Follow the money!

Lack of finances stifling football‘ screamed a headline in today’s Gleaner. President of a parish (St.Elizabeth) football association cited lack of corporate support as the main reason for the parish’s failure to get a team into the national premier league. This coming from an area that routinely has one of the best schools football talents, St. Elizabeth Technical High School.

Last week, I wrote about corporate sponsorship being the lifeblood.

When I see what goes on normally in Jamaica, it’s clear that ‘the money’ usually flows to the winners. So, those who are clearly amongst our best have a very good chance of getting financial help. But, the report above shows that this is not always the case, even for a sport for which we would normally expect support and interest to be sky-high. What is wrong?

Last weekend, news flooded in that the Jamaican 2-man bobsled team had qualified for the coming winter Olympics, ending a 12 year absence since 2002.dogecoin-is-sending-the-jamaican-bobsled-team-to-the-winter-olympics Lack of finance had hampered their efforts in the past, and was likely to hamper them after qualification. Then a strange thing happened. Within hours, I was seeing messages about raising funds–particularly, through crowd-funding. Fans of the sport got busy fast. Soon, the federation in the USA launched an appeal, accepting major credit cards, but also using Crowdtilt, Dogecoin (virtual currency) and Indiegogo. The team needed US$80,000 (to cover travel and equipment costs), and by Tuesday it had raised US$115,000. The government has since stepped in to cover travel.

The bobsledders are a special story in Jamaica, with the images of the Cool Runnings movie capturing in 1993 the thrill of the first entrants, in 1988. To revive that image was perhaps easier than getting the dry dirt of St. Elizabeth wet.

But, the supporters did something, fast and effective. They found a way to get to the money, rather than waiting for the money to get to them.

Jamaica is strapped for money. Think like this has to happen and with it a realisation that the old ways don’t work. Does it take the diaspora to be involved to get the party started? Maybe, but it’s about a mindset that is not constrained to tried and tested, and positioning that is outward-looking.

Jamaica needs a lot of that.

Jamaica, where the sun sets in the east: Bitcoin, drag queens, voting rights

Jamaica showed off all of its frustrating peculiarities in the past few days.

One step forward: A company known as Kingston Open MRI was reported to have started using Bitcoin–a virtual currency–to facilitate “a cost-effective, easy method to pay” and taking advantage of free payment processing. I think an hip-hooray is in order for forward thinking, even if I have personal concerns about the long-term life of Bitcoin.

One step backward: Usain Bolt ‘stars’ in a recent commercial by Virgin Media. He portrays himself and several other characters, including a baby and a woman. Some people in Jamaica are frothing at the mouth about what he has done to mash-up the country’s image for masculinity by suggesting he’s not on the straight as an arrow line. If this is not real idiocy, then what is? The Jamaican inability to distinguish art from real life may be behind some of the more damaging foolishness that we get up to. Let me think of the many ‘stars’ who find it hasn’t hurt the semblance of their manhood by dressing in a dress: Wesley Snipes, Tyler Perry, Oliver Small, Eddie Murphy… I deliberately focused on black stars. Now, admitted these persons are called ‘actors’, so I imagine in the minds of some they are clearly acting. But an athlete doing it must be gay, right? Wrong! Take a look at the really stunning Charles Barkley. Hold back now, fellas! One of a long-line of clearly confused black, white or mulitcoloured athletes, who include known drag queens Oscar de la Hoya, Cam Newton and Leo Ferdinand.

Charles Barkley showing that he is all wo-man
Charles Barkley showing that he is all wo-man

Aieee! I guess that soon, someone will notice that Bolt dressed up as a baby and I cannot imagine what they will think he’s trying to be there.

Two steps backward: MP, Everald Warmington has not been known in recent times as a man who minces words. He is, however, someone whose words seem like they have gone through a mincer. His latest outbursts have really set tongues wagging. He said (my stresses):
“If you don’t vote; you don’t count. And at this stage if a person walk in the office and sey ‘Boss mi a Labourite’, and when I check the computer, you didn’t vote, I nah deal wid you. If you don’t vote; you don’t count and you can’t ask for Government benefits when you refuse to participate in the governance of your country.” 

I will let all the others who want to feast on the words. But, first, not voting is participating in your national governance: it can send a very clear message of the worthiness of those who have put themselves up for elected office. If I saw a dog and monkey on the ballot–and they have featured in some places–I’d hope that someone would not force me to vote for one or the other.

What is the MP doing checking the voting records to see who voted? I thought we had a secret ballot, so why would he want to violate that, if he’s so concerned about civic duty?

If an MP feels that he or she does not want to deal with those who did not cast a vote in the politician’s favor, I guess he or she has that right, but those who win ballots are supposed to address the interests of all their constituents. Yes, I know we love being partisan, and that politicians love being vindictive. Mr. Warmington went on to talk about the 48 percent (those who did not vote in the national election) in terms reminiscent of a failed US presidential candidate, Governor Romney. Very disturbing and disrespectful!

Many people will be quick to point out that even if persons did not vote, they have representation through their tax paying dollars, which so happen to pay the salary of elected officials. In case, it escaped Mr. Warmington, there is also a large part of the population who cannot vote, legally. Children and their guardians, whether they have voted, deserve the politicians’ ear.

It may happen today, but so far, Mr. Warmington’s party leader, Andrew Holness, has not voiced an opinion. Another member of the JLP, Daryl Vaz, did comment:

Vaz has argued that it is a right of Jamaicans to opt not to vote.

It is a constitutional right that they can exercise…The fact that they might not wish to exercise it because of what they perceive as the failure of politics and politicians should not disqualify persons from receiving genuine assistance.”

It’s not rocket science. But, if you are a war monger, Mr. Warmington, then I imagine none of that will strike a politician as relevant. When Jamaica has compulsory voting, I’d be happy to hear the comments made again. Till then, let those who want to vote vote; the others can do as they please and not feel they have no voice.

Fifth grader in a romper suit: my Jamaica

Imagine that the country in which you live were a child. Replace the trappings of childhood, and put in their place the laws and actions of nation states. What would you get? Mother P is always interested in her children’s progress.

Chief Justice, pookums, do you have the laws in place to deal with reckless driving on the roads?
“Yes, Momma. Yes, Prime Minister. I passed the Road Traffic Act, which sets limits for driver qualifications, road speed, vehicle licensing, penalties for infractions, and more.”
Why then did the news report a bus carrying children crashed killing four of them, and the driver was speeding, driving recklessly, and had over 100 traffic infractions?
“Good question, PM.”
Pookie? Come here! I want to hear what you have to say about the basement buses….

First-born children may be too uppity, so Momma looks to one of her younger brood.

Oh, goodie. Here comes my bright button education minister. I really want to check something with him before I go off to discuss how my country is doing compared to those in North America. I need to show them that we can do more than run fast, dance slowly, and drink Red Stripe.

Ronnie, honey! Tell me that all of our schools are as good as in America. Just a simple yes will do.

Strangely, the minister scratches the ground like a chicken looking for corn.
“Well, not quite, PM. We have a few shortages in equipment. Some of our schools don’t have enough chairs or tables for the teachers or students.”
The PM strokes her bangs.
In my Jumayka?
“We also have a few schools which don’t have any electricity, and they’ve always been that way.”
Ronnie, dearest. I know you revere tradition, but that’s a little extreme. You mean they have solar power and windmills to give them light? After all, we have so much sunshine, and I know you’re bright, my sunshine.
The minister now scratches his chin, and his face is reddening.
“We plan to expand technology and use of electronics nationwide.”

Momma P ponders this and her hands are pressing on her temples.
“We have lots of very good students, Momma, passing more exams than letters in their names. That’s something! We also know when brown shoes help studies or when black shoes help studies. We also know that khaki helps the mind focus. Of course, we lock the children out of school if they wear the wrong shoes and let them figure out what to do while their parents are at work. That helps their critical thinking skills. We teach!”
Portia’s bangs are gripped in her tightly clenched hands. Ronnnnniiieeeee!

20130928-072909.jpg“Oh, and don’t forget, we have children who wrote on slates and they will be wizards on iPads. Jamaica to the world?”
Ronnie was heard reciting a verse from Psalm 23 as his kind mother was in the yard finding her favourite broom….

Momma Portia went back inside to fold up some clothes before heading out to work. She caught a glimpse of the apple of her eye, Peter. She could always trust him with the family money. Such a good boy.
Peter, did you count up the shop money?
“Yes, Momma. But, I think Daddy took some to go to buy a flask of rum. Oh, and Miss Ivy asked for some flour but we had none, so I lent her some money. And don’t forget that you asked Ronnie to get new books. So, I gave him the rest.”
So, the money’s counted but we don’t have a cent in the house?
“No, silly mummy. Mr. Grabbe at the bank passed by to look for you and said he would lend us a few dollars till we got back what was owed. Except Daddy’s rum money. Then he called his friend in America to lend us a little bit more because he saw that we had no car and thought buying one would be a good idea. So, we have lots of money!”
Peeta! You will be the death of me.
Peter was just about ready to start shaving and his dimply face began to itch.
“I wonder why Momma sounded so angry,” he said to himself, then went to look for his favourite abacus.