September–let’s remember: Catch 22? Catch yourself!

Recently, I booked some flights for a friend which had him flying from Jamaica to NYC and returning the same day, though he was supposed to be staying a month. I just entered the wrong dates. Fortunately, I spotted my mistake and was able to cancel the booking. Not a classic ‘Catch 22’, but an incident that could have had my friend wondering how he seemed to be going and coming at the same time.

Life in Jamaica is difficult, and some would say seems to be a bit of a constant Catch 22, in the classic sense–a difficult situation for which there is no easy or possible solution. But, I would say, on the contrary, Jamaica is full of easy and possible solutions.

As I am supposed to be looking back, I will start with one of those solutions with which I am fully familiar. Even in the heady days of the 1950s and 1960s, when Jamaica enjoyed relatively rapid growth, it could not provide enough good-quality jobs for its people. Solution? Grab the carrot offered by the UK to go and work there. Many did, including my parents. But, many found that they were not in great jobs, even in the fields for which they were qualified. THEN, they were in a Catch 22. 

Many, like my father, wanted to return, but now had no money to make the reverse trip. Solution? Make the best of where you are. Result. The man and his family worked hard, earned enough to move from seedy basements to owning their own homes. Moved from taking buses and the Tube to buying their own cars. Moved from inner city terraces to suburban semi-detached. Enjoyed seeing their child make something of his education and get into some challenging fields of work. They eventually retired to the bucolic realms of rural Somerset, hoping to see Viv Richards and Joel Garner play cricket, but in the end the weather got to them and back to Jamaica they went. They were amongst the lucky ones who could see the ‘dream’ of going to the ‘Motherland’ turn into a dream worth retelling, rather than a nightmare. 

We saw last week, with the return of a plane-load of deportees from England, the nightmare that some have had to live, brought on by themselves and a combination of circumstances. Some tried to justify living a life of crime by saying that they had no other means of making a living. I do not want to be judgemental, but the hard part of life–what is discipline–is doing the right thing without being told. Crime is not the right thing. Those who had to be told that were amongst those who sat in the plane and landed in Jamaica to be processed by the police before being released into a land which many of them did not know well, or at all. 

Whether they truly understood or were feigning ignorance, breaking a country’s laws is what is deemed illegality. No one cares if chopping up your loved ones is accepted practice where you come from, if you do it where it’s not the accepted legal norm, then the ‘throw the book’ at you. Or chuck you out, as the Brits did.

Welcome home! First time here?
Now, ironically, many have returned to their Homeland and have to live like the migrants to England did: bowing and scraping and trying to get by in a place that they thought would be welcoming. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to them. Is anyone tracking? 

If they didn’t understand the meaning of ‘Catch yourself!’, it’s going to be coming clear, day by day. Welcome home!

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. :)