Tue | Mar 26, 2019

Mark Wignall | The good, the bad and the puzzling

Published:Sunday | February 3, 2019 | 5:42 AM
Buju Banton

Four years ago when I needed either immediate or remedial plumbing work, Jeff would always be the young man I would seek out. In his early 30s, he was not just a fixer. Jeff was a specialist in using his natural or learnt innovative skills to solve just about every plumbing problem.

I had one big sticking point with him, though. He did not have a car, and I was not exactly overjoyed to drive to his home, pick him up, wait on him to finish work, pay him, and then drop him home.

Four years later, Jeff has a car, and while it is not exactly new, it takes him where he wants to go, it automatically gives him more work, and one can sense that he is feeling more of a man and a proud breadwinner in his household.

“So it seems that things looking up for yu,” I said to him.

“Do you see anything in the politics now that is helping you?” I asked.

“A one time mi vote. For the JLP. But right now, a don’t think there is anymore voting leave in me,” he responded.

I asked him why, and he said that it was his observations that the politicians are looking out only for themselves, so he was going to do the same thing and concentrate solely on his work and his family. All other matters were out of his control and his care.

In 2012 when Simmo, a carpenter, was doing some work on the roof on my house, he was 40, with three children, a common-law wife, and, he too, did not have his own means of transport. In 2019, Simmo has a ‘criss’, looking van, and he has begun to build his own house on family land.

Simmo has never voted before, but soft spoken as he is, he will readily and vocally get it across to you that he has absolutely no intention of ever doing so. His reason?

“If mi vote PNP, mi get six. If mi vote JLP, dem flip it and gi back di same ting to mi as nine. Right now me just going thru, and di politics nuh mean nutten to me,” he said.

Jeff’s young child is going to a reasonably good school, and Simmo’s kids have morphed into young adults. There is nothing outstanding in the life of his children that will provide him with a braggart’s soap box, but, at the very least, his girls have never been abused and the boy is following in his professional footsteps.

Neither Jeff nor Simmo has heard of the EGC, or the Economic Growth Council, headed by Michael Lee Chin. Both have heard of the catchphrase five-in-four, but to them, it is meaningless. To them, they are simply going to work for the benefit of their families and themselves.

“Mek politics do it ting. Mi wi do my ting,” said Jeff.

ON THE EDGE OF HELL

As I spoke to her, it occurred to me that the lines and oily creases in her face were there not so much as age lines, but as the misery and the daily harshness and toughness of her life.

She was in her mid 50s. she didn’t know me, but as I engaged her in a small plaza along Red Hills Road and enquired why her face was “so long”, she opened up. One of her granddaughters was pregnant. She is 16 years old. Her daughter is having man problems, meaning that at odd times during the day, he will find some crazy excuse to beat her up.

“Di church a help wi. Dem really helpful but …” she trailed off. “Life just too hard.”

Seeing that the most I could offer would probably be of too little help for her, I left two bills with her and said my goodbyes.

Not far from there lives Dev, and at 37, his shuffling walk is a dead giveaway that he is very unwell. His aunt who grew him has put him out because there are rumors that he is gay. He assures me that it is not so and has never been so.

“So what really is the problem?” I asked, pretending I did not know he was HIV-positive.

He bowed his head and muttered something that only he heard.

“Dev, yu need some help,” I said to him and gave him a telephone number where he could get the sort of medical assistance he needed.

THIS IS PUZZLING

Well-known Jamaican Dr Paul Ivey has written a book, among the many he has turned out, titled Jamaica, Paradise and Paradox. I must confess that I have not read it, but Dr Ivey has been doing his best on Facebook to push his book.

I make mention of that to say that in 1980, Jamaica’s tourist industry had 543,000 visitors in our country, and now, it seems that our country is not very far from having five million tourists by 2020.

Those numbers are quite good as any economist and ‘nation builder’ would say. But I want to ask this question: How is it that this country can make such impressive growth rates in areas that are concentrated on making foreigners feel the fullness of paradise in Jamaica when here at home, in the real economy, one in every four of our children live in poverty?

According to metrics from UNICEF, “Approximately 80 per cent of Jamaican children experience some form of psychological or physical violence administered as discipline, 64.9 per cent of students are bullied at school, and as many as 79 per cent of Jamaican children witness violence in their community or at home.”

Get that? How can we be trying to build a new nation, as implied in Vision 2030, when at the very same time as that is being engineered, we are actively blighting the future growth and human development of this country?

WRONG ROLE MODELS

With the giant of a Jamaican entertainer Buju Banton returning to the country of his birth after doing a stretch in prison abroad for involvement in the illegality of illegal drugs, there are many who believe that Buju owes our young people a message of hope and a promise of redemption should they, too, make the errors he made.

Hogwash! Who was it who enshrined into law that our entertainers were the best role models for our children?

Vybz Kartel, the imprisoned dancehall entertainer still worshipped by many of the young in our country, told us years ago that parents have a responsibility to lead their children towards those they should look up to.

In essence, he was saying that his creativity was his alone and no matter how people like me would find his output distasteful and damaging to the minds of our young people, as long as he broke no laws, he ought to be free to wreak havoc in young people’s minds.

And, guess what. He is right.

Buju is back home, and as one of us, we ought to welcome him back home. That is just the Jamaican thing.

At the other end of it is this fact staring us hard in the face. As much as dancehall DJs have a lock on the minds of our youngsters and they are the best communicators in this society, we as parents need to reassess the extent of our authority and get up off our fat you-know-whats and use it. We need to take back the authority that years ago we gave to the dancehall DJs.

I do not expect that Buju will go on any apology tour. Just as I do not expect that the state, which had Vybz incarcerated, will explain to us by what means he has accessed the freedom to produce music when he is supposed to be, well, in prison.

- Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.