Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Brian-Paul Welsh | Strange coincidences

Published:Tuesday | May 2, 2017 | 5:03 AM
Locksley Hemmings Way, easily the worst road in Kingston – a mixture of rocks and overgrown vegetation – lies in Opposition Leader Peter Phillips’ East Central St Andrew constituency, metres from Prime Minister Andrew Holness’. The road falls within JLP Councillor Beverly Prince’s Cassia Park division and was once zoned in West Central St Andrew.

In The Truman Show, a turn-of-the-century satirical comedy made popular by the remarkable performance of actor Jim Carrey, Truman Burbank is a man enjoying life's charm and simplicity while living in the idyllic town of Seahaven, somewhere along the picturesque coast. This perfect community serves as the backdrop for the main character's journey through an idealised life where he could sleep with doors wide open, and is also the place where a grand deception is eventually unravelled.

As time progresses and Truman grows more aware of his surroundings, little by little he begins noticing signs that something is amiss. At some point, he can no longer ignore the bizarre occurrences that challenged what he believed to be a life of comfort and predictability. Following his intuition, he is led down a path of self-discovery where he stumbles upon the startling realisation that his entire reality has taken place inside a television studio, and that he is the chief performer in a grand illusion orchestrated by the masterminds and producers of a real-life show.

In the final stand-off between Truman and those in control, as the veil is about to be lifted in an act of rebellion broadcast live on TV, Christof, the chief visionary behind this scheme, begs Truman not to flee the comfort of his paradise, and to consider the joy and inspiration he brings to people by living in this artificial world, before ominously saying: "There is no more truth out there than there is in the world I created for you. Same lies, the same deceit, but in my world, you have nothing to fear."

 

FAKE PROSPERITY

 

Despite this dire warning of impending doom, Truman breaks free from the captivity of illusion and steps away to experience the world as it is, and not as he had been made to believe.

I was reminded of that moment in this iconic film when I recently heard the prime minister send the message that his administration would not tolerate any fake news or propaganda coming from the Opposition in seeking to derail his prosperity message. The plumping prince rebuffed allegations that his constituency contained the worst roads in Jamaica, instead shuffling that prize over to the opposition leader whose constituency is just across the trench, I mean, road. He called out their 'lies, lies, and more lies' while in an almost simultaneous display of parliamentary acrobatics, the minister of transport and works likewise flipped the script during his most recent news monologue, blaming the previous administration's sloppy workmanship for the extensive flood damage in the Clarendon communities under his stewardship since the days of the dinosaurs.

While the big men in charge were quibbling in the media over whose hole was bigger, the green wizard's magical minions were busy celebrating the installation of the next basket carrier to the position of police commissioner. Before that ceremony had ended, two more servicemen had lost their lives to criminals in the capital.

The frequency of these strange coincidences and awkward juxtapositions happening on the streets of the kingdom daily is now causing the villagers to question the truth of the prosperity message they were led to believe. The new spin machine has already lost much of its sheen, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile the big promises uttered during the election campaign with the reality of increasing difficulties, a scarcity of opportunities, and more reason to be afraid as the crime monster creeps closer and closer to home.

Not that we would be better served by leaving the land of Oz for Peter's Neverland, but in swapping Ol' Higue for Prince Charming, the script of this political 'samfie' has quickly gone from horror story to tragicomedy, and along the way, many have grown disillusioned.

The most compelling moment of Christof's appeal for Truman to remain in the fantasy world he had created was the assurance that he, as godhead and leader, could keep him safe, and even with that assurance, Truman chose to forsake the illusion he had been fed for the reality he knew to be there.

The challenge we face in our own artificial reality is that our leaders have not been able to convince us their fairy tales are real, because at every step along the path to prosperity, there has been more pain, more hopelessness, and more despair. The only ones seemingly disconnected from the realities of life under this new regime are those writing the script, thereby asserting themselves as sole arbiters of truth.

- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and brianpaul.welsh@gmail.com, or tweet @islandycynic.