Wed | Apr 8, 2020

Garth Rattray | ‘Guweh!’

Published:Monday | February 17, 2020 | 12:17 AM
The way that we often treat one another is hostile; this is exemplified by how we drive on our roads.
The way that we often treat one another is hostile; this is exemplified by how we drive on our roads.

Recently, I was in line at a gas station when the driver directly in front of me wanted to get out from between me and the car in front of him. Instead of carefully backing up a little and then manoeuvring his way out of the line, he reversed so sharply that he almost hit my car.

I sounded my horn briefly in order to make him aware of the proximity of our cars. Instead of being grateful for the alert, the lout ‘flashed’ me off vigorously with the popular ‘guweh!’ wave.

I had spent several hours just getting around town while doing a few errands and I’d already been either witness to or subjected to many examples of the total disregard for the law, the dismissing of the rights of other road users, and rude and crass behaviour.

Frankly, I was just about at my wit’s end when that fool signalled me to guweh. I had given up several opportunities to migrate from my beloved Jamaica but, in that instant, I wondered if I had made the correct decision to remain here.

Many people criticise those who migrate. Many feel that they should stay and help build our nation, no matter what the personal sacrifice.

I was speaking with a young doctor recently as she lamented her long working hours and frequent duty nights. I wondered why that was so because we are now graduating about 300 doctors annually. It turns out that the majority of them have already left or are in the process of leaving Jamaica. The same goes for several other professions, including many skilled workers.

Obviously, the main reason for migration is economic; for the ability to survive financially (even if only barely) and for far better opportunities to own a home (even if the mortgage will span several generations).

For most people, especially the young, Jamaica is an extremely hostile environment. The way that we often treat one another is hostile; this is exemplified by how we drive on our roads. And criminals cause us to (literally) imprison ourselves behind high walls, gated and sometimes guarded mini-communities, install obligatory bars on our windows and doors, and perhaps also choose from a plethora of security companies.

Crime generates far more business for the companies that help us try to prevent it than it does for the criminals who commit crimes. In other words, crime pays, but not so much so for the criminals.


Many people migrate because they find our business enterprises so rapacious that most people can’t afford to live within their means. When businesses charge exorbitant markups because they want to make quick and massive profits on their investments, they are telling our citizens, especially the young people who are trying to make a life and raise a family, to ‘guweh!’ … go away, migrate.

When government bureaucracy impedes entrepreneurship with all kinds of tough rules and regulations, unnecessary delays and rigmaroles, red tape, stumbling blocks, fees, levies, innumerable taxes, redundant and mandatory activities and, of course, engrained corruption, our government is saying to the future of our nation, guweh!

When citizens see some public servants getting away with unethical and sometimes illegal practices without any consequences, when it’s obvious that what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander, when investigations into yet another scandal drags on for years, becomes attenuated and fades into obscurity, it’s like telling concerned citizens, guweh!

When we have so much crime and so many murders, when citizens feel very unsafe, especially within their own communities, they’re effectively being told to guweh! Go away. Leave, make a life elsewhere.

We’ll keep losing our nation builders if we don’t provide them with opportunities to survive and grow in a civil and safe environment.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and