IT'S not as if I do not have enough to worry about, especially when it comes to my future as a citizen of a country facing horrendous challenges. Yet I find myself drawn to the television set at every available opportunity to watch politicians in another country playing a game of "chicken" with the future of their nation and the people they swore to serve.
In the current debacle which has closed down the US government, things have reached the stage of being described by pundits as "horrendous". While the lives of citizens are being turned upside down, the race -- embarrassing to watch -- stumbles on and on, speeding trains heading towards each other, in full sight of a puzzled world.
This has prompted flashbacks of times past when, right here, we seemed determined to destroy each other. Journalists are often permitted to see things which others do not, or even if they do, it is from such a different perspective that the connection is made. One particular scene from our times of confusion comes from the days of "bun fire", roadblocks and other forms of mayhem said to have been in the interest -- if you can call it that -- of nation-building. In those days, the objective -- or so it seemed -- was "burn it down to build it up," so the tyres burned in the streets.
My particular nightmare was the day when, reporting from the streets, colleagues and I turned a corner in a certain uptown neighbourhood and came upon two men -- one of whom went on to be elected to the Parliament of the land -- engaged in what appeared to be setting a fire on the side of the road. I don't know who was more surprised, the fire-setters or us. We were challenged to consider whether the fire was being fanned or being put out, as we were urged to believe. Then, as now, I kept asking myself: Was that the only way to save a nation? Today, that seems to be the dilemma facing the American nation... burn or build? Not many in the politics of conflict ever win. Scorched-earth campaigns hardly ever bring benefit.
One other image from that day of the fire on the sidewalk came from a visit to another area where the fires were raging in the streets while a group of youths gathered outside an apartment building where they lived, watching the flames. What did they think of the protest in the name of building a better nation, which they, the youth, would inherit? The majority thought "let it burn". They blamed all politicians for the flames. Asked if they would run for public office, everyone said, "no way"; enjoying the day off from school was far more important.
So, who should run the country after the ones who set the fire had been evicted? Nobody cared. There were no takers. No doubt the views of the "yute" were reflections of the politics of parents and guardians. Those who were kids then have reached adulthood now. Some might be parents, too. It would be interesting to know their views today of the world around them and the impact that the fires had on them.
Respect for politicians and politics is hard to find. Popular talk is that you'd have to be crazy to want to get involved with "that kinda thing". Social media, rather than political discourse, is determining direction. The alternative is not clear. Hard though it might be for some of us to accept, there are decent, committed persons who, even in the face of distrust, still offer themselves to serve through politics, even if not as willingly as in the past.
I think of the late Seymour Mullings, former deputy prime minister, ambassador to Washington, member of parliament for St Ann South Eastern. Not every one might have known that he was one of the finest jazz pianists on the local scene for many years. "Foggy", as he was popularly known, was a headliner on big-band shows and was equally at home in small cabaret settings in hotels.
A devoted Anglican, he played the organ at St Matthew's Church in Claremont, part of the constituency to which he was elected time and time again. The Mullings family members were fixtures in the Claremont community. "Foggy", a trained land surveyor, had his office in the family home, right beside the road at the entrance to the town. The Mullings home was a place of welcome, good food and unending fellowship for all who dropped by. "Foggy" stood tall above the cruel slurs against political representatives, which was commonplace and not always fair. He gained the trust and respect of all, even his political opponents. Today, many say with genuine affection, "Walk good, Foggy".
This is not politics
Could somebody tell me what inspired the Jonathan Grant High School in St Catherine to create the ugliest, most depressing-looking uniforms for their female students? I am well aware that some students had crossed the line before this and messed around with the lengths of their skirts, against the code of discipline. So, what did Jonathan Grant do? They took the skirt-length challenge to another extreme: way, way down, almost to floor level, unflattering and impractical.
The picture in Wednesday's edition of this paper demonstrated what excess can look like. Why in Heaven's name should students be condemned to struggling through the streets, to and from school, in shapeless bags passing for skirts? I've always been on the side of maintaining respect for school uniforms, but this version is ridiculous. What is it meant to prove? Ugly doesn't help anything. Jonathan Grant, get real!
PS: Honour where honour is due. Professor Emeritus Rupert Lewis, noted scholar whose achievements on the UWI, Mona campus, included introduction of the teachings of National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey, is being saluted this weekend by colleagues and members of the wider public, with a conference in his honour. Don't be off-put by the title, "Black radical thought, pedagogy and praxis". Go and learn.