Jaristotle's Jottings | The underside of reality
Since independence, Jamaicans have been privy to countless cases of wrongdoings, and suggested wrongdoings, in government and the private sector, with the majority of these cases whittling away into nothingness, like disappearing duppies. Ordinary Jamaicans have thus developed a deep-seated perception that the laws of the land only apply to the lumpen and justice is a commodity for purchase.
The realities of daily life in Jamaica shape the perceptions of the members of society. Perceptions shape attitudes. Attitudes define culture.
Think of the ‘drop ah money philosophy’ to be found wherever individuals have some power, leverage or discretion to either facilitate services or processes, which is their job, or stonewall us until we pay under the table. Is it fair to say this is now part of our ‘culture’?
Corruption has the effect of denying the most vulnerable among us access to resources and services to which they are not just entitled, but desperately need. When they are unable to access these resources and services and at the same time witness instances of wanton corruption, guess what? Disillusionment coupled with long-standing perceptions of inequality oftentimes force well-thinking people to convert to the dark side of the force [I am a Star Wars fan] merely to survive.
Think of the recent allegations of corruption levelled against senior members of the education sector, some $50-odd million in questionable spending and lavish boat parties. Think of underpaid teachers and students struggling in schools that lack running water, working bathrooms or classroom facilities. Think of our looming education crisis with gaps in teacher quality and quantity, while poor attitudes prevail among our students. The perception: those who play by the rules get shafted.
Lack of accountability
Cost overruns on government-managed projects are painfully commonplace, whether through corruption or ineptitude. In either case, one would expect those deemed culpable to be held accountable, but this is oftentimes not the reality. Tax-payers’ money down the drain. Despite this, our leaders expect us to grin and bear it while the inept prevail.
Take, for instance, the revelations surrounding the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), wherein the agency reportedly paid scant regard to government guidelines in the awarding of multimillion-dollar [farm road improvement] contracts, issued variation orders omitting critical project specifications such as drains, and ignored routine maintenance requirements – recipes for substandard works. Try telling our farmers to continue to bear the burden of substandard roads while their vehicles and crops suffer, while those responsible remain free to continue the ‘carnage’. Talk about perceptions of the lowest order!
Road mania is now an epidemic, simply because the authorities seem hapless in their efforts to tame taxi drivers and other kami-krazees. We are well aware that many of our law enforcers are beneficial owners of taxis and will do little to address the problem. Some of us reluctantly accept this reality and drive with trepidation. However, many others have adopted a different view: if you can’t beat them then join them. That is now the prevailing attitude, all due to the realities we are forced to endure.
Corruption, real or perceived, irks the hungry: don’t tell a hungry man to bite the bullet when big man ah stuff him loot bag with millions. Ineptitude without accountability is a recipe for further disaster: don’t tell those whose livelihoods are at risk to exercise patience while fools persist, it’s insulting. Don’t expect drivers to exercise restraint while kami-krazees exercise ownership of the roads: restraint ain’t getting us anywhere in a hurry.
All problems have solutions. To solve ours, we need to go to the source of the corruption, the ineptitude and the recklessness and cauterise the cancer. Send the right message.
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