Don’t let grass grow under your feet

We are champions in many fields
We are champions in many fields

Once again, the world has not gone into a death spiral as another country broaches the matter of legalizing or decriminalizing the use of marijuana. This time, the brave politicians are those on the lovely island of Jamaica, where we know this product as ‘ganja’.

Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives Phillip Paulwell signalled to stake-holders that the use of marijuana in specific quantities is on the Parliamentary agenda for decriminalization in the upcoming legislative year (April 1, 2014-March 31, 2015). He made it clear this was likely within the current calendar year.

People like to make silly links, but I believe the government’s wavering was put to rest after the stunning performance of our lads in Sochi–blasting down the icy bobsled track to a more-than-creditable 29th out of 30, a mere 4 seconds behind the winners from mighty Russia. Let’s say that they smoked it. Naturally, with the image of Jamaicans bombing it in a green, black and gold metallic spliff, what would be more natural to take the image by the butt and run with it.

Jamaica, for all its speedsters on the running track, has not had a reputation for being in the fast lane when getting legislation done. Just look, after nearly 50 years of living with criminal gangs, last week we saw the passing of anti-gang legislation. Many would say that was a tad too long to get to grips with this cancer eating away at the country’s core. But, we love to stick to our proverbsFiyah deh a muss-muss (moos-moos) tail, im tink a cool breeze. [For those unfamiliar with Patois, here’s some help. Translation: There is a fire blowing at the tail of the mouse, but he believes he is feeling the effects of a cooling breeze. Explanation: Many times, in our naiveté, we remain unaware of impending danger until it actually overtakes us. Also, the foolhardy blithely interpret the signs of danger to mean that all is well.]

If ever a country should have been at the forefront of a development, Jamaica should have been head and shoulders beyond others in getting this kind of legislations onto its books. Look, man. It should have our getting up to our throats in debt to realise that we have money growing in the fields of St. Elizabeth. We seemed ready to cede (seed?) the ground to the cool people in the United States. Please! Why let Colorado, home of Denver–the mile HIGH state–get a jump on us? We have hundreds of thousands of Jamaica in a permanent high state! For goodness sake.

I’m not a total moron, so I know (partly from facts, but also from some simple logic), that the Jamaican market in so-far illicit herbal remedies has not been left to grow in Jamaica under the careful and watchful eyes of ‘the small man’. I hear that the leader of the big growers, who goes by the name ‘Don’, has been very creative in sowing, growing, and exporting what some call weed, but we should cherish as the cash crop of choice. Logic tells me that Don wont let the new world pass him by and waste all that he has worked for. We’ll see the little men scrambling like billy goats to get a foothold in this newly legal arena, but Don and his friends have all of that taken care of already.

We have a lot of marketing and image management to do to make the most of this opportunity to make ‘Brand Jamaica’ something that will be brand new, and not another branding iron on our skins. I hope that we use the upcoming World Cup in Brazil this summer, and the Commonwealth Games to get our ‘message’ out to the world, that ‘Jamaica is open for business’ and you don’t need to hide behind the tree to get into it. It may be too much for others to accept but our uniforms for sporting events could change to dread-locked people carrying a spliff. I, personally, would be petitioning the IOC and IAAF to change the shape of the relay baton, to better symbolize the new order. With Jamaica passing that from hand to hand around the track, faster than anyone, we’d need no words.

How this new world will shape up financially is not my interest right now. We need to get ourselves in gear and start. We can think about making stupid money, and moving from bully beef to lobster bruschetta in due course.

To the world!

Reality check: Jamaica is not the world

It took only a few hours in another CARICOM country to realize that we’d been living in a bright bubble. I hit the shores of The Bahamas. Jamaicans are treated to a little social ostracism: planes coming laden with all manner of folk from Jamaica are given extra treatment as bags get the extreme check over. We get it traveling to the USA but it chafes when we get it within CARICOM. Even when the flight is at least half filled with Bahamian students headed home for Christmas.

The man dressed as a pirate covered all the bases with his greeting, seeking to hail all and upset none. I glared at his stubbly face. “Enjoy your visit!” He ordered.

On exiting the airport, I got a sense of distraction as the waiting greeters grinned and waved at arriving passengers. Clumps of American and Canadian tourists were wheeled away into cars and vans. The little chatter I could hear was about the weather: “No risk of snow here…”

Soon, I was in the bosom of my in-laws, and the focus was on birthday celebration. We admired how a new home was sprouting grass clumps and small fruit trees. No mango tree yet, but avocado and sea grapes. A little garden showed off beets, tomatoes, basil and peppers. A little bowl of baby jalapeño peppers was waved proudly. Three months can produce wonders in the sun.

We started to catch up on recent events. That’s when we got the bombshell. “I saw a lady on the plane reading a Jamaican paper and say ‘That’s my girl!'” said one of the just-returned children. “Who is this Tessanne Chin?” Well, you could knock me down with a feather. This was a true “Rahtid!” moment. We started babbling excitedly about our obsessive interest of the past few weeks. Faces were blank.

The Voice? You know: Adam, Christina, Blake, Cee Lo… Voting on iTunes… Phoning… Magic Jack… Vote early and often… More blank stares.

Could it really be that just a few hundred miles from us, people we thought had similar interests were unaware of what had been driving Jamaican daily life? Yes.

I felt the air ooze out of my bubble. I’d thought that a tidal wave of interest had overtaken the region, but signs were that it was a solely Jamaican thing? The massive that had started in the land of wood and water was barely a ripple.

All the yelling and pot beating seemed trivial. I didn’t like the feeling. I had no way to put the past few days in front of people as a huge hologram and say “Look! Listen! ‘Like a bridge over chubbled wata…’ Go, Tess!” Blasted CARICOM! Waste of time!

I know I have it in me to change, but for the moment, I have to regroup and ponder that ‘No man is an island unto himself’ thingy. We’re not all one global village, just a click away. We’re alone in the sea and our shore–even stretched by our migrants–is still just ours. Many rivers to cross? Try getting over an air bridge!

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