Why are Jamaicans flying these foreign flags in Jamaica?


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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Jamaicans are football-crazy, and it tends to descend into madness during World Cup Football time.

I may be a poor example, but I do not watch or pay attention to our local football. The few times that I do, I feel justified in staying away from it. I actually love to watch quality football so, once every four years during the World Cup finals I am just as turned on as the normal or typical Jamaican.

Like most, with Jamaica out of the competition (so, what's new?) I have my favourites among the 32 finalists. Brazil comes to mind out of sheer emotion, but as the competition heats up and enters the knock-out stage all I really want to watch is top quality football.

As much as I like Brazil and believe that the South American 'samba' country is in with more than a chance, my bets are tempered with not only the jitters that have accompanied the Brazilian matches played so far, but also by the fiery starts of The Netherlands, the swatting-aside football as demonstrated by France, the regimental approach of Germany and the dangerously slow build-up of Argentina as they all head to the second round.

With all of that fever inside me there is no way I could ever find myself sticking another country's flag on my car, vending stall, corner shop or gate as too many Jamaicans have been doing. Have we all gone mad?

"A nuh nutten! A jus wi choice and it mek wi feel good," said a taxi driver whose car was flying the German flag. As if he knew the next question I was about to ask he said, "When Jamaica side a play a stadium a jus Jamaica flag di whole a wi fly."

Some explanation.

One man had the Argentine flag on his stall. I introduced myself and asked him, "Why are you flying another country's flag in your own country and you're a Jamaican?" He looked at me somewhat nonplussed and said, "A dem a go win and a dem mi support."

Then I asked him a follow-up question. "Can you picture an Argentinian in Argentina flying a Jamaican flag for a whole month? Do you think that would happen and, what would make him do it?"

He turned away as if I was bugging him then looked back at me and said, "Mi nuh business wid him. A jus we dis." Case closed.

One bar close to Half-Way-Tree had the Brazilian flag raised high at its entrance. I asked the lady at the bar to provide me with an explanation and she gave me a most practical sounding one and one I never expected. "Most a di man dem who drink yah, a Brazil dem support. If wi ever put up any odder flag, a dis wi a go dis dem."

I can quite appreciate that during the 2008 and 2012 Olympics there were many people from other countries who were waving Jamaican flags, having been bitten by the bug of Usain Bolt and Jamaica. I have seen people in other countries wearing Bob Marley T-shirts.

That said, I could never imagine that once a person left the stadium after Bolt had obliterated another record, the person would take home the Jamaican flag and stick it on his gate.

I am no nationalist and one who harbours illusions about sovereignty. I love my country, even if I know that Jamaica does not love us back. I am also very much aware that the love that Jamaicans have for this country is directly proportional to the distance they are from it multiplied by the time they have been away. Want to love Jamaica? Leave it for a while or longer.

One noted psychologist explained the flag phenomenon to me. "We are a people living in a country and we have never been taught in a practical manner to love the country. I am moving beyond the National Anthem and the National Pledge which have become meaningless in the lives of Jamaicans. People will love 'yard' because it is 'yard', but if the country does not reciprocate in providing the things which can facilitate one's material and social success, what use is that love?"

Then I asked him, "So what is it that makes it abhorrent to you and to me to fly another country's flag in Jamaica? Why are we different?"

"We may not be that much different," he said. "We may just have been too educated to believe in things bigger than the mundane. Maybe we are the fools and those Jamaicans who have been desperately struggling to find a living, breathing space in their own country, are simply repaying the sentiment sent."

Another psychologist told me: "We are a country with little loyalty to anything. We are individualists and not really a lot more. Sure, we have love for our immediate family members, but even that at times exists only by a thread. More than anything else, and I believe that it is a hangover from slavery and the need of the field slave to be occupy quarters close to the house, we are 'waggonists'. If we see other people doing things we are instinctively moved to do it without putting too much thought into it. If it is fashionable to fly a flag on your car, fly it, be it German, Brazilian or whatever."

"Missa Wignall, yu a put too much into dis ting. A walk and a ask people bout flag," said a man well known to me. He sports dreadlocks and tells me that his loyalties are only to himself. "Mi nuh trus' woman. Mi nuh trus' politician. Mi nuh trus' nutten but di dollar in mi pocket. If mi feel fi fly a flag today, a fi mi business and mi nuh want nobody a ask me nutten bout nutten."

I cannot imagine any scenario that would take place in the US borders, even in sections of the secessionist Texas and Alaska, that would make a US citizen fly any other flag but versions of the stars and stripes. I could never see a German on the streets of Berlin or a Brazilian in Rio having Jamaican flags stuck at the top of their doors for a month. So, is something wrong with us, or can it simply be explained by football fever.

Frankly, I who am no nationalist, find it most disturbing. But then again maybe I am just viewing the action from the wrong side of the field.





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