Man's estate and the fourth estate

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, October 14, 2018

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An envious person requires no reason to practise envy. — Swahili proverb


After a get-together to celebrate the twelfth wedding anniversary for a long-time friend ended last Sunday, I received a note from an acquaintance: “I want to show you some social media posts,” it said.

During a short but interesting conversation, I scrolled through the posts: “Why are they doing this,” she bemoaned.

The posts contained very unpleasant epithets, characterisations and categorisations of certain international brands that had recently expanded into Jamaica, plus unsavoury comments about some local entrepreneurs.

“You asked me why,” I remarked, “That's who they are.”

“Don't let them thwart your efforts to expand your own business, their enemy-of-the-State narrative is a mirror of them,” I suggested. On that score we parted company.


Antediluvian thinking

It is apparent that a ghost from the 70s is being resurrected by some who foolishly believe that the redistribution of finite resources is superior to the rapid and continual creation of additional resources and the expansion of inclusive conduits of wealth.

One does not need to be an economist to figure that if we do not create and attract new capital then there is less and less resources to redistribute, except through borrowing, and we have seen where that has got us, in the past.

In the 1970s many business people were made out to be villains. They were tagged with the label of rapacious capitalists with a primal interest to rob the masses.

Take this The Gleaner news item from July 28, 1975, entitled 'Jesus, the first socialist' as an example. It said, among other things: “Senator Dudley Thompson yesterday identified Jesus as the first socialist to live on Earth. The best style of socialism to follow is the example set by Jesus Christ, he told the annual conference of the PNP [People's National Party] Central Kingston constituency at Central Branch School.

“Jesus came into the world to change the social structure. He did not drive a big car, did not join the chamber of commerce, was not a company director, and his work was to make life better for other people.

“Jesus also chased the businessmen out of the church where they were transacting business. Senator Thompson added, he was born in a lowly manger and remained poor all his life, disregarding material things.”

I immensely dislike people who glamourise poverty. I dislike even more those who romanticise poverty, while they simultaneously acquire and store up wealth for themselves and their kin. They ensure that their children get the best education that money can buy. Oftentimes they have had the benefit of education and training in First-World countries, but espouse the “suffera mentality” as a badge of honour.

The treacherous behaviour of some amongst us must not get any hiding place.

There is nothing glamorous about living in a shantytown, where guns bark on a daily basis and where large numbers of citizens don't have flush toilets. Hunger pains are not fascinating for those who are stung by it. There is nothing attractive about generations of people living, as we say in local parlance, from “hand to mouth”.

Those who promote forms of economic, political and social dependencies as virtue, whether consciously or subliminally, are involved in the cruel perpetuation of a colonial mentality that does not augur well for this country.

Provided that folks earn their money honestly, we should all be happy for them when they build a nice house or buy “big car”.

I recall many years ago watching The University of the West Indies eminent social scientist and pollster, the late Professor Carl Stone being interviewed on Profile by ace interviewer, the late Ian Boyne.

Stone profoundly noted: “People produce because they want to consume. One of Michael Manley's mistakes was that he thought production was an end in itself.”

So to those who have come by their bread honestly, and you are lovers of coffee or Porsches, go right ahead and enjoy. There is nothing wrong with owning nice things.

Those who would wish to keep us in subjugation are very afraid of ordinary folks getting economic and social independence. They have long recognised, like Alexander Hamilton said, “A power over a man's subsistence amounts to a power over his will.”

To lose sight of this reality is most dangerous.


Precious press freedom

A reader who says she is Jamaican by birth, and lives in Bulgaria, sent me an interesting e-mail last Tuesday. I cannot reproduce any of what she wrote since I have no means of substantiating. She did, also, however, express great admiration for Jamaica's position near the top of the most recent press freedom index.

Recall, “France-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders has ranked Jamaica sixth on its 2018 World Press Freedom Index — a move two places up from the country's 2017 ranking.” ( Jamaica Observer, April 25, 2018).

Bulgaria was listed at 111 out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index. There are evidently some pressing concerns about press freedom in that European country.

Recall that, “Bulgarian authorities said investigative reporter Viktoria Marinova was raped and murdered in Ruse, Bulgaria, becoming the third journalist to be killed in the European Union in the past 12 months.” — CNN

There is an increase in violent attacks on journalists globally. According to a December 31, 2017 report by Al Jazeera: “At least 81 reporters were killed doing their jobs in 2017, as harassment and attacks on journalists have been on the rise, according to the International Federation of Journalists.”

We have to nourish and cherish freedom of expression. We cannot risk a return to the dark days of press repression that characterised our politics in the 70s.

In a previous article I provided incontrovertible evidence of how the press was shamelessly attacked by the Manley regime. This Gleaner story, entitled 'PNP raps RJR, Gleaner', is another piece of evidence that indicates how close we came to the brink of losing a most precious treasure. The story said, inter alia: “The local media came in for strong criticism yesterday at the PNP Central Kingston constituency annual conference being labelled as a force of oppression against the masses. The strongest attack came from Health and Environment Control Minister, Dr Kenneth McNeill, who concentrated his criticism on The Gleaner and RJR.

“Dr McNeill said The Gleaner was “one of the greatest forces of oppression, operating against the people of Jamaica”. And challenged the owners of the newspaper to put 51 per cent of its shares on the public market and allow the Government to buy it on behalf of the Jamaican people “as the company was now owned, he said, by one family”.

“How can The Gleaner be free when its former chairman was a Government senator? When Hector Wynter, who writes for them, is a former minister of state? When Morris Cargill, who writes under the name of Thomas Wright, is a foremost member of the local plantocracy, Dr McNeill said.”

Senator Arnold Bertram, parliamentary secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, said: “The mass media were misleading the people.”

The media, particularly The Gleaner were “misrepresenting the PNP and its leader as people who were talking off the tops of their brains”.

Senator Dudley Thompson said the PNP believed in freedom of the press, but newspapers should be responsible. Journalists were using “snide phrases” to point arrows at the party. He attacked a “cartoonist with a foreign name,” who was drawing some damaging cartoons. This person, he said, “would soon move on and join his ancestors”. ( The Gleaner, July 28, 1975)

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is not blameless either. The banning of Guyanese scholar Walter Rodney from re-entering Jamaica, because of his political views in the 60s, was wrong. Also wrong was a march on this newspaper some years ago by JLP supporters because they did not like cartoons by Clovis and articles by veteran columnist Mark Wignall that were critical of then Opposition Leader Edward Seaga and the JLP.

Vigilance is the word. The rise of right wing populism in many parts of the globe is a harbinger. We, in Jamaica, are not insulated from what seems to be a deliberate and systematic campaign in parts of Latin America, North America, South America, Africa, and elsewhere to de-legitimise the press.

Last Wednesday there was an insightful piece by Amy Mackinnon in the publication Foreign Policy, entitled 'When killing the messenger becomes the norm'. I found this bit very instructive: “Out of 1,322 journalists whose deaths have been linked to their work since 1992, 848 were murdered, while 298 were killed in crossfire, according to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists. It's rare for journalists to be murdered in the European Union, but Marinova was the third in the past year.

In October 2017, Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb attack. In February, Slovak reporter Jan Kuciak was shot dead in his home, along with his fiancée, while reporting on alleged links between government officials and organised crime.

And recently, the Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared into Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, where Turkish authorities believe he was killed.

Rob Mahoney, the deputy executive director at the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that worldwide the atmosphere for journalism has deteriorated. ( Foreign Policy, October 10, 2018)

I had occasion recently to put a searchlight on some who I believe would want for there to be a characteristic sameness in views coming through a medium like this. We best keep a close eye on those, particularly since they are political relics.


Good news keeps coming

Recall I said last week that for the better part of the last 30 years most of us were probably made numb from the almost constant flow of negative news about our economy. Admittedly, our country still has several tough economic hurdles to surmount. Nevertheless, the positive shift in the macroeconomic indicators in recent times is a tonic.

It is still early days, but I believe the good news about our economy will become a new normal as long as we continue along the present trajectory.

The additional reduction in murders that was revealed last week certainly would have been welcoming news for right-thinking Jamaicans. As we say on the streets, we 'loud up' bad news, we should similarly 'loud up' good news.

Nationwide News Network reported, among other things: “The latest figures prepared by the Jamaica Constabulary Force show that as of this just-concluded weekend murders are down by approximately 22 per cent.

“This means 271 fewer people have been murdered in the island this year compared to 2017.

“St James, with a 67 per cent reduction, and Kingston Central, with a 54 per cent decrease, have seen the largest decline in murders so far this year.

“The figures show that 154 fewer people were murdered in St James this year compared to last year.” ( NNN, October 9, 2018)

Even some of the most politically mean-spirited should have found some positive vibrations in the record high levels of business and consumer confidence that was reported last week.

This newspaper gave these and other details: “Businesses and consumers were again on opposite sides of the fence on current conditions and future expectations of the economy, according to the third-quarter 2018 indices results from the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC).

“Consumer confidence hit a 17-year high over the last three months at 172.6 index points, compared to 159.1 index points over the period April to June 2018. In presenting the findings, pollster Don Anderson noted that the positive job outlook was driven by consumer's observations of people getting jobs, reports of jobs being created, and their confidence in the Government's efforts and initiatives.” ( Jamaica Observer, October 10, 2018)


Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!


There are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints. — Rita Dove


Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or

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