Written By Carol Lawton
I am coming close to my year 5 of being home in Jamaica. Do I miss the streets of America, I would say yes. Do I miss less stress I would say yes. Do I miss less aggression , I would also say yes. But with all the stuff I miss I would say it was worth it. I now have a better understanding of my Jamaica. I was a bum( aimless visitor) just partying and eating food then I worked as a lawn boy, NYS camp manager, consultant, an environmental activist, fish monger, a farmer, a juice manufacturer, gas attendant, a liason on a bridge and now find myself in remittances. Why so much jobs. Just did not know what to do and wanted the experience. My Jamaica is just that an exciting place with negative and positives. It’s not the same for every Jamaican, its mine.
There’s nothing like the restaurants of Kingston, and Fiction, The beaches of the island, going into the hills or mountain, The walks through the market or a simple local bar, the garrisons and uptown, customers and the high cost of living. My Jamaica is not a perfect place. Here I saw more deaths than I should have in such a short time with most being very personal. The reason for this is to be poor here is looked upon as being nothing so the poor die without a second thought and this lesson of the garrison I hold near. Yet most who consider themselves not living in the garrison is less than one generation from poverty. An important thing to look at because if the world recession had hit harder many without their jobs would return to the lot. Lesson two of this culture, Guns are as easy to get as bread and butter yet the law abiding citizen can carry a knife. Conflict resolution is nil here so its fight or flight and think fast if your action can not back your mouth.
Waste is the order of the day and its with everything. Waste of ideas, waste of food, waste of water, waste of talent, Waste of money, waste of time and the very expense waste of energy. SUVs and the biggest appliances. Forget solar its all oil yet they complain about the bill. Cant buy food or send kids to school but money for party , weed and hair. Just used the rent money for car gas cause cant be seen taking the bus . So many become beggars with polite words about how the pay check short. Long line to get to the teller wondering what’s happening here don’t mention the ATM. Here few recycle but the scrap thief will destroy new to sell for old and wonder why no water coming to his house. Red tape linger like a mummy on business and government process.
Here in Jamaica, we kill for work yet sit around doing nothing expecting the work so extortion must be the end result. In a worst case the expext politics to come to their gate and give it to them and sad to say some people get work only that way. Government projects are prone for this as the people expect corruption and plan for corruption and to go around the corruption even if there is no corruption. In the belly has taught me much that it’s a hostile environment that contractors operating in and too many factions that think they have a right to work and no skills to complete the task but because of fear the contractors give in. Imagine having to pay the RATS! When they do not work but are a sunk cost in how business is done in the construction industry. Sometimes a gun is a paycheck in our Jamaica so why wonder many youths first ambition is a gun vs education. Most major project will see death and corruption and its not the politician, it’s the people.
They want more than what exist thus creating a system of revolving work which really only revolves poverty and frustration. Can you imagine get a job think 5-6 months finally some work and then after 2 paycheck get laid off to see someone doing the same work with the same people. The money finish and now there is 2 more in the rotation and two on the side who know decide to threaten to eat someone “food “to show power just to get a $1500 a day job. JIC rates are a wonder now. That’s something I learn and will use as a standard guide for all work even on the farm. Can you imagine having border where you can and cannot work in Jamaica. The garrison is strong and alive in ways that many cannot even imagine and in place that seem nice and quite as well
Here weed smoke and oxygen is one in the same as in every 20 feet walk and you smell a next grade. Young men here have a serious hand cupping and rubbing problem that need attention and not jail time. Time to decriminalize weed and set up laws like Dutch! In my Jamaica, young women know sexual exploitation and harassment and sad to say some young men are changing their sexual lifestyle to get a job. Some have to sleep with the interviewer to get to the interview table and still don’t get the job. Here even so call up town girls are as cheap as a bottle of Moet because its all hype to say who they slept with or which club/hotel they just came from. That’s just the life.
Race and class is still an issue. So much bleaching that maybe one day they will need body bubbles to protect them from skin cancer. Speaking properly makes you a weak person so middle and upper class are sometimes bullied or believed to be from another country if they are not black Jamaicans. The poor are blocked from jobs as many are darker. Everyone looking a browning so pose with as a sign of success and this is both males and females. There is the idea that the upper class and middle class did not work for anything and that it was given so nothing wrong is taking from them. For all the changes nothing have really changes from when I was young. I still remember “Black is beauty and red is corruption” but its crazy to see black person lighter than me and sisters.
My Jamaica does not value the environment . Parks are few and respect is nil. Nothing worse that walking along a sidewalk with the high ammonia smell of sun baked piss. Here bags juice bags litter the place as plastic cover everything include a certain beach in Rockfort. A person once laugh Jamaica land of garbage and litter bugs. Sewage is everywhere yet the bills are sky high. But cant blame all on people as are receptacles at times but why put in if the bottom is rotten and not there. Here you can build anywhere even in the water sheds of the mountains. Coal burning is still in full swing as forest run away.
Farmers rush to farm with limited knowledge of new technology and they prove that they can farm. Here the farmer is looked down on even though they smile in your face in the Banks. . Farm labour is at nil but farm product thief is at a all time high. Here Banks give you negative returns on your savings as the interest given is below inflation. But lately their loan packages are not so bad the interest is tolerable and trending down. You better not dear go to a mirco loan company because the hussle the poor with over 120% APR on their loans yet usury laws are in place. Here technology is at a finger tip yet few use it to develop opportunity for economic development.
Our universities are producing mindless graduates who equate education to more money yet they have no experience. They are unwilling to work their way up but expect executive pay. The country educate them it seems to become educated lumpens. They stand for nothing yet expect everything. Some read Garvey, Che, Mao and think that makes them a militant yet none have any new idea to change things as they will not stand out in a crowd. None have the backbone to move against a system.
Investigative Journalism is dead here. The media waits for things to happen then repeats it over and over. Columnist write chatter on things that mean very little most time. Thank God for the Cartoonists in the paper. So much talk and insight into world affairs on America, Libya, Israel and Arab Spring as many rush to show that they have intellect but with only the research of CNN and AL Jazeera and yet very little on Jamaica and its root problems. In America, I clung to the media via the net here I cant tell when I watch the news. The gleaner when I buy it are for the classified ads and postings of opportunity. Everyone is an intellect because of position. All the high office and titles cannot buy intellects!
The middle class wonder how did it come to this. Personally I live in a community control with fear as to who live in the squatter community on the hills. The politician focus on them and they receive the spoils of the tax dollar. Cant blame them either as they come out to the polls while the middle class come out in a high 15% as the hide behind complaining about what is wrong and high walls. Both parties used to depend on the middle class now it has changed. So do not wonder what happened because we caused it by not being a part of the electoral system yet still have to foot the bill.
I do business in a town where more than 60% of the adult are illiterate. I do business in a parish that can not even come together to keep a chamber of commerce going. Customer service in business is hard here as the customers are agressive and do not xpect customer service and the people behind most of the counters do know how to deliver customer services so it always leads to frustration at some point. Mr. Vaswani was right when he told me that that will be my biggest headache after bills. Yet they wonder and complain about no growth when they are not ready for investment but ripe for plundering as outside see that we will buy anything. I get to look and watch the fact that socially Jamaicans treat each other with contempt, disrespect and rarely can work together for long periods. Strong men sit in buses while old women hang on stand with one hand to a bus rail as comfort is more important. Here I have become more aggressive to match the environment yet when confronted and I show that I am far more aggressive that thought, it look at as being wrong. Are we all sheep for the slaughter?
In my 5 year journey I did not drive, I walked and as I walked and reflect about what I saw each day. I started to look objectively at my Jamaica. Here the pretend and façade is high no matter where you go or the social circles as it all HYPE. A car is deem a part of success where it can make or break you or even exclude you out. People build larger and larger house with smaller and smaller families. There is total lack of self esteem that the material determine the person value or intellect. Its not always the case but the social cliques are strong here and the circles very small. In my Jamaica, it not about merit but the same old story different spin.
In my five years, I wanted to understand power and politics in Jamaica. One day I got called in a room to be told that I have year of politics left in me so go to the side lines and I am too aggressive and uncontrollable. In politics your friend is your enemy and your enemy your friend but don’t go across party lines at times. Politicians here die a million deaths it seem. I have gained a deep understand above and beyond the garrison. Its not as easy as most think. Democracy is just that. Politics is about system so you better can fight your own to get in and up the ladder in the party then fight the outside. Politics here is not for the weak or faint of heart. The politician gives up a lot in the pursuit and sometimes get lost in the mass and forget why they entered politics in the first place. Its not weakness but just how the system is. They don’t run the system, the people do and sad to say the people are the ones who support corruption and sometimes use the politician to implement and give it out as that’s how the spoil are had. At the end of the day, morals and ethics come to play and that’s where backbone comes in. Tons to do here in that regard but it’s the people not the office.
I wanted my right to vote in Jamaican when I was in America so I return because the Diaspora can not vote while overseas. I thought it ridiculous and still do but I understand better the issue now and why most should not vote who are citizens of other countries yet we find some in Parliament. I read my Constitution in grade 10 in America. Yes the Jamaica one as that was when I knew even the word and what it was good for. Most Jamaicans do not know their rights from their right hand so the courts are filled. The courts are a story to themselves and is best to avoid if possible. But the green card holder must be allowed to vote as they are still 100%. The issues of living here is far different from being in America or any other place, how can you vote on issue you don’t know anything of expect word of mouth especially after becoming a citizen of another country. Worries are abound since week about the Diaspora conference. My question is who cares. Who knows these people. Who elected them to represent the Diaspora. I certainly did not care when I was in America as my eyes and ears were here because of a simple thing and that was Jamaica is home and America was where I worked. Many times there are nothing new coming from the conference so its like beating an empty box and it made sound because there is noting in it but it does make headlines. What does it really matters as long as it just all talk coming from these people at the conference whose ideas and voices do not impact the ground and no action in a time when real action is needed.
In five years I met many deported and they have excellent ideas. There is nothing stupid about them but they have issues that will cause problems when they return home. Remember Marcus Garvey is a deportee most have forgetten this fact. The deportee return is not smooth to transition into this more aggressive and class driven culture and that is the first problem as the land here with no document or expired documents and no clue where to get them. They return with only the negative and fail to realize that they have an advantage to do good because of their experiences. Nothing dies faster than a deportee who forgets that this is not foreign but Jamaica. It’s cold but the truth.
I have come to a sobering conclusion based upon my experiences both good and bad since I have return. Even though I highlighted the negatives because they are so easy the difficult parts are the how to do more good. I am now a local again but the Diaspora is still in me. It is time for those who shout the loudest to shut up in the Diaspora and put up. Stop the bickering and decide to help with more than just money. Money here in Jamaica is worthless without hands and minds to put it to work. Start integrating Jamaica into your businesses in America so that our young people can get summer employment like the European student do to get exposed to new ideas and experiences. Come home and implement new businesses which are not here to offer services for local and international clients while providing employment . Come home and do some hands on charity or environmental work to change. Come together and build new schools or create scholarships to get the most talent out. Put your force and challenge the government to create new policies so you can invest in nation building such as low interest US based government bonds to do key development project and refinance debt.
I am not offering any solutions as too busy fixing what I have to fix to live here in Jamaica. Too much talk and no action. He who feels it knows it. I have heard so much things of why Jamaica is so bad and I have felt so much that if I was negative I would think cursed place. Jamaica is alright to live, work and raise a family in. Its not perfect and there is tons of work to do. I now find myself balancing farm, business and loans with a growing staff from 2 to 12 in less than 2 years and slated to expand more as casual labour is not included or business expansion. So yes the economy is growing as small business gear up to move. Was it solely government policy? I will tell you all no. It’s consumer confidence. The people must feel good about Jamaica for it to grow! The government can do better, the citizens must do better, the Diaspora must do better. Respect our land and environment, respect our people (out of Many One), respect for self goes along way.