Suffer the little children: Jamaica distracted, again, and look what happens

Well, having the flu is a good way to take some kinds of rest. I got back from London and Washington DC, so glad to be out of the frozen wastes, and thought that a few days of warm weather would deal with my virus. Wrong! I suffered worse. I also found that a virus was also on its rounds in Jamaica, so I had to hope I didn’t get hit with that on the rebound. But, the final days seem to be with me and I walk and sweat and hope that the dry throat and hacking cough will be just this one last day. That’s enough about me.

I’ve been caught like many thinking about whether I am living in a house of horrors or a place that is Paradise Lost. In honesty, that’s not an uncommon state of mind in Jamaica. My problem when I get into this state is that I don’t just latch onto something convenient and blame that. We are a small but complicated country. That’s why the news that has horrified many is bothersome. We hear of young children being abducted in their communities, or murdered by relatives, or raped or sexually assaulted, or locked away in cellars by parents, and we have to wonder how in our relatively tight communities such things go unnoticied. The answer is often that they are not unnoticed, but not acted upon. So, before I latch onto who I want to blame, I ask myself what part of social upbringing creates the ‘it’s not my business’ mentality.

One candidate for blame is often the government. They deserve that, because politicians, in their thrust and lust for power, promise the Earth and make themselves seem to be the solution to all problems. They enhance that reputation by tending to dole out financial assistance (in exchange for votes). What that tends to do is let people believe that a structure is always there to clear up and clean up after every kind of mess. At its simplest and most recent, we can look at the realisation that garbage pileup was a major contributor to a possible public health crisis. Politicians donned rubber gloves and grabbed shovels and were publicly on display helping to clear gullies. There, you have it! No more Chik-V. The PM and Cabinet ministers got stinky for a few hours and the pexpletive who created all the detritus saw that someone was ready to come in and deal with it for them. So, off went the politicians in their luxury cars and back came the garbage. What a shocker!

My favourite word of the moment is ‘stupid’, but I sometimes need to find alternatives as it can seem overused. But, we the Jamaican people have been complete pillocks.

Voters have been bought for curry goat and bun and cheese and been kept happy with the odd effort to cover a pot hole, while putting up with schools that have pit latrines, politicians living high on the hog, showing disregard for public opinion except when votes may be needed, and a load of distractions that would make Houdini seem like a sloth. We’ve refused to hold politicians to account for anything. Not one blessed thing! How can that happen and then one wonder that society has no clue how to show care for neighbours and so-called friends?

Our political processes have forced honest caring for fellow citizens out of the window in many place, instead focus has been on caring about political manoeuvres. Tribalism adds to that, but isn’t the root cause. When politicians don’t actually do very much to change the overall welfare of a country, it’s not just cynical it’s fraud carried out on a grand scale. But, the trouble is that people have lapped up the fraud.

It is not about whether politicians lie a lot–they do. It’s about what people in public office see as their reason for existence. If it is to raise the welfare of the fellow citizen or leave, then Gordon House would be an echo chamber.

I wont even talk about the song and dance that is going on in the JLP over the business of undated resignation letters. Everyone involved in that fiasco has to ask himself “What was I thinking would be the outcome of this escapade?” Also, if it was such a great idea for the country’s wellbeing, then the other question to ask is “Why did I not tell the world this scheme had been concocted?” because good news is good for all. My priest who offered marriage counselling said “If you cannot tell your partner what you have just done, then you have a secret that will destroy your relationship”. That goes for politicians and the populace no less. The love of secrecy is and duplicity is the cancer on which corruption feeds. But, it also becomes a way of life that others follow.

I don’t believe that Jamaica does not have some seriously mentally sick people. That helps us identify perpetrators, who want to abduct, rape, maim, mutilate, or otherwise disfigure another person. But, we have that sick segment supported by a band of facilitators. Those who see and say nothing, or don’t act, or even colloborate–as in the case of parents who think that selling a child’s sexual availability will solve a financial problem and leave no problems behind. We knew we have them a plenty, already, which is why many crimes go unsolved, because facilitators prefer that. If it’s the anit-informer culture, then it has its hold much deeper than we may want to admit.

I was in Mandeville yesterday, and we stopped in a plaza to get some lunch. On leaving, we saw a man grab a woman and she resisted. I said to my passengers “We stop and check?” Yes, they agreed. We asked the lady if she was alright and if we needed to intervene with the man. She said to the man “Let me go!” but then also told us that everything was alight, and smiled. That suggested that things were really alright and that maybe they were in playful mood. But, it’s easy to just drive past the incident and then lament when a report states ‘Man assaults woman in broad daylight in plaza’.

We don’t need to be confrontational to deal with many of the incidents that need intervention. We often need to be just points of resistance.

Our culture has some peculiarities when it comes to sexual overtures and we are very good at perpetuating things that we say we dislike. We don’t need to turn our country into a Christian variant of a Taliban state, but you cannot tell me that tolerance and repeated portrayal of certain kinds of sexually suggestive actions and words just wash over society and leave no trace. I’m not a pillock. It’s not necessarily the cause, but it causes confusion in people’s minds about what limits are within bounds.

We also have a reverence for a body of opinion that has done little recently to serve the general good. That body is The Church, in whatever form one wants to see it. I’m an Anglican and I think I have a good understanding of what Christian teachings mean for general life. I do not look to priests or pastors to tell me how to live my daily life, but I know many people do. Politicians know that to, and that’s why they often make important statements during church services. That tells you something, when a religious environment is used as a political platform. For that reason, I stand goggle-eyed at what religious leaders have seen as the issues on which they will stand.

The numbers on child abuse reported to the Office of the Children’s Registry are sufficiently startling in their own rights as to warrant a lot of concern. 


So many cases of abuse in a country (apochraphally) known to have the most churches per square mile suggests that the eyes of our religious bodies are not looking after their flocks.

One terrible affliction of economists is that when things don’t makes logical sense one has to figure out what is the blockage to the logic. It’s often certain people. Lo! We find one of the problems. Just this past week, we read about the culpability of the clergy themselves. It’s not that all priests are predators or perverts, but the fact that they exist within the body means they are being harboured or given a bligh. This is nothing new in religion in general, so we need to ask ourselves how vigilant authorities been in seeking to identify and expose those whom people trust as being least deserving of such.

Since, I read the report last week of a rape cover-up by clergy, I have not seen a reubbutal. Let me take that as being damning, because it suggests the reports are accurate. The world knows too well cases of systmatic abuse by clergy members, so this is not a real surprise. It just sits askance with the selective condemnation of ‘sins’.  I read yesterday some reports of ‘condemnation’ from senior people in the clergy. I applaud that, but also wonder how totally unaware they were of such reports. I watch this issue.

Corrpution is not just about financial malfeasance, but it also goes to the integrity of thinking and positions taken. Of course, you can’t come out and condone something in which your senior leaders are involved. That’s more than awkard. However, this claim of cover-up puts ‘suffer the little children’ into a much-too-literal sense.

Jamaicans tend to be deferential to people they see as ‘having position’. That’s why what politicans and pastors say and do matters so much.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)

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