Noise and employment


Thursday, January 18, 2018

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It was around 1963 a law was enacted that music could not be played above a certain audible level after 9:00 pm. My father, who would be 95 today (January 18) had he lived, was somewhat amused. He said, “Bustamante is getting old so he can no longer take the noise coming from loud music.” Bustamante, who became prime minister at age 78, in 1962, was 79 when the law was enacted.

At that time, Jamaica House was not yet built, and Bustamante lived on Tucker Avenue, off Mountain View Avenue, across from the National Stadium. But in those days loud music was not so loud. Modern technology allows for much greater amplification.

Be that as it may, as we get older we tend to have less tolerance for noise. We have a proverb in Jamaica that might have come over with the slaves from Africa, which tells of baby duck asking his mother, “Why is your beak so long?” And mother duck answers: “When you grow you will find out.” I recall this every time I hear someone the age of Damion Crawford speak or write about tolerating noise. I might not live long enough to see Crawford reach the age that I am presently at, but those of you his age or younger should wait and see if his opinion changes then.

While you might ask if I write from experience, as I am somewhere in my mid-60s, you would be partially right. But I can come up with evidence that I wrote my objection to noise pollution over the years since I have been a newspaper columnist, which, come July, will be 30 years in all.

Crawford's arguments are sound enough, but holes can be punched into them. He points out that people have less employment opportunities for a number of reasons, including modern technology, which allows businesses to produce without so many persons, which is true.

This is the same sort of argument employed by governments in those parts of the world that allow for red light districts, where prostitutes are allowed to sell sexual favours. As a Christian, I find the idea of legalised prostitution morally reprehensible. However, it does not directly affect anyone who does not indulge in prostitution, although there might be indirect consequences. But it is not so easy to avoid noise pollution at a high audibility.

Noise pollution comes in many forms. There is noise pollution from factories and there are complaints about it, even if Damion Crawford has never heard them. Some have stopped complaining because such complaints usually fall on deaf ears anyway. But as awful as factory noise pollution is, it does not come with the pounding that can come from the so-called blasters. Aren't we working at cross purposes when we expect working people to get to work and produce all while we have disturbed their sleep?

Do we plan to increase the amount of hearing difficulties or outright deafness in Jamaica? Should we increase the level of noise just because there are some people who are biased when they complain about one type of noise but do not complain about others?

Should a thief or a murderer be set free because so many others are either not caught or have not been brought to justice because of corruption? Indeed, some Jamaicans have a bad habit when they are caught in any wrongdoing to say “a nuh me alone” as if that excuses them for their wrongdoing.

It is one thing for Damion Crawford to give his opinions on the Internet of the People's National Party, as everyone is entitled to their opinions. Politicians will be politicians, so I understand that Crawford is seemingly trying to appeal to the popular entertainment audience. But is this really the position of the People's National Party (PNP)?

I am all for entertainment zones that are far from homes. And, it is a pity about the foul-up on the Palisadoes road leading to the Norman Manley International Airport on New Year's Day. The patrons should have been shuttled there. A public holiday is understandable, but the police should not give permits for any night during the workweek.

But people need employment. I have always said and written over the years that the answer to this is to have co-operatives that have a stake in the tourism industry. It might not give everyone full-time employment, but I believe that Jamaica could ensure even partial employment for all through tourism. And this is more in line with the philosophy of Norman Washington Manley, the main architect of the policies of the PNP.

I believe that the workweek for employees should be optional between a four-day and five-day workweek. Those that take the four-day workweek should get a day for outside employment, which could be in a co-operative if they so choose.

All civil servants and government employees should work for four days. High school students would still go to school for five days, but the timetable would allow for each teacher to get one free day per week. In the primary schools there could be a substitute teacher for one day in the week to allow the teacher one free day.

And the best bet is tourism cooperative employment, since tourism is Jamaica's core business today. In the tourism industry there is a lot of space for the entertainment industry. Many tourists come to Jamaica because they want to hear Jamaican music. But there will also be jobs for taxi drivers, electricians, plumbers, cooks waiters, receptionists, furniture makers, and for other skilled individuals.

And we need not compete for the sea and sand tourists. We can have more medical, sports and religious tourism. I have written many times that the Roman Catholic Church could fill Jamaica with pilgrims coming here to honour our saints especially the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This would be far better than encouraging incomes from prostitution or noise pollution. The employment opportunity from cooperative tourism is part of the solution to crime.

No Government will ever be able to pay civil servants and other government workers what they are worth, so innovative ways should be found to supplement their incomes.

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