Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jamaican Frustration 2

The second incident was far more tragic than the first.

I was walking by a vendor, peddling her wares on a wooden cart. She sat with her baby - the child could not have been more than a year old - on the edge of the cart.

A man passed by on the opposite side of the street. The child looked at the man.

Suddenly, whollop! The mother gave the child one big slap upside his head that sent him toppling like a doll.

"Mi seh nuh look over deh!" She yelled loudly at the child. The child righted himself on his seat and sat in stunned silence, looking down at the ground and rubbing the side of his head. He never shed a tear.

IN contrast, my own eyes were brimming with sympathy. I wondered what kind of frustration would cause an upset mother to unleash such unbridled anger on her child ... and if the child did not cry because he had become accustomed to it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jamaican Frustration

Like a pot full of steamy stew – way past ready – spitting bubbles, spewing heat that sears unsuspecting, naked flesh, there is a seething, boiling rage in our people ... a thinly-veiled, barely-buried hurt. They are fed up and frustrated.

This morning, I witnessed two vivid examples of the frustration that is rampant in Jamaicans.

The first happened while I was sitting in a bus on my way to work. A police officer pulled the bus over and asked to see the driver's documents. The driver's annoyance was instantaneous.

"Wha me do? " he loudly queried. "After me nuh do nutting. Boss, gimme a bly nuh man?"

The police officer calmly repeated his request to see the documents.

The driver begged. "Jus mek me drive outta di park nuh man?"

The policeman did not budge. He informed the driver that he had three children to take care of and would not be loosing his job because he gave one lousy, uncouth driver a 'bly'.

The bus driver cursed a string of profanities as he rummaged through an old bag for his papers. He gave them to the policeman, but refused to step out of the bus. The policeman refused to return the documents until he did.

The passengers entered the quarrel and began to curse – some at the driver for being so obstinate, some at the policeman for being part of the system of 'Babylon' – a system that had let them down all too many times. Some cursing at the ceiling and begged God to get them to work on time, others just cursed at no one in particular ... whatever the reason, everyone cursed.

Finally, the policeman turned the papers over to an inspector, who decided to give the driver the 'bly' he so desperately began to beg for.

After we drove out of the bus park, the cursing ceased - except for one bitter woman whose soul was full to overflowing with the atrocities of the "damn police", the injustices of "the system" ... she began to sympathise loudly with the bus driver, relating how her car was also in a state of disrepair because of the horrible conditions of the roads. She spoke at length about how difficult it was to even buy herself a pair of sneakers because of the high costs of insurance, electricity, water, rent, food, and, of course, the damned car repairs.

She was still unburdening herself - her complaints interspersed with the most colourful language - when I alighted from the bus, thinking to myself that it can't be healthy - or safe - for people to remain in such an extended state of frustration and tension. What happens when the strings of a woman's life have been drawn so tightly, pulled to such extremes, that she feels no remorse in unburdening her sorrows to a bus-full of strangers? When she can find no relief in her incessant cursing? What is this nightmare that our people live? What is the real definition for Jamaican frustration?