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.

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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