What matters more, what we do or what we don’t do? Crime-fighting in Jamaica

As there is more than one side to a story, so there is more than one reason for a problem, and more than one solution. So, no answers provided, today. How much of Jamaica’s problems rest with the absence of things against the presence of things? Having asked that, as many people who read this may have viewpoints, and therein lies many a problem with fixing what we perceive is wrong with society: any and everyone could be right, and each of us does not have to agree with the analyses of others or their proposals. When things change in society it’s because of a critical mass that agree on where to go and how to get there. So, in that sense, the persistence of problems signals the absence of agreement on how to address them.

Today’s Gleaner has a editorial about ways to address Jamaica’s seemingly untouchable violent crime problems, and points to the remarkable turnaround in New York City (NYC), where the level of murders has returned to the level of the 1950s, with about 3 murders per 100,000 people (from around 30 in the 1990s) against Jamaica’s startling 59. The editorial touches a few raw nerves concerning Jamaica’s police force, compared to that of NYC (my emphases):

They targeted hotspots where murders, robberies and burglaries most often took place and went after the known and suspected criminals, who were sometimes picked up initially for small crimes. The police was substantially expanded, giving it the flexibility to do its tasks, without affecting its general policing functions.

Jamaica’s police force will probably insist that its approach is consistent with the New York City model – and may well be. It is not our sense, however, that it is done with the same energy and consistency that delivered success in New York City. And important for Jamaica, neither is the JCF open to the level of transparency and accountability that elicits the kind of society trust that would contribute to its effectiveness.

But, transforming Jamaica’s police force from an organisation with a reputation for corruption and ineptitude to an organisation that is professional, efficient, and accountable, demands new approaches to leadership. This must start with the top political leader, who apprehends that crime poses an existential threat to democracy, a civilised way of life, and the anarchy now imposed by criminals.’

If this assessment is correct, it begs many questions, such as why the police force would be anything but energetic or consistent in its task? But, why has the force been allowed to continue with such a damaging lack of transparency and accountability?

Trash on a bench in Nassau

Not reducing or resolving crimes is not that different from problems with garbage. Those who commit the acts know they can get away easily. Those assigned to deal with it, don’t, for reasons acceptable or not. The persistent presence tells us that no one wants to address the problems.

As with things seen from an economics approach, the questions can be boiled down to who gains and loses from these failings? How much of the transfer of gains and losses are needed to make matters better? That’s the essence of the presence-absence dilemma.

To fix an imbalance does not require that parity be achieved or that one side has to win everything; it means the sides have to be satisfied with the prospective outcomes.

I’ve resolved in my mind why politicians may not want to see a reduction in crime, and it’s based on a cynical assessment of the political structure in place in Jamaica, and its system of rewards and spoils. But, I have not found a good argument for why the police force would want to preside over such a situation. Any ideas?

Mind sets

Perhaps, I come with an obvious bias, but I was shocked when a diplomat, who’s been living in Jamaica commented that without golf being available, life here would be difficult because “there’s not much to do”. I thought briefly before offering a response.

I accept that, compared to some large cities like London, Paris, or New York, Jamaica has fewer museums, theatres, sights of historical renown, large parks, castles (though NYC draws a blank there, too), huge rivers, trappings of regal splendour (sorry, NYC, you lose again, too), fancy and famous restaurants (yes, London stands up proudly), glitzy bars (Jamaica has lots of bars, but glitz costs a lot of moolah), swanky shopping arcades, sidewalks filled with name-brand stores and associated celebrities…

Perhaps, I’m too content thinking that exploring a country that, although physically small, has so much land that is hardly well-known to even its oldest residents, holds sufficient interest to keep so-called ‘busy’ people enthralled.

Assuming–and it does not seem an heroic assumption–that the average workaday person is spending between 8-12 hours a day doing their job, spsending about up to two hours a day commuting, spends about 3 hours communing with family, loved ones and domestic servants, and between 6-8 hours asleep, that’s much of most weekdays filled. Of course, each of those days could have a good slug of free time to browse around stores, or museums, or bars, etc., or to take in a show. But, more ‘free’ time comes at the weekend.

Alright, if golf is your passion, then bang goes maybe six hours over the 48 hours of the weekend. You’re religious, or even if not truly a believer in God or some supreme being, it’s better in Jamaica to pretend that you believe because explaining non-believing will take up much of what’s left of the precious weekend. So, that means about 3-4 hours of time in places of worship, and that’s without any socializing, which may be important if you truly want to gauge the temperature of a country that is foreign to you. That’s 10 hours gone, already. Time for sleep? Forget lying in, because you want to
max out on doing things, so figure on 16 hours over two days so that batteries are fully recharged. So, 26 hours gone.

What’s can you do in 22 hours? If you want to explore, you would have to allow a good 2-4 hours driving to get somewhere interesting, and that’s without any road problems because the marl patch up has been washed away by the latest rain squall. So, 18 hours to ‘do stuff’.

Let’s assume that you are health-conscious. Hiking, biking, running, kayaking, rafting, swimming, in some beautiful and challenging terrain is an option. I understand that an enormous amount of people pay hard-earned lolly to go to Jamaica to do this, and some have it year round. Imagine.

Health-conscious but activity challenged? How about the beach? Jamaica has some very nice spots. Eighteen hours hanging out at some of those would seem a good thing to try. True, the sun may be intense and so may be the heat, and though there’s shade in many places, the heat has no ‘off’ button. Plenty of people seem to make a living catering for these problems, though, and someone to lather your body with oils, whether natural and no-name but produced by Ras Rubbup in the hills or a brand that has so much printed on the label that you could use that as reading while relaxing.

So, 18 hours of body bronzing with or without some oily TLC pampering. That’s the stuff to make your friends on Facebook send a stream of comments and emoticons indicating that they love you, but… BFF no more, maybe?

But, you must get hungry during that time. Well, body bronzing places and good eating places are not necessarily close together, though they need not be too far. The food things won’t be hard to work out, but you may have to think ahead.

If you are a fishist, then Little Ochi or Border are not just a spin around the block if headed off to Portland or Negril or just some little sweet spot on the north coast. But, slickened with herbal oils, you may be able to slide easier and get there for a good fish feed.

If you are a porkist or just meatist, then finding your poison will be easier, unless our mind is set on jerk at its finest and you had to get to Boston. But, let’s just say that you are adventuresome.

Roadside food is never too far away. Oh, the soup doesn’t have a fancy name? Problem, in the land of “No problem”. Look, janga and mannish are about as fancy as it’s going to get, so just roll with it being called ‘chicken’ or ‘corn’ or ‘cow cod’. We don’t do bouillabaisse. We don’t do broth, unless you’re sick. We do tea, made with fish, but you don’t drink it with your pinky pointing northeast; you put it to your head and slurp slowly, if not quietly. Watch for bones. Watch out, too, for ‘the food’: a dumpling or piece of yam falling onto your face from a short distance is still a shocking experience, though not as traumatic as when the food falls to the ground. Then, the true power of latent learning comes as you utter words heard from the mouth of the gardener but not understood, till now. “Wha wrang widisya piece a yam, man!” (Notice, the Jamaican question is rhetorical and declarative.) Like the soup, you may have to season your contempt for the inconsiderate morsel with a “to r*%^” (speak to a Jamaican for clarification, here :-)).

So, you’re bronzed, oiled, and your belly full. Did we get drinks, at all? Cha! How we could forget? Notice, how a day out in Jamaica has somehow changed the way you think and form speech. Me better grab one a disya jelly cokenut di man ha pon di kyart. Like Elisa Doolittle, there’s a “By Jove, she’s got it!” moment coming. If life were a musical, then all the street vendors, and people working in nearby fields would suddenly appear and throw on straw hats carefully hidden under their stalls, wave machetes and hoes, and break into some spirited singing and dancing, flinging themselves and their wares all over the place is well choreographed moves. “Mi sehhh, day oh!”

What a way to end the day. Time to roll into bed and take a few winks before another workaday week presses the weary soul.

My wife and her colleagues were planning their annual picnic and produced a list of places on which staff could vote; she did not have a veto. They opted for somewhere on the north coast, based around some all-incisive hotel. We’d wanted to go to Chukka Cove, which sounded like a lot of fun. Maybe, we had the wrong idea of what would be fun to do. Not everyone is into zip lining or snorkeling or anything that doesn’t involve an iPad or Kindle. But, that’s what makes life interesting.
I’m intrigued that the choices did not include any spots off-island. There’s so much more to do abroad, I hear. Maybe, cost was an issue, and then there are those annoying visa restrictions to get into other countries. Cha!

Better get myself ready to be bored out of my mind for a couple of days. But, wait. My cousin’s suggested I play golf at Runaway Bay on Satday. Saved!

One love 🙂

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