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.
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.