Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Ronald Thwaites | Is Jamaica a s***hole country?

Published:Monday | January 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Don't expect the man, and the millions who agree with him, who thus described the black and proud nation of Haiti, the brown Salvadoreans and the entire continent of Africa to place Jamaica in any different category.

Our suck-up on the Jerusalem issue will not buy us any slack on this one. Melanin and money rule!

There are an estimated 300,000 undocumented Jamaicans living in the United States and the number is growing each day from among the elongating lines on Hope Road: the young, educated, upwardly mobile and frustrated, as well as the older and desperate. They are all hanging on to the coat-tail of some relative who has become a US citizen or seeking a visa to "spend a likkle time up so". Most have hopes of work and permanent residence.

 

THEMINORS

 

I will wager that among the so-called 'Dreamers', those brought to the United States as minors, are many, many Jamaicans. They are hoping that a deal will be done for them - wall or no wall.

For others, the prospect is to find a citizen to marry quick-quick, even if that means to have to mash up your good-good relationship back in Jamaica or, if female, to get pregnant and have an American pickney in the hope of sponsorship in the future under the fast-dying family reunification principle of immigration law.

This is our predicament.

Many say thank God for the 'likkle' opportunity because you get the chance, unavailable here, to earn something to allow you to educate your children better, to support the family through the annual US$2 billion of remittances, the life support of the Jamaican economy, and maybe, after 20 winters nearly kill you, to build that retirement home in St Thomas like the elderly couple who were found murdered in theirs last week.

There are some ineluctable facts of our history and condition. Jamaicans have long been a migrant people. Almost everybody has some foreign connections. Central America, Cuba, England, Canada and the United States have all benefited from our labour and provided us recompense as well as refuge from a society and economy that has never really been structured to provide opportunity to all our people.

What may ease the nasty consequences of Mr Trump's intent is the pressing need for cheap labour to keep the US economy bubbling. Being purported English speakers and being willing, once the plane lands, to hustle three jobs a day, we may be able to broker a cracked door of continued entry despite what Trump and his kind think of us.

What can put paid to that possibility is the growing perception of us as a nation tolerant of scammers and violent predators. Donald Trump's political base is among those people easily conned by our slick talkers and those cruise ship passengers and other tourists who are being warned about violence and sexual assault - justifiably or not, it doesn't really matter - by travel advisories.

Please note also the renewed federal stance against ganja use.

 

BOTTOM LINE

 

The bottom line of all this for us should be the realisation that our development and social salvation cannot depend on anyone but ourselves. It is when we have the high- level skills needed to recommend us as a knowledge and skills-based economy that American and other investment will come and stay. It is when our institutions of family, church, school and politics turn out more socially and technically competent persons that more will be content to remain here while others will be more welcome abroad.

It is when you don't care about yourself and your own people that others feel that they can take liberty with you and call you a s***hole country. For example, what can we complain about really when almost half of the cases before the Home Circuit Court this term (more than 400) are for sexual offences, not to mention the 50-plus murders already for January.

Trumpism is now a known quantity. His people have a point that too many in the world want to feed off their prosperity, never mind that their economy has fed off the s*** hole countries of the world for a long time.

Let us concentrate on fixing our own house even as we (unlike some of them) insist on civil and principled relationships with the metropole.

The nasty and shocking signals from Washington must spur us to revive our nationalist spirit and movement; to move beyond toxic politics and exclusionary economics to hug up the entrancing and achievable objective of building a Jamaica that works for all.

That will be the conclusive rebuttal to Trump's canard.

- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Kingston Central and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.