My wish for 2014
"I am from the Walkerswood Division," my good friend told me the other day when I asked for his address. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised, as there is a growing trend to identify your place of abode by the constituency in which you live. This is not a good trend and it ought to be arrested. In fact, it's disquieting to think that we have reached the stage where our address is so closely linked with the political borders of our district or community environment.
Politics has a huge appetite and would like to consume everything around it. Every stage of our development is now linked inexorably with the political system, be it parochial or national. Far from taking our cases and issues to Parliament or council, as a matter for representation and as a matter of course, politicians have been given the right by a willing population to have a say in every sphere of your life, every project, every road, every school, every water supply, every business, every cooperative venture, and every community organisation.
This is as much the fault of the politician as it is ours. Much of this is a matter of survival as people trade votes for political favours, handouts, or contracts. We have become a politically based society that believes that nothing can go on unless the political representative has a hand in it.
But the politician himself gets trapped by this self-imposed job description which demands that he or she must let off, make desperate promises, has to be at every funeral, and has to answer for all roadblocks and demonstrations that take place inside the constituency. Pity the poor politician. He announces a road project and stamps his name on it when it would have been more appropriate if the National Works Agency, or the government body with responsibility for same, was left to run the project. Problems develop, the road is left unfinished, and instead of being named the John Brown Highway it now becomes the John Brown Memorial Highway.
Isn't it our fault that politics has become so invasive in our lives? Take for example the perennial question that arises whenever a committee is planning a function of whatever nature. The question is no longer whether the MP should be invited or not, it's whether the MP should be placed on the programme to speak.
Try and deny that opportunity and you are likely to offend half the committee. Allocate five minutes and be sure it's going to run into fifteen or more. And note that he or she is going to be late because "I am just coming from another function". Here is the best part, when he spots potential embarrassing questions, either from the press or from members of the other party lining up behind the microphone, he slips out immediately after bringing greetings with a note to the MC, "have to go to another function".
It's quite a game, and if you know the rules you will play them accordingly as the accompanying retinue would have been too much anyway for the limited refreshments at the back of the room.
Then there is that recurrent constituency caretaker who turns up at every function whether invited or not. If he is on the Government side he gets a chance to speak, or to participate in the opening of the bridge, or to turn on the water pipe and pose in the photos, because there is an unsigned agreement that caretakers must get their share of the publicity if they are going to stand in the next election.
However, if brother caretaker is from the Opposition side, he can forget about being given a chance to speak, or to sit on the platform.
Who came up with this caretaker business, anyway? We need to understand that caretakers are not recognised by the constitution and should never have any part to play at any official state function.
It's all a part of this creeping politicisation of the country which makes my friend believes he is a part of the Walkerswood Division, and no longer from Moneague, or Lydford, or Claremont, where he was born and now lives.
The day when we start getting mail through the post office with our constituency as part of the address, we have had it.
Terminology has also changed as we no longer give directions to lost drivers as 'round the corner, 'pass riverside and go up', 'down in the valley' or 'jus' beyond the shop'. We are limited to South-West Clarendon, or North-East St Elizabeth, and you simply find your way around the constituency.
Then there is the political party buffoon at a function I attended who boasts loudly to all and sundry that he is a member of the top-dog party committee and "see dere, I have Portia telephone number".
"Yes, but does she have yours?"
But let us not beat too much upon politicians, they have taken on a tremendous burden. We expect to find a doctor practising medicine, a lawyer practising law, an engineer engaged in engineering projects, teachers teaching, but when it comes to politics we tend to think there is something reprehensible in the fact that those engaged in politics are politicians.
And at the end of it all, if they are booted out of office, then that's the big game-changer. No more invitations, no more 'my driver', no more reserved parking spaces, no more deference from the police, and no more invitations from the committee to speak. A hard pill to swallow whenever you lose all that prestige.
At a victory celebration for his opponent the MP who had been swept out of office by a political landslide was called upon to speak. He rose and said dryly: "I am reminded of an epitaph on an old tombstone which reads, 'I expected this, but not so soon'."
So my wish for Jamaica, and for all politicians in 2014, is that you develop a sense of humour if you don't have one as yet. And, in particular, the ability to laugh at yourself.
With all the mighty problems that we will face next year, we will need to find something to laugh at. And don't worry, Jamaicans will.
My best political joke for 2013 is about the man who is detained for questioning about an election scandal. "Did you sell your vote?" the lawyer asks him.
"No boss, not me," protests the gentleman. "I voted for that fellow because I liked him."
"Look man," threatens the attorney. "I have good evidence that he gave you $2,000."
"Well boss", says the detainee, "don't it mek sense that when a man give you $2,000 you going to like him?
Happy New Year.
Lance Neita is a public relations and communications specialist. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org