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Mark Wignall | Why are many Jamaicans so uncivil on airline flights?

Published:Thursday | December 22, 2016 | 12:00 AM

A case could always be made that if a people were stolen from their homeland, shackled, transported and made to serve the whims and fancies of those who disrupted their very existence, then it ought to be expected that the stolen person, once given his freedom, would himself be a disrupter in his own corner.

None of us here in this country have even been slaves. We have absolutely no idea what it is to be shackled for 400 years in a strange land, denied all freedoms, treated like animals, eventually freed from the generational pain and tribulation, and then get to sit in a calm setting and say, 'Man, that was some journey!'

Some say the Europeans carried the most aggressive West African tribes to what came to be known as the West Indies. That reasoning posits the view that most of us here in Jamaica are disposed by DNA to be naturally 'explosive'.

All civilizations which dominate others did it because of the need to conquer. Weak civilizations have never conquered anything, except in the movies. So, Europeans had to be, themselves, extremely aggressive in order to drive their gains in war-making, metallurgy, making modern arms, building societies from tribes and brutally displacing other lands and peoples.

Switch the picture from the 15th century to September 2008. I am on a plane at the Miami airport waiting to return to Jamaica after just 10 days abroad. I am seated and most of the people entering and getting seated are Jamaicans. And it is like I am outside of a Kingston market and everyone is talking to everyone else in the loudest voice possible, and they keep on moving up and down the aisle, greeting each other - but noisily so, having no respect for others' aural and physical space.




Should I say to myself, 'Oh, this is just our naturally extroverted nature brought on by centuries of imposed aggression?' Or say, 'It's just our culture. Love it and move on you disconnected, pretend uptown boy.'

The flight to Miami was OK. Many tourists. The one to DC was calm. People sat, went on laptops, read books, eventually went to napping. The one to Memphis was as quiet as church in the days I went there. Same with the one back to Miami.

Then the madness in the Miami to Jamaica flight. 'Yow, mi I !' shouted a man as he pushed his way out of the seat beside me to greet someone else he knew. A big-neck guy with a thick chain around his neck was walking up and down the aisle talking loudly on his cell phone.

Last week, a young woman I know was on a flight back from the Cayman Islands to Jamaica. "It is no wonder we have so many problems in the region," she told me as we travelled late a few nights ago along the Palisadoes Road from the airport.

"The Jamaicans were shouting; one woman was about to quarrel with another and I was seated there keeping my mouth shut, hoping no one knew I was Jamaican. I just didn't want anyone to engage me in any loud, uninvited argument. I felt ashamed. Don't know if it was because of the Christmas rush."




Two of my wealthy acquaintances always travel by first class. One does it purely out of his need to be in his 'safe mode'. The other one tells me that when he could not afford first class, he hated the ignominy of travelling with his fellow Jamaicans who would always be stepping over him, shouting across him, and just making it uncomfortable for him at boarding and deplaning.

We may believe that our regional friends have no good reason for believing that Jamaicans entering their country must be put under increased scrutiny. Certainly, it cannot be that in our extroverted manner, our exuberance tends to boil over at times. That alone would be no need for the increased scrutiny.

We have had many instances where 'fight bruk out' on airlines between Jamaican passengers. That I find more than a wee bit puzzling. Are you telling me they could not wait until after they had landed to land blows on each other once they were flat on the ground?

- Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Email feedback to and