Wi dance abroad, but not ah yard
A dear friend of mine who has lived in far-off places for many years, but has never forgotten the land of her birth, was on holiday here recently when we settled in for a nice chat. Despite some encounters with vicious potholes attempting to swallow vehicles in which she and friends were travelling, she was happy to be here. "The seawater on the north coast is as rejuvenating as ever; the sunshine is still healing." Then, in the midst of the reminiscing and the "pop laugh fi peas soup", she suddenly asked: "What is wrong with our country?" My lame answer: "I wish I knew."
What I will admit to is, just as soon as we begin to take delight in the good things around us, something knocks us down, but we get right up again. For example: Jamaica is making world headlines with our two-member bobsled team qualifying for the winter Olympics in Russia. But the money to equip them was not there. So, they went online, where the action is. The response was overwhelming. The spontaneous generosity of our own Diaspora and others who opened hearts and pockets so freely from near and far put us back on the happiness list.
The name Jamaica still has power on the global scene. In any case, it is hard to ignore athletes who practise for a winter sport on a track where the only ice to be found is in the cooler for post-training refreshment. That never stopped us. The world still talks about our Cool Runnings of 1988, when we surprised the world by victory in a totally alien environment.
Here we go again, getting ready to walk into the spotlight, making possible out of impossible. "Jamaica people nuh easy."
Everybody knows that by now. So, why the devil can't we do things right in the ordinary, pedestrian, everyday living? If we can win in ice and snow, why can't we find the spirit to keep the sunshine going for ourselves? My friend was asking the same thing, but neither she nor I could come up with the answer. We've become the most-talked-about little country; noted for imagination, so why do we keep dancing abroad, but not ah yard?
We continue to live in the 16 degrees of extreme weather -- good as gold one minute, frightening even the devil in the next. While some were talking bobsledding and basking in the world's adulation, others among us were planning how to "bun down" a part of Kingston, which was no stranger to heat and "mash-down". The latest flare-up was ignited by the police shooting of a young man.
"A house divided against itself cannot stand," some wise person said. We're working very hard at proving it. One minute we are being called upon as citizens to back the police in the fight against a vicious criminal element, the next we are totally sceptical of anything the police say and do. It is hard to imagine that an officer of the law could cold-bloodedly walk up to a young man, while he is stirring his cook pot, and end his life just so. If this is true, then we're in deep darkness "fi true". How to answer the query of what is really wrong with us? Blaming it on politicians alone won't provide the answer.
Accusations of death squads within the Jamaica Constabulary Force is the latest thunderbolt to be thrown into the room. Strangely, public reaction has been low-key. Is it symptomatic of how hardened we have become? More likely, it could be like when you keep mashing your finger over and over, so that, in time, you don't even feel it when the new blow comes. As to the allegation, it remains to be seen if the truth will be found.
At the fiery protest the other morning, images of grieving family and enraged neighbours, as captured by the news cameras, showed the protestors neatly and fashionably dressed for their online interviews, unlike the rag-tag protestors of times past. People now speak in technical language to air their discontent. There is no hunting for words. People know about INDECOM and what it is supposed to do, and they now call for justice by its name.
One of the weird features of the protest is that, although the fire burned near to the gates of the fire brigade, none of the personnel ventured out to put out the blaze, even though a gas station was literally in the line of fire. The reason given? The firemen were awaiting police protection. The people, not the authorities, were in charge. The brigade eventually worked up the courage to face the heat and douse the flames, but not the anger of the protestors. The people were demanding audience with the highest level -- the prime minister and the commissioner of police, no less. The next day they settled for their MP and the minister of national security. We're messed up again... and the beat goes on.
A new one
When a United Nations Development Programme comes up with a study telling us what we know already, it is either because they want people outside the region to know about us or somebody is convinced that we have no idea who we are. Consider a just-issued report that "crime is hindering development in the Caribbean". What's new? The report goes over what any basic school "pickney" should know by now: crime, anywhere, is not good for development.
The countries selected for study were Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, St Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and, of course, Jamaica. While we delight in "throwing wud" at one another, the secret is out. Jamaica is not the only place burdened by criminal activity. The report seems to tell us what we know -- that the region should be having more discussion on drug-trafficking and organised crime and the consequences they bring. If the remedy is that we should work together to tackle the problem, then let's get on with it.
Here's another one which could generate all kinds of heat if not dealt with regionally. It is the high hopes being pinned on a change in our national fortunes through marijuana. I can well understand the feelings of those who have suffered over the years because of cultivating this controversial plant which is now being hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Many have endured prison at home and abroad. Many have been shunned by "decent people" for using it. Everybody is setting their sights on prosperity via the weed.
There is no shortage of experts flying in to tell us of the windfall that is around the corner. Where were they all along? In the excitement, I don't imagine much attention is being paid to minister of justice, Mark Golding, explaining that it will take some time to clear the way for the illegal to become legal, especially in external trading. Expectations are running high; whether everybody is prepared to wait for things to be put into perspective is another matter.
But see yah!
Did you catch the mad mayor of Toronto in a rant earlier this week, obviously on a high-high, belting out Jamaican patois not usually heard on international media? Even the urbane Anderson Cooper, who recognised the Jamaican accent, couldn't determine the message. This was "yard" talk of the variety not usually used in the media, not even in the land of its origin. The mad mayor is said to hang out with people from "yard" now "tekking over Torahnuh". Imagine how our people, especially those who gave the mayor the linguistics lesson (and more than likely a little herb), busting dem side wid kin-teet. Sorry,z foreign media, you have to go study that one.