Brian-Paul Welsh | The trust deficit
Jamaica was jittery as usual last week when a new wave of moral panic overtook the island, this time in relation to reports of plastic rice infiltrating our already poor diets.
In terms of dietary staples, rice is practically on every national dish and in every styrofoam box across the land. It fills our stomachs with hearty flavours, even when the sources of protein are meagre.
The idea that some nefarious businessman, supposedly from far out yonder could concoct a potion of plastic to replicate grains of rice then deliberately intersperse these inedible replicas among a poor, staple-dependent population, is enough to create hysteria. But the persistence of this urban legend in the public imagination also reveals a deep distrust of our business class, those protecting our borders and, ultimately, the Jamaican Government and, its agents.
Given the history of negligence, and in some cases neglect, with respect to public safety on the part of those charged with such responsibilities, it was perfectly reasonable for Jamaicans to roll their eyes when the authorities announced late last week that their checks revealed there was no more poison in our cheap diets than the usual.
Many are still convinced that some crafty capitalists, intent on racial genocide, are slowly executing a plan to cull the underclass.
No matter the fancy rhetoric found in the prosperity posse's report on the matter, Jamaicans familiar with the part of the island seldom exposed to sunlight know that this place is the only free country in the world. For those with money, it is the last libertarian enclave where you can purchase anything, anyone, anywhere at anytime.
Someone 'bringing een' rice of a quality so cheap it might as well be plastic from some far-flung factory on the other side of the globe where it was probably handled while they glued together counterfeit sneakers - all in an effort to undercut the competition and flood the market in this country so heavily dependent on cheap staples - is not farfetched.
For those who perceive the nation through this lens, the signs remain that someone was planning to make a killing this Christmas with cheap counterfeit rice, just as they have been for the past few years with cheap counterfeit cigarettes, toothpaste, and basically everything else. We might have to wait a few years to see if they succeeded.
Recently, after miraculously surviving a motor vehicle accident caused largely by poor road conditions, I was physically assaulted by one of the police officers first on the scene because I refused to follow his unlawful instruction.
While taking photos of the accident scene and what was left of the vehicle in which I was travelling, someone barked in my general direction: "Weh yu ah tek me picha fah?"
After reminding the not-so-gentleman that I was, in fact, taking photos of the motor vehicle accident that took place in the public space and that he ought rightfully avail himself to public service instead of harassing accident victims, he aggressively demanded that I handed over my phone for his inspection.
Unimpressed by the grunts of this pig, I explained my legal position for refusing to comply with his unreasonable and unlawful demand and motioned to proceed with taking photos and counting my remaining limbs. Insulted by my insolence, and in a feeble attempt to assert his power lest the peasants revolt, he jabbed me in the chest as if scolding his child, once more demanding that I show him my personal cellular device in order to determine whether I captured him in the best light.
At that moment, as I looked at the carnage we somehow avoided, I thought it ironic that I should survive becoming another fatal road statistic only to become a murder statistic, all because I refused to bow in worship of the vulture that had swooped in looking for carrion.
Within moments a wrecker was on the scene, along with other police officers who, it seems, were camped nearby awaiting another in the frequent collisions along on this stretch of road.
Lawmakers and law enforcers alike have largely lost the trust and respect of the citizenry and in the absence of this national integrity, where the trust deficit has widened to precipitous depths, their authority is of little value beyond what they can do for us in the moment, provided they actually deliver what they promise.
Whether it's counterfeit consumer goods, impostor police or hypocritical politicians, we still have much to do in restoring belief in our system as well as those we empower to protect it and us.
As I rested my bruised body and battered mind, I was thankful I survived the State's negligence as well as the belligerence of one of its chief agents, though I am not certain others will be as lucky.
- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. He can be reached at email@example.com or on social media @islandcynic