Monday, February 28, 2011

Fate of a Failed and Faithless State

There I was, late for church,  silently willing the chatterbox driver to go faster, and overhearing these two men talking about the driver's latest unfortunate run-in with the police (apparently he'd had several).

Then he made this statement: "Me nuh have no faith inna police nuh more. No rasta.  Police or pastor. Me nuh have NO faith inna dem." (Translated: I have no faith in the police anymore. Not at all. Pastor or police, I have no faith in any of them).

And it made me think of our entire nation, because I've heard similar sentiments expressed on many other occasions. Our society is so riddled with corruption and frustration-inspiring situations that Jamaican people seem to have lost faith in a LOT of things and people. So here's my list of things I think we have no faith in anymore.

7. Government/politicians
We let that ship slide a long time ago. So long, in fact, that people no longer make a distinction between politics and corruption.

6. 'Di system'
It's not just government and politics. It's this unnamed, intangible entity/force that drives all the major industries/sectors in our country. 'Di system' is this organised series of events, an unwritten list of requirements that naturally excludes the masses and imposes injustice on the people.

5. Police
A common cry among our people is that the police force has become the nation's machinery for mass victimisation, bending to the wishes of their heartless dictators, many Jamaicans see police as the enemy, as 'Babylon', the ones who make life difficult for everyone.

4. Pastors/religious leaders
If ever there was a people/state who have been grossly disappointed by the Church, it's Jamaicans. Usually a strong Christian society, over the years Jamaicans have become the world's best and biggest religious sceptics. They've seen it all: from sex in the pulpit to pastors with guns, and they are not impressed.

3. God
Well, if the people who represent him constantly fail you, why believe anything they say or look to any reference point they offer?

2. The future
'Boy, tings dread,' is a common sentiment. And if that was all, it wouldn't bother me. But our people have begun to develop a posture of resignation. Like the listless brood in Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, they have become firm believers in a stagnant, unchanging, unchangeable society. The more things change, they say, the more they remain the same.

1. Themselves
And this is the part many of us don't realise. Our loss of faith in all these other things belies a deeper crisis. It's not just that we no longer believe in others or the system they work in, but it tells us - tells me - that we don't believe in ourselves. We no longer value our own capabilities and potential.

So that's my list. What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? What would you add? Minus? And are you one of the many Jamaicans/persons who have given up on this country? I hope not.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It's the UN International Year of Youth ... Just NOT In Jamaica!

Yep. You heard right. Can you imagine? August 2010-2011 has been declared the second United Nations International Year of Youth, and Jamaica has rolled out NO programmes (that I know of, and I think if there was something, I would know) so far in recognition of this fact. Not even a little essay competition. Or something so. Nutting. Nada. Zilch. Makes you wonder if Ministry of Youth even knows what year it is.

I don't think Jamaican youth are lazy. Jamaican people, on a whole, are not lazy or aggressive or violent by nature. But I think it was Buju who sang, "Ciiircumstances maaade me what I am." Especially when those circumstances include short-sighted leadership that spends so much time chupsing sports stars, they don't have time to cast a glance at miniscule issues like youth empowerment, and ensuring that a year designated for dialogue and mutual understanding between youth and their counterparts actually gets any recognition ... Is chicken feed ting dat, right? Better to buss we head over where the grass at Trelawny MultiPurpose Stadium went.

What's more? This year has also been declared the Year of the People of African Descent. That's me and my AfroCaribbean neighbours. That's me and my ethnic brothers and sisters all over this world ... that's more than 80% of Jamaica!! But have we heard a peep about it? No maasah! We too busy having dramatic, Days-of-our-lives type enquiries to stop for a minute and realise that this year, more than any other year to date, is all about us. It's about the African people. It's about youth. Two key factors - a bandwagon I wouldn't mind the government getting on (since they seem prone to wagonist thinking).

I going stop talk now though. I feel a tad bit upset and sleepy. And when I feel that way, my posting can get erratic and uncharismatically blunt. So let me stop now before I say something ... wrong. But don't blame me for being upset. I sing with Buju (and no, I not trying to give him a forward or a buss or show solidarity or nothing so, the song just happen to fit with the post) ...

"Circumstances made me what I am 
Was I born a violent man? 
Circumstances made me what I am 
Everyone should understand
Circumstances made me what I am 
Was I born a violent man? 
Circumstances made me what I am
 Everyone should know ...

If we don't give our youth the opportunities they need now, if we refuse to take advantage of important milestones like these, then the youth will find other ways to express themselves ... 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vanity Fair Questionnaire

**Stolen from Lady Putz, who borrowed it from Vanity Fair.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
The Jewish concept of shalom, ie, perfect peace in any situation.

What is the one thing more than anything else that you don't want to happen to you?
Dying with unused potential, unspent energy, unwritten books, untold stories, unsung songs, etc.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela ... fervent, unwavering belief in hope ...  Amandla! Ngawethu!

Which living person do you most admire?
Mom. She is a house of prayer, tower of strength. And integrity in and out of the spotlight ... and regular people all over the world who make magic out of ordinary.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Erm ...  sporadic unconfidence.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Deliberate cruelty ... cold, calculated wickedness, intolerance and insensitivity.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Usually the simplest pleasures: sunrises, sunsets, blue skies, calm seas ... oh yeah, and fancy pastry, ethnic jewellery, skirts and scarves.

What is your favourite journey?
Going out and going home. Out to an adventure. Home to rest. Nothing's quite as magical as the anticipation of the day's work, or a long trip away, and when someone asks where you're going and you get to say, "home" ... *enter blissful joy here*

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
In today's society, virtues are grossly underrated!

On what occasion do you lie?
I try not to lie at all ;-)

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I try not to dislike any aspect of me. But if I must choose something, it would probably be ... ???

Which living person do you most despise?
I don't think I despise anybody, but I intensely dislike people who are deliberately cruel, manipulative intolerant and insensitive ... why can't we all learn to respect each other's right to be ... ?

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

What is your greatest regret?
Hmnm ... hard one. And certainly nothing to be shared with cyberland.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Mi Lord. Then books/stories. Then journalism and cultures.

Which talent would you most like to have?

What is your current state of mind?

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
So far?? Umm ... changing the course of my family, generation ...

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Probably the world's first inexhaustible  pen ... I do love to write, lol.

If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
Bird. I like the idea of always having a song, flying free ...

What is your most treasured possession?
Ability to think, learn, grow, adapt, change and show affection (which I give freely yet with great restraint).

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
A purposeless life. Sadness that never goes away. No sunshine. No smiles. No warmth. No laughter. No love.

Where would you like to live?
A little bit of everywhere in every country in the world ...

What is your favourite occupation?
Writing, hands down ... then hearing/sharing great stories, inspiring others, being inspired, research, publication/home/fashion design, troubleshooting development issues, 'live-a-better-life campaigns, singing, smiling, laughing ... practising random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Passion. I emote, emote, emote ...

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Generosity, integrity, strength of character.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Without a doubt, strength and purposefulness.

What do you most value in your friends?
Humour,  tolerance, respect.

Who are your favorite writers?
Where to start? There are so many! I love biographies ... people's stories that instruct, uplift, inspire ... People like Nelson Mandela, Ben Carson ...

What is it that you most dislike?
Deliberate cruelty, poverty, abuse, hunger, disease, inexplicable catastrophe that plagues the human heart, mind and soul ...and gross disrespect and intolerance for others.

How would you like to die?
Empty. Spent. Fulfilled. Epitaph: Here lies a woman who lived a FULL life and left nothing undone.

What is your motto?
You live, you learn, you grow ...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Women's Rights Violation STILL A Problem!

Two news stories published last Thursday have returned my attention to that ever-present and ire-inspiring issue of women's rights and freedoms in this my beloved country.

Photo found via Google Images, from here
The first was about a 12-year-old girl who was strip-searched at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. According to the news report, she was asked to 'remove her pants and underwear following an upper-body pat down search'. Later, her mother said that the officer conducting the search questioned her daughter about her menses. Now, you tell me, what does a 12-year-old's menstruation have to do with airport security? And couldn't the officer have been more humane and, well, decent, considering that she was violating the privacy of a child? I felt violated just reading the story! (See the news story here).

The next issue was an exotic dancer who was allegedly gang-raped by five policemen.Gang-raped. According to the news report, she was working when a bus full of policemen arrived and proceeded to raid her workplace. A group of them gathered around her, shielding their activities from the public, sat her on a stool, and proceeded to rape her one by one. Oh the horror. The trauma. The injustice of it! (See the news story here)

What I find particularly disheartening is that in both instances, the women were (allegedly) victimised at the hands of security enforcement officials. Isn't that ironic and sad? The people to whom these women should have been looking for protection were the very ones who caused them needless pain, embarassment and trauma. When you can no longer depend on the security forces in your own country for help and, well, security, where do you turn? Is it time for us to double our padlocks, grills and bolts and create underground shelters and secret exits? Oh. Right. We've already done that.

I sincerely hope that in both cases, justice will be served. It is sad that we can still identify instances of gender-based violence against and victimisation of our women and girls. All we ever ask for is RESPECT: respect of our rights, freedoms and civil liberties, and a recognition of our entitlement to safety and security ... especially from the security forces!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jamaica, Grow UP!

Photo from bestourism
"We want justice!"
"Fiyah fi Babylon!"

Jamaicans have this uncanny ability to express solidarity with the most questionable characters when it suits them, especially when said character, whom they would otherwise loathe, happens to be pitted against a person/group they find more unpalatable. They will hug up said character and love them gone to bed, just to spite the opponent, who bears the brunt of their greater 'despisement' (as my granny would call it).

They also have this maternal tendency to express everlasting solidarity with  'sons and daughters of the rock'. When convicted of a crime abroad, a 'yardie' can do no wrong. Even if said yardie did in fact do wrong, it had to be under some sort of dubious circumstance. The Jamaican psyche will create a malicious, ill-intended 'them' and swear on their dead granny's grave that this 'them' is fighting against yardies everywhere, including the uninvolved-except-in-my-mind 'me'. And this group of yardies everywhere, including the previously-uninvolved-now-fully-embroiled-in-the-struggle-for-freedom 'me', becomes transformed into the ever-righteous collective, commonly known as 'us'.

A bit much to take in? Read it again slowly. I promise you, it makes sense. And no, this has nothing to do with Buju Banton's trial, though I will admit that the reactions I have seen sort of prompted this train of thought.

So now we have an 'us' versus 'them' scenario, which easily and accurately describes the attitude civilians have towards police and other law enforcement officials/groups, politicians, government, 'the system', etc.

It's always 'us' - a disempowered, undderrepresented, uneducated, impoverished and unemployed majority - fighting against 'them' - a system, or a representative of a system of oppression, disenfranchisement, enslavement or unfair domination.

'Them' always have money, power and privilege on their side. And 'us'? 'Us' sit around waiting on 'them' to help us, bemoaning our condition and lamenting our pitiful situation; 'us' bear placards and scream for justice on national TV every night; 'us' bawl and grovel when we lose our sons and daughters to violence and crime ... but this same 'us' will curse the police and hug up the don who will come back later to demand sexual favours from our underaged daughter. 'Us' will curse the government and the injustice of the system, but still take the curry and rice to vote for the same incompetent party at election time. This is life for 'us'. And we can't see it getting any better.

Neither can I.

Not until 'us' realise that we don't have to choose the lesser of two evils - that we don't have to choose evil at all! Not until 'us' stop making excuses for our refusal to be empowered; not until 'us' learn to stop seeing ourselves as victims and reactors to any crap this government dishes out to us. Not until 'us' wake up, stand up, speak up ...

Egypt did it. And it worked! Tahrir Square will forever tell that story.

I've heard a lot of Jamaicans asking when our time for real, serious political change will come. I have a question of my own: When will 'us' stop blaming 'them', being afraid of 'them', and confront 'them' to let 'them' know, once and for all, that we demand better because we deserve better?

Next year (2012),  Jamaica will celebrate 50 years of being an independent nation, but unless we take Bob Marley's words to heart and emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, our jubilee will represent nothing more than a fleeting, insignificant figure on time's continuum ...

After 49 years, you'd hope we'd learnt the important lessons and, like the Apostle Paul admonished, put away childish things. It's time for 'us' to act our age. It's time for Jamaica to GROW UP!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Suspending A Blogging Teacher??

Photo from Yahoo
This story on Yahoo about high school teacher, 30-year-old Natalie Munroe, caught my eye. To summarise, it spoke about the fact that she blogged about her students (anonymously) and was suspended for saying negative things about them (even though she did not identify them in any way).

Among other things, she called her students 'disengaged, lazy whiners', and they (students and school) were none too happy about it. These students found her blog and must have identified themselves in her very descriptive and honest post, brought it to the school's attention, and wallah ... she was suspended. Miss Munroe must have thought at that point, 'the whiners win again'.

It gets me concerned to think that the teacher was suspended for speaking her mind. Think about it. This woman is writing on her personal blog. She is speaking out of deep frustration. Must she take a fall for speaking the truth without doing any real harm to anyone? Because no one, or very little people, would have known that she worked at the school or would have known which students she was talking about if they had not made such a big stink out of it.

As one speaker pointed out, she could have been any teacher in any high school in America. Is it fair for her to be suspended? Is it fair for the school to take that step? And what is the alternative? Are they saying that teachers should not be allowed to keep personal blogs or to write honestly about their work experiences on them? And, by extension, are they implying that professionals should not blog honestly about their work experience, even if they are doing so under the shroud of anonymity?

As with all things private and professional, responsibility and discretion must be exercised. But where do we draw the line between unfair, unwarranted censorship and freedom of expression?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Inspiring? Who? Me?

"Ruth, you know you inspire me, right?"

I wasn't faking modesty when I looked surprised. I was genuinely surprised. Because in all my 20-something years of existence, the last two are probably the most uninspiring I've ever felt in my life! I just don't feel like much of an inspiration lately. I know that will soon change, because I REFUSE to give up, but still, right now, it is what it is.

I smiled and asked, "Really? Why?" And I was honest. I wanted to know why.

"Because you've been fulfilling your goals. You're living your dream of working in media. You've always loved writing and you haven't stopped. You're getting ahead."

I laughed, and there was sarcasm in it. I mean, I appreciated the compliment, but she had no idea. So I flipped the script.

"Actually," said I. "People like you inspire me."

It was her turn to look sheepish and flabbergasted. "Me? No way. I just can't seem to get it together."

I nodded. "Yeah. I know a lot of people like that ... who just can't seem to get it together. But that doesn't stop them from trying. And I always respect people who, no matter what life throws at them, know how to pick up the pieces and carry on with what they have to do. Those are the real heroes - the silent champions .. and you're one of those."

She looked shocked and shy. But I meant it. She's much younger than I am ... just started university last year. She has no father to speak of. Her mother tried to sell her to men for money when she was younger. She was basically adopted and raised by a Catholic nun, who also paid what she could for her schooling. She has brothers and sisters all over this country - known and unknown. Her father was very generous with his seed. He understood the biblical directive to cast his bread upon the waters ... But despite all of that, she's in university studying the arts ... she's getting ahead.

Afterward, I was thinking that I know a lot of people like her. Coming from a small, rural community, I see stories like that pretty often - people who think they just can't seem to get it together who are actually doing pretty well. It's funny, because many times, if we stop looking so intently at ourselves and look around us, we'll see that the faults we constantly berate ourselves for can also be found elsewhere. We are not one of us perfect. But we are not one of us completely flawed either. There's good and bad in everybody. And that's reason to hope for all. I get inspired by people like my friend. Regular people ... very ordinary, who put the dare in dreams and the possibility in maybe.

Funny how that worked out. I inspired her. She inspired me. May the cycle of inspiration never end ...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Bruised Backside ...

One plus one equals two. Because when you take one thing, and add it to another thing, you end up with two things. It stands to reason. It makes sense. It FOLLOWS.

When you use a football field as the venue for a concert, and there is rain, and a huge crowd of stomping, jumping, dancing people, you should expect the field to be ruined by the end of the seven-day event. The grass will go missing, not because some mysterious stranger took 500 truckloads of it (like they did with the sand off one unfortunate gentleman's beachfront property two years ago), but because the stomping, jumping, dancing people stomped down the grass, jumped on the mud, and danced around in it just enough to spread it over a noticeable area and kill off all of the grass ... It doesn't take a commission of enquiry or any serious investigation to figure that out. It's common sense. It FOLLOWS.

Photo from Jamaica Observer
When you carry in an official inspection team to survey that field 11 days after the concert, five days before an international sporting meet is expected to be held using that same stomped-on, jumped-on, danced-on, ruined field, you should expect them to declare it unfit for games. Not because they're biased and have a vendetta against your country. Not because the contractor 'faked' a field to show you (and even if he did, what did you expect him to do? Turn water to wine??). But because the field is ruined. And you cannot use a ruined field to host a serious international event. You cannot allow a player to fall on his backside in sun-dried, caked up mud instead of on that cushiony sea of lush green grass that is supposed to be there to prtect his derriere. The man will bruise! And the hurtful part for him would be that the lush green cushion for his backside was probably there before YOU decided to host a seven-day concert of stomping, jumping and dancing it to death, knowing full well that you were jeopardising the usability of the field thereafter, and thereby increasing the vulnerability of the poor man's netherend, not to mention hanging your country's reputation out to dry! It doesn't take a commission of enquiry or any serious investigation to figure that out. It's common sense. It FOLLOWS.

So when I hear Sports Minister Olivia Grange talking about conducting an investigation to determine why the Trelawny Multipurpose Stadium football field, which was used to host the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival over a seven-day period, is now a disgraceful, grassless mess, I have to seriously wonder when common sense became so ... uncommon. Of course the field was declared unfit to host the 2011 CONCACAF Under-17 World Cup Qualifying Tournament! It doesn't take a commission of enquiry or any serious investigation to figure that out. It's common sense. It FOLLOWS.

And the worst part? To quote Jamaica Football Federation general secretary, Horace Reid, "Our reputation has been tarnished as a country and as a football federation. Our reputation with CONCACAF has been tarnished and there will be repercussions down the road." Why were no alternate preparations made, especially considering the high probability of the field being damaged after a seven-day, continuous beat-down? In this instance, I feel more sympathy for the football field. It exits, stage left, with a sore, back-and-blue, bruised backside ... and Jamaica's reputation follows closely behind (no pun intended).

See the news story from:

Friday, February 4, 2011

62 million GONE!

*Ghet-towz family living room*

Shenanae: Dis yah robbery yah CONNEK!

Mrs. Ghet-towz: What a body couldn't do with 62 million dollars ...

Mr. Ghet-towz: A body cudda mek a body wid dat ... cudda mek nuff body and mine dem!

Mrs. Ghet-towz: Eeh? Nuh badda wid dat. Try tek yuh mine offa making nuh more body and mine di one dem yuh have, awoi!

*Whole family laughs, intersperesed with exclamations of 'Raaaae', 'Woooi' and Laaaawd'*

Mrs. Ghet-towz: Mi nuh tink dem ago fine dem tief deh. Di ting well sort out. It plan good bad.

Mr. Ghet-towz: All if a police catch dem now, weh him ago do more than beg a piece'a di action?

Mrs. Ghet-towz: A di security guard dem weh get rob ago inna hot wata, cause a dem haffi go explain how dem mek di tief dem get weh ... an it look fishy fi true.

Mr. Ghet-towz: Mi sorry fi dem. All lie detector dem ago use pon dem ... wuddn waan fi inna fidem shoes.

Mrs. Ghet-towz: Kinda sad, though. Di tief dem get weh, an di man dem weh did a do dem job, a dem  get eena trouble.

Mr. Ghet-towz: Nuh suh di system set. Honest people cyaan prosper. Look like mi haffi go find some tief an go rob a truck too ... an den start mek and mine some body! 

*He touches shoulders with his wife, who pushes him away and hisses her teeth loudly, in between exclamations of 'Raaaae', 'Woooi' and Laaaawd' from their children*

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Will the real PASSIONATE Jamaican youth please stand up??

Photo from
Facebook Youth Stand UP campaign
Passion cannot be turned off. You either have it or you don't. So says one of my coworkers. A lot of our so-called youth leaders' actions are indicating a lack of serious, sustained passion for any meaningful development in our young people.

I often wish to see even a glimpse of old-time Jamaica, not because I have a nostalgic Achilles' heel, but because I'd love to see the kind of fire and passion that drove a nation full of enslaved chattels to fight - to their last breath - for a cause they believed in. I'd love to do an autopsy on Jamaica's freedom revolution - find out what killed it, when it died and why.

True, we've come a long way and there may no longer be a need for drastic, revolutionary action the likes of which our forefathers displayed, but still, I don't think enough of our people - enough of our youth - realise that we're not there yet! We have not yet attained the pinnacles of human success for which our forefathers fought! Honestly, with our high illiteracy, unemployment and disempowerment rates, we have not even scratched the surface of where our country and society ought to be, or wants to be.

It's like the Gleaner's acting opinion editor, Andre Wright, said in his letter last week - we're not angry enough. We've become so passive and receptive of whatever the Government and corporate sector dish out to us that we're all sailing to high tide in a handbasket, whistling Bob Marley tunes along the way ... And when we do get angry, it's about issues that are ephemeral and temporary.

It's high time for us to WAKE UP and TAKE ACTION. And our young leaders ought to be charting this course. Unfortunately, as we have seen, they're too busy repeating - with alarming accuracy - the mistakes of their predecessors.

To this day, I don't know (and I would love to know) what the outcome of their private meeting with the ministry of youth's parliamentary secretary was. The media was not allowed in the meeting (a move I would love an explanation for), and none of these young leaders have come forward to disclose anything except that the meeting was 'cordial' - how informatively vague!

It's ironic, because they went into that meeting to represent the interests of this nation's youth. Failing to communicate the outcomes of this meeting with the very people they went in there to represent raises more than a few questions and eyebrows ... it calls method and motive into question.

I'm not saying that ALL our nation's young leaders are at fault. However, I can only speak about what I have seen and experienced. Transparency is necessary in leadership, and, balanced by a rational, level head, there MUST be that essential element of PASSION.

Now, will the real PASSIONATE Jamaican youth please stand up??