Jamaica’s election: misunderstanding what ordinary Jamaicans do–some thoughts on social media

Jamaica is on the verge on entering what may be seen as unchartered territory, as the latest general election result has thrown the political parties into a virtual tie for seats. How the eventual winner goes about managing the slim majority (whether it’s the current one, or the three of election night) will be a test of how our democracy has matured.

One great thing about elections is that, whatever polls might have indicated, the people casting their ballots and those who do not vote will determine the outcome. You can have all the talk in the world about what could or should have been, but you now have to deal with the reality of what was. You may swear to change how you approach people in the future–learning from your mistakes–or you may swear to not change–learning from things that might have brought you success.

Many saw before the elections a series of missteps by the ruling party, and many of those have been cited by people as reasons for not giving that party their support. Many saw the attractiveness of promises made by the opposition, and no doubt the lure of personal gain was real.

A debate should take place about what a throw-away comment might have meant to many voters–in my mind, many more voters than seemed obvious.

It’s not because I am a well-educated, avid user of social media that I found the jibe about “articulate minority” offensive. I disliked the simplistic notion that ‘ordinary” Jamaicans knew or cared little about it.

Going backwards. I overheard some domestic workers chatting over the weekend: “It deh pon social media” was all I heard. Whatever ‘it’ or the ‘social media’ were, here were ordinary Jamaicans caring. 

About six months ago, another domestic worker, on hearing that I was going to travel to the US, asked me if I could bring her back a tablet. Naively, I thought she needed medicine, but she soon set me straight. She told me how her daughter seemed to be one of only a few in her class who could not interact on social media, “Facebook an demde t’tings”, she told me. Whatever little the mother understood, her daughter was getting left out because of this simple thing.

These are simple instances of how the ordinary persons’ interest is both present and likely to grow.

No doubt, there are people like me who use social media to argue and put forward many positions, but there are many who simply draw on social media for information that is immediate, succinct, relevant, partial, biased, kind, harsh, truthful, full of lies, and more.

My daughter asked me the other day how many people subscribed to my blog. I told her a couple of thousand. I get a shock when a total stranger comes up to me and tells me that they read my blog, recently. It’s as funny when people I know, who use social media under names that tell you little, come up and tell me that they liked my reply to their comment.

I look at the ‘reach’ of one of my posts on Twitter and am constantly amazed when I see that it may be 100,000 or greater. Some of the best discussion that is going on at any time is in cyber space. Admittedly, it’s not for all, and it can get toxic quickly, and it can misinform and inflame. But, it’s there.

No matter how few people I know, the world that can tap into my world is far greater than I can imagine. That is, I think, the fallacy of the jibe–that seemingly ever-expanding reach of the ideas of ‘ordinary’ people. The opposition party seemed to take it more seriously, at least by having a presence in many forms to tap into the interest and spread of social media. That was one ‘battlefield’ where no troops needed to be put on the ground, but their presence had to be there ‘in the air’, so to speak.

Going forward, I’m going to watch to see how those in the former government reposition themselves in this arena, and how the former opposition bolsters its presence.

 

THE PNP SLAP HEARD FROM AROUND THE WORLD

One point seemed clear well before the election: the PNP did not want to run with younger candidates, whom many saw as sincere, different, challenging, relevant. That, in light of a cohort of young people who made it clear that they wanted to be taken seriously into the conversation. That seemed like part of a recipe for failure.

The party also went badly off message, stayed off message, and gave more focus to its Opposition’s plans than their own.

beyondentertainmentblog

Thursday February 25, 1016 will be highlighted in the history books as the day democracy and the people of Jamaica grew one day older. It was the day that Jamaicans, articulate and otherwise,  understood that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a Prime Minister , members of the House of Representatives and government officials, but the voters of this country.

An election is simple. It is the time when those who are selected to represent the people of Jamaica gather for an evaluation on their performance. Politicians never lie so much as before an election. It is the people who must decide how they will evaluate their performance after getting rid of the slush and lies.

Many politicians use the party’s  perceived popularity as references to boost their resumes. I am a member of the PNP therefore I…

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Voting is over, time to count the cost, Jamaica

The preliminary election results give the opposition JLP victory in yesterday’s national elections, by a slim margin of seats. They also look to have won the popular vote in what was a lower than expected turnout in both percentage and total voters terms. Congratulations to the winners of individual seats and to the leader of the JLP, Andrew Holness, who now has the privilege and difficult task of forming a government and putting  his party’s proposals into a coherent set of policies.

It’s a sad irony that this was my first time voting in Jamaica and I number amongst a continually dwindling set of voters. I’ve written before about the chronic decline in voter interest in Jamaican elections, believing that in its essence it was sending an important message about how politicians and politics, as currently shaped, were losing the war to interest the average Jamaican. I think some read that as a good thing because they thought that their bases of so-called ‘diehards’  were firm and that low turnout was actually in their favour. Wrong! Some of that reasoning cannot hold anymore, and the failure to appeal to a wider and growing electorate was to me a terrible mistake that needs to be corrected for the sake of keeping national democracy healthy.

I think part of that misreading was evident in the tactics used by the governing PNP during the election campaign–some will say they forget their essence, which is ‘people’ and ‘national’. I hold no brief for any party, and guard my independence fiercely. However, I cannot understand  wanting to go after the leader of a party which touted the message of ‘From Poverty to Prosperity’ by attacking what was his personal symbol of that message–the house he was in the process of building. Yes, I think there are legitimate questions to be asked of public officials, especially those who seek political offices, about their financial affairs, and the need for transparency in such dealings is absolutely clear to me. Having asked questions on this topic though, the PNP didn’t let go, and made its interest a little strange by that hanging on like a terrier with a prey in its mouth. I think that seemed distasteful to many Jamaicans, who either saw themselves in Mr. Holness’s shoes, or could relate to him because their parents had sought to  do the same. It may be that PNP had some dirt on the dealings, but if so, bring to the fore, not go on with innuendo.

The other misreading was the matter of the national debates. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the ‘outcasting’ of electors, and that process mattered most to people who had no fixed ideas about voting. For a campaign that was set to be short many hankered for clarity–not surprising in a country with an uncommitted share of voters big enough to win an election if there were an Uncommitted Party. That clarify for most was likely during debates.The repeated refusal to debate was sad, in part because it said ‘No’ to those who sought clarity. But it was also not truly surprising from a government that seemed to have lost sight of the true value of communication with people.

I think that lack of debate cemented the notion of not seeming to really care what most people thought. It was easy to hark back to recent scandals and see a pattern of disregard for the electorate. Much of that disregard came over as ‘You don’t need to know’.

What was telling in that strategy was the voices of the government that were not heard following it. Party solidarity was not there. I won’t name names but notable clear thinkers and good commutators in the government were silent on that messaging.

I’m not going to belabour that more now.

What is now going to be tough is shaping policy. The JLP set its stall to capture public sentiments about being crushed by austerity. I’m in no doubt that Jamaica has done an amazing feat staying with the IMF program, both given its past performance and the burden it placed on people. In many countries the measures could easily have toppled a government or led to serious civil disorder. That it didn’t do the latter says some good things about Jamaicans.

The 10-point plan, especially the tax break was a master stroke and had no defence or good counter from the government. I think the figuring is a bit flaky but the essence is clear: put money into people’s hands and they will be happier. Yes, it may mean personal gain for national strain, but it’s a winner. Whoever becomes finance minister, though, has to mesh that give-away into a budget that has little room for it.

The wonks will lose many people in arguing about the economy, so messages must be clear. I’m not going to spell out my thinking on how policy should go, just point to some rocks ahead.

Oil dividend. Low oil prices have made our economic road much easier over the past year, giving us tangibly much lower prices, whether in electricity or petroleum bills or keeping a lid on other prices. It has also made out balance of payments better than it would have been. But, that was a windfall that can’t last. How can we capture those gains for the longer term? Many ideas are out there, and some involve changes in energy use. How will the new government face up to this task?

Exchange rate. The sliding Jamaican dollar was a necessary condition; in nerdy terms we were uncompetitive and the rate needed to be adjusted to help fix that. Those who understand purchasing power party may argue that we are still not there. But, the fall in the nominal exchange rate is often seen or portrayed as a sign of failure, even when it’s essential. Mr. Shaw will point to his keeping the rate stable in the past. I’m one of those who thinks that that stability without other adjustments sowed seeds for problems that remain unresolved. Will stability of the rate be a ‘be all’ for the new government?

Youth unemployment. One group that has suffered for too long, and that has yet to be taken seriously is Jamaica’s young people. (Data on their voting will be interesting.) The mantra of ‘children are our future’ is meaningless when you have youth unemployment of 30-40 percent. Investing in education is a waste of resources if you merely do that to export the educated to help build other countries. Our ‘brain drain’ isn’t new but its crippling effects are clear in terms of our productivity (including both quality and quantity) of goods and services we generate.

Allied to that economic waste is the options it fosters. Crime and its lure look better when you have little hope. Idle hands, etc. The lure is greater when the chances of being caught and punished ate low. Jamaica has majored in making crime profitable. The opining of JCF never addressed properly crimes social underpinning.

We’ve been lucky to have not had a major social explosion but you can’t keep relying on luck.

I see the sound economy as the bedrock on which a better Jamaica can be built. We have to fix lots of things, social, constitutional, and more. If the recent macroeconomic gains are lost, it won’t take long for a bigger unraveling. The IMF will work with any government, but it has its remit, and won’t let ‘any set’ of numbers pass.

I don’t envy those who will form the government but wish them well. I’m happy to say that I’ve seen other countries dig themselves out of economic holes and go on to be much better places. Politicians will keep playing games as long as people let them. Part of the analysis to come is how people’s willingness to let them play games has reached an end. How people’s voices get heard effectively will be another major challenge in coming months. My ears are open.

Jamaica’s Election Day Lexicon: the words that seem more special to voters

A is Access, which should be free and easy for all voters (Electoral Commission fix it!)

B is Ballot

C is Campaign: it’s over and done. You’re at the voters’ marcy, now

D is Dogfight in many seats around the country

F is Finger, covered in purple ink (see I)

 G “Gweh!” The standard non-violent response to political opponents

H is Harassment, the claim that comes so fast you’d think it was a candidate’s name

I is Ink, purple is the colour of choice

J is Jobs (at the very least you get some work on Polling Day)

K is “Kick them out!” (pick your party)

L is Low Turnout, a constant for decades now. Will it change?

M is Marginal, many more seats are too close to call

N is Non-Functioning machines at some Polling Stations 😦

O is Opinion Polls, done and dusted, only votes matter now

P is Promises: Jamaica will be “Silicon Valley of the Caribbean” (JLP). “The basis is being laid for First-World education and training; First-World level of job creation, business start-ups, and wealth creation” (PNP)

Q is Queues, long and slow and Polling Stations

R is Results, too early to call

S is Seats, 63 in total, all up for grabs…and a mention for Social Media, which will be more important than ever

T is Television, in front of which many will be parked to follow analysis, interviews, early results

V is Votes. Duh!

W is “Where is my Polling Station?”

X is what you put by your party symbol

Y is Youth, who seem to be missed out in the true party appeal to voters

Z is for sleep, which will be put off till tomorrow 🙂

Election 2016: let’s make Jamaica a better place 😊

Whatever your voting intentions next Thursday, you can’t say you’re not being entertained along the way. Some are doing better, because their services are in higher demand: lawyers come to mind. I’d better stop there, in case someone throws me a law suit. Our minister of finance/man of the year is not letting a law suit threat dampen his sense of the funny–and he needs it more now that Mrs. Holness has thrown the family ire at him by giving him a six-hour ultimatum before she sues him. We may have to dub Dr. Phillips ‘A man named Sue’. Anyway, PDP let the people know that the Holnesses have nothing to grumble about and should vote for the PNP, who had created the conditions for their personal financial progress by creating the conditions for them to build their modest home on the hill. I thought that was a masterful twist to a now long-running saga.

But, my heart was aflutter when I noticed a few days ago the latest ‘get rich quick’ trick–betting on the election outcome. I think you can wager on almost anything, including what the PM will have for breakfast, whether she’ll just go for orange juice and not have any greens. Today’s paper makes it clear what you should do: put your money where your X is and bet. 

Showing you the way to prosperity…
 The way to a Better Jamaica is to be a better person. It can’t be any easier, eh? No need to figure out if you’ll be better off with a pay rise to $1.501 million dollars or stick with your job paying $1.499 million. Sums are only for some, not all.

So, whether you’re reading Manifestos this weekend–and your life couldn’t be sadder–or if you’re planning your ‘election special’ no-debate-watching party, save a few dollars to take to Island Bet. Who knows, a losing candidate may well need a helping hand.

A Lexi-con for Jamaica’s next election

It’s just seven days away! I have no horse in the race, meaning that I have no party affiliation. I will go to the polling station, to cast my vote, or not, or spoil my ballot paper, all of which are my rights…I will emerge with ink on my finger, I think…Am I undecided? I don’t know, for sure. But, while I’m labouring through the masochistic task of reading orange and green coloured Manifestos, my mind wandered on how our language has been enriched during this brief, but jolly period since the ‘touch’ was made and the ‘announcement’ was heard amongst the blaring trumpets…and vuvuzelas.o

****

A is for Anju, the one leaders of the AH-position, decked in Clarks.

B is for Missa Berkdi spin docta of the governing party.

C is for a con. If ever there was a word that caused so much consternation, and confusion, and contortions, it’s this little one.

D is for debates. Well, we might as well take that word out of our vocabulary for a while, as the children did not want to play in the same sandbox, so now they’ve taken their toys away and gone off to sulk in some dark corner. I’ve said before, that Jamaica does not have a culture of mature political discussion. I would be happy to see politicians mud wrestling, and I know that betting on the outcomes would be a major revenue earner for the gaming companies and the ministry of finance.

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Admit it! This would be more fun than a stodgy old debate
E is eedyat, which is how many feel they’ve been treated.

F is flattery, something so absent from most proceedings involving our politicians as to make one wonder about their upbringing.

G is gutter politics. Nuff said.

H is for Hardly Sure, who is penciled in to be finance minister if green is the winning colour. It’s also, aptly, for a house…and there I leave it…

I is for IMF

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Hardly hiding, in clear view…
You can run, but you can’t hide. If you have a plan that will raise the budget deficit, It May Fail…Just saying.

J is for jokes. What else is up the sleeves of the politicians and their surrogates, when it comes to keeping us amused in the next few days? Importantly, it’s also for jobs, or is it jabs, as Jamaicans would pronounce it? 100,000, 200,000, 300,000…any more bids?

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Jobs…real…permanent. Do you care? (Image, courtesy of Jamaica Observer.)
K is kiss mi teet, which is a prevailing attitude clearly displayed by many more than a few.

L is laughable, which aptly describes some of the ridiculous gyrations and hole-digging

M is for Mama P, now aka MIA, whether that is ‘missing in action’, ‘Miss InAction’, ‘Me Insult Anju?’, or other variants that can come to mind. A fearless leaders, by her own admission. Sadly, the opposition has sought no permission to exploit this…Just sharing. 

N is new voters, who may truly hold the key to many a political prospect

O is opinion, of which no one seems lacking

P is for polls, whether Bill Johnson- or Don Anderson-inspired, or just a random check of those waiting for the 21 bus at Halw Way Tree Transportation Centre. It’s also for points, as in (several) plans, which feature much in the JLP Manifesto…

Q is for questions,  of which more have been asked than answered, and for which no answer will suffice. Talk about ‘painting the Forth Bridge’!

R is for rallies, what more Jamaicans are drawn to than sitting quietly and hearing politicians rale…

S is for steps…21 of them to “Step Up the Progress”, as PNP has it. Frankly, I think we need a 12-step program for political salvation. But, what do I know?

T is for tax-plan: part of a 10-point program aimed to get your vote for more money. What’s that about vote-buying? Just asking….

U is unnu, especially when it’s ‘those people’ who don’t share your views.

V is victory

W is for Warmington,  who shockingly in a year when political bile has been on the increase has barely mustered a column inch with any mustard-flavoured utterances during the campaign season. The people ask “Why the silence?”

X is the mark you must put on the paper, against the symbol of your choice. If you can read, then check that the person’s name is sensible and not something like Donald Chump

Y is young people, who seem critical in setting a tone for future elections, whether they stay away in droves or decide to vote in large numbers.

Z is the sound coming from over 40 percent of voters when you ask if they’re interested in voting…

Jamaica’s forthcoming election, a tragi-comedy unfolding

Sometime during the night of January 31, aliens landed in Jamaica and sucked out the brains of a significant body of people. I’ve always had my doubts about politicians, but the only rational explanation I can find for what has unfolded in the past two weeks is this alien attack.

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The Jamaican political class has been overtaken by aliens

If that is not the case, then why is it that a sort of collective madness seems to have descended on so many politicians–at least those who are close to the leadership, or have the privilege of a microphone or TV camera in their face?

The brouhaha over the house of the Opposition leader has turned into one of those endless quiz games, where each answer leads to another question, and the repetition of an answer is used to disqualify the contestant. You may not know the BBC program, Just a minute, where contestants must talk for a minute, without repetition, hesitation or deviation. Well, tonight’s topic is “How did Mr. Holness get that house? Begin…” 

It’s really talking for the sake of talking.

Married men may be familiar with this situation, which is often known as “Your wife is always right”. You know, the question comes: “Darling, does this dress suit me?” You say, yes, then the follow up is, “Well, I don’t like it! Why do you like it? You always go against me!”  The man, previously emersed in a long overtime game between The Lakers and The Bulls, is spitting out his pretzels and spilling his beer, wondering how he got here. “It’s like mother said: ‘He’ll just try to bring you down.’ I don’t know why I married you!”

Well, whatever the aliens are up to, I’m scared. Any minute now, I fear that a light beam will descend and suck me up to take me far away to a land where my brain may be useless–the United States? Mwaah!

Honestly, though! I can think of good reasons to pose some questions of any politician and how he or she obtained certain assets or afforded certain spending. That’s just prudent ethics. No big deal. But, this house thing is getting a little out of hand. No? I was forced to wonder if we’re in a reality show that no one knows about, and will be aired on February 26, with the whole world chuckling themselves silly as “Jamaicans go to the Polls”. You know, like those prank shows where people are trying to shower and shampoo is constantly dribbled on their heads so the soap never goes away. Jamaica is being ‘shampooed’. We keep trying to rinse, but it’s no use. 

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Mr. Plunkett? Mr. Holness?

Yesterday, PNP said it was satisfied with the answers about Mr. Holness’ house, and its General Secretary said they are moving on to “focus on the Manifesto”. Today, manifestly, they have had a change of mind. It has become, paraphrasing Richard III: “A *house*, a *house*! My kingdom for a *house*! What next? Well, joking aside, the latest questions seek to know if the financing was with collateralization (secured, or unsecured loans). Well, collateral damage now takes on new meaning!

Some people see the hand of God in all things. I suspect that, for sure, some outside force is working on the minds and hands of many in this process. People talked about “waiting to be touched”. That all sounds too spooky and outerworldy for my liking. Looking back to all those references to “divine intervention”, I now wonder if we are all being pawns in some sinister take-over. Will putting my cross in a box and getting ink on my finger change what is ahead for us? Do I need to worry about Zika? I see the world crumbling. Should I be panicking?

Just tell me if you love me: the outcasting in Jamaican politics 

I often find myself in many emotional states about Jamaican politics: happy, sad; angry, glad; hopeful, hopeless; yearning, learning–the list could go on. I may go through these states many times a day, or over weeks, or during months, and now even years. They’re not that far removed from how I may feel about Jamaica, as a whole. As we approach another general election, though, these emotions are more meaningful to me. You see, I have never voted in a Jamaican election. I have never been eligible to vote before. But, I took the steps to register and am looking forward to deciding whether or not to vote. You see, I’m also someone who believes my democratic rights extend to my not casting a vote for any candidate who does not meet my test, and that may apply to any or all on the ballot. I see my active non-participation as one of my choices. I am not convinced that voting for dog or monkey makes sense when you know that dog or monkey is a ‘fool’, a ‘crook’, a ‘con artist’, or any of a range of negative personalities that I think have no place in making decisions for my country. That said, I am truly excited about my pending decision.

But, I have become hesitant about the contest because it’s becoming clearer to me that I may not be who the representatives want involved at all. Years of observing politics wherever I have lived have convinced me that the adages about ‘keep them poor, keep them hungry, keep them under control’ (or variants on it), are relevant in many political arenas, and very much so in Jamaica. Thinking and challenging the ideas of politicians is not what many would-be representatives want; they want to get the power, and quickly and easily. All that blah-blah about loving a close contest is a crock. I’ve been a sportsman all my life and nothing beats winning, and if it comes easily then all the better. It’s very sweet to win with a lot of effort and with things ‘going down to the wire’, but I have no problems with a walk-over. I can get on with other more pleasurable things. So it is, I think, with politics, and, moreso, with politics in Jamaica.

The lack of willingness to engage people on substantive issues is one of the things that has made me wonder who is being feted in all the political hullabaloo. I know that someone with an active brain is not needed or wanted at mass rallies. When I heard Audley Shaw opining about “lower interest rate spreads” and that was greeted with a hail of vuvuzela horns blaring, I had to ask myself ‘Who understood a word of that?’ The average Jamaican might have heard spread, and taken it that ‘ManAYard’ was talking about bedspreads. Yes, man, we wan’ som a dat!

Now, I back away a little, because the JLP has put out a 10-point plan that warrants thinking about. But, I feel that the thinking is simply about ‘What’s in it for me?’ as people try to see if they will get the most favourable breaks from the tax plan. I–sadly, being an economist–have to see the whole picture of how this plan gets financed and if the country is headed back to Higherdebtopia or not. So, credit to Mr. Holness and his merry band for putting that plan out there, and slowly, and not yet convincingly, trying to explain it and how it will affect the country’s finances.

But, that step was crushed by the governing PNP’s recent actions in putting up all manner of obstacles to having debates. You see, people like me want to politicians contend in public against each other, and the leaders, especially. I felt it was like a child’s game being played when I read the statement where, no matter what you said, there was a reason to not do something. (I think the PNP missed wanting an apology for ‘Young Andrew’ wearing Clarks 😳) It’s so like the child who wants to play outside and not do homework. “I’ll do it if you give me candy…I need more than that…It’s not my favourite kind…It’s stale…” Pickney! Guh do you work!

In this case, the ‘work’ is talking to the people. But, we know that that has not been the MO of the current government, even one filled with much eloquence. My suspicion is that the PM has gotten locked into a mode of only being passionate and verbose when riled and is not up for moderate or moderated discussion. Maybe, it’s an age thing: getting cantankerous. I can relate to that. Maybe, it’s some other phisiological thing.

But, I want to be engaged, properly. I want to know how PNP can step up the progress so my child can believe she has a bright future here. I want JLP to go further in showing me how to get from poverty to prosperity. I’m a product of both messages, after all.

I’m waiting and I’m patient.

Election time

Pollsters guessing; voters stressing–Election time!

Hopefuls hoping; losers groping–Election time!

Make a promise, make a wish; put more curry on my dish–Election time!

Fear is rising early in the campaign, as two incidents involving gunfire at rallies claim the lives of people, and traumatize many who were excited, but not ready to be ignited–Election time.

Police opine that there is no political motive. But, why choose the venue of political assembly? Election time!

You can run, but you cannot hide. Who will vote? First time, last time, every time–Election time!

My vote counts until my candidate loses, then I’m left with the people who say that I do not count–Election time!

I want a job! I need a house! My child is sick! My parents are weak! Hold this promise, and rub it gently for a few days. I’ll be back to check on you, later. Election time!

Bus-loads chanting. Horns blasting. Big trucks rolling. Music blaring. Green and orange dancing and prancing and laughing and crying and drinking and eating. Exercising their political rites. Election time!

It’s the economy, stupid! I want stew peas, too. Election time!

What does it matter? Useless chatter! Election time!

Make your mind up! Can’t decide? Who’s on your side? Election time!

“Mummy, there’s a strange man at the door!” The woman draws the curtain and sees the brilliant teeth glinting behind the wide smile. She pulls the child closer to her. “That’s a politician, my dear. Stay away from the door. They’re dangerous!” They slink behind the blinds and don’t answer the knock at the door. The man mumbles, “These are certain voters?” Undecided, at best. Election time.

It’s all about colour. Who chose orange? Who chose green? What does it mean? Be careful what you choose to wear outside. Election time!

Red ink. Election time!

People think! Election time!

The Announcement was the beginning of Election Time.

Nomination Day is the middle of Election Time.

Voting Day will be the end of Election Time.

Who will be left standing of those who are standing, after election time?

 

 

The trumpet was blown

It was a very long day in Jamaica, yesterday. The PNP pulled off quite a coup, of having a key area in the centre of the capital locked down and inaccessible to vehicles for nearly a full 24 hours. They also managed to get full coverage by the major television channels of their political rally and its activities. They took up almost all the air available for comments coming from people’s lips. Why? Because the country was waiting, hoping, praying, for the announcement of the next general election. For those, who don’t know, PNP President, Portia Simpson-Miller did what she was expected to do–not in a short time, mind you (an hour or so), and told “My Jamaican people” that elections will be held on February 25. Yea!

I’m not one for all the theatrics of politics, but have to say the show was good entertainment. My wife is a bit of a political junkie and had been tainting the domestic air by having the US coverage of the various presidential nominations events running, whenever they were on. Of the many things that Jamaica could offer as a service would be how to put on a rally. I mean, this thing was better than many concerts, and the DJ had the audience in his (or her) hands with some well-placed selections. (My wife asked if he knew about how the event was going to unfold, and our 12 year-old explained :)) Music is an important part of life in Jamaica (and in most of the Caribbean) and it’s well known that it can drive or deflate; I think this was a driver for the thousands gathered, as well as many of those watching. When they spliced in Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the best’ as the PM announced that the trumpet had been blown was masterly (dare I say, touching? 😊💃🏿).

The drama was eked out, and for those who like to have a quick climax, this was not going to be your day. At one stage, I thought about just turning off the TV and just reading about the outcome in the morning, but I felt compelled to see out the drama. The PM spoke for too long, but I suspect that after not being upfront and ready to talk to the people for so long, she was overcome by the moment, and like prize winners at many events, just got on a roll. (If I were honest, the punch went out of it in the latter half of the hour.) But, it was also in keeping for the PM to show that she has stamina and is fit; at 70, to see her dancing and running and pulling others to do likewise, it was quite something.

  (Images courtesy of Jamaica News Network.)

Other than President Obama, I cannot imagine any other political leader who seems to have an ounce of vibe and physical energy in public. Imagine if ‘Mama P’ had pulled David Cameron to her and asked him to shake his booty (of English money) when he was telling us about the prison. Get down, David! OK, it’s not a pretty image.

What’s certain is that calling the election will satisfy some and annoy others. That’s life. Many were cynical about the events unfolding last night, and I would be amongst those who usually have such moments, but oddly did not find myself straying that way too often. Some talked about how their brain cells were dying off. Some wondered about the importance of music. But, come on, how important are red carpet events, or soccer matches, or cricket, or many political debates, or anything that you like but others find a turn off? I love curling and it was on Canadian TV, but would it brush away the fervour that was unfolding on the screen? Some friends who went commented that it was a boring event. I’m a bit suspicious of that view, given the colours I sometimes see them sporting 🙂

I’m also one who tries to see the funny in the serious, and I’m glad that others can latch onto that too, some with great wit. When the PM said that ‘MIA’ was not ‘missing in action’ but ‘Mama in action’, I rolled my eyes (it was after 10pm and I was trying to sleep, at that point). One legal broadcasting wag used her arsenal of humour and wondered if it was ‘Mama Inaction’ (ouch!) One comedic medic wondered if the date to be announced would be February 31. For that #steveharveyism, we should give a prize.

Jamaicans were being very Jamaican, though, throughout. I read that someone had tried to steal the drone that was covering the event, had been beaten up, and the drone then flung onto the stage (that part was on TV). All politics is local, and so is much’ justice’ that is meted out in Jamaica.

It was a strange day, though, as the Opposition tried to upstage the PNP by holding its own event, not dissimilar to what Donald Trump did this week in Iowa, though the JLP was not boycotting anything in staging their event. The TV channels did not know what to do with this duality, and tried (not too well, I think) to deal with it by having a picture-in-picture presentation. Cynics will wonder why they cut away from Peter Phillips to show the JLP event just as its leader, Andrew Holness was coming to speak. But, let speculation run on.

The next few weeks will be a fascinating time, as people find things to say about things they don’t know and try to make sense out of what is really nonsense.

I’m basking in my ‘punditry’ (I said it would not be February 29, and gave a good reason). Maybe, my services will be sought after to be a talking head. Who knows? Doors open, doors close.

Meanwhile, Jamaicans will know they heard the trumpet blast, literally, and blast again. They love that imagery, invoking the likes of Gabriel and all its religious connotations. Will they heed the call for “No aggression. No negativity.” Will they remain peaceful and calm and understanding and tolerant. It’s not really in their nature, but you never know. Times are a changing, but how fast. Time to think about how people will now position themselves, whether to vote or not, for whom, what to ask, who to persuade, who to avoid…It’s going to be busy.