Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Jamaica,no reasoning

Published:Sunday | September 28, 2014 | 9:00 AM
Gordon Robinson
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, seen here at last Sunday's PNP conference, should have insisted on national priorities such as education and health, says Gordon Robinson.-Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
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Gordon Robinson

It's sad to see how decades of political tribalism have destroyed most Jamaicans' ability to reason.

For the past few weeks, I've been writing a series of columns on how the imported, archaic Westminster system of government has devastated our nation and will continue to deprive Jamaicans of any semblance of democracy or hope of recovery. The last in that series ('Meet your slave mistress', September 14, 2014) sought to show where a 52-year journey with Westminster has landed us into the slavery from which we thought we'd been emancipated almost 200 years ago. It seems I'm alone in this view of our politics. Possibly, another political silly season is upon us because the torrid backlash of negativity that greeted my genuine attempts at nation building would've been frightening if they weren't so profoundly predictable.

When you walk through a storm,

hold your head up high

and don't be afraid of the dark.

At the end of the storm,

there's a golden sky

and the sweet silver song of a lark.

Did I get any thanks? Did I even get a reasoned grasp of where we are and where we're headed? Of course not. From the undereducated, tribal mediocrity that proliferates, I got inane comments like, "I guess we could have just defaulted after your party lost power. Just remember who took the country back to the IMF. If the PIOJ (Planning Institute of Jamaica) was showing a decline in job numbers you would be all over that. I guess you think it would be better if Lagarde and Portia were enemies." (Again, 'Caleb', who seems to have taken the baton from 'Roanja', or maybe it's the same person with a different pseudonym).

My party? Which one is that, Caleb? You see, my friend, the difficulty you're going to have pushing that sort of unreasoned, malicious, tribal claptrap is that if you research every electoral list from my birth to now, you won't find my name. Most self-respecting citizens criticise me for not voting. These are criticisms I consider reasoned and reasonable enough to spend time arguing. Your tribal vitriol requires public detoxification only because your tribe and all others have kept Jamaicans undereducated for more than half a century. In an educated country, you'd be a laughing stock.

Who took the country "back" to the IMF? Caleb, it matters not. But, since you ask, remember "your party" accused the JLP of breaching the IMF agreement and causing an almost irretrievable loss of trust. During the 2011 election campaign, your leader promised to take "the country back to the IMF" within two weeks of being elected. It took her a year, but it's very much the PNP which first took the country to the IMF (1977); who "took the country back to the IMF" in 2012; and who has trumpeted this as an achievement ever since.

It's a mediocre mind that speculates "If the PIOJ was showing a decline in job numbers you would be all over that." I guess we'll just have to wait with bated breath for that possibility, Caleb, but for the moment, we're all entitled to alert the public to the current realities. It may not suit your narrow, tribal interests, but it's simply truth. Deal with it.

Finally, in the comment worthy of the millennium's most boorish, Caleb muses: "I guess you think it would be better if Lagarde and Portia were enemies." Sorry, Caleb, your guessing is worse than your spelling. I think it would be better if Portia treated Lagarde as the managing director of a lender agency, working for a salary like any other CEO, rather than as a visiting head of state. I think it would be better if Portia insisted Lagarde recognise and acknowledge that local priorities such as education, national security and health should, if necessary, take priority over the 100 per cent payment of 'external' debt on time, every time.

The thing is, Caleb, that if we were operating under a system of governance that forced our governments to account to us in the same way that every private sector employee must account to his/her corporate board of directors and owners, Portia wouldn't need to kowtow to Lagarde or to involve her in local priorities. This you'd have grasped as the thrust of my columns had you approached the series on Westminster with anything resembling an open mind.

Even after payment of 'external' debt, we still have a 'smalls' to spend locally. Without any consultation with us, our remaining tax dollars are being spent on supporting 28 'ministers' and at least 15 ministries. Why? Our hospitals are short of gowns, but expensive legal draftsmen have written expensive laws banning cigarette smoking and (soon) decriminalising ganja (both commendable, but neither a priority over hospital gowns or latex gloves). Schools have no water to flush toilets, but we put on a $57 million Grand Gala. Our police use backward methods, drive unsafe vehicles, and must rely on 'community policing' because neither standard crime-fighting technology nor properly maintained cars are available to them, but sixteen ministers drive new SUVs or luxury cars.

If Madame Lagarde was so committed to Jamaica's future benefit, national priority spending would at least be part of her focus instead of fitting blinkers, hood and eye shield in order to ensure only the payment of 'external' debt. If Portia saw Lagarde for what she really is, instead of fawning at Lagarde's calculated lack of interest in Jamaica's growth for Jamaicans, she'd be talking truth to the IMF, as did both Michael Manley and Edward Seaga. Any Jamaican political leader who wanted to uplift the poor would study the life and times of José Mujica.

To the politically blinkered puppet who commented, "Want the rain without the storm. Want good but nose nuh fi run," learn this: Most Jamaicans have been living in an eternal storm with noses running for 25 years. The Jamaicans for whom I write, for example, waiters, gardeners, domestic helpers, security guards, artisans of all kinds, and jobless tertiary graduates are persons who can't even buy a burger for lunch; who must walk to work and back (if they have work); who can't pay rent; who can't afford to marry; who can't even dream of leaving their parents' home, muchless own their own.

These persons are gravely, irretrievably insulted by your impertinence. We're tired of runny nose. We want Afrin. We're tired of storm. We want to hope for a golden sky. And the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind;

walk on through the rain;

though your dreams be tossed and blown.

Walk on; walk on with hope in your heart

and you'll never walk alone.

You'll never walk alone.

Written by the legendary duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, You'll Never Walk Alone was composed for the 1945 musical, Carousel, to be sung by Nettie to her cousin, female lead character, Julie, when Julie's husband commits suicide to avoid capture. It has exploded as a song of inspiration of almost divine quality recorded by numerous singing stars, including Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.

For more than 45 years, Jerry Lewis closed his MDA Labour Day telethon with a soul-stirring, tear-jerking version and, of course, Liverpool Football Club fans would cast me into perdition if I omitted that it has become Liverpool's theme song and rallying cry.

Peace and love.

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.