Jamaicans say that good friends are better than pocket-money. I believe it. But, do most Jamaicans have and want good friends, or are they driven in search of other kinds of relationships? To me, that’s an important question any time, but more so as we wrestle with some clear cases of searches for unfriendly relationships: abuse, crimes against persons, and actions that generally disregard the needs of others are on what my eyes land. So, I see the rapist, child abuser, gangster, loud party-keeper, speeding taxi and minibus drivers, insolent or obdurate employee (and that includes the guardians of citizens in the form of the police, mainly, but the security forces overall); and others too many to mention as in the same bag. They all need behaviour correction to give others the space to do well, and stop trying to stop others doing well. It’s too complicated to go into why they do what they do, but that does not mean that it’s ignored.
I may not answer that question directly, but I am going to do a little bit of introspection, and it’s really to test myself and see how I stack up.
A friend, whom I met about a year ago, asked me this morning ‘How goes the month?’ I started answering by saying that I had lost two dear uncles in the past week. Loss of life is something that brings burdens that may last for a long time and I am barely in the process of grieving for them, yet. But, I am staying on the positive side that comes with change and plans for change. We moved house, recently, and the process of creating order and a pleasant living environment is very gratifying. I am not a perfectionist, so I know I can function with things partly done, so long as they are done properly. My ‘office’ has its desk, computer, printer, and accessories all in order. The surrounding space is a mix of boxes and books that are awaiting placement. Bedrooms have beds. We have all our clothes. Our kitchen is well-stocked, so we can cook and eat with relative ease, subject to not yet agreeing where everything will go, and how to flow through some spaces. The garden is full of fruit trees and some have already given gifts, and I was happy to share those Otaheite apples with a friend who lives about a mile away. I got in return some grapefruit and a pot of soup. Friends and pocket-money.
I added that I had fixed some summer travel with my teenage daughter to spend 10 days with long-standing friends in Europe, pass some time with cousins, and catch some former friends in London at the same time; some other friends will come from France to find me in London for a weekend. That’s really nice. Friends and pocket-money.
I’m trying to organize a ‘Thinkathon’ for this weekend, so that some people I know can get to meet me and each other and chew over whatever we feel like for a couple of hours, in the peace of my home somewhere–garden, most likely. I hope we get to know each other a little better and that our sharing of ideas will lead to some changes, because we are also action-oriented people. Friends and pocket-money.
Outside of people, I know, I have much faith in what I know is still a major part of every day life in Jamaica: mutual respect and a willingness to do the right thing. Examples at random from the weekend:
- My saga with Flow and getting my mobile number ported was completed by the process being done partially, as promised by Digicel, on Friday evening and then finally on Saturday morning. I am good to go. During that process, I had chance to see how Jamaican people are patient in the face of seeming provocation and do not resort to loudness or violence. Thank you, Digicel staff at Loshushan.
- My daughter is a competitive swimmer. Hydration is important for her. She asked me to get her some coconuts so that she could get that hydration and enjoy the jelly. I passed a man on the road selling coconuts on my way to Digicel on Saturday morning. I asked him to prepare 6 coconuts and I would pick them up on my way home. I got the price and went on my way. Forty minutes later, I got back to the stall. The man was not there, but my coconuts were and ready. I paid, went home and my daughter got a good drink, not long after she had done her early morning practice. I chopped the coconut and she devoured the thick jelly.
- Sunday was a day full of rain and greyness, and I had no plans to go anywhere, except to get gas in case I needed to go to the country. I headed to Heroes Circle in the early afternoon, after my family got back from church and their impromptu lunch. They brought me a meal and I grabbed a bite before heading out. The young man at the gas station began pumping, then started to clean my windows (not standard practice, in Jamaica). We joked about how Sundays were quiet, but also that Jamaicans don’t like rain. We exchanged pleasantries and I headed home, but had to note the men working on the new perimeter fence to the park. Men doing heavy labour on Sunday is a rare sight in Jamaica.
So, we have good will. That is well displayed, literally, all around us in the carefreeness of many aspects of our daily life. Look at the images I captured this morning.
This is the Jamaica where you expect to just go about your business.
But, how do we account for those who want to disturb all that and impose mayhem and the carnage that also now a part of daily life?
A friend took issue with the seeming lack of coverage of a murder in Cherry Gardens a few days ago. I pointed out that coverage was plentiful, if one looked in other places: local papers, Indian papers (the man who died was an Indian citizen), India’s High Commissioner and Jamaica’s PM and senior Cabinet ministers made remarks about the incident, including about the safety of Indian nationals, that I saw on social media, and India’s foreign minister had also commented. My friend then changed his tune to say that it wasn’t on the front pages (whatever that means in the world of electronic publishing and social media). I presume he wanted to see a prominent reference to ‘uptown’ in the pages of murders. There’s a bizarre sentiment, for you, in the mould of ‘uptown lives matter’. But, I also thought that the essence of the murder was not such as to make it a crime of locality: people in the jewellery trade, as Rakesh Talreja was, are often targets of crime, for clear reasons. He could have been robbed anywhere between his work place and his home, depending on opportunity. But, that’s not to excuse the crime in any way.
Finally, I look back at the measures the PM announced to tackle crime. People have focused on ‘preventative detention’ and efforts to get taxis to remove tinted glass. I wont say much on either of these points. But, the latter exposed how unfriendly we have become. Put simply, the taxi drivers oppose being ordered to remove the tinting, in part with good reason–the law allows some level of tinting. So, the taximen have to decide if they should lose all tinting for the sake of safety or press to keep some tinting for the sake of protecting something the law allows. To me, it’s a question of the greater good versus the good of a few. I think that most people would go for the greater good. TOday, the taximen will discuss the issue with government. But, my beef with them is that, rather than deal with their many transgressions themselves (overcrowding, loud music, inconsiderate road use, speeding, breaking road rules, etc) they seek to defend a ‘right’ when it seems it may be lost. In other words, they do not really care for the rest of us but are focused narrowly on their own satisfaction. Taximen are not friends of Jamaica, it seems.
Their self-interested actions offer an uncomfortable lesson. How far can we go if we are only going to move if dragged?