Columns

Do we want curry goat or progress?

MARK WIGNALL

Thursday, January 17, 2013    

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THE thing about eating a really good, tasty plate of curry goat -- like what can be had at Moby Dick in downtown Kingston, or that place on the slopes of the Santa Cruz mountains in St Elizabeth, or just your usual greasy spoon joint -- is that once you have had it, it is OK to convince yourself that life is not all that bad.

There are places on the planet where people are starving, barely housed, and disease is a constant companion. As bad as things are with us, and as much as the price of good curry goat eludes the man and woman at street level, many of us know that long-term starvation is not on the books.

The prime minister, our 'leader', our 'person in charge', our main person to run to when the problems begin to mount up on us, spoke recently. Her delivery indicated that somewhere in the mix she has not fully read into her meaning to the man and woman at street level.

Somehow, the prime minister believes that she can separate 'Portia' from Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

A few days ago, I watched on MSNBC and CNN and all the other news networks, including that deluded one called Fox News, the press conference that President Obama had. He was asked a wide range of questions and, towards the end, even some that had the potential to embarrass him.

The president faced the music and stared into the face of the American press. Even when he knew that he had to draw on his reserves of knowledge, vast stores of inside information, and the very fact that he had been commander-in-chief since the election in 2008, there was little hint, if any, of him flinching. He was the chief servant and he had to answer to the people.

I am somewhat embarrassed that our prime minister has never faced our local press on that same level.

Peter Phillips has his PhD, but with all of that he knows that Portia Simpson Miller with a first degree is 10 times more believable than he is, even though he is essentially the prime minister's main agent in dealing with the tough boys in the IMF.

If Phillips should say that the sky is blue and the people should stare skyward and see an expanse of blue sky, they would say, 'Peter Phillips is so right'.

If Portia should make a speech three minutes after Peter's speech and tell the people that the sky is green and, as a bonus, the moon is made of cheese, the people would believe her, and Peter Phillips would have to head to the nearest exit if he wants to keep his head and limbs.

Such is the price of being the best second-placer. Promised that he would have been named deputy prime minister some time before the 2012 elections, Peter, the Rastaman of the 1970s who has firmly locked himself into 'Babylon' of the 21st century, must now, even in some minor way, be regretting that he has lost that ability to stand up and call his own shots or, at the very least, say to his prime minister, 'Portia, a beg yu a chance fi mek mi find mi self again.'

Thrown into the lion's den that is the IMF, with little Jamaica begging these extremely disconnected foreign technocrats to look on us favourably, Peter Phillips knows that the Jamaican people have been feted by his ilk, both PNP and JLP, on consumption that we could not afford.

Don't get me wrong. The man and woman who did well -- educated themselves, struggled for years to wend their way through the murky business landscape of Jamaica where, oftentimes, the main difference between a man who pushes cocaine and an 'established' businessman is just a matter of who wears the suit -- knows that if one can do well in Jamaica, one will do well in any metropolis.

Horace Dalley, state minister in the finance ministry, is a man I like. I have seen first-hand how he runs his constituency and I have some admiration for that. But coming out of the last Cabinet retreat, I have heard him imploring people to pray and ask for God's guidance in assisting the PNP Administration. That tells me that we are on our own.

Prayer as a policy tool of government has never increased the NIR, allowed drillers to find oil, or swollen rivers in Jamaica in times of drought. What prayer has done is that it has comforted a docile, easily manipulated people to conclude that if a minister is making an appeal to them on behalf of God, then any problems which exist must be theirs and not the fault of the minister.

Touché, Minister Dalley! Yu have dem pat, star!

It is not fully understood or even 10 per cent accepted at street level that our indebtedness, failure to produce on what we had going for us in the 1960s, gun criminality and the fact that we are at the bottom of the pile in the region is a collective problem.

Many segment it into PNP and JLP problems. Frankly, it has been my experience that JLP administrations tend to do much better than the PNP in terms of growing the economy. The problem is, there are times when an economy can grow but because it is so lopsided, in terms of favouring one particular class, those at the bottom can only look on as 'innocent bystanders' and ask, 'A how nutten nah gwaan fi mi?'

Somehow the PNP knows the art of playing into that game much better than the JLP.

Not many of us want to admit that we made the choice for curry goat over long-term development. To be truthful, I can, were I a politician, appreciate the efficacy of appealing to the belly needs of a nation of people reared more on political campaign noise over many years than the need for sound education.

'A who mek unnu eat?!' the politician asks from the podium.

The people answer in massively loud tones, 'A you, boss!'

He loses his way for a while, possibly because he had too much to drink earlier. 'A who give unnu education?!'

The people turn to each other and light up their spliffs.

The prime minister may have had 'reformist' ideas since 2006, but if it is there, it is most difficult to see it from her response to the press. Why is she afraid to field the tough questions? That is not what prime ministers do!

She knows, of course, that we were blooded on curry goat politics, and it is extremely difficult to make a sudden break from that. So Peter Phillips is the fall guy waving curry goat around when in fact what is in the making is a massive dose of Epsom salts.

Nothing is as painfully uncomfortable as an empty belly running.

observemark@gmail.com

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