Jamaica and its crime. The shame and blame has smeared us all.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that many people think that Jamaica is as near to a living Hell as anyone would wish to encounter. Our reputation for murdering each other precedes us with a huge banner saying ‘ENTER AT YOUR PERIL’. So, I should not have been shocked when an American woman sated that Jamaica was so dangerous that her ‘important’, ‘high profile’, ‘big family’ friend, whom I ‘must know’, couldn’t go out jogging. She didn’t say where her friend lived in Jamaica.

I asked her whether her friend was tied up in her home and unable to break her shackles to escape the obvious phalanx of bodyguards who were keeping constant watch for the marauding villains were ready to assault her person. she said no.

I talked about the fact that The Bahamas in which this lady was so moving so casually, albeit with friends who tended to live in a largely expatriate enclave, was fast approaching if not exceeding Jamaica on murders per person.

The woman’s blind faith in her vision of Jamaica was what bothered me most. Our country carried the ‘THIS IS A WARZONE’ banner. I imagined she’d never dared take a visit. What, and be killed, raped, robbed, and more?

I did not go to the images that the world has of her homeland, despite its motto of ‘land of the free, home of the brave’. Police brutality against black people. Rampaging youths, killing masses of innocent people in schools or public places. The astonishing number of accidental deaths because people were careless with loaded weapons, to the extent that little children were being both killed and killers.

Somehow, her view of Jamaica was not tempered by a view of her own country that suggested ‘We’re pretty terrible ourselves’.

I guess that’s what really ticked me off.

The recent flippity flop that has been official reaction to crime data bothers me more because of people like this woman, stated is as pejorative a way as I can muster for that term. Our minister of national security is not a fool. He is not someone who has no clue about how others perceive him. I suspect that none of his predecessors were much different in those regards.

Why do I have to defend our record? Because we have ineffective police? Because we have accommodating politicians, who have let tolerance of criminal behaviour become part of what they do at least implicitly? You can’t counter anything you don’t truly oppose.

Wally British says it best: I am tyyrrrrddd of a clear unwillingness to take this wretched bull by its horn. If you let insects bite you, you must run the risk of getting infected. So, you do your best to ward off the insects, or some swat them, or some just stay away from them, or we take away their breeding grounds and habitats. We’ve gotten into this problem with crime.

We have not made full efforts to take this approach to crime, except largely with statements that don’t have substance as good as their words.

We can’t ward off criminals with a justice system that has a low rate of clearing up reported crimes.

We can’t swat them with courts that are do overloaded with cases as to warrant 24-hour sittings.

So, we stay away or try to do so, in gated communities, by limiting our public appearances, by not venturing into certain areas, by staying away from the country.

We can’t take away breeding grounds and habitats with an economy that is so emaciated as to look like a starving person, with bones jutting through wafer thing cracking skin. People without work or the realistic prospect of it, have few realistic options to make money that don’t involve crime. So, save the platitudes such as ‘go and get a job’ or ‘be productive’, as some intelligent people toss at young people or those hustling in some way.

The jutting bones are the creaky public services that most have to tolerate, after years of wasted spending or underspending. That includes the public infrastructure that reminds me of countries that went through wars, rather than a country that has never had a true war on its soil (no disrespect to the Maroon Wars).

In truth, politicians can’t save the country from its criminal reputation, and it can’t happen quickly unless we scoop up everyone and dump them all into the Caribbean deep. People have to take more chances to tackle it themselves. But, they need to get beyond their fears, including the irrational ones uttered by that woman.

The rock keeps on rolling: into the 60s with a child of the 60s

I was in full philosophical mode yesterday: it was my 60th birthday. Friends went quickly into ‘hailing the milestone’ mode. I wasn’t up for that. Each day is a milestone and I’m glad for everyone, not really understanding why the one coinciding with my birth is so special as to negate the rest.

Anyway, like it or not, I had to be all business. I was traveling to Nassau to watch my daughter play in a football tournament. She’d started her packing from the weekend. She’s learning about planning. I packed in the morning; I’ve done this gig a few hundred times. That took about 15 minutes.

As I got ready, a wave of nostalgia hit me and pushed my musical memory button. I then spent about an hour searching online clips that marked my eclectic musical journey. I barely scratched the surface with the selection. As I recalled singers, songs, lyrics and riffs, I wandered along the path that got me to this latest birthday.

My mind moved from the trends that were developing in Jamaica in the early 1960s, through England and the USA in the 1960s-90s, onto Africa, back to the Caribbean. I know a lot of professional musicians and rubbed shoulders with them in my youth. I never gained their mastery of instruments and singing, though. So, I was more a frustrated musician than a good player. However, I often told myself that it’s not possible to be very good at everything. I was a pretty good sprinter and footballer. So, I rest contented that sport was more my metier and I’m still not yet done:)

The short musical journey was fun. Every now and then a notion hit me, such as a clear liking for falsetto singers, like Curtis Mayfield then and Frank Ocean now. I also had to acknowledge how being thrust into Europe formed my tastes. English rock music gets as much space in my heart as does most forms of Jamaican music. I love Led Zeppelin and Cream and King Crimson and Yes and Free, and more. But, I love Buju and Bob and Beres and Jimmy and The Upsetters and Sizzla and Chronixx.

Anyway, the journey didn’t end, though my pending flight put sharing it on hold. I was happy to see many friends finding affinity with the choices. It’s a project to be continued.

I headed to the airport. My daughter’s school group was mostly checked in already. I left them to do their thing. One of the ladies at security check couldn’t understand why I was leaving my child behind. I explained. She didn’t know girls played football in Jamaica. I suggested she check out the information on the Reggae Girlz. Stunning what passes people. I went to a quiet spot on the lounge and read messages and had a snack.

Boarding was simple and the travel was uneventful.

I had only carry-on luggage. The Bahamas vets arriving flights from Jamaica closely and bags usually take nearly an hour to arrive. That’s to be avoided. Also, long lines in Immigration don’t add to my general ladidahness.

Years of IMF mission travel honed my experience in shortening airport procedures and I use that. So, I was headed to my rental car about 30 minutes after landing.

I was due to stay with some of my in laws and met them at the airport coming back from a trip. All was set. I left my kid to go to meet her host family and headed to my digs.

I was not in expectation mode and happily settled into the sound of crying 2 month-old and happy 4 year-old. It was a nice contrast to being on the edge of old fogeydom.

A friend sent a message asking that I send back news of what life was like the other side of 60. I’ve met others who’ve ventured there and lived to tell the tale.

I’m just listening to a cock crowing behind some bushes on a Bahamian island, and watching live tennis from Australia on an iPad. A Swiss is playing a Serb and a man with Thailand roots but a plummy English accent is umpire. That’s indicative of what has happened over the decades.

New day. New dawn. The rock rolls on.

Being left clueless on crime? Why so little analysis of what we say is a major problem?

One thing that has struck me since I came back to Jamaica, nearly 2 years ago, is the discussion about crime and crime levels. What strikes me is that there’s not much discussion about crime, but a lot about crime levels, ie, statistics, and crime types. This is most notable when the topic is murders. The figures on those are the ones most regularly issued and liable to get media attention. But, the attention is on the figures: killings go up and down, and the media gets comments from the minister of national security, police commissioner, or both, or their spokespersons. Political opponents react, often lambasting the minister for the ‘job’ he’s not doing, whether or not the crime levels are better or worse than when the opposition spokesperson was in office. But, the citing of figures comes without little convincing analysis by the officials and media of what the numbers really reflect. The officials don’t help, because their focus tends to be on the numbers, save for some ‘explanations’ that mention special factors. One of those is ‘gang-related’ killings. But, the media do not seem to have any desire to look beyond the numbers.

The interactions between politicians are somewhat odd, as if they are really able to control crime levels. Agreed, policies that are put in place or changed are expected to have effects, but, I struggle to understand how these are supposed to work. They often talk about levels of policing and location of police. That suggests that violent crime is somehow drawn to certain places and, like cockroaches or rats, by laying bait nearby one can nab the culprits. But, the killings, while showing some degree of geographical concentration, don’t seem to want to play this game. The game gets less meaningful when, as in 2014, one notices a sharp increase in non-gang-related crimes. That suggests some endemic factors going on in the society to drive people towards violent solutions to problems.

I struggle to see much help being given consistently by academics to either the police and security forces or the media. If I missed that, sorry, but that goes to a wider issue about how academia enters into the discussion of national development issues. The Internet is not the full universe of information, but it is more readily accessible. My search there showed some useful work, including a book entitled ‘Understanidng Violent Crime in Jamaica’. But, who’s drawing on that?

The minister was happy to report a significant decline in reported crimes in 2014, including murders. I was immediately skeptical. I saw and heard nothing that went remotely near to explaining why this might have occurred. A few weeks later, murders are occurring at a much faster rate, and the talk is of their reaching 100 by month-end. That’s a magic number, as its a big round figure that grabs the attention.

The minister then said yesterday that murders are random and numbers will fall and rise. That’s a complicated point to make to the world. It basically says that we’ve no control over factors leading people to kill about three fellow citizens a day. It’s really not that dramatic that murders fall from say 3.39 a day to 2.88. It’s still about 3. We’ve not put a finger in what leads to that high rate. We can get excited positively when the number is one or less a day for a long period. Likewise, we could be really alarmed if the figure went to about 6 for any extended period. But, hovering around 3 tells me that nothing much is happening to tackle any underlying causes. But, my immediate concern was why the minister had not said this about randomness when the numbers moved in a favourable direction in 2014? That smacks of opportunism, and seems to be playing politics.

Why can’t we see some analysis that shows that gang-related killings occur and try to elaborate on what is going on between gangs, and where, to result in this? Sure, we can get the idea that ‘turf wars’ are occurring, but over what and who else may be drawn into these battles? For instance, do they revolve around drugs, other illegal economic activities, or other legal activities. One thought being that if, say extortion in the ‘turf’, then whose activities or which areas are being fought over?

Likewise, we need to get a handle on why people who are not involved in gang warfare are killing. In recent days, we’ve heard about horrible crimes involving the killing of young children. Who is trying to understand what is going on there? I read a story from Cote d’Ivoire, in west Africa earlier this week that dealt with the surge in ritualistic killings of young children. We know that society is full of oddballs, and we need to understand if we may be in the midst of such people, or if there is something else going on that may be systematic, not just random, as the minister suggested. Random makes sense if we think about, say, domestic violence, but it also goes to how the society has grown up resolving problems. Let’s call that education and culture. If our way of dealing with problems is to beat and punish, then should we be surprised that the ultimate beating and punishment will result in someone losing their life?

Again, my sincerest apologies to anyone in the media if I have missed this, but I cannot recall any probe that looks at, say, the ‘wave’ of child killings, and tries to put the dots in place and see if they draw any picture. If it has been done and no picture appears, then I can live with that. But, I would also like to live with knowing that certain patterns are emerging, or re-emerging. For instance, outside murders, I have noticed a rise in reported sexual assaults. What’s interesting to me is who is, or may be affected. Again, I made a quick search. One stunning point is whether certain crimes cross from being ‘Jamaican on Jamaican’ and jump into the resident foreign population or tourists. That would imply that concern about crime is at different levels, and could affect adversely a range of other viable economic activities. For that reason, it’s worth citing the US Department of State’s report on diplomatic security. When looking at 2013 data, it noted (my emphases):

‘Violent crimes do occasionally impact international visitors. But, most criminal activity is “Jamaican on Jamaican” violence, often involving organized criminal elements and gangs. Over the past year, there were 8 U.S. citizens murdered; 34 reports of robbery; 7 reports of rape and/or sexual assault; 6 reports aggravated assaults; 2 reports kidnapping (parental kidnappings); 9 reports of domestic violence; and 1 report of child abuse. These numbers are not inclusive, and the numbers for rape and/or sexual assaults are believed to be under-reported. Many crimes remain unreported for numerous reasons, including fear of retribution

A special concern continues to be the number of sexual assaults perpetrated by hotel employees at resort hotels on the northern coast, and the need for forceful investigation and follow-up by the hotels and by police and other security officials.’

What that tells me is that a major player in our international relations doesn’t believe our data, and that they think crime is much higher. It also tells me that they do not trust domestic agencies to deal well with the issues. It also points to the weakness of the ‘random’ argument. Organized crime is not a random activity, and if killings are related to that, then they are not random, either. There are other conclusions. But, it does not take a rocket scientist to think about the implications of those conclusions on something like tourism.

But, do we think or discuss these? Hardly. By not doing so, how can we expect to overcome the problem?

I will try to remain constructive and positive, rather than cynical. But, I also have to remember that we are a country built around ‘garrison’ politics and that crime has been an important element in the shaping our political landscape.

Let’s play Trumps. Why? The Kaci’s closed.

As far as I know, how the winner of Miss Universe is decided is not stated. So let’s not waste time speculating about why any Miss won and other Misses missed. So, transparent it is not.

The fan vote helps decide which Miss makes it to the final 15. Many people assume that the series of questions and answers before the final decision matter a lot. Various contestants have said that this isn’t so. It’s more likely that a bunch of opinions get squished together and out of the sausage machine pops the winner and the runners-up.

Immediate audience reactions made clear that naming Miss Jamaica as 4th runner-up, or 5th, was immensely unpopular. That was not part of any script, I presume. The decision by about half of the contestants to hail and hoist Miss Jamaica and declare her their Miss Universe was also surprising and shocking. Social media makes all of this visible to the world in ways that are hard to control. No editing out the live noise. No deleting the photos and videos of the spontaneous hoisting.

I imagine that a few people want to ask Donald Trump for his view of what happened, but I won’t wait.

I’ve seen speculation that, by citing Bob Marley and Usain Bolt as Jamaica’s major contribution to the world, our representative, Kaci Fennell, did her chances irreparable damage. I think that absolute hogwash.

If Miss Fennell had a few hours to spare, and an attentive and knowledgeable audience, I’m sure she could have talked about the relevance of Marcus Garvey, our strong principled stand for non-alignment issues, including opposing Apartheid and supporting Cuba by keeping diplomatic and economic ties. She could have talked about our unique position as the creators of six musical genres during the 20th century. Much more, too, for sure. But she didn’t.

I know many people have no idea about Bolt’s exploits–some Americans, for sure. I remember the blankness in the face of the couple I met in New York when I started about his Olympic and World Championship exploits.

Bob Marley? You mean that long-haired druggie, singing that dreary to reggae music? That’s another view of a person whom many Jamaicans regard as an icon.

But, I think she chose well. Talking generally about music and sports would have left the ignorant searching for a tangible example. Bolt and Marley fitted that.

I’m not going into the disaster of the first set of questions, which were posed in such a garbled fashion as to embarrass a drunk Scotsman on Burns Night.
The organizers could have invited one of our dance hall artistes to pose the questions in their best raw Patois. Imagine Gully Bop or Ninja Man at the mic. Whoooi!

Suggestion to the Trumpeteers, make sure your guests are coherent and clear speakers. Give us a chance to respect the power of great managers in action.

Was it the short hair? If so, then, small mindedness wins again. Not a first.

Miss Jamaica has taken the apparent dissing well. Stay on that high ground.

My view is that she’s got tons to gain by being hoisted up on the cloud of public opinion. She doesn’t have the Manhattan apartment, but she’s free to pick and choose how to use her new fame.

Jamaica has a new hero, crafted out of another case of seeming injustice, We are stronger for that. The upsurge of support for us and criticism of the result by media around the world is new but welcome.

People power is a cliche but it is real. The move to rally on social media is indicative of our age. #MissJamaicashould’vewon is just one reaction that people find is within their grasp. It’s not to be ignored.

The winner is…Miss Jamaica…to the Universe

I don’t do pageants. That means I DO NOT watch, listen to, or read about pageants. I knew that the Miss Universe contest was pending. The news of it drifted before my eyes for weeks. But, I had no idea when or where it would be held. My focus was locked into a range of current events and worldwide sport.

Yesterday was for another 4th round of the English FA Cup. It was the day of the NFL Pro Bowl. A big golf tournament was ending. Greece was holding critical national elections. The African Nation’s Cup was ending its preliminary rounds, having been relocated due to Moroccans’ Ebola fears to Equatorial Guinea. The ‘storm of the century’ was about to hit the US northeast. Terrorists were creating mayhem.

So, who had time for pageantry?

I got wind that the event was going to be shown live at 8pm on Jamaican TV. But, I was locked into the early evening start of the Australian Open tennis: 12 hours of live coverage began at 7pm. It was Australia Day Down Under, with Melbourne 14 hours ahead. My daughter came to kiss me goodnight. After a normal Sunday of her sitting with her mother in our bedroom all day, life was winding down.

I don’t know what happened next. Maybe, like in ‘Bewitched’, someone sprinkled magic dust. Being Jamaica, I could speculate about Obeah.

Anyway, I pointed the remote at the TV and clicked onto TVJ. The Miss Universe pageant was just starting, and contestants were parading their ‘national’ costumes. I’d known about this part. Miss Canada had hit news streams for her rendition of her country’s national game, and had been seen wearing an ice hockey field.

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Oh, Miss Canada

Jamaica’s contestant’s outfit had raised lots of comments, being more carnival-like than many thought befitting of our national costumery. Miss Aruba passed on the stage.

I told my daughter the show was on. She asked if she could watch. Her mother was putting her to bed, but I let her sit with me for a few minutes to see the costumes. “Ooh!” she gasped, as another flamboyant outfit passed. She ran off and I could hear her negotiations upstairs about what channel to watch. Then, quiet. Then, more noise as more costumes passed.

The letter F had arrived. I saw France, then Ghana, then Israel. What was going on? The tennis had started. But, I wasn’t watching it. The Pro Bowl had begun, but I wasn’t watching–we don’t get the main ESPN channel, such is life in the Caribbean. I was watching the pageant.

Miss Jamaica came on in her outfit. I screamed “Yes!” Good Lord!

I’d been following, or trying to follow, the pageant on Twitter, knowing that voting and trending topics were important. But, I don’t do pageants.

I noticed that the level of excitement was high from the start. The flow of tweets from Jamaicans I followed was furious and fast, it was also funny. It was also occasionally serious, touching on the philosophy of such events. But, such remarks went quickly back to wit and irreverence and promoting #Jamaica.

Wait! My fingers were working furiously, too. Good Lord! I was in the stream, flapping and flipping like a salmon swimming upstream, because we’re little and have to outdo the larger countries.

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All beautiful, Kaci Fennell

The wit was brilliant. I noticed that many of Jamaica’s highly intelligent #articulateminority were visibly engaged. Several of its well-known journalists were very evident. Some of its literary and cultural icons were evident. But, they were just like the masses, uttering half-Patois, half-standard English interjections. Lawyers. Politicians. Athletes. A good gathering. They were all watching and laughing at each other watching and hoping. The contest was real, though, and as much positive glow was coming from Yardies. Negative views for anyone non-Jamaican were there, but mostly light-hearted on my timeline.

But, the Twitterati was not alone. I saw images of a packed Half Way Tree Square. This wasn’t an Olympics going on. But, people were packing the street. Big corporations were putting out their messages of support, constantly and stridently. People don’t understand that Jamaicans may seem at odds with each other, but rally together to support each other at the drop of a mango from a tree.

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Crowded WHT for Miss Universe

The pageant was its stereotypical self. Fawning hosts and hostesses. Strange musical choices, with artistes not quite as expected. It had promotions for itself that seemed awkward. It was a Donald Trump event in a city that has lots of his real estate. Doral had a great golf course, Trump National, and it had been part of the preparatory events. They all got ‘the treatment’.

But, the drama was real and getting to difficult emotional points.

Nerves jangled early as the 88 contestants were narrowed down to 15. The first 8 were named; no Miss Jamaica. Then, a commercial break. What?! No! Coverage came back, after we in Jamaica got another dose of our special brand of awful ads. We even had a break in live coverage for our daily lottery draw. Normal idiocy. Back to Doral. Relief. She was named.

Dutch pot lids went off in my head.

We went through the next phases, of swimsuits and ball gowns. Our girl looked special and best. The studio crowd showed her lots of love. The music went on. The Latin flavor of the event seemed stronger. It was Miami. 🙂

We went through another whittling down to the top 10. Oh, stop, my heart, with your bumpityboom! Sweaty hands! Relief. First name out of the bag…Miss Jamaica. Blow wow! I screamed again. Good Lord! Captured.

The male host got out his stick…a selfie stick. Snap. Cliché.

We had more personal profiles and grimaced. That’s pageants.

Now, we moved into the tough part, the last five. It was a nice piece of drama, but it’s over now. Miss Jamaica got called fourth. That’s it! Agony into relief.

Time for agony was coming. The questioning. This is always awkward and nerve-wracking. Could and would the contestants sound genuine and sensible? It was touch and go.

The first questions came from the judges, professional athletes. Why them? I don’t know the logic. They were the picks or pucks, or whatever. But, they were trouble. Few of them spoke clear English. The contestants and audience struggled to understand them. The answers showed confusion and nerves, and a touch of preparedness. Miss Jamaica said she didn’t understand, and had the question repeated. Smart, I thought: get thinking time. But, the answers about dealing with gender abuse, seemed too vague. Nerves? Oh, boy, she’s not so unbeatable now.

They moved onto other questions, from Facebook, and she had to say what was Jamaica’s contribution to the world. She went ‘standard’, citing Bob Marley and Usain Bolt. Good and bad? Living and dead legends. Things and people that the audience would know. Jamaica, in glowing stereo…type. I could handle it. Nerves seemed under better control, but it’s no picnic being up there on international TV. Job well done. Now, the decisions.

One of our newspapers tweeted results, well before they were coming on screen. What?! Spoiling the TV show. Some annoyance, a lot. People readjusted. The results got pulled. TV ruling again. Palms really damp, now.

It’s history now, so no need for more agony. Miss Jamaica was put in 5th place. The audience booed. The winner was Miss Colombia (Miss USA in her wake). I claim that as a Caribbean win: Colombia has a Caribbean coast and islands in the Caribbean. We’ll take a piece of that. We represented Africa, when no country from that continent made the last 15. It’s one world, people.

Normal service seems to have resumed in my home. I’m not sure if I’ll do this again. I’m not much into hype. But, the fever that was behind Tessanne Chin was rolling through, again. That’s better than more waves of Chik-v.

People need hope and this gave it to us. For that, we should be grateful, always, that we can sit on the shoulders or imagine we’re in the shoes of those who have to stand as our representatives.

Thank you, Kaci Fennell.

Abomination: our not-so-little problem with sexual assault

I took Jamaica’s minister-minister to task for seemingly being glib in his citations of why young people should be glad to be Jamaicans. It’s not hard to become seething with anger on the matter of youth vulnerability, which makes Jamaica a decidedly unpleasant place to be.

Young people have their governmental cover split between the ministries of education, and youth and culture. Some have argued that these ministries should be merged. That’s not my current contention, though I can set merit in merging education and youth; culture could find its place better in some ministry they focused on development.

That vulnerability was put into one of its ugly contexts by a report in the Sunday paper today. It focused on the appalling level of sexual assault. It was supported by other stories of fathers preying on daughters and rape by a landlord. Those assaults are running near 1000 cases. That’s close to the number of murders each year. In many senses, they are similar crimes–taking away a life.

Sexual assault and the fact that much of it goes on inside families is one of this island’s dirty little secrets. Last October, the Children’s Advocate noted how sexual abuse needs to be perceived differently in Jamaica. One problem noted is that many people view it as ‘just sex’, and not having much long-term effect on the victim. For that reason, while alleged victims often believed, their assailants are rarely prosecuted. Another problem, is that some men see initiating sex with a girl child as part of the ‘right’ coming from raising that child. I’m no psychologist, but both notions seem really out on a beam.

Sex with minors has created a bad social cycle, as research shows that four out of five girls born to underage mothers also become underage mothers.

Add that to the pile of dysfunction that exists in Jamaica.

Land that we love it may be, but plenty goes on that doesn’t jive with any idea that the place is just bursting with life like video clips from Pharell’s ‘Happy’.

Mind boggling

I’m glad that Lloyd Bogle’s ‘plight’ has ended. He now has a visa to return to his ‘home’ in England. The Jamaican, who went to England as a boy, came back to ‘visit’ Jamaica and was ‘stranded’ here. It’s utterly bizarre that the media could use such terms and seemingly not bat an eyelid.

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It’s a bizarre aspect of our love of migrating from our homeland that we should not think it odd that a countryman returning to the country of his birth can find himself distressed to be unable get ‘back home’ abroad.

Suspension of disbelief: How good it is to be Jamaican?

I woke early this morning, and decided to stay up to watch Australian Open tennis. This time of year is tough for me as I prefer to cold, harsh reality of live sporting action to replays. Fortunately, this tournament gets a full 12 hours of live coverage. My favourite player, Roger Federer was dumped out by Andrei Seppi, and I saw the closing moments of that match. So, Roger won’t go past the 3rd round of a hard court major for the first time in a dozen years. Tennis is intriguing. It does reward consistent good play, but gives more credit for playing well on key points. So, for his pains, Federer won more points than Seppi but not the most important ones. That holds an important life lesson.

As I combed through the morning papers, my eyes blinked. I read that education minister, Reverend Ronald Thwaites, was telling our youth how lucky they are to be Jamaican.

Reverend Ronnie Thwaites really believes what he says?
Reverend Ronnie Thwaites really believes what he says?

Hooray! But, hold on. He’s reported as citing such benefits as not being abducted (as in Nigeria), not being forced into military service, and not going subject to pressure because of “religious convictions or lack thereof”. He added availability of education.

Now, believe me when I say I write on the fly: I do not have a fully fleshed idea when I start, but build the picture as I write. So, imagine that my surprise reaction finds good reason just by looking through the same paper.

On the comments page, sociologist Peter Espeut has a piece on ‘land of inequality. His focus may be on the unequal landscape for politicians, and those who have, he’s looking at the same country as Rev. Thwaites. Isn’t he?

I then see a letter about retention of mandatory devotions in schools. Mandatory? Rev. Ronnie, how free from pressure is the religious environment if you have something religious mandated in school? Maybe, dictionaries have new definitions.

I then looked in the Financial Gleaner. Dr. Aubyn Hill is lamenting our recurrent water supply woes.

That reminded me that our available education is full of schools with pit latrines. It’s replete with schools that don’t have water. We just had Digicel solve that water problem for a Portland school. The same Jamaica as hailed by Rev. Ronnie?

The Cabinet Minister is playing tennis with us. He’s seeking to win only certain points. Better bash back a few volleys and backhand slices.

I love Jamaica. But, I’m not lapping up the version of why offered by the minister-minister. I thought to the many horrific stories I keep reading about children been abducted and found dead, in woods, rivers, backs of alleys, etc. Let’s not kid ourselves about what it means to be a kid in Jamaica!

As for military service, some believe that a solution like that is needed to deal with the many social problems identified in the young population. We have nearly 40 percent youth unemployment, and live in a land knowing that idle hands are waiting for a devil to direct them.

Oh, my. David Smith just got released from prison in the Turks and Caicos Islands. What was that I just heard about Jamaican lotto scammers about to stand trial in the US? That group shows the often envied inventiveness of Jamaicans, even impersonating FBI agents. What was Guardsman, JPS and NWC warning us about people pretending to be employees and robbing people?

I was having my mind boggled this week by the sad story of Lloyd Bogle, who went to England as a boy and never visited here again, till last year. He has lived in England over 50 years, and thought he had rights of residence, and thus rights to leave and return. Wrong! He’d never become a British citizen. He made the matter tougher for himself by not applying for a British passport, but a Jamaican one; puzzling, if he believed he was British. So, to get back to England he needed a visa. When he realized that, in Jamaica, and applied to the British High Commission, it was refused. His real problem was that he was wholly ignorant of what he needed to do for easy travel between countries. It can be a minefield , unless your national passport lets you pass most if not all ports. Many people think a passport is like a ticket, and gives you access, but don’t realize that it’s one of several necessary things for international travel. The news furore over Mr. Bogle has prompted several agencies to try to assist him. While he waits, he has some good news. He’s a Jamaican in Jamaica. For that he should be thankful. I understand Mr. Bogle’s possible confusion. His move to England mirrors mine. But, I reregistered my Britishness. I also understood the processes. He does not, judging by the muddled way he’s gone about his travel and untravelling. Im judging by his interview on ‘Beyond the Headines’, where he didn’t know to whom he’d spoken at high commissions or ministry of foreign affairs, and thought that a receptionist could advance his issue.

Lloyd Bogle did not understand what citizenship means.
Lloyd Bogle did not understand what citizenship means.

Naive? Yes. Ignorant? Very. Do I want to cite him as typical of how being Jamaican is not a universal blessing? Maybe. But, we have Miss Jamaica competing for Miss Universe. We send our of our most beautiful to stand proudly with other beauties in the world. It’s good that she’s one of us.

We have the sad figures of our failed under-20 footballers (also lammed in the day’s paper). They’re great examples of how it’s not good to be Jamaican, because you have to deal with inept management, confused preparation, and waste of talent.

Sometimes when tennis players serve they bounce the ball a lot before tossing it up and swinging the racket. I think our minister needed to bounce his balls a few more times before he launched out.

Four pillars, nine commandments, and women in charge: The Jamaican sex drive never sleeps.

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Chart courtesy of Forbes Magazine

Many people are able to see someone who’s sexually attractive but not let that attraction become evident. Many Jamaican men seem unable to do that. I was headed up the steps to the bank in Mandeville, yesterday, when the crew from an armoured truck came out of the bank. They paused on the top step. One had a machine shotgun in his hand, surveying the street. The other was looking at three women passing by the bottom of the steps. “You’re sweet, eh! Yu know mi like sweet…” Those might not have been his exact words, but that’s what I thought I heard. I turned to the leering guard and told him to focus on protecting the people’s money. He looked at me and smiled, as he trotted down the steps. His mate looked at me and said “He should.” From what I hear and read that’s a fairly common incident on Jamaican streets. I saw similar the day before, with some young men in a truck looking down at a young lady as they waited at some traffic lights. Not surprisingly, many women seem mightily fed up with this dog with tongue hanging out treatment on a daily basis. Jamaican men have not morphed into more respectful specimens. This never made it into my lunchtime conversation with Kevin O’Brien Chang, but it can go on the docket as part of the people’s evidence. We talked about other things, including how Europe and Asia have a problem replacing their populations as birth rates decline. We also touched on how darker peoples tend not to have this problem. Do the math. Migration has for a long time been part of the solution to this imbalance, but that’s facing lots of resistance in a recession-hit world. But, we focused on something else: what are women really up to in Jamaica and what is myth versus reality? Recent reports have flagged how Jamaica is not what people like to posit. Women are not full underdogs. It seems that Jamaica is the mostly likely country where women would be found in charge as manager. Who says so? The respected International Labor Organization does, reporting that just under 60 percent of management is female. What?! The USA has a mere 43 percent.

The ILO found that most (80) of the countries surveyed (120) showed an increase in the proportion of women managers. The ILO see this as the biggest driver in world growth and competitiveness. That contention is a bit awkward for Jamaica. It’s been mired in decades of stagnation. So what have those women managers been doing at the helm of the workforce? It doesn’t seem that we’ve benefited from the dynamism that leadership is supposed to bestow. The picture may now get even more awkward. If women are leading how can men be the problem? Our politicians are predominantly men but what do they really control and run? Can the influence of the political sphere swamp that of the economic? If you go with the contention that Jamaican women are also the best at realizing their sexual power, then that, in conjunction with management control, can open up some interesting possibilities. The ILO study is not comforting for one of Jamaica’s ongoing narratives, that women need a leg up. To use English parlance, it may be that they’re too busy helping men get a leg over. That could explain our woeful economic productivity rates. We also discussed another recent study, which points to the trend towards people having less sex. That study was by the Japan Family Planning Association. It found that about 50 percent of people were not having sex; the rate is slightly higher for women than men. Not good news for a country worried about a declining birth rate. Why no nooky? Too tired after work was most popular for men, followed by less interest after pregnancy and childbirth. Women were also affected by fatigue after work, but we’re much less interested because they found sex ‘bothersome’. What’s bothersome is a finding that over 1 in 5 young men in Japan are not interested in sex, and that many people have relations with avatars. It was reported a few years ago that relationships with virtual partners were not uncommon in Japan (see a Wall Street Journal 2010 article). Jamaica doesn’t have an equivalent study to Japan. We tend to focus on underage sexual activity, not surprising for a country with a high rate of teen pregnancies. About 40 percent of Jamaican women have been pregnant at least once before the age of 20, and some 85 percent of these are unplanned. We also need to look at the Jamaican management control picture from the optic of what the future holds. We are seeing women taking the vast majority of highly educated places in society as high schools and university show the dominance of female graduates. That seems to lead to only one main conclusion: men won’t have much of a place. Except? Jamaicans are reputedly not like the Japanese. Tired after work? We love to stay up late and have fun. That’s not a clear indication that the “I’m tired” excuse won’t get trotted out in Jamaica. We tend to look at sex as much of a need as a want. But, if women tend to like partners who are at least their peers, and if more Jamaican women are getting highly educated relative to men, then the stock of available desirable men is dwindling. The adage that a Jamaican woman would rather have 10 percent of a 100 percent man than 100 percent of a 10 percent man suggests that sharing can be part of their caring, as a matter of sheer necessity. However, while that suggests that women may have to be satisfied with bits of men, the converse is that eligible men may have ‘too many’ women to deal with. PJ Patterson and his “gyal inna bundle” quip was not twaddle. The analysis of these currents is not simple, but tend to point in certain directions. I’ve said repeatedly that Jamaicans are very rational in their behaviour, and know how to respond to incentives. One issue is which incentives pull them. I’ve also said that Jamaica often seems to be somewhere that the sun sets in the east. Those two things appear to be at odds with each other, but are they? Maybe, we need to think a bit differently about what rationale is really in play. In a world of falling population and dwindling sex drives, should Jamaicans think about exporting what may be their comparative advantages?

Story time

I’m sitting on the veranda of my father’s house in Mandeville listening to stories. We have this strong tradition in Jamaica.
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I’ve just heard things about people connected to my family to make your hair turn white.
*****

What did I know about the man who was an uptown area ‘don’, but not like Dudus?

What about the other ‘big man’ in the area who threatened my friend’s son with an umbrella, and the ‘good father’ told the son to do back the same to him? “So, he hit him in his neck and jook him in the belly.” The boy is still alive.

I was reminded of the time I was bullied a school and broke a boy’s nose, going home to tell my father “I dead him?”

What about the man who was the father of my aunt’s daughter? He and the mother had the same family name. It’s only now I know they were not married. He was once attacked for ‘breaking up a dance’ and decided to slit another man’s stomach with a knife before he got slit. He had to go to jail. Was bailed and ended up paying a fine.
*****

The breeze keeps blowing.