I never took my eyes off Jamaica while I was in Brazil, but things look different close up.
When I arrived at the airport in Kingston, I saw what the drought meant when I looked on parched brown grass, and noticed the hazy sky above. The rain has not come as usual this year and almost every part of the island knows it. Friends are trying different ways to overcome this. Some are looking to divert water from washing machines. Some are pressing for water tanks to be mandatory features of new buildings and for them to be placed in all existing structures. Government makes statements about ‘implementing’ projects, but too little, too late is what we have….again. We’ve reaped the harvest of neglect with water mismanagement again, and it’s just lamentable that our eyes seem unable to see the faults and address them before we reach another crisis. But, sadly, that is the Jamaican way. Our national anthem does not mention complacency, yet it’s part of our national character.
It did not take long to be hit by another Jamaican failing, our lack of integrity. On my ride home, I read reports of a CVM sports reporter making Zeig Heil signs and remarks after Germany won the World Cup on Sunday. I checked other sources, and yes it was so. Appalling, is the word that I have for that display. Some grubby apology was apparently made live later the same evening. There is bad taste and ignorance at work here, plus–by the public silence by other media–a worrying inability to challenge wrongs. CVM should have had no hesitation in firing the broadcaster as issuing a full apology. Rather than the broadcaster making that apology and the station staying mum. I would think the German Embassy has protested strongly, and that the Foreign Minister has spoken to CVM. But, being Jamaica, the cynical reaction could also be right, that heads remain buried in the sand and no one wants to look up and stare the elephant in the face. One good thing is that Jamaica is so small that this sort of ridiculous behaviour in a country of a mere three million people is passed over, even it makes it out into the international sphere. People still see us the sweet land of Bobby Marley.
The political playground has not offered much in recent weeks, meaning that no major changes have occurred in how the country is run. Most decisions still get made with little or no apparent consultation. It was fascinating to listen to the BBC Wordl Servkce this morning talking about developments in Iraq, and how rival groups are trying to get a real stake in government. We don’t have the same ethnic and relegious conflict, but divisions we do have. However, don’t expect them to get a good airing. The status quo is very powerful.
One area where that may change is in how patriarchy gets weakened. For months, some push has been made to give women a bigger voice in national politics. The talk has been of quotas, a bad idea, in my mind. Today, Britain’s PM has started to reshuffle his Cabinet, and so far doubled the number of women represented, “replacing the male, pale and stale” as it has been dubbed by the UK press. No quotas. True, general elections are due next May, and it would naïve to think that the ruling party that has tended to win the female vote would not help themselves seem nicer to women. Britain has and has had many very capable politicians, including one of the most dynamic world leaders. Britons are more comfortable thinking that privilege is not the reason for position, even with decades of leaders who have tended to come from privilege, either money or more commonly education, especially from the top schools and universities. The basic shape of Cabinet will change, with fewer middle-aged men, and younger females. They will still be predominantly white, but don’t be surprised by a splash of colour. Jamaica ought to be watching carefully.
What we’ve seen, though is one of the government ministers who’s had a hard time keeping control of his whippersnapper deciding that Parliamentary politics is not for him. Damien Crawford, known as much for his dreadlocks as his prowess in maths, will not contest the next elections. He could be a great talk show host, keeping pepper in the eyes of the interviewed, and knowing more than enough about how the whole funky business of party politics works in Jamaica.
The economy can’t change in a few days, but some people would like to think that fundamental changes happen in a day. The central bank intervened in the foreign exchange market last week. This is normal activity. What was abnormal was that they admitted it. Whoi, the Governor has no clothes! People keep hoping for the J$ to stop sliding but won’t accept or understand that it’s not a truck that can be held in place by a brick. We want to support Tessanne Chin by buying her album? Well that means buying US$, and selling J$. Oh, that’s how it works? So, not supporting Tessanne is good for Jamaica overall. Better, to get the rest of the world to buy her records, so that we can get some income via her, and save our money to buy more weave. That too? Yes.
Put differently, China is growing fast still. It buys commodities and sells manufactured goods. We are the opposite. We sell commodities and buy manufactured. We could make more, but we’ve never been good at the quality side. But, the J$ needs us to fix that imbalance.
One way is to get more traction from our athletes as manufactured goods. Our own doping agency, JADCO, keeps trying to trip them up and failing them in drug tests, only to have their decisions overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. That should tell us something. Either JADCO don’t know their hurdles from their javelins, or they don’t know their aspects from their ratios. Bottom line: JADCO must go, or be transferred to Scunthorpe United and play in a lower division.This time, CAS also ruled that THE 18 month ban imposed by JADCO on Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson should be reduced to six months, and be deemed as served, plus JADCO must pay their costs. Lashings from the lawyers were being meted out, in good Jamaican fashion.
We keep getting it wrong be paid we don’t spend time to learn how to do it right. Send me these ‘children’ for a few days of training.
Jamaica is crazy. You can still stand on a street and hail a car and expect to be picked up by a stranger and given a ride. If you see a friend on the roadside, you are likely to offer them a ride if they are headed your way. We will also drive people into the dirt for having views or acting In a way that we deem abnormal. We cannot translate our readiness to care randomly into something systematic. Rather, we encase hard attitudes. That’s one reason we get stuck. Our systems are savage when it comes to dealing with real issues. We would rather let everything slide by than address what we should.