Its main points were as follows, including an update on the state of roads damaged by Tropical Storm Zeta:
NOW: Prime Minister @AndrewHolnessJM hosts special press briefing. He says the recent rains have affected the road network in all 14 parishes. Cites @NWA_JA report that more than 80 roads were affected, primarily in the southern parts of Jamaica. pic.twitter.com/jj56JOA7Wu
COVID fatigue and mental health issues are now getting more attention:
The Government recognizes the psychological impact facing persons during this time. The Ministry of Health is putting in place a strategy to deal with the mental health dimension of the COVID-19 pandemic. pic.twitter.com/7XPCcQq4i6
#COVID19 Update: Of the 620 residents and staff members tested over the three-day period, 87 results have returned positive for COVID-19, while 553 were negative. The 87 positive cases include 65 residents and 22 staff members. @christuftonpic.twitter.com/LdRhcSySEG
Care homes were being tested as are correctional facilities.
Health Minister @christufton: of 236 nursing homes and other residential facilities inspected, 48.8 per cent were compliant with COVID protocols. In the meantime, one nursing home in Manchester and another in Hanover have been ordered closed and the others given 30 days to comply pic.twitter.com/fCgGN6K8es
Age limit remains at 65 for stay-at-home till November 30.
Age limit for the stay at home measure remains at 65 until November 30, 2020. Persons 65 and over must therefore continue to stay at home but will be allowed to leave home once each day for the necessities of life. pic.twitter.com/mphTKPOxC6
Schools will move in a phased manner to face-to-face classes, from November 9 through 20, with 17 pilot schools pilot in 9 parishes targeted (affecting primary and secondary schools, and some 60,000 students).
Education Minister @fayvalwilliams has announced that face-to-face classes will resume under a pilot programme in 17 schools in nine parishes from November 9 to 20. Twelve of the schools are at the primary level and five at the secondary level. pic.twitter.com/9gGAjbGpfU
While most parents, students and teachers in Jamaica wait anxiously for the new school year to begin on October 5 (having been deferred from September 7), several in that category have been back at school for nearly a month already. Many children studying abroad went back in late-August and some private schools in Jamaica went back about the same time. So, how has it been for some of them?
My daughter started boarding school in the USA, in New England, in September 2019. She was having a great junior year, with excellent grades and a fuller athletics program than she’d enjoyed in Jamaica. She had decided to make the move and had done the research and sold the case to her mother—I was resistant to the end, but bent after I went to visit the school. To our great joy, she was representing well as a Caribbean-US girl and as a self-motivator. She’d found herself amongst a few Jamaican friends and some acquaintances from The Bahamas. She was inspirational in the school having a fund raising drive to aid Hurricane Dorian relief efforts. Then COVID-19 struck.
She spent an unplanned 6 months at home, after spring break, when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic meant she was not able to return to school. She enjoyed being home in Jamaica, but did not really enjoy when school resumed for the spring term, and she had to continue classes remotely, online. She missed the opportunity to try a new sport, varsity softball, which should have had spring training in Florida in March. She really missed the trip to Disney World that’d been planned as part of the trip. 😩Boo! COVID sucks! 😡
She returned to school in late-August, however. She had to return with a negative PCR test result, less than 10 days old. Testing wasn’t fun, at UHWI, but negative results were a great comfort. 👍🏾🙏🏾
Her own take on the transition was interesting (as shared in a Whatsapp message):
“…as i knew I was going to be travelling to the US by myself, the thought gave me so much anxiety and even going through the airport on the day I was very anxious especially in jamaica because I didn’t know if ppl would take it seriously and be wearing their masks correctly but I was pleasantly surprised and I didn’t know what to expect in ja or in the US but luckily I had an older friend there with me to help me out as well. some people in the miami airport were a little non chalant about wearing their mask and as i passed them while being socially distant I was very passive about them not wearing their masks. but now that i’m at school i’m settling in quite nicely, not a log of ppl on campus but student will be tricking in soon mainly on the 3rd and i’m so excited but the freedom i have will be tightened up (like ordering food).”
She’s a senior now in high school, so is also in the throes of college applications. Broadly, US colleges have decided to make applications ‘test optional’ for 2021 entrants. She has an SAT result, from a test sat last fall; she wanted to resit to try to improve her score, and managed to do that at school last week, adding the essay component, which made the exercise about 4 hours long.
Meanwhile, college enticements are flowing in; online sessions and tours are being offered; some in-person visits are resuming. It’s an active and exhilarating time, with its full bucket of anxieties over choices and what is the right strategy to get what you what, where you want. Oh, to be 17! 🙂
As the application process advances, one can’t help but focus on how colleges are preparing for entry in 2020 and beyond, with installation of protective facilities (eg isolation areas) in case a major outbreak occurs at the college. Many have medical facilities associated with them, but how they would be used and be available in an emergency is to be tested.
Her first two weeks involved quarantine in her dorm; her room mate arrived after about a week. They had meals brought to them. COVID testing is every 3-4 days, and rapid results methods are being used. The dorm house has a nice porch, so it was at least an option to sit there and enjoy the approaching fall cool weather and the changing leaf colours.
Masks are mandatory and social distancing is applied.
Classes resumed a couple of weeks ago. Day students were registered last week. Online options exist for those who prefer them, and classes are recorded. Face-to-face classes have resumed. Life on campus is resembling normal life, but with many restrictions. For instance, movie night over the weekend was outdoors.
Students were able to walk in the woods around school. But, some organized sports have resumed: my daughter has had a week of soccer practice; a limited schedule of inter-school matches will be arranged for the varsity team, while the junior varsity will play intra-murally.
My daughter was able to leave campus at the weekend for a trip to the plaza and pharmacy—masks and social distancing in force. School will run until Thanksgiving in late-November, students will leave campus and not return until 2021. Online tuition will resume after the Thanksgiving holiday through to the Chrismas/New Year break.
We speak often, including video chats, as the fancy takes us, but often between activities when my daughter is walking to or from her dorm or a class. Her days are full but still fun. I’ve not detected any health-related stress in her voice. She had trouble sleeping in her early days back but Sleepytime tea seems to be working well.
I have a Jamaican friend, who teaches in a private school in St. Andrew. Her son is at a private university in New England, as a junior (his 3rd year). He also preferred returning to campus because he felt he could focus better. He also felt that the protocols were well thought out, so the safety factor was key. The state requires quarantining or a negative test. The school has easily accessible testing stations throughout campus. They test every 3-4 days and the turnaround time is about a day and a half.
Students have to be creative with socialising as only people who live in the dorm can enter the building. So, friendship circles have shifted somewhat to include persons who live off campus. Add to that, many friends have not returned to campus at all as they have opted to attend class remotely. There is some concern about how this will evolve when winter arrives as outdoor venues won’t be as comfortable. Culturally, New Englanders are very self-conscious so compliance for mask wearing and social distancing is enforced by everyone. If someone steps in without a mask the social pressure is there to get them to conform. Creates a greater sense of overall safety.
As a parent I have several issues to deal with while my child returns to being educated in the current situation. First, there’s anxiety coming from separation and distance. But, I’m confident in my daughter’s school and how they managed the online teaching during spring term, the summer preparation, and now the fall resumption. I hear confidence in my daughter’s voice as she discusses her days and activities.
She had previously attended AISK, which is leading Jamaican schools on how to bring technology to bear to facilitate resumption of classes.
Our labs are physically distanced and highly sanitized!
Our students have not skipped a beat since returning to campus. We're so grateful to be able to provide such a safe and incredible space for your children to learn and explore all of their curiosities – even in the midst o pic.twitter.com/jqnkSekZfC
Interestingly my friend, although she had the same anxiety, as things evolved locally she felt that her son would be in a more controlled environment at school. Their testing procedures are more accessible and the systems are in place should he end up in quarantine.
Her concerns about distance was similar. There is no just jump on a plane anymore. Christmas break may not be an option as quarantining on return to Jamaica will take up most of the time and so he feels that it won’t make sense. She completely understands but it’s heartbreaking when one considers not being able to see him until next summer.
But what do teachers see? My friend sees that protocols have to be simple for them to work. Classes have to be small. Kids will be kids and will forget protocols and so numbers have to be at a size where they can be easily monitored. The students have been more or less cooperative. Teachers spent a lot of time explaining the rationale behind the systems to students and they get it. Adults have to be on guard all the time to remind kids to social distance. Yes, it’s great to have kids back. The toll on teachers is extensive. Their duty schedule is expanded because the kids are now in self-contained units for the whole day. In addition to the physical toll teachers also worry about their level of exposure everyday and the possibilities of getting sick. The mental health component is real. The level of anxiety is high.
I expect little from politicians, personally. I also don’t hold them in great reverence; most don’t show me reasoning capacity of the highest order; their emotional outburst make me question the balance of their views; and in Jamaica, I’m concerned about their constant attempts to appear be the source of all good things people want, but sadly too often, primarily, for their own supporters.
What I expect is a good ear and a real appreciation of national and local issues. So in that vein, I wonder what they really understand about mask-wearing resistance.
Do Jamaicans respect noise abatement rules? Most do; many don’t. Do Jamaicans respect road traffic rules? Most do, many don’t and a particular subgroup—-taxi and minibus drivers—don’t to a degree far greater than the rest of us. Do Jamaicans expect to be given concessions, let off and given second chances for egregious behaviour? Yes, and with good reason, based on actual experience with government.
So, with a background of patchy compliance with most things, what should we expect over something as seemingly trivial as wearing masks?
I’m just going to take a look at what COVID19LIFE is getting us to accept and understand in that regard.
I went to play golf at dawn, yesterday, as I often do on Saturdays. After weeks of heavy rain, the club had warned about mosquitoes in abundance and urged long-sleeved shirt and long pants. I’d forgotten that last week and found I was the special on the menu 🤔😳😩🏌🏾♂️Fool me once…
I had the picture taken because I dress like this only at this time of year; the mosquitoes at Caymanas are savage.😩😳
Golf allows lots of human interactions but with lots of social distancing. Those working at the course adhere to COVID protocols; caddies and course maintenance staff wear masks most of the time as they move around the course. Naturally, when far from anyone one can see their masks in place other than covering their faces. Players are usually good at compliance; on the course, they are the same as those who work there, and many have added not using caddies as a form of added protection—not having additional personal interaction (bad for the caddies’ pockets, though). Many players do not mingle in the bar areas but sit on the balcony, well-spaced and ventilated and use the hand sanitizters before heading on into the main building. I tackled someone entering the bar last week without a mask (not a man I recognized, so I assume a visitor)—the sign stated clearly no mask no service—but he had to be an exception: “I’m just paying my tab.” I gave him the choice of 7 iron or 3 wood up his a**e. 🤔😡Sorry, I’m not tolerant!
After golf, I headed home with two errands in mind, get cash and buy bananas. Well, the two Scotia ABMs by the gas station at Washington Boulevard/Molynes Rd had a dozen people waiting outside them so I didn’t stop there. (I noticed though that they were mostly masked and about 2m apart; some couldn’t help being up under armpits, though.) That meant I had no money for bananas. Aargh! I could use Qwisk or my credit card? What’re you smoking, bro? 🤔😂😩So I drove though the small street market at Grants Pen Rd/Shortwood Rd and just observed. Masks were more evident than last week, though this was a spot check not a structured survey.
My observations last week (scenes in the video) had triggered a response from the MP:
My ABM errand had to wait till closer to home. The line at the Texaco gas station was short but the mask issue loomed large:
It’s obvious some people don’t get what ‘personal responsibility’ means, so despite efforts by others, we’re worse off than we need be:
Mask wearing is proving to be a bigger test than many expected; it’s also pushing at boundaries of personal liberties for some—the USA seems to be the main battleground. It could also indicate some mental problems:
It’s also about messaging. It’s also about if incentives are needed, either sticks or carrots. When pushed, governments have gone for sticks. It’s hard to think what carrots would work. In using sticks, some governments have also pushed closer to dictatorial measures. That’s not been tried in Jamaica, and I’d not think it’d be well received.
When Jamaicans have been asked by health officials about their understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic, they answer overwhelmingly that they understand what it is and how it spreads, but…many believe they wont get it. That belief is bolstered, I imagine, because deaths have been low in relative terms and even the number of cases is low, relatively speaking. So, it’s a mild form of denial, I guess. However, that’s why many feel they have nothing to spread as well as nothing to catch. The important feature that most people will be infected by not show symptoms either hasn’t factored in, or people really believe that unless you see or hear the symptoms, nothing is being passed around. That said, we’ve heard stories of near panic when someone sneezed in a confined space.
Government officials in many countries have dug their own graves on messages by being as mixed up as fruit salad in how they’ve followed rules or been the arch buffoon in how not to wear masks.
What know is those who understood the need apply it. Mark Wignall wrote about this behaviour in today’s Sunday Gleaner. He noted the denials: ‘One said to me, “Missa Wignall, big respect. None a wi right here so know anybody whey sick wid di virus, so right now, wi feel safe. Respect.”’ He also pointed to what I have noted, that ‘personal responsibility’ if for others to practice: ‘So we are stuck with what we know. Jamaicans know, to a large extent, that we all need to protect ourselves, but from my talks with many at street level, they somehow believe that if ‘others’ do what is right, all will, in time, be okay. That is plainly dangerous.’ (my stress).
That final point, is for me, too true and points to a grave and obvious danger, because the fight in Jamaica against the pandemic is not even and is for everyone but ourselves to fight, in the mind of too many.
The realisation is hitting home starkly that Jamaicans are not hearing and/or heeding the many messages about COVID-19 prevention, so we have seen a recent wave of attempts to do more communicating, especially as it relates to wearing masks. Minister Tufton has been on a blitz this week. His tone during last evening’s ‘COVID Conversations’ was all about not descending into despair about where numbers are heading and not to accept comments that suggest the government has stopped caring about the development of COVID.
The government is committed to doing what is required to ensure that we respond effectively to COVID-19.
The financial support through the consolidated fund is a clear signal of that commitment in the fight against COVID-19#TogetherAgainstCovid19
However, it’s clear that the messages that people need to act on are just not sinking in to a wide enough degree, and this is reflected in visits he’s made to communities and businesses.
Some public agencies and companies have joined the push, eg the public bus company, JUTC, has been flashing items for its passengers.
The bus company had responded well in March to the early need for sanitization of vehicles:
But, in keeping with general laxness in observing health protocols such as wearing masks and keeping distance, evidence is clear that passengers don’t get or wont apply it. In April, JUTC issued a statement to the effect ‘no mask, no travel’:
However, anecdotal evidence is that this is not observed, nor are rules on only seated passengers.
In addition, the ministry of health and wellness is liaising with firms and the private sector organizations about new workplace protocols:
These efforts come as the Caribbean is being urged to do more to tackle COVID-19, especially in the context of the region’s known high incidence of NCDs:
Many people know that non-compliance with COVID protocols has a point where it can be displayed as violent opposition. While we are far from highly politicized protests, we saw this in Jamaica when curfews were introduced on April 1, with open defiance and some decided to openly flout restrictions on night one, only to be summarily embarrassed for so doing.
So it went on in the first month:
Transgressions occurred but enforcement seemed to be offsetting.
However, 4 1/2 months on from curfews being introduced from April 1, we see that recurring as enforcement of restrictions on entertainment hits a wall of resistance, yesterday, with police being attacked.
Several involved in organizing the party and some of the 200 patrons were quickly remanded in custody.
This has happened in other countries to varying degrees. Most embarrassing when politicians cannot hold strain, as in Kenya.
As various activities resume, however, we see that following protocols is a struggle even in the full public gaze, as in the NFL, which has fined several coaches heavily for mask-wearing breaches the past weekend:
Two more NFL teams, the New Orleans Saints and Las Vegas Raiders, are being fined $250,000 each because their head coaches were not wearing face coverings during a game Monday, a source says. The head coaches are being fined $100,000 each, the source said. https://t.co/0OaSKXMR6s
As Dr. Tufton signalled last Thursday, focus will shift from daily data variations towards lifestyle information about ‘living with COVID19’. In keeping with that, his ministry issued its new-style reports today (on its website https://www.moh.gov.jm); updates are supposed to be at 10am daily.
Many people have become accustomed to the former style of data releases, and what I have noticed is that changes cause some to wrinkle their faces in some confusion, or even go to some form of extreme conspiracy theory reactions.
I’m not going to discuss some basic misunderstanding about data generation and statistical publications. I’ve had explanations from doctors at the ‘front line’ dealing with COVID cases and those involved in COVID testing and the inevitable glitches or whatever that complicate smooth data collection. I’ve done data collection and publication all of my professional life. My general view is to focus on whether the general data setup is robust, in light of the nature of what’s being monitored. I don’t have energy to second-guess those doing the work of which I am a consumer.
So, what was I to make of the images I saw yesterday, just a week after the weak fences charge was laid at our feet again? When I saw this picture during the steaming hot mid-afternoon, yesterday, I thought, this can’t be real.
Did I really see what I saw? Only days after admonishing people for complacency about health protocols, the PM is in a crowd of people demonstrating the same behaviour. On a ‘road tour’ of Trelawny. Well, the video footage only only makes the whole thing more maddening:
.@andrewholnessjm used his motorcade in Trelawny Northern to reinforce the wearing of masks. At one point, the PM distributed the protective gear to an orange-clad supporter. Moments later, the mask was thrown back. Holness' security detail battled to keep the crowd under control pic.twitter.com/h2jALA8IAy
I’m sure the immediate response of those who saw and see the display will be ‘he was encouraging the people to wear masks’. That’s about as facile a reason as someone saying they were trying to get a straw out of a leopard’s mouth with a piece of meat.
Who in their right mind would think that there would be anything but a frenzied and uncontrolled and uncontrollable throng of people?
The reason many people have growing concerns about the date of an election being closed is the fear that scenes like these will be the norm and the spread of infection would rise rapidly, putting a severe risks the gains that appeared to be there after months of personal sa frise.
So, why would the PM do it? Search me, officer!
Last week, the PM indicated that new measures to deal with those not respecting the restriction would be announced on Tuesday. That’s today. Will it be that OPM will become the first governmental agency heavily sanctioned and fined for their behaviour? I’ve never seen a pink elephant or one that flies. But…
Why did my parents choose the paths they did? After my mother decided to go to England to further her nursing career, why did my parents do what they did? My father could have stayed in Jamaica with me and kept on a nursing career path already underway. He could have taken me to my mother in England and left me with her (she had potentially good family support there). Long-distance relationships were, and still are, not uncommon amongst migrants, so too are families where children get left behind while parents seek work abroad. Splitting the household could have minimized risks and removed many uncertainties. I could have grown up as a ‘barrel child’. Their son could have moved along an educational path that, while not certain, was better known and understood. Instead, he was pitched into a new educational set-up, which he navigated better than many of his migrant peers and ended up well-positioned, as his parents had hoped. My parents opted to move into a world that often treated migrants as second-class citizens, especially in key areas like jobs and housing. What a huge risk!
At what point did any of these options get discussed or discarded? Of course, I can’t now pose those questions of my parents.
That the choices they made did not leave them on the floor of migrants’ fortunes over a period of 25 years is fascinating. They succeeded far more than they failed. For instance, they moved from renting small basement flats in London’s inner city to buying houses in the suburbs. That’s a good story to tell.
No way could they have foretold events that would leave them living comfortably as retirees in Jamaica, debt-free, pensions coming predictably from the UK, largely protected from exchange rate losses, not uncertainly from Jamaica in depreciated dollars.
Hindsight is 20-20, so I don’t know how much second guessing my parents did through their lives, but I know they were happy with the outcomes.
The priest opened this Sunday’s church service with “Any day you wake up six feet above ground is a good day.” I’d say! It was a slip of the tongue, but had meaning. We usually value our own lives. But, that of others?
He chose as his sermon to stress the theme that life must ‘bear fruit’ (not in the simple sense of procreation, but in terms of being gainfulness) and that it should be done ‘with love’. As part of an instructional process, he elaborated on his theme and sought answers from the congregation about why these two things are often absent in their lives. Selfishness, concern about others’ views came out as reasons, but also fear of rejection. Those who have loved and lost can relate to that latter point. In my mind, I played with the notion of rejection on all sides.
I enjoyed Canon Scott’s sermon, not least for his trying to engage the congregation in a way that set him as no better than them: “I’m no saint!” He asked how many rejected the tenets of their faith as soon as they step out of the church. He knew it, personally, as he felt when people talked about him: his ears twitched. But, some people are just ‘disgusting’, often shown by utter ingratitude as when the woman whose flat tyre he and a friend changed just drove off without a word of thanks. Priestly Scott bit his lip, but his friend was ready to hurl a rock at the woman.
The idea of all-around rejection resurfaced when I read a detailed analysis of crime/murder in Jamaica, written by my good friend, Kevin O’Brien Chang, Cry, My Murderous Country. (Full declaration, Kevin and I have been friends for ages, and have many strongly argued discussions about Jamaican life, often over a long lunch in Mandeville, but also over the phone or by WhatsApp. I find him one of the island’s most perceptive commentators on things Jamaican, and his knowledge of our life and lifestyles are well documented in his books on music and the country. We both try to support our arguments with solid data, and he’s often pointed me to some fascinating trends.)
His basic pillar was ‘Jamaica’s homicide stats are horrifying. The planet’s second most murderous country in 2017. Earth’s highest violent death rate for women. Almost 10 times as murderous as the world average.‘ He went on to argue for a continuation of the State of Emergency, accepting that it is only short-term:
‘We all know the SOEs, in and of themselves, are not the complete solution. But they are indispensable to any realistic strategy along the lines of:
– Short term: Intelligently applied force to normalise matters, by taking the irredeemable out of circulation – namely SOEs.
– Medium term: Social intervention to redeem the redeemable.
– Long term: Ending our education apartheid by enabling inner-city access to decent education, including early childhood interventions.’
‘But we can continue the SOEs while working on these. How much longer should we keep SOEs in place? The first goal must be to get murders below the psychologically critical 1,000 mark. And if Jamaica’s murder rate can be reduced to Latin America’s average, homicides would go under 500 a year, about 1989 levels. Only then could we consider ourselves a ‘normally’ murderous country.’ (My emphases.)
This is one of the better arguments for not yet removing the SOE, because it’s not just about the time not being right, but putting a reasoned timeline on what would constitute the right triggers to remove SOEs. I say this to contrast to some of the arguments, including those offered by the PM in claiming that 20-25 “dangerous criminals” will be unleashed in St. James at the end of the state of emergency, which he raised during an interview on Nationwide radio. My first reaction to that claim was its total lack of reference to the inability of justice and security officials to do their jobs, properly, in building “water tight cases”. The underlying weaknesses in this reasoning were well spelled out yesterday by attorney Daniel Thwaites, State Of Incompetency:
‘You can’t have hundreds of persons detained on the basis that I may one day be able to come up with some evidence to support some charge against the person”.
Perhaps one of the worst aspects of these SOE is that it accustoms the police to act with impunity instead of doing good investigations and bringing cases with evidence. Is it any surprise, then, that arrests are down, arrests with evidence are down, and firearm and ammunition seizures are down?’ (My stress.)
I’ve had a different concern about the SOEs from early in their recent introduction. Mainly, once it appeared that they were ‘working’ in terms of murders declining, I wondered at the logic underlying their limited application elsewhere. No one should be surprised that those living in areas where murders are being reduced dramatically would want to hold onto what they see as the reason for that success. Naturally, others would like to benefit from similar reductions in their areas. So, if it was really a good solution I always wondered why and how the government chose to extend it. Clearly, the government did not have resources to make the SOE national–taking aside whether this was feasible, constitutionally. Moreover, as Thwaites stresses, the police seem at best no better at crime fighting and even with SOE astonishingly worse. Things like SOE clearly don’t help those supposedly doing crime fighting to be better at that job. Policy makers should be worried about that, not least because public confidence in the police will remain low in such circumstances.
The Bahamas, like many other countries in the Caribbean, has seen its crime rate, especially murders, rise in recent years, recording the world’s 11th highest homicide rate in 2017. In the past week I’ve heard about murders every day on the news, noting that it just had the third straight week of triple double homicides. The reports of these incidents haven’t given much context, but many of them are like those in Jamaica, mainly related to some other crimes (eg drug dealing) or domestic violence. Police Commissioner Ferguson said earlier this month: “These are disorganised persons who are going around, once they have a gun in their hand and want to make a couple dollars, they will go and they panic and things happen.” Asked if the double homicides are related or concern gang activity, he said officers see no connection among the matters yet. However, unlike Jamaica, Bahamians have seen significant declines in violent crimes in 2018 (eg murders down 27%) without any state of emergencies.
I listened during a car ride to a litany of horrific mass murders of members of families that have occurred in New Providence in recent decades; none seemed to have clear motives and the accused either denied the crime or claimed that he had been ‘told’ to do the crimes by ‘The Devil’. Domestic ‘disputes’ are a bane across many of our communities, though mass murders are rare.
We know from international experience that measures like SOEs aren’t often used to address crime trends. Why Jamaica has sought to rely on that makes interesting consideration.
We know that Latin America and the Caribbean has the dubious rank as the the world’s worst for violent crime (as Kevin O’Brien Chang notes and often gets highlighted in international media). We also know that violent crime is a major drag on national economic and social development.
Jamaica’s PM made an election campaign promise that a vote for him would mean that Jamaicans could sleep with their doors open. It was a ridiculous assertion, but in the euphoria of electoral politics, it’s not surprising that it flew high. That a country with its record of anemic growth stretching behind it like a bad odour since Independence, I often wonder why Jamaicans haven’t grasped how crime has impoverished them. They’ve tolerated for decades poor crime fighting from the police. Many have also preferred to quietly cooperate with criminals, enjoying many benefits from doing so, albeit at a heavy price in terms of risks to their lives. That tells a basic story of how government has failed to deliver ‘welfare’ to a large section of the people.
In the words of Canon Scott, Jamaican governments have not borne fruit and done little with love (of its people).
Always look on the bright side of life. So sings Eric Idle in The Life of Brian:
So, the birds are coming home to roost, in the week after my father’s funeral, or the bills are landing hard and fast.
‘Today, the average North American traditional funeral costs between$7,000and$10,000. This price range includes the services at the funeral home, burial in a cemetery, and the installation of a headstone,’ reports a blog named Parting. That’s in line with figures cited by SmartAsset, when discussing possible insurance coverage.
My Daddy’s funeral was relatively straight forward, and save for a headstone, the actual direct burial costs have come to less than US$7000, so far.
But, in Jamaica or other places where people like to celebrate deaths, we know there’s much more to account for.
Now, it was a great 9 night, as I noted last week; my cousin did us proud again, as she’d done for my mother, her aunt, in 2004. This wake event is a given in Jamaica, and I said to those I’d asked to arrange it that cost wasn’t my concern and I didn’t need to know the details other than date and time; just make it happen.
My St. Elizabeth cousin who prepared the food told me she catered for 100+, after being asked to cover 60. She and two helpers cooked mannish water, fried chicken and fish, curried goat, rice and peas. Everyone ate heartily on the Saturday before the funeral. But, left overs also helped feed several over the weekend and mannish water was saved to add to the family lunch planned for after the burial. Drinks from the wake left plenty of leftovers for that lunch and still plenty remains to help make a merry Christmas. That’s a good return for J$115k for food and J$77k for liquor and sodas; that’s about US$920 and $620, respectively. But, you can’t put a price on happiness.
The repast after the burial was held at the church hall, and the caterers prepared for 100 people. A rough head count at the church and gravesite indicated around 120-150 people. All who wanted to have a meal could, including family and friends for whom a special lunch was available at home. But, a good number of family and friends couldn’t resist a cup of mannish water right after the burial and then the curried goat, BBQ chicken, fried fish and other food smelt really and was right there…😂🤔Even after serving so many, left overs were there to supplement the lunch. The repast caterer charges came to J$100k, including some tables and chairs. Happiness! The greatest gift that I possess.
But, the church hall has been paid for, and my father was a parishioner so we got it half-price. Oh, the organist needs to be paid.
The family lunch was donated by a close friend who owns a restaurant chain. I’m so touched by that gesture that makes the much-loved Jamaican phrase ‘good friends are better than pocket money’ real. 🇯🇲😍 I’d estimated 35 for that lunch but asked for 50 to be covered, and appetites were hearty.
Some of our Caribbean neighbours gear up some aspects of funerals just like weddings. Imagine matching outfits for the family and you’re right on track. We know that professional mourners are also popular with some people. Neither of these things took my fancy.
You decide if your pocket can stretch to the Bahamian offering, which I’m told could be part of a typical US$20,000 funeral bill.
While POTUS45 was thinking of yet another way to insult a large swathe of black people (and I’m sad that my good friends in Norway were unwittingly dragged into this swim in the swamp), I was having lunch with some francophone friends and discussing something I found intriguing with a Haitian friend. In our conversation, we talked about what it was like for her to be exiled in Jamaica from her homeland as a child and trying to find her ‘way back home’ after growing up through the nostalgia with your parents and relatives and friends. That was her situation. Mine had parallels, though I had not been exiled, as my parents migrated voluntarily. She lives in Jamaica and has since gone back to Haiti and tried to find ways to make business connections between the two countries.
The point of intrigue was about how countries had wrought their independence from colonial rulers and what had happened to them. I’m tempted to use ‘befall’, but that would suggest absolving those countries from blame for the woes they experienced.
I thought about how Haiti had wrested its independence from France through a slave rebellion starting in the late-18th century, the only state formed after rebelling against colonial masters. I thought about how Guinea had gained its independence in the late-1950s, as the first colonial African country to accept de Gaulle’s offer, with its first president saying famously:
“We prefer poverty in liberty to riches in slavery.”
I thought about Jamaica, getting its independence from Great Britain in the early-1960s.
Each had been described as ‘the pearl’ of the colonies, having been a major supplier of food stuffs and minerals, and each has sank into deep economic crisis compounded by punitive extractive policies by former colonial master, pqpoor budget management, political turmoil (though Jamaica did not have violent changes of political power, though violence associated with its political parties), and social degradation of different degrees, leaving each much poorer than its resources and location would have predicted.
There’s a lot to the history of how each went from glory to gory, but how fitting that they could be summarily described as #shithole countries by the person whom many see as leader of the ‘free world’–not a view I have, but that’s me.
Sadly, many, including current and past citizens as well as visitors would agree with that description of each country. I don’t feel that way about any of them, though, I’ve not lived in or visited Haiti, so cannot base my views on anything I know personally.
The debate about the US president’s comments will rage on. The lives of people in these countries will go on. It’ll be interesting to see where views settle on whether truth was spoken or insults made.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”–attributed to Spanish-American philosopher, George Santanya.
Those Americans who forget that many of them and/or many of their ancestors came from the world’s #shithole countries expose themselves in ways that are all too obvious.