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'Buy Jamaican' and other fairy tales

Published:Wednesday | July 16, 2014 | 7:00 AM
Brian-Paul Welsh, Guest Columnist

Brian-Paul Welsh, Guest Columnist

The latest moral panic sweeping the nation is the delayed realisation that the majority of what we consume does not originate in Jamaica. Stew peas, salt fish, rice and peas (the rice, peas and coconut milk), curry goat, banana chips, and cornmeal porridge all really come from places far, far away.

Ironically, this 'news' was first reported by an imported television journalist. I suppose given our history, we are more accustomed to the importation of labour and not raw materials or component parts, so, therefore, that fact is less alarming.

So many are shocked that their favourite corned beef doesn't actually contain beef from cows that moo with a Jamaican accent.

It is safe to assume that these shell-shocked consumers don't tend to read labels, boring as they tend to be, despite the fact that companies usually have a legal obligation to state where the contents were manufactured or processed. It is said that the easiest way to hide information from the Jamaican public is to put it in print, so that oversight is understandable.

I can also assume the panicked public hasn't noticed a reduction in the number of cows flitting about the place. Yes, heavy as they are, the cows in my imagination do nimbly flit about the place.

But the substantive point is that I think it is safe to assume that the rarity of cows in Jamaica hasn't yet become apparent to those with their jaws now on the floor. Or more specifically, the rarity of herds large enough to sustain our local demand for bully beef is something that hasn't yet been contemplated. Scale is important.

keeping up with local news

These persons probably haven't kept abreast of local news (besides the hilarious bites of the week) and so the idea of a two-tonne cow stuffed into an early-model Toyota Corolla beside a fully grown goat disguised as Dudus on his way to the embassy is less alarming and more amusing to them. They probably think 'livestock passport' is my attempt to communicate some sort of veiled dirty joke.

These panicked Jamaicans probably thought our local industries either grew or manufactured everything on the supermarket shelf that encourages them to 'build Jamaica, buy Jamaican' because surely such a label could only apply to truly Jamaican products 'dat bawn an' grow yah'.

It would seem that in the public imagination, there are humongous rural farms that have endless herds of cows and goats; there are huge fisheries just offshore with cod and mackerel in abundance; that somewhere just out of sight there are rice paddies and kidney bean farms and coconut groves as far as the eye can see.

In the mind of the public, there must be an abundance of factories teeming with labourers working day and night to supply our demand for goods, the cost of electricity is negligible, and, of course, the honesty and integrity of a diligent, disciplined and affordable labour force is a foregone conclusion.

I am very sorry to have to disappoint you, but if you earnestly believed any of the above to be true, then you are dreaming. It is time to wake up.

Perhaps upon this awakening, many will reassess the causes they have most recently become so impassioned to support and actually reflect on the true state of our nation and how they can rally to help fix it.

Brian-Paul Welsh is a law student. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and brianpaul.welsh@gmail.com.