Is it time to laugh again?

Michael BURKE

Thursday, April 03, 2014    

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THIS past Tuesday, April 1, was exactly 40 years since a daily newspaper ran an April Fool's joke on the entire Jamaican public. The latest fad at the time was for a group of people to run naked across a street. It never caught on in Jamaica, but this streaking through the streets was reported in the media as the thing to do in Europe and the United States.

The Jamaica Daily News first came on the scene on May 31, 1973. It would last until early May 1983. It was of tabloid size just as the Jamaica Observer is today. On the last day of March in 1974 the Daily News announced that there would be streaking in New Kingston the following day, April 1. In those days, New Kingston was not as built up as it is today, but the roads had been laid out from 1958. I do not think that there were as many as 10 buildings in all of New Kingston in 1974.

A route was mapped out for the intended streak and they were to run along Knutsford Boulevard and then onto some other road and end up at a certain point, and it was to begin at 1:00 pm on April 1, which was a Monday in 1974.

On Tuesday, April 2, 1974, the Daily News printed a photograph of many people, including police, who had come out to watch the streaking. They were to be disappointed as it was an April Fool's joke. According to the editorial of the Daily News on April 2, 1974, it was a time to laugh again. They were reflecting on the amount of crime going on in the society (the Gun Court having been established in March 1974), and with the oil crisis that started in December 1973. That was 40 years ago.

Is it time to laugh again as the Tom Fool's joke sponsored by the Daily News caused 40 years ago? Is the stringency in living reportedly due to all sorts of rules from the International Monetary Fund; a reason to look at ourselves and realise that we should not be serious all the time? What about when we add the crime problem to the mix? -- even though the police insist that certain types of crime are decreasing.

It is only natural to aspire towards a decent wage and decent living conditions. But we have been duped into believing that if we do not have the latest gadget then we are less than human. We have been fooled into believing that if we do not

wear the

most expensive clothing then we are less than human and the list goes on. While advertisements can be hypnotic, we should not blame them. We have only ourselves to blame for allowing ourselves to be fooled.

But there are employers who will not allow someone to be employed at their workplace if those seeking employment do not have the 'ambition' to borrow money to purchase a car or a house. The trick is to get workers who will do as they are told. So the company will help their employees to get a loan from a financial institution. Then the employees will definitely need the jobs to pay the loan and therefore will do as they are told.

More than 38 years ago, in November 1975, the Roman Catholic bishops in the Caribbean wrote the following pastoral letter entitled Justice and Peace in a New Caribbean. I quote number 25 of the document:

"Can anything be done? We believe that the chief remedy must be a complete revolution for each of us in our attitude to material goods. A never-ending search for more and more consumer goods can only serve to degrade us.

"We are in danger of becoming slaves: slaves of high-pressure salesmanship, especially by radio and television, which makes us feel in want when we have enough; slaves to greed which drives us to accumulate possessions that begin as luxuries and end up as necessities; slaves of snobbery which judges a man by what he has and not by what he is.

"The scandal of the situation is not only that some waste money while others lack necessities, but also that we are creating a society which equates progress with the acquiring of status symbols such as luxurious houses, larger cars and expensive electronic gadgets. We call upon Christians to set their face against this tide of consumerism and to reach to the world by the simplicity of their lives."

The idea of hypnotising people with things by making them believe that they cannot do without them is nothing new. Indeed, it is part of the mental slavery that is a carry-over from the days of physical slavery. But in a real way it is the real cause of our difficulties. The politicians study the electorate and therefore provide certain things, which could only be had by borrowing.

True, we would still have

to do some physical development so a certain amount of borrowing would be required but not to the extent of what has taken place which has put us in the predicament that we are presently in. And true, we have to meet the IMF targets. But aren't we making

it worse?

I agree that the public transportation system needs cleaning up but even the indisciplined robot driver serves a purpose. They are getting people to work. They are assisting in the Gross Domestic Product. The problem is that most, if not all, of the members of the board of the Jamaica Urban Transit Corporation do not take public transport so they do not understand the difficulties. And why are we creating more potential for the police to take bribes? I have written for many years that more motor vehicle regulations only increase the take that police ask for.

But perhaps it is a good thing that they are being restrained at the present time rather than being accommodated with rules and compulsory training. When the "captains of industry" realise that their workers cannot get to and from work so easily, how might they react?

Not all of them can afford to have private buses for their workers. So they might use their influence to ensure that their workers do get to work and to production. Perhaps they will use their influence to create an insurance policy for the workers and passenger in cars that are referred to

as 'robots'.





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