Our politicians need a kick up the rear? Other ideas gladly received

I’m not sure whether Jamaicans ever reach a point similar to the news presenter in Network, who screams “I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore!

Do Jamaicans ever feel this enraged? Yes, till the smell of curry goat wafts past their noses
Do Jamaicans ever feel this enraged? Yes, till the smell of curry goat wafts past their noses

For all the many criticisms levelled at the nation and its people, it has an amazing amount of tolerance. At least once in the past 50-odd years of Independence, Jamaicans have had good enough reason to launch their own ‘spring uprising’.

Why they have not is always a fascinating question. Some will take the knee-jerk view that Jamaicans just can’t be bothered, because they are too lazy and good for nothing, and an uprising takes commitment and effort.

Others may take the view that Jamaicans are easily bought off, and the ‘eat a food’ mentality has become so ingrained and easy to exploit that the mere smell of a pot of curry goat has been enough to thwart any notion of rebellion.

Jamaicans do get angry and passionately upset, but not about politicians in a general sense. They get truly exercised during Champs, as their school, real or adopted, shines or slumps. They will rail against the political rival in the most ridiculous ways. Ask them about the performance of a politician and you will get an almost robotic reply that reflects the political stripe of the respondent. For supporters: “My man (or woman) is doing a great job, and he (or she) just needs a chance to do things better (get things right).” Take the same sentence with negative words and that’s the view of an opponent. Like being soused in the liquid from boiled guava leaves, the itch is gone in a flash.

I’ve heard a lot of that in the past months about PM Portia Simspon-Miller. I also heard it over the past few weeks about Andrew Holness, the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition (Leader of the PO). His latest need to have a chance came after going to court twice to get a ruling on a pretty intriguing piece of political skullduggery, when he got Senators he nominated to sign undated resignation letters, which he then produced to try to oust them after they refused to back him in a leadership contest.

To this day, I cannot fathom the actions of the Senators, who seem like kittens putting their heads into the mouth of an alligator and expecting them to not get bitten off. But, politics and the love of political power is an opiate so strong.

Anyway, Mr Holness has summarily lost the court cases twice now, but seems to be holding on for another last try. I don’t think he can appeal to the Privy Council to get a ruling on a Constitutional matter, but I’m no lawyer. To me, the matter was always clear: he could not force the Senators to resign because he did not have the power to appoint. He could try to dis-appoint them by taking resignation letters from them, ready signed, but it was all a big joke, because the letters were meaningless in the eyes of the Constitution. The ceremonial role of the Governor General has substance in the acts he (or she) performs. Ya-boo, sucks!

Now, some have said it’s all to do with Mr. Holness’s youthfulness, that like a  puppy with an old, smelly slipper, he keeps dragging it around and treating it like the juiciest bone a dog has ever set jaws on. But, honestly, you sometimes need to know when to let go of stuff. I don’t think Mr. Seaga need add to the saga, but he’s older and wiser than most so may get the pleasure of his views running things a little longer.

When I started writing this, I had in my mind the question whether Jamaica needed a dose of Jeremy Clarkson or Jeremy Paxman. For those who don’t follow things in Britain, Mr. Clarkson has just been fired by the BBC. He’s a well-known, belligerent presenter of a car show, ‘Top Gear’.  

Jeremy Clarkson, trying to ‘escape’ the media on a bicycle. He could just punch his way through?

He’s had lots of public run-ins with people, including a good amount of punch-ups, swearing matches, racial abuse, and more. Really, more! Well, his latest episode involved punching a producer of the show, allegedly over a steak. I’ve not quite understood why, but there you have it.

Read a nice take on the wayward man-child.

Does Jamaica need some off-the-chain, rabid figure to just go and knock some sense into a few of its politicians?

I ask because I genuinely wonder whether they are so unaccustomed to the true cold breeze of criticism that they can just bluster along, seemingly oblivious of the views of those who are not sycophants.

Some Jamaican politicians don't like microphones being thrust in their faces. Like Jamaican-wannabee Mayor Toronto, get over it.
Some Jamaican politicians don’t like microphones being thrust in their faces. Like Jamaican-wannabee Mayor Toronto, get over it.

I had an idea at the weekend that they all needed to be put on display in public stocks and have the population pose questions about what they had done over the past week, and hurl all manner of rotten fruit and eggs at them for every meaningless thing they said they had done. I still like that idea.  

Are public stocks the answer to Jamaican political buffonery?

The other line is to seek to subject politicians to some much harder scrutiny. I think Jamaica has a few journalists, who can probe and push and make politicians really uncomfortable sometimes, but they do not have the Jeremy Paxman-style, after the presenter who hosts ‘Hard Talk’. Watch one of his interviews, with Italy’s Foreign Minister. You’ll see that he does not get flustered by meaningless, or empty rhetoric, and answers that offer no solutions are not taken as a reason to just move on.

We don’t see politicians in Jamaica so under pressure that they want to get up and run out of an interview. You could serve me some of what British journalists do to politicians any day of the week.

A lot of people have wondered how the PM has managed to get away for years without a serious media grilling and some challenging questions over her leadership of the country. (I mean a televised interview, because the written word is not for most people, and we like to see the eyes shift and mouth twitch as people come under the glare of the hot lights.)

Well, one reason is that she does not permit herself to be interviewed. But, that’s not hard to get over; instead, you produce an exposé that details the points that are up for debate. If it is highly critical, the political directorate won’t let it stand there unchallenged. If it is mildly critical, they will still want to get a more positive spin. If it is wholly complementary, they would still want to have a chance to get into the studios to crow about the wonderous and wonderful things. So, either way, you get the person you want to come and explain. You are not going to accept a spokesperson, so it seems to me the media have the upper hand.

Instead, the media have let the political directorate dictate and accept that the refusal of the PM to face the music is the end of the matter. Need for a little stealth?

Our media are extraordinarily free in expressing their opinions, but still tend to the deferential when it comes to hauling its leaders over the coals. Fear of retribution? Fear of disfavour? Lack of commitment? Just too nice? I don’t know enough to say. But, with foreign (or at least, US) media due to flood the island when President Obama comes next month, I have a feeling that the unbridled and unvarnished pictures will start to seep out. Better get in some reps answering questions and having them come back at you when they seem downright empty and foolish.

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. :)

2 thoughts on “Our politicians need a kick up the rear? Other ideas gladly received”

  1. “It was all a big joke.” That little phrase seems to sum up Jamaican politics at the moment! Oh, that little video is hilarious too! As for the media…


  2. We do not have journalist in Jamaica. We have reporters. There is a basic difference between the two. One investigates, enlightens , educate and inform, the other tells you what you already know. Whether it is being scared, fool-hardy, retribution, violence or just laziness this country’s traditional media is as good as dead.

    Jamaica is a young society, a few of us have left the cane field and we forget that there are thousands left on the field. Accountability has never been in our DNA as we could argue that after years of oppression accountability is a psychological remnant of slavery that we choose to leave behind. Accountability breeds responsibility and to escape the responsibility of our actions, we evade it by blaming something else.

    We have a cartoon government and opposition and you can sadly find similar cartoon characters in all black run countries. Is it a coincidence that all black run countries suffer from the same disease of buffoonery? For me it is not.

    We all cheered for independence and we did not have the discipline or fortitude in our emerging leaders to lead with a plan. Our people lacked discipline. Responsibility and discipline are bosom buddies.. We seemed to be acting on impulse and emotion, defiant to leave the cane field, We took nothing from our owners except how to party, how to dance and how to breed like rabbits. We ran as soon as we could and like Moses and the Israelis, were determined to find the promised land. But we lost our way.

    Moses and his flock were in the dessert for 40 years, and look what that got them- nothing but eternal strife! But they have learned their own existence is in their hands. They have tasted responsibility and have held unto that jar as a suckling pig.

    Jamaica has a few more years to go before we find our promised land and then we have to wonder what’s the next chapter in our sordid history? Will we by then have a society that has learned accountability or a society that keeps evading responsibility?

    The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind.


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