? Twitter is ordinary Jamaican? Ordinary Jamaicans know anything about Twitter?” Pickersgill said. He added that Jamaicans on Twitter are an “articulate minority” and the outcry was “politically motivated”.

Now, it’s worth noting that Mr. Pickersgill in PNP chairman, and that Jamaica is not a one-party state. His party may be in government, but it is not the guardian of all legitimate views in the country.

Each person can take a view on what was said and what it means. Some may care, some may not. That’s free choice.

Those who are able to express themselves are articulate. So, that could be any one of us. It’s quite an ordinary thing to do, and very common.

Each opinion is a minority one, until joined by enough supporting views to become a majority. But, even if the opinion never reaches the level of a majority, it is still significant. That’s one of the joys of living within a democracy.

When opinions are expressed about political issues, then naturally, they are politically motivated. That cannot be a problem. That’s not profound or something from which to shrink.

The sense of the remarks many get is that being an articulate minority and being politically motivated are somehow wrong. That cannot be a valid criticism of anyone. It’s exactly what the minister/chairman is. So, it seems like a self-defeating criticism. Some would say it verges on a non-statement, being words without much real content.

What is really important is much more than the medium being used to express opinions. Yet, somehow, that seems to matter and is being trivialized. If a person expressed his or her view to another just passing in the street, the fact that few others did so in that place cannot make the view good or bad. Imagine a radio or TV broadcast. It’s not significant because of the medium. At worst, no one could tune in, so the speaker only has a sure audience of the production team at the broadcast station. At best, everyone could tune in. But, if no one else agrees with the opinion, we have just another articulate minority. What matters is the content of what is in the broadcast.

The sense that being articulate is a problem can easily be taken as an insult to those who strive to make the most of themselves by education. Can it really be the case that remaining inarticulate is what people should strive for? Is that the view of a Cabinet minister who thinks well of his country’s attempts at progress? Maybe, our Minister of Education should weigh in.

I mentioned to someone that each Jamaican voter is an articulate minority, and is very much an ordinary person, and should be proud of it. Until each vote is joined by others of the same type, all we have is the view of the articulate minority. In fact, our electoral system of first-past-the-post ensures that many governments can be formed based solely on the views of an articulate minority, not that of any majority. In that sense, this articulate minority status is dangerous.

Take a look at voter turnout in Jamaica over the last 60 odd years. Because of the age and other limitations on who can vote, national elections have been decided by no more than about one-third of the population. Just look at those who voted, relative to those registered to vote, where the proportion is tending to decline. We see that governments are being elected by a minority of the registered voters–an articulate minority.

The 2011 result is the latest such instance. Most Jamaican people did not vote for the current government.

We may lament the 53 percent voter turnout for being low, but the 47 percent who did not bother to vote were the inarticulate majority, and who gave a hoot about them? The winning party was ecstatic that it could claim the articulate minority as its base for victory. Each voter was, of course, politically motivated. (A cynic would say that the motivation was simple greed in some cases, where votes were encouraged by favours given by politicians.) When the articulate minority supports your view it’s acceptable?

So, Minister Pickersgill can think about having gone full circle.

I often say that when people are faced with significant opposition to their views they clutch at what seem like convenient straws. These straws are often very poor cover. It seems like we have another example.

My parents were both educated in Jamaica and put their time then into working for their country. They voted and were glad for that privilege, whether their votes went to a winning candidate or not. My father often told me about the time when his mother could not go to school and could not vote. Both things were very different from what he and my mother experienced. He was so glad to have seen that change. My grandmother was part of the Jamaica that had no political voice. The country came to reject that situation.

The implication that some small body of intelligent people expressing themselves is a problem has little merit. People who can think for themselves and are not afraid to share their views are always a threat. But being a threat is good, not bad. Unless, those in power don’t want opposition.

More important, Jamaica is full of such people and justly proud of it. Think of our national motto: out of many, one people. That’s what the articulate minority produces.

Our national heroes are many examples of what the articulate minority looked like and what it could do. Do we want to reject Marcus Garvey for being in the articulate minority? Sam Sharpe died for being the articulate minority.

Many whom we now see as icons in our society were of the articulate minority. Rastafarian beliefs are very much that. Bob Marley is not classed officially as a national hero. His articulate minority views captivated our nation and then many other places. Reject him?

As the country moves towards rethinking its position on marihuana, do we want to just dismiss that articulate minority view that now seems to be the one that prevails?

Many Jamaicans see themselves as Christians. Without wanting to seem irreverent, the pillar of that faith was a member of the articulate minority.

Is this kind of person and his position on what Minister Pickersgill is heaping scorn?

If so, I’d be very worried.

Flying tonight

Those who travel often know that it’s hardly fun these days.

You get the shock with American airlines of often being locked in a capsule of the economy cabin for hours without the option of a meal. That’s the case with flights around up to 3 hours. You get offered free ‘beverages’, ie water, sodas, juice, tea or coffee. For alcohol, you pay. On longer flights, you may be offered ‘food for sale’.

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Food for sale. Low calorie water is free

On a flight to California, due to last 6 hours or so, first class passengers get dinner. The rest get a pack of alfalfa seeds, a clay pot, soil and a bottle of water. They can either drink the water or use it to wet their seeds. By the time they land, their dinner will be sprouted and ready to eat.

We travel a lot. Once we knew the 411, we found a little sandwich bar and bought one of their wide selections of chicken Caesar salads.

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Nomnomnom

Once we settled into our seats, we could imagine the old-time luxury of air travel.

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Those were the days

I lie. We were still cramped and wondering whether this was really fun.

The state we’re in. If not ‘failed’, then what?

Renowned journalist, Ian Boyne, has been lecturing renowned journalist, Cliff Hughes on whether Jamaica is a failed state. This may seem to be arcane stuff just for intellectuals. However, I suggest everyone think about it, carefully.

Boyne understandably goes for the books to find the official definition of a failed state. He wrote (my stress):

‘The respected Foreign Policy magazine had for years been publishing its annual failed-state list. When political scientists talk about failed states, they have certain features in mind, such as state collapse, having whole parts of a country’s territory controlled by rebel forces or outside of central control; a state where social and public services have totally collapsed; and where state authority cannot be asserted in critical areas. A state with military intervention, political manipulation of the judiciary, alienation from the international community, etc.’

Naturally, by that standard, Jamaica is not officially classed as a failed state. Boyne goes on to stress that the term of art used by political scientists has now moved to look at the fragility of states. The map below shows the world according to this fragility measure. Jamaica is ranked amongst the less fragile (#119, where a high number is a good mark, with South Sudan being #1 and Somalia #2; Sweden is #177).

Fragile states compared
Fragile states compared

In defence of Jamaica’s not officially making the failed state grade, he cites our freedom of press, freedom of assembly, and our liberal democracy. But, all of that is well and good, in the realm of discussion by political scientists. However, they make up such a small portion of the world’s thinking people, and of those who have to live their lives under different regimes. So, I think that, while they may try to help us codify and understand things in a certain way, theirs is not the final word. I think what the general population believes makes a lot more sense. I will come back to that.

Boyne acknowledges our many social and economic failings in a follow-up article, where he wrote (my stress):

‘There is a strong, overwhelming sense that Jamaica’s Independence dream has been betrayed; that it has become a nightmare, with many wishing they could turn back the clock. There is a high degree of political disillusionment in the country, and this is not confined to disappointment with the present administration, but with the political system and political class in general.’

That indictment gets to what many see as a clear failure of the state. Jamaica has not made a success of itself. Boyne touches on some of the reasons, not least the awkward convenience of crime and politics rubbing shoulders and our garrison politics.

So, what is Jamaica? If we want to live by official definitions, then we may have to create a category for states that have failed miserably to deliver much by way of quality of life for the majority of its population. Should it be the ‘mediocre’ state? It could be the ‘disenchantment’ state. Or, the ‘never really tried, so give us another chance’ state? How about ‘we look after our friends and stuff the rest of you’ state. I’m sure that a ranking could be found that slots us in well. In the same way that measuring GDP does not capture well what is really happening in a country in terms of quality of live, notwithstanding the general agreement on the measurement elements, the ‘failed’ state definition is not the end of the debate. Rather, it is a point for discussion. As Bhutan has decided to try to measure gross national happiness, so we should think about measuring our ‘gross national disenchantment’ (If I wanted to use a more profane term, such as p***ed-offness, we could get a new measure of GNP.)

I think that the refuge taken in official definitions in an interesting piece of positioning. (It’s not consistently done, as some have noted, because the use of ‘terrorist’ is a rather loose one. But, let me leave that piece of semantics alone, for the moment.)

Like with the notion of corruption, we have to move away from a strict definition of something to a point that many understand to be very acceptable. Transparency International does not try to measure actual corruption, but perceptions of corruption. The world runs with this, quite well. Likewise, I think we can, at least, live without the strict definition of ‘failed’ state, and work with the perception of a ‘failed’ state, in ways that really affect the lives of most.

In another vein, we may have the skeleton of acceptable governance, but the body has very little by way of solid flesh. It’s that way in many countries, where they have met the letter of the laws, but have not put in place mechanisms to have those laws applied effectively.

I write all of that in the wake of the latest piece that suggests that the state fails its population, the running sore that is the NHT purchase of Outameni Experience/Orange Grove.

It’s important to see Jamaica for what it is. It is not a success. It has many trappings of failure in the broadest sense. We are not in some middle ground, though some would say that life in the country is like purgatory

How else do you categorise a country that has the high levels of murder per head of population that we have? We were not so long ago, deemed the ‘murder capital’ of the world. A failure to ensure a high level of safety from crime. Reducing slightly the rate of killings does not erase the high stock deaths that have been at the hands of murderers.

How else do you categorise a country that has had almost the highest rate of killings of civilians by its security forces? The official, legal definition of ‘extra judicial killing’ fits Jamaica.

How else do you categorise a country that woefully underserves its school and college graduates?

Pontificating about the political scientists’ definition of a failed state may read well, but it misses the essential point. Jamaica has failed. Merriam Webster defines ‘fail’ as:

  • to not succeed
  • to end without success
  • to not succeed as a business
  • to become bankrupt
  • to not do (something that you should do or are expected to do)

We meet the definition, fully.

The body is in pain

My gut dislikes almost everything I’ve heard about the purchase by NHT of property in Trelawny, whether land alone or land and buildings.

My head aches when I think that senior public officials did not see any need to inform the minister handling the portfolio about the purchase. The latest justification, that it was never the practice in the 38 years of the NHT sounds like a last refuge from utter contempt for the people at large and their chief representative, in particular. It beggars belief that NHT thought this was some humdrum transaction.

My belly rumbles at the sound of NHT board members defiantly saying they won’t resign. So comfortable are they in their rightness? If so, resignation would show a willingness to have that view reaffirmed. Being reappointed is very normal, if someone is really as good as he thinks.

This view was supported, though, by the slick appointment of new board members. That stamped the view that all is well on board HMS NHT.

The mutiny amongst the public, at many levels, that was rumbling loudly never got a change of Captain. The Admiral made sure of that.

My body is not in a good state.

My country is not in a good state. That state is due in large part to a State that shows too often that it doesn’t feel what we feel. That is despite all the good sounding statements to the contrary.

Long run, short catch

I went to the dentist this morning, to have a crown fitted. I’d just been listening to Irie FM’s Jamaica Corner, which looks at cultural aspects and has a proverb for the day. Today’s was ‘long run, short catch’.

I walked into the dentist office and was met by an nice lady, in her 70s. I told her the time of my appointment and we started joking about if I was a timely person. I said time would tell. I repeated the first part of the proverb and she completed it. A young boy sat in the corner. I asked him if he knew its meaning. He nodded. I asked him to explain, and he just smiled.

As one site quotes, the meaning is simple: It may take a long while for you to be caught and punished for wrong-doing, but you will be caught one day.

I’m now at home, waiting to hear about the press conferences by the NHT and PM about the purchase of Orange Grove/Outameni Experience. Proverbially, waiting?

Proverbially speaking. Outameni goes out a body, and who’s pulling your plonker?

Jamaicans are well-accustomed to proverbs, and many people live by them. I know that not everyone is consumed by the news that appears in the newspapers, on radio, or on television. But, I’m assuming that the reader has heard of the Outameni scandal…saga…debacle. Call it what you like. My mind runs to what it says about the Jamaican character, because so many things are all about what ‘seems natural’ to us, in this case, as a nation.

Jamaicans seem so used to hustling that it doesn’t seem possible to not do it in any walk of life. How else can we explain the sort of dealings that are going on over the aptly named ‘Outameni Experience’? Man a jus run a likkle ting!

Not everyone wants to ‘run a thing ‘s the extent of being a hardened criminal, like Rhygin, but many are ready to ‘run a thing’ to make sure that they don’t get left out of di runnins wha gwan. Snooze you lose. So, we have electricity theft, theft from JUTC, theft from NWC…and a little bit of thievery from the people. How else can one explain the idea bandied around by some on the NHT board that buying a property under is assessed value signifies a profit to be made? “Man, yu nuh si di deal mi get?” Only one genius in the world could see the riches that would come from spending J$18 million an acre for land that is worth much less than that?

The great thing about having young children when you are well advanced in years is that you can tell that you’ve seen it all before, and they will likely believe you. So, to the NHT board, I say, I have had my plonker pulled many times before and I know how it feels.

Del Boy had his plonker pulled many times. Look at his smile.
Del Boy had his plonker pulled many times. Look at his smile.

Anyway, sort of getting back to my initial theme. The Outameni debacle is in danger of being an out-of-body experience. It’s turning into a proverbial nightmare for an increasing number of people. But, here’s where the Jamaican experience can help. We have a proverb–in fact, often more than one–for everything. So, let me suggest a few choice ones for those who are embroiled in this growing fiasco.Bart out of body

We run t’ings, t’ings noh run we. Translated: Control your own destiny. Except, some people will be run out of jobs and maybe out-of-town. So, control of one’s destiny cannot be assured in the murky world of politics.

A noh siame diay leaf drop a river bottom it rotten. Translated:Time is the master. One will wait a long time to catch up with someone who offends him or her. The time is nigh….Muwhaha…

Noh cup noh brok, noh coffee noh trow weh. Translated: If you survive unharmed, everything is fine. The emphasis here is on ‘survival’. Judging by the rapid exodus from the NHT board, the fittest may already have left, not be amongst those clinging on for dear (get it?) life.

When the PM speaks tomorrow, all of this may come flooding back.

Apology accepted, Senator Nicholson

Many adages exist about getting things right the second time. However, many people know that life is often not about second chances.

Yesterday, I read Senator A. J. Nicholson’s full, second apology for his recent ‘flexi-rape’ comment during a Senate debate, made in a long letter to the Senate President. It said everything that needed to be said, and more–it had the formality and fulsomeness of contrition and sincerity, which his first apology lacked, which he acknowledged fully. I’m not going to analyse it beyond that.

The second apology may go down as a template of how public pressure can make politicians understand fully what people don’t tolerate and how to address their own offensive actions and words. It could be copied by a growing list of politicians, who show an arrogance and contempt for the population that verges on bring nauseating.

In an ideal world, the second apology would be essential reading for any budding public official.

Read it in full, yourself.

MR. PRESIDENT:

On Friday, October 31, whilst Senator Malahoo-Forte was making her presentation in the debate on the Flexible Working Arrangements Bill in this chamber, I muttered some fateful words from my seat.

My initial failure promptly to withdraw that awkward and insensitive remark has been greatly frowned upon. A three paragraph apology issued by me the next day seems to have been rejected by the wider society. My conduct has provoked considerable controversy. The view has been taken that my eventual withdrawal and apology lacked sincerity.
In the result, I wish today and for the record, first to restate my apology for allowing those most unfortunate words to fall from my lips; second for my hesitancy in recanting and last, for issuing what, I now agree was not a sufficiently full apology.

It is my devout hope that before I sit, I will have been able to convince my peers as well as the country, especially our women, that I am truly sorry on all three accounts. For despite my raiments, I am covered in sackcloth and ashes. I seek forgiveness even as I pray that the controversy will be put to peaceable rest.

Now Mr. President rape is certainly no joke. It provides no occasion for amusement or thoughtless banter. It is a grievous crime with which Jamaica
and indeed the entire civilized world have grappled from the earliest times.

In fact the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has recognized that rape and all forms of violence against women generally, are so pervasive and reprehensible that it adopted Resolution 1994/45 of that year affirming its abhorrence of those atrocities, by the appointment of a Special Rapporteur.

Mr. President: I rendered the longest direct service in our history as Attorney General of Jamaica for 12 plus years. It was with a clear understanding and appreciation of the gravity of the matter of women’s rights that in the capacity of Attorney General, I chaired the Joint Select Committees established by Parliament to tender proposals for enhancing the protection of women and the advancement of women’s rights. The Family Property (Rights of Spouses) Act, the Sexual Offences Act, now being re-examined, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms were all crafted with the benefit of input from those Committees.

Mr. President, like your good self, I was socialized to be especially respectful and protective of women and girls; to place them on a pedestal and give them pride of tender place. We were all brought up to recognize and acknowledge that rape is a most horrific act of violence – a dreadfully demeaning and absolutely intolerable experience.
Thus, our criminal law has long reserved a very harsh regime of condign punishment for perpetrators convicted of the offence of rape. Moreover, it is within living memory that that regime at one time included whipping at the beginning and at the end of related terms of imprisonment. That particular incident was popularly called “lash in” and “lash out”!

Do permit me to say Mr. President that it was therefore uncharacteristic of me, fortunately a happily married family man, to make fun or light of what is clearly a very, very serious matter. Although I intended no disrespect, I was plainly and terribly wrong in what I said and thoughtlessly. I repeat: I displayed lamentable insensitivity. For this painful error I beg that all concerned persons will be good enough to accept the profound and unqualified apology which I tender today.

By way of partial amends, I intend to demonstrate and thereby underscore the extent of my remorse by participating in whatever way that I can, and otherwise to associate myself, with the activities related to this year’s celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, next Tuesday November 25.

Mr. President, in addition to my broad apology to our womenfolk at home and abroad, I wish to seize this opportunity, by your leave and through you, to make reference in an especial way to Senator Malahoo Forte. I reaffirm that by my clumsy attempt at humour I meant not the slightest affront, to her or to anyone else.

Secondly, to you Mr. President and, both sides of this honourable Senate, I proffer my unreserved apology for my unbecoming behaviour. Ours is the highest limb of the Legislature and our conduct in here should be exemplary in all respects. When therefore, an error of judgment such as I made is pointed out, the proper thing to do is to recant and make amends.

The record shows that initially I put myself in a quandary and resisted suggestions that I should withdraw the remark. For this also and with utmost sincerity, I say that I am sorry. This Chamber deserved better, has received better from me, and will witness no such repetition by me.

Thirdly, please do permit me to extend this apology Sir, to the Prime Minister who sits in the other place, and to the political party which I proudly represent. My remark and behavior, particularly as the Leader of Government Business in this place, brought me into direct conflict with the tenets, principles and practices of the People’s National Party. I assure all the world that I shall not err in this unguarded way ever again – not even under the breath, let alone sotto voce.

Finally Mr. President, I embrace my dear wife and family in these sentiments. I have come to share the ordeal they have had to undergo by reason of my churlish conduct.

Consonant with these apologies, I recommit myself to continue striving for the perpetual elevation of the women of Jamaica and the world to their rightfully high and respected station, not only at the workplace, but at all levels of civilized society.

Thank you, Mr. President.

However, life is about actions not words, and Senator Nicholson has now to take the actions to which he has committed himself, and he knows that ultimately this will form the basis on which history will judge him.

You can bank on me, but be patient

I spent too long in a bank, yesterday, doing a routine transaction. My daughter’s piano teacher wants her to take one of the music board exams. She wanted proof of payment by today, meaning a deposit voucher. So, I stood in line for over an hour to put $4000 or so into the board’s account. The line was about 40 people long when I joined it, and it stayed about that amount as people came and went.

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When I joined three cashiers were working.

Some in the line began venting their frustration. A lady several places ahead grumbled about how the many other bank staff were doing nothing and could ease things by dealing with the line. She looked over to the customer service desk and complained how “there was no customer service”. I just happened to have been given clear advice from the person at that desk. “That’s nonsense,” I chimed in and explained why. The lady rolled on with her serial complaints. She was going to vent.

A man just in front of me started opining about how “we need to unite” and get the country moving in a better way. He chanted that two more cashiers would ease our waiting a lot. I began discussing with him the problems of slow cashiers and customers who love to talk about the world and their mothers. In the meantime, another cashier started to work. The line started to move a little faster.

I avoid going to banks. I pay every utility bill online. I use ATM to withdraw cash and now to make deposits. The limits on cash withdrawal from ATM force me to join the lines, occasionally, so that I can deal with some bigger cash transactions. Jamaica is heavily dependent on cash and I can’t change that singlehandedly. I try by using my debit/credit card a lot.

I’m not used to having to be in banks. But, most Jamaicans are. They spend hours there and I wondered about the lost man hours and productivity it caused. This is nothing new, but it seems in no hurry to change.

It’s chicken and egg. Many organizations are not set up to handle electronic payments. I recalled my long conversations with a hospital about how to settle bills other than by visiting it’s office or a bank. I felt like the archetypal alien. But, I got my way to work. Maybe, my refusal to schlep around helped.

My line was moving well and I was next to a large cardboard poster of a smiling bank employee, welcoming me and promising to serve me better.

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I felt like putting my money into her hands and asking her to call me when all was done. It was an ironic assertion.

Some comments suggested that free WiFi would make waiting more bearable. One man was using his time to make his lotto picks. I noticed that some people were in line for others, mainly businesses, as places were exchanged. That made sense. Such is life. I would have liked tea and biscuits, milk no sugar and Digestives. Banks, please note.

Just like that, I was at the front. My “unity” man was already being served. He smiled at me. “You see, extra cashier made a difference,” he said with a smirk.

Over one hour had been spent in the company of my affable compatriots. I looked over at the section of the bank where senior citizens were seated, for their special services. They did not seem to have budged. Such is life.

Out of excuses: the sad wastage of national trust

The controversy swirling around the National Housing Trust and how it’s funds have been used to buy land in Trelawny that hosts the Outameni Experience is classic. Without going into the details, much of the discussion revolves around something very simple, but essential: national trust.

The many obvious plays on words that Outameni evokes are sadly ironic. Jamaica’s national motto, ‘Out of many, one people’ comes quickly to mind.

If national trust does not exist, the one people who could come out of many, must become divided.

We can all find elected and appointed officials wanting and disappointing in their individual or collective responsibilities. We get encouragement from their willingness to acknowledge that, and also deal with our questions as if they understand the reasonable need for answers. After all, we cannot have them sit with us regularly at breakfast or over a drink and just let loose on what they’ve done.

But defensiveness and obfuscation are more the norm than the exception. I remember making that point as a characteristic of public servants in Jamaica soon after I returned last year and hear the then public defender on local radio. It was too ironic that the public defender seemed so focused on his personal defence.

Much is wrong with politics in Jamaica. Voters have much power in their hands in that regard. But, the electorate does not appoint most public officials. Elected officials and other agencies are charged with keeping them in check. However, they often don’t and we all reap the whirlwind. Too many instances of lax oversight of appointed officials exist. We can rightly look to elected officials to correct that, but they are compromised because many such officials are ‘placements’, to suit political preferences and whims.

National trust is an asset, but like any asset, it can be wasted.

We are the Champions! But, have we learned the lessons?

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Reggae Boyz, victorious in the Caribbean Cup, and the coach is happy

They did it. The Jamaican men’s national team, aka the Reggae Boyz, won the Caribbean Cup last night. The flat facts are that the game ended 0-0 are normal time, and no goals were scored in extra time, so the match went to a penalty shoot out. Jamaica started well, scoring its first two penalties. Trinidad missed its first. All looked set till Jamaica missed its third kick, putting some drama into proceedings. But, Trinidad (FIFA rank 49) did not seem as comfortable, and when their kicker skied their fifth shot, the cup was Jamaica’s by a 4-3 margin.

Pandemonium followed as the relatively small crowd got the win they had hoped for. The coach, Winfred Schäfer was a little overcome with emotion immediately after the match, but had breath enough to utter that the team benefited from its preparation.

The simple profundity of that point may be lost on some. But, I am one of those who have wondered why the national team had been on a path set to fail rather than succeed, with a series of friendly matches notable for the lack of time to prepare. Off to Europe, long flights, tight schedule…results showed that very good teams have little sympathy with mediocre teams who are not up for the game. The result that stood out was the 8-0 drubbing by France (FIFA rank 7). I don’t know if Jamaicans were really shocked rather than embarrassed.

More recently, the team schlepped off to Japan (FIFA rank 52), and reportedly had half an hour to practice before the match. The ‘narrow’ 1-0 loss is not the thing to focus on, but the fact that having taken two days to reach a destination then try to play a high-level match is the action of the suicidal. Jet lag. Climate difference. Cultural difference. Away match nerves. Name many other things that were working against a team. Then, to practice as long as most people spend on dinner is a travesty.

If I were a serious Jamaican, I would have called for the head of someone, and I did in an indirect way. But, this is the fault of the Jamaican Football Federation, which needs money so badly it cannot put its players into a national training camp and find opposition to play at home or nearer than in Asia, and present the country with stale excuses about why the team is losing.

Jamaica’s FIFA ranking slumped badly as a result of the farcical venture and the string of losses, and sat at 113 coming into the Cup competition. To me, that alone should have been a humiliating outcome of a period of ‘rebuilding’. The nonsense was best summarised by the fact that they were ranked lower than Antigua and Barbuda (#70).

Many people looked at the ranking without understanding that the placement matters. Players cannot get into the major European leagues if their national teams are ranked outside the top 75, so Jamaica’s development could be hurt by that unnecessary slip.

The country has an abundance of talented players. We are not spoiled by the riches that Louis van Gaal has to manage at Manchester United–are any of his subs Jamaicans? But, we have a small crop of players capable of holding their own in the premier divisions around Europe. We could have more and that should be the aim. The current coach understands that locally-based players cannot compete well enough against seasoned internationals in much better teams, who are almost all playing in the top leagues in Europe or Latin America. National pride is not really hurt because the team has only 4 locals in the squad. Antigua– a tiny nation–has realised this, and had only two (if memory is right).

Much of the discussion about football that goes on locally is not about the national team: it’s about schoolboy football. That really sums up one of the major dilemmas. Local football at the professional level is not that good. That has to change. We would be laughed out of the room if we went around touting how well Jamaica College had been doing in the Mannings Cup and wondering if STETHS would again haul in the Dacosta Cup, and who were the real close rivals. Truth is, though, that professional football is at least the second class citizen in that conversation. Few have resources as good as the schools on which to play.

Talk has moved, recently, towards how the local professional game can be developed and the many ideas all have some merit. Will any of it materialise? Well, the chances are improved by a better performance this past week. Backers like winners. It’s a better platform on which they can build.

Let’s hope that Coach Schäfer can get enough time with his players to run good camps before each set of fixtures. The Captain (Horace Burrell) should know that to bake well, the ingredients need to given time to rise before they are put into the heat of the oven.