Columns

Heroes’ Day and why supermarkets don't lie

Franklin JOHNSTON

Friday, October 25, 2013    

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THE national awards ceremony on Heroes' Day was inspiring as the flag fluttered in a fitful wind. The governor general was resolute; the prime minister ice cool in a lemonade outfit; the awardees a smorgasbord of tasty, elaborate dress in eclectic style. They came for time-served awards. The host, our GG, arrived last — protocol trumps manners. King's House was lush and the green rain-revived grounds were a great backdrop to the red tunics. The verve and authenticity of the Jamaican Folk Singers was peerless. The awardees were eminent in their fields. Did they know 50 years of personal success did not move this nation one jot? They gave their best shot, a lifetime to no avail.

God disposes for true. Life

is a bitch!

The Queen might be upset, but we own her legacy of pomp and circumstance embodied in the 2nd JR. One awardee did a "forward dress" with jiggles of her derriére only seen on a Goodfellas stage. The fire brigade was unremarkable. They fight fires, don't they? This service needs transformation; a new mandate, training mission, a uniformed corps, and innovation. Can they teach us to climb, abseil, rappel tall structures, to motivate and train youth? One daredevil friend has an abseiling firm and makes tons of money cleaning windows while dangling on a rope hundreds of metres above London streets. He loves it. The fire service is droll, invisible, but has tremendous potential; it may become a drama-filled experience for the daring of all ages. Firemen should be fit and lean. The service must reinvent itself.

The health sector awards were gratifying. Health is the most successful of all, and next year we should award the ministry and all ministers, as Eldemire and Ferguson, since Independence. Who eradicated ringworm, yaws, measles, chigger, smallpox; brought population growth to a developed nation profile; reduced infant mortality

and controlled HIV/AIDS? Good work!

By looking through the railings we may see Mr Bryan's work as gardener to King's House — well done! May it please the governor general to have one "Open Day" a year so we see the natural beauty our taxes create? We want a tacky photo by a life-size cut-out

of Sir?

Renaldo Davis helped a lady in a car accident. This was once just manners; at this rate kids may soon get medals for doing homework. Some awardees served 40 or 50 years, yet the metrics of social progress were unresponsive. Something is terribly wrong. Who cares? Our healers are decorated, but our nation is an oozing sore; our educators are iconic yet we cannot speak English; our farmers are experts but we can't feed ourselves. This makes no sense? Why can't we parlay personal success into national success? "Just celebrate my son; men died and worms devoured them; it is as it is!"

Can we have corporate awards too? Can we laud a ministry which meets a generational goal? Our Health Ministry eradicated polio; can education eradicate illiteracy? Agriculture, hunger? Can

we use awards to incentivise

a ministry?

The awards to church people were embarrassing. What's the truth? "I served this nation well, but it's more sinful than when I started 50 years ago, thanks for the medal!"

The award to foreign employers of farm workers was pure irony. Locals employ thousands for decades and none got an award. The people's honours? 'Sez' who? Who makes these decisions? Can Jamaicans for Justice get one? What about the embassy which gave the most visas in the past 40 years? By so doing they eased our economic pressure, defused social unrest and the revolution fizzled. Selah!

The wisdom of supermarkets

Supermarkets reflect national life. Retail reacts to change quickly, so if you want the visceral truth on a community read supermarket shelves. We are now regressing so they will soon be old-style stores with forbidding counters to keep poor people far from the goods. Retail trusted us when shops became supermarkets, but as hardship grows goods exit shelves, only samples on display. Glass cases are back and shelf space for basic foods increase as cash decreases. Computer till control

means they know, in real time,

what we buy. Need data? Check the supermarkets. The enclosure for high-value items is back. Do you trust the poor? Raise social barriers again. Retail therapy is restricted, no more touch, taste or try. A smear of toothpaste has a price, so a tube of Colgate is a business. Deodorant, shaving stuff, cologne are locked away, and a credit card is a convenience everywhere, but not here — "picture ID, please!"

Supermarkets relay the culture and demographics of a community. A Miami shop with shelves of adult pampers, laxatives; a shop with shelves of stuff for head lice, ringworm and crab lice profiles the community. I met my first crab louse in the UK, and what a tenacious little bugger it was. A merchandiser can tell the demographics of a community by the goods on the shelves. If you see mouldy blue cheese, stinky Brie you are above Cross Roads; smoked salmon and you are above HWT. As austerity bites our supermarkets fight back. Foods that cost under $100 are highly visible; little food value, lots of salt, air, sugar, fat — feel-good junk. The first victim of austerity is children. They eat travesties in colourful crinkly wrappers; mounds of pretty proto foods. By 2016, all students, from basic school to Campus, may need PATH. A kids' nutrition is fragile, so we will need to ramp-up strategic school food in 2014

and beyond.

Have you seen changes in your supermarket? They have problems too. The worker with salt fish in his water boots nets hundreds of thousands a year. We pay! Freezer burns on the lower abdomen caused by secreting frozen meats next to sensitive skin will rise. Micro retail is now in; a slice of bread, stick of cigarette, a dab of cologne, one pass of a deodorant stick has a price.

The wages of profligacy is debt. We expect hardship as we dig ourselves out, but pain is not our friend. Wholesale is also used by supermarkets to buoy falling revenues. When everyone saves, himself, the masses suffer. Manufacturers are suffering too. Energy, devaluation mean high costs, low quality. Some will go bankrupt as that is the iron law of business.

Size matters. Have you checked the size of a cracker, biscuit? Air in the package? What's the size of your usual bottle drink? Producers juggle and try to hold margins as costs rise. Ask your doctor why energy drinks are a growth item and weep? One unintended consequence of our case is that imports are cheaper. Factories in the Far East do not use deeply devalued currencies nor have our State's aggro and taxes. Our devaluation is neither planned nor useful; it's personal, and only you and I can halt it by buying less from abroad or selling more. Do you hear the leader, "follow me; rise, build, grow food, educate, heal and tame runaway crime?" The silence is deafening. Stay conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister

of education. franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

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