Two Jamaicas?

One thing you should learn early in your life is that the words of politicians are to be taken, at best, with a grain of salt, and probably a good bushel. If anything says has a grain of truth, chances are it’s been warped in some way of other. So, why am I going off on them today? Well…

Over the weekend, we had one of those singular apparent clashes of culture that one often doesn’t script because they are too painful in their truthfulness. Yet, happenstance throws these things up for us to gasp and wonder.

Carnival had captured the city of Kingston for several days and before the Road Marches on Sunday last many neighbourhoods had been graced with the loud noise of parties (mainly Soca, but not exclusively, based on what I heard at 1am) into the wee hours of several nights. I do not know who or how often people complained about those parties and their noise. I don’t know if they had the requisite permits, etc. However, on the evening of the Road Marches a well-known regular dancehall event was closed down, patrons pepper-sprayed and proprietor arrested…apparently, for noise and permit issues. Well, in steps the politician. 

Our Minister of Culture etc., Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, lamented the arrest and is quoted as saying: “…it sends the wrong message that there are two Jamaicas…”

My question is this. Where else have we seen these ‘two Jamaicas’ and how often do we see them sending the ‘wrong message’ yet simply let the time pass without the need for comment, from politicians in general or Cabinet Ministers, in particular? 

As I walked this morning, I just totted up some glaringly obviously examples of the ‘two Jamaicas’ and the ‘wrong messages’. The list is not exhaustive and feel free to add to it, at your leisure. Here goes!

  • PNP-JLP
  • Uptown-Downtown
  • Kingston-Country
  • Prominent high schools-Other high schools
  • Calabar-Rest of Boys’ Champs
  • Boys’ Champs-Girls’ Champs
  • Usain Bolt-Other Jamaican mortals
  • Babsy Grange-Lisa Hanna
  • Dancehall-Soca
  • Toll-road users-Other motorists
  • Gated communities-Other communities
  • Defendants with high-profile lawyers-Other defendants
  • Adidja Palmer-Other prison inmates
  • SUV drivers-‘Deportee’ drivers
  • Licensed drivers-Taximen
  • Car owners-JUTC riders
  • Jamaican culture lovers-Lovers of anything foreign

Is my point clear? I hope so.

So, my follow-up question is whether these other ‘two Jamaicas’ are important or not, and are we going to see measures taken quickly to address these divisions.

    Robot taxis: more grey than checkered life

    Jamaica has a poor record in providing facilities for those with disabilities. For that reason, I am wondering how we can help those who have vision problems to see better.

    Jamaica has a form of unauthorized taxis, called ‘robots’, locally. Their discerning feature is that they carry fare-paying passengers, without the requisite registrations, including a highly visible red license plate. They are also often easy to see (if you are not visually impaired) as their drivers often hang a hand out of the window with a wad of bills (fares taken) or pointing in the general direction they are headed. At various points along roads, usually at well-known stopping points for passengers, i.e. at a corner, these cars can be seen waiting or loading passengers and their wares. But, clearly, they are not as visible as I think. The police do not seem to notice them, so they are rarely stopped from doing their business. That’s, actually, not a bad thing for the Jamaican travelling public. It’s clear that the demand for public transport is excessive. In the Kingston corporate area, where there is a government-owned bus service, buses are often jammed packed, especially during rush hours. Registered taxis are also often full, and they operate as ride sharing vehicles, not for single riders. Robots fill a gap in terms of the overall demand, but also in tailoring rides to those who do not want to share. Jamaica does not have Uber, but we have some ‘on demand’ taxi services. Robots also eat into that business, but that too is to the benefit of the traveler. Example.

    My car has a leaking transmission and is ‘on vacation’ at the service station. (In somewhat typical Jamaican fashion, I had been asked if I was going to take it home, even though the service provider did not advise that I drive the car 🙂 ) Fortunately, my transport needs are not many–I’m a ‘taxi service’ for my teenager during the weekday afternoons, mainly. I love it! I also have some needs to visit my father mid-island, and I need to get to golf courses to practise and play. With my car in dock, I was fortunate that my daughter had just started her spring break, so my ‘taxi’ duties were done. But, my other needs remained.

    At the weekend, my wife had told me to “take a taxi” when I needed to make a 6.30 start time in a golf tournament. I got the number of a registered taxi and he picked me up at 5.30 and I was at the golf course in plenty of time. I thought the fare a bit steep, but beggars can’t be choosers. Yesterday, I needed to make another appointment. I called the Saturday taxi man again; no reply, after 3 attempts and some voice messages. My housekeeper gave me another number and I called it; within seconds I had arranged my ride for 1.15. At 1.10 a car arrived at my house and I went to get in. It had no taxi markings and no red plates. “Oh, you’re a robot?” I asked. Not really, the driver told me: “I don’t run up and down looking for passengers; I give people rides from the supermarket and such.” I thought about the distinctions. He got a call as I got in; it was his daughter: “Mummy’s pressure’s high and I just took her to the doctor. I’ll reach you soon.” He explained that his wife was both diabetic and suffering from high blood pressure; she’d had problems at the weekend needed medicine, and maybe a reaction to that her pressure had shot up. He said he’d get his daughter from the university, once he’d dropped me at my destination. We chatted on the way there. He was from a district close to my father’s original area. I got to my destination in good time, and took the driver’s phone number in case I needed a ride home and he was free. I wished him and his family well.

    As it was, I got a ride home with one of the people with whom I had had to work. On the way home, she needed gas and was searching for cash. I offered to pay. She refused. I pondered the difference between my paying for gas, for a ride offered by a friend, and the fare charged by the taxi driver who’d taken me earlier. I could easily categorize each driver as someone ‘doing a favour’ to an acquaintance of a ride in their vehicle. It looked more grey than black and white. The whole realm of ride sharing is that way, if money gets involved. I didn’t make any judgements.

    One man, eking out a living. Wife sick. Daughter at university. Life to live. Futures to protect.

    Running a taxi service comes with obligations and usually has insurance and other features to protect riders, such as verification of drivers and their records. Registration of the activity should be with those features in place…but are they always? If a friend passes me on the road and offers me a ride, do I stop to check that his/her insurance is fully in order or that he/she has no traffic violations outstanding? Never, is quite likely. Take a risk? We do it all the time.

    The Transport Minister is going to expand taxi routes, I read this morning, and open up another 2500 licences.

    The taxi industry in Jamaica is not pure. It’s known to have many owners who are police officers. That partly explains some of the ‘blindness’.

    If we had Uber or its equivalent, we’d have legitimized our ‘robots’. Many people (other than registered taxi businesses) think ride-sharing services like Uber are the best thing since sliced Easter bun. Funny place, the world.

    The dust has settled on another ISSA Boys’ and Girls’ Champs at the National Stadium. In keeping with good organisations, one hopes that a period of stocktaking is going on by the principal organisation and by the overseeing government ministries. Things that worked well should be kept and developed, and those that did not work well should be re-examined and eliminated or improved before the next set of events.

    However, one has to wonder if this process happens with ISSA, and if it’s done with full honesty. Why do I say that?

    Ticket to nowhere

    First, it’s been clear for a long time that ISSA cannot manage ticketing for the event. My first direct experience was in 2014 when my ticket did not give me access to the seat to which I was assigned. That year tickets had been oversold and the police intervened to stop the National Stadium from having too many people — of course as a matter of safety, in their opinion. I was disappointed and had to watch Champs on TV at home, while people tried to clamber into the stadium. ISSA apologised and some talk of compensation circulated, but that fell flat. I have never bought another ticket for Champs. Why should I? It guarantees me nothing.

    Since then I have seen and heard of the debacle of getting tickets, to the extent that this year reports were circulating fast of scalpers getting tickets and many would-be spectators disappointed from before the event. Clearly, as days passed, ticket prices rose and those who wanted them badly enough had to pay dearly for the pleasure.

    Many simple solutions to the ticketing problem exist, and the only issue is whether ISSA will implement any and, if they do not, whether anyone will be held accountable for another debacle. So far the evidence is that accountability is not one of the features we will see.

    Logistics trumps rules?

    Second, we have several issues regarding the behaviour of schools and athletes. This year’s signature embarrassment involves a foreign student who it appears was allowed to compete in accordance with rules, but one has to wonder about the sense of the rules. Normally, if one registers for something but cannot present oneself at the due time in person, then the registration lapses. So, in a competition, that usually means disqualification. It’s tough, but that’s normal for lots of things.

    It’s happened to me, my team, other athletes, students sitting exams, etc. It’s life. It seems that this principle did not apply to the foreign student, with his school arguing that logistical problems prevented his arrival in the country by the due date. Well, that’s unfortunate, but better luck next time. Like my having a ticket for a flight and arriving late, I miss the flight. Simple! I cannot expect the airline to accommodate my lateness, no matter whose fault it is. From that mistake come other issues.

    The said foreign student, apparently abetted by his school, paraded his national flag at the stadium in a celebratory lap. Now, let’s not confuse matters of national pride with its various displays. Of course one should be proud of one’s nation, but the time and place for such displays need to be appropriate.

    In my view, Champs is a national school event; it is not a competition that involves foreign schools, and foreign athletes who compete for local schools are not competing for their country. Therefore, if displays of pride are to be shown at that event, I think they should be about the schools involved.

    Clearly there’s a thin line, because we could argue that if a student wanted to parade something that raised the pride of a local area, that might seem consistent with the event.

    For that reason, the best way to deal with such situations is to try to cover them in the rules. That’s what ISSA did in 2015 with the ‘ambush marketing’ debacle that embarrassed one of the main sponsors, while promoting an individual athlete and his sponsor (who was not a sponsor for the event). We have had no repeat.

    If Champs thinks the parading of other national flags is alright, then it can state that explicitly, or ban it explicitly. If it accepts it, then look out for other foreign students to do the same — there are many. It could become more embarrassing when those students come to represent Jamaica at international events, such as Carifta, for which they are eligible. Do we want to see an athlete representing Jamaica deciding to hoist his or her mother country’s flag? Think about it. If it’s the flag of another Carifta country, one has one type of problem; if it’s a non-member country, we have another problem. We also have the embarrassment to Jamaica of its athletes not displaying our national flag. Impossible, you may say? Really?

    Finally, ISSA is one of many Jamaican organisations that appear to be laws unto themselves. They often shun publicity unless it is bad, and then there’s a rush to cover up the mistakes. They shun transparency and openness to critical opinions. That can only go on because they are shielded by the political directorate who have power over them.

    This Government has done much to make governing more transparent and accountable. It takes time for such an attitude at the level of the executive to translate itself to other administrative levels. One way of getting that done faster is for the egregious examples to be highlighted and dealt with quickly.

    Dennis G Jones is a Jamaican-born international macroeconomist, former International Monetary Fund senior economist/resident representative Republic of Guinea; now retired. Send comments to the Observer or

    https://jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com @dennisgjones

    Champs debacle, but any accountability?

    The dust has settled on another ISSA Champs, at the National Stadium. The sport was its usual spectacular show of the best of Jamaican school athletes. But, their performances are only part of the show. The running of the event needs assessing, too.

    In keeping with good organizations, one hopes that a period of stocktaking is going on by the principal organization and by the overseeing government ministries. Things that worked well should be kept and developed and those that did not work well should be re-examined and eliminated or improved before the next set of events. However, one has to wonder if this process happens with ISSA and if it’s done with full honesty. Why do I say that?

    First, it’s been clear for a long time that ISSA cannot manage well ticketing for the event. My first direct experience was in 2014 when my ticket did not give me access to the seat to which I was assigned. That year, tickets had been oversold and the police intervened to stop the stadium having too many people for safety, in their opinion. I was disappointed and had to watch Champs on TV at home, while people tried to clamber into the stadium. ISSA apologized and some talk of compensation circulated, but that fell flat. I have never bought another ticket for Champs. Why should I? It guarantees me nothing.

    Since then, I have seen and heard of the debacle of getting tickets, to the extent that this year reports were circulating fast of scalpers getting tickets and many would-be spectators disappointed from before the event. Clearly, as days passed, ticket prices rose and those who wanted them badly enough had to pay dearly for the pleasure.

    Many simple solutions to the ticketing problem exist, and the only issue is whether ISSA will implement any and if they do not, whether anyone will be held accountable for another debacle. So far, the evidence is that accountability is not one of the features we will see.

    Second, we have several issues regarding the behaviour of schools and athletes. This year’s signature embarrassment involves a foreign student whom it appears was allowed to compete in accordance with rules but one has to wonder about the sense of the rules. Normally, if one registers for something but cannot present oneself at the due time in person, then the registration lapses. So, in a competition, that usually means disqualification. It’s tough, but that’s normal for lots of things. It’s happened to me, my team, other athletes, students sitting exams, etc. It’s life. It seems that this principle did not apply to the foreign student, with his school arguing that logistical problems prevented his arrival in the country by the due date. Well, that’s unfortunate, but better luck next time. Like my having a ticket for a flight and arriving late, I miss the flight. Simple. I cannot expect the airline to accommodate my lateness, no matter whose fault it is. From that mistake come other issues.

    The said foreign student, apparently abetted by his school, paraded his national flag at the stadium in a celebratory lap. Now, let’s not confuse matters of national pride with its various displays. Of course one should be proud of one’s nation, but the time and place for such displays need to be appropriate. In my view, Champs in a national school event; it is not an competition that involves foreign schools and foreign athletes who compete for local schools are not competing for their country. Therefore, if displays of pride are to be shown at that event, I think they should be about the schools involved. Clearly, there’s a thin line because we could argue that if a student wanted to parade something that raised the pride of a local area that might seem consistent with the event. For that reason, the best way to deal with such situations is to try to cover them in the rules. That’s what ISSA did in 2015 with the ‘ambush marketing’ debacle that embarrassed one of the main sponsors, while promoting an individual athlete and his sponsor (who was not a sponsor for the event). We have had no repeat. If Champs thinks the parading of other national flags in alright, then it can state that explicitly or ban it explicitly. If it accepts it, then look out for other foreign students to do the same—there are many. It could become more embarrassing when those students come to represent Jamaica at international events, such as CARIFTA, for which they are eligible. Do we want to see an athlete representing Jamaica deciding to hoist his or her mother country flag? Think about it. If it’s the flag of another CARIFTA country, one has one type of problem; if it’s a non-member country, we have another problem. We also have the embarrassment to Jamaica of its athlete not displaying our national flag. Impossible, you may say? Really?

    Finally, ISSA is one of many Jamaican organizations that appear to be laws unto themselves. They often shun publicity unless it is bad, and then there’s a rush to cover up the mistakes. They shun transparency and openness to critical opinions. That can only go on because they are shielded by the political directorate who have power over them.

    This government has done much to make governing more transparent and accountable. It takes time for such an attitude at the level of the Executive to translate itself to other administrative levels. One way of getting that done faster is for the egregious examples to be highlighted and dealt with fast.

    Adventures from Elle

    Your Guide to Jamaica & Beyond

    Filosofa's Word

    Cogito Ergo Sum

    Bloganuary

    The blogging challenge keep you motivated and start the new year on the "write" track!

    LBHF Libraries and Archives

    "More than a library..."

    Wise & Shine

    Understanding ourselves and the world we live in.

    danielgodsurelywilldeliver

    Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

    The Accidental Ringer

    thoughts from a novice ringer

    Lluís Bussé

    Barcelona's Multiverse | Art | Culture | Science

    eddiepepperell

    Who says Golf is everything?

    mcdonaldrachael

    My adventures as Founder, Director & Educator at Fundaciones Limited

    ShaneKells

    International School of Riga - Director

    nadzspeaks

    Mindspace, unleashing a few truths, but mostly concerned with life and the way I see it.

    Dr CJPJ

    Caribbean Woman, Paediatric Surgeon, Lover of Life

    Albert Darnell Anderson

    Just read, it'll inspire you!

    "write pon di riddim"

    multimodal site born to a decolonial feminist / cultural analyst / and dub doctor, Ph.D.

    The Terrible Tout's Weblog

    Just another WordPress.com weblog

    CCRP Jamaica

    Life to the Fullest!

    %d bloggers like this: