Jamaica and its coat of many cholers

You’d think that in the steamy heat of August our national energy would be fully focused on getting our sporting heroes over the finish line in Rio. But, Jamaicans are rarely accused of staying focused and on-topic. Perhaps it’s a way to push away our anxiety as we bite nails ahead of the showdowns on the track.

Why else are we using brain cells mulling over a change in our coat of arms? With luck, you’d hope that our other national pastimes of killing and maiming and crashing motor vehicles would take a back seat (have that pun, for free). However, with much emotional space freed up for a few days, while we swallow the disappointment of Alia Atkinson not being on the medal podium, what better use of that than to consider changing our coat of arms? What? You’d rather go and help clear gullies in Mobay? Some people!

Fortunately, we’re blessed with religious leaders who are always putting their fingers on the main issues of social concerns. So, let’s hear it for Bishop Edwards! 👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿 He shared his views that we need to rethink our coat of arms:  the crocodile is not a true representation of our nation. Our crocodile has lost a friend. He or she may be added soon to the ranks of the unemployed. Growth of 5 percent won’t save that skin. Any seen wandering aimlessly on golf courses on the north coast may be in less-than-happy mood.

Well, I’m not sure we want to run with the logic of that. I look around for some well-known national symbols. Should I take that pile of garbage collected my Thalia Lyn and her family at Old Fort Bay? How about the national pothole? There are many in every parish and we can truly say that they guide our every movement. Look out! Sorry, almost bust another tyre. I’m sure Dr. Lucien Jones would approve of that. How about the grumpy public servant? Someone waiting with tax forms in hand? Images too negative? So much for reality. 

Are the current images ones that foment negative notions? The Taino man and his bow is really pro-violence? Christopher Columbus was made of sterner stuff, I guess. The lady with her basket of pineapples–sugar-loaded, as they are–is yet another notch up of NCDs? Why Tainos, anyway? We hardly know what they look like! Maroons, maybe?

Maybe, this opining is what happens to humans after 50, and Jamaica, having recently passed that milestone as an independent country is having a mid-life crisis. We need to send the country away on a retreat, like our under-working MPs. Maybe, we should just float off to The Maldives or somewhere equally pacific in The Pacific.

But, in our mood of sombre reflection we should look at the positive images that we all know and love. 

Just a week after we were grinding our teeth and prepared for Tropical Storm (or was it ‘wave’) Earl, and had cleared the supermarket shelves, what better image than the tin of bully beef? I proposed an impromptu poll on Twitter suggesting a few ideas that I thought would work in the minds of most Jamaicans. The results of this (not large) survey are telling: people are keenest on the dual images of Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce. But, they are very keen on the image of the beef patty and a plate of ackee and saltfish (our national dish). Maybe, the ideal would be our Olympians each holding one of each food symbol. 

Much as I love ‘Aunty Fae’ for all she does to uphold our national traditions (I was not living here at Indendence but now have a better idea of what to do when I hear the national anthem in the cinema, and what to do if I hear the pledge. Why did the British never bother about this with their national anthem?) I will have to dig my own furrow on this one. She thinks the Bishop’s interventions may be useful in opening a a conversation on true national representation. I think that conversation can await the others that need to happen and quickly, like our obsession with abusing children. Some will say that we can think about many things at one time. Granted. But, guess what? We love to think about things…and then…do…very…little. Like people who like to go to conferences and seminars all the time: we’re there collecting swag bags and lanyards showing how and when we last had a good think about something. ‘Oh, Minster! The report on…that was tabled back in 19xx, is still awaiting your signature…’…”Not now! Can’t you see I’m busy…Just a little lighter on the shoulders…Ah!”

If, heaven forbid, the idea of changing the emblem takes hold, don’t even ask about the cost of changing every striking thing where it now features. “Hello! Madame Lagarde? That fiscal surplus target…” Talk about wasting more of our future generation’s assets. 

Navel-gazing isnt an Olympic sport…yet

    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. :)

    One thought on “Jamaica and its coat of many cholers”

    1. Hahahaha!! Oh Dennis you made me laugh. The thought of Usain and Shelly-Ann each holding ackee/a patty is classic!! Seriously, it truly amazes me that so much time and energy is wasted on so much trivia (including some of those seminars you mentioned, which are in one ear and out the other for many). A midlife crisis – yes. And sorry, I’m not on the same wavelength with Aunty Fae on this one…


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