Sat | Aug 24, 2019

Mark Wignall | Unity is constantly eluding us

Published:Sunday | July 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Managing director of Market Research Services, Don Anderson, is flanked by Jamaica Chamber of Commerce President Larry Watson and CEO of COK Sodality Credit Union, Aloun Ndombet Assamba, as they discuss the 2018 second-quarter business and consumer confidence indices on July 10.

If he is honest with himself, the typical policeman is likely to tell you that he does not trust the typical inner-city citizen. The person living on the edge of the gully where stink gases become awake at night to infect cramped rooms with multiple children definitely knows that the police are not to be trusted.

"Dem kill yout and plant gun pon dem. Sometimes all just because dem and di yout inna business arrangement and dem want just tek it over. Murder, plain and simple," said a 56-year-old Papine-based mason from Jungle 12. "Bad boy dey yah and wi know dat, but if you leave it up to we di citizens, a solution can be found. The best solution."

The undereducated and untrained worker does not trust his employer who, he believes, will use minimum wage to keep him just two notches above the poverty line and basically committing himself to a life of servitude. His employer believes that if he does not spend hundreds of thousands for security interfaces and protection, his workers will cost him millions through theft and loose loss-prevention management.

The preacher grudgingly trusts his congregation but much of it is transactional. He aches for empty praises for his latest sermon but more so for the sheep's ability to overload the collection plate.

Mistrust is rife among our people and until we can rebuild that broad societal trust that once existed up to, at least, the early 1970s, we will never find unity.

I would have to be a most stupid person to believe that I can build a bond of unity with someone who I do not trust.

Back in the late 1990s when the inner-city pockets of Grants Pen in North East St Andrew were shooting at each other, I was driving late one night when I had a blowout. The spare tyre, long unused, had deflated. It was about minutes to two that about four young men came to me and offered me help.

They did not know me or know of me. I called a brother of mine and when he came, the young men had long removed the bad tyre from the car. We loaded the two tyres in the car and told them we would soon be back.

As we came back I saw that the young men had spread out cardboard by the car and they were sleeping in protection of the car. We did what had to get done and then I realised that I had no extra funds on me.

They were more than disappointed when I told them that I had no money. I told them that I would be back in a few days. I had a lot on my mind at that time and it was after two weeks that I remembered that I had promised to return.

The day I drove up I saw two of them. As I exited the vehicle, one said to the other, "A weh mi tell yu sey, di man a go come back." They trusted me with absolutely only faith on their side.


Desmond Dekker bawled for it


The second Festival songwinner in 1967, Ba Ba Boom, was a celebration of triviality, good times, and an extraction of new dance moves. The second-place winner, Unity, was a much better song by my judgement. One part of Desmond Dekker and the Aces song, Unity, chants:

'This is the time that we all should live as one, brothers/This is the time that we all should live as one, sisters./So come along brothers/And come along sisters/U.N.I.T.Y/.This unity.'

It is utterly nonsensical for us to be bleating over the fact that this country is built on many social and political systems that are crazily glued together by mistrust and yet, out of that we are magically expecting our people to be united, not only in the words we curse and in the common foods we eat but, more important, in the faith we can have in each other that the right thing will be done.


Puzzles in business and consumer confidence


A most interesting crosstalk occurred between pollster Don Anderson and Ambassador Aloun Ndombet Assamba after the pollster was reporting on the second quarter 2018 business and consumer confidence survey.

"What's the sense of consumer confidence, of business confidence, if it doesn't come down to the individual, if the individual doesn't have personal confidence or an expectation of a personal improvement in their situation ... I really don't understand the results," the ambassador said.

Towards the end, the following took place.

Pollster Anderson: "I think it's very clear that they (consumers) are feeding into and mining information that is being disseminated. What they see around them, what they hear around them, but they aren't feeling it themselves."

Assamba: "So the PR is working."

Anderson: "Extremely well."

If Anderson is correct that the JLP administration's PR, whatever it may be in whatever shape, is working to convince young people who have no work that work is on the horizon, it must also mean that there is still a plurality of people in this country who still trust Holness and his JLP Government.

Does the PM understand what this means? For one, it probably means that his party is marginally ahead in the polls. Second, Holness ought to understand the tenuous nature of such an arrangement, based for now on the win of trust and its big sister, hope.

Nine months from now, a number of situations could occur. First, the JLP patient could, without announcement, accept its pregnancy and surreptitiously terminate it. Second, it could give birth to a workable policy move and announce the PNP as the babydaddy or demonstrate to us the better deal on the in-house pregnancy.

The third option is the worse. As more attention is drawn to a government whose chance of growing stale is getting better odds than it continuing to win the PR war, the JLP administration may just find that its staggering and stuttering on important issues may begin to give the PNP reason to breathe again and to keep its political hope alive.

Every two days, new information of Petrojam is gleaned, if not disseminated, and it is quite troubling. Mr Holness needs to thank the intrusion of the World Cup football twists, turns, excitement and surprises for keeping those matters operating under the still efficient PR of the JLP (for how long?).


Could you live on $7,500 to $10,000 per week?


It is the standard rate for barmaids, yes, those ladies that provide uptown, downtown and midtown men with their daily doses of therapy.

"It's not about the drinking," said Jan Jan, who works at a small but delightful spot at a place close to Constant Spring. After asking, she told me that she was paid $8,000 per week but she only worked eight hours per weekday and did not work on weekends.

"Is nuff man me save," she said as she recounted the horror stories some came with. Bella works at an uptown joint for $12,000 per week but she works, on average, close to 60 hours per week. "If I don't talk to the men like you and keep them steady, I don't get no tip," said Bella.

"Sometimes I get more in tips than my pay, and that is what makes me survive. Many of those in my profession are tief, but is lazy dem lazy. Why you have to tief it? Yu can mek honest money."

At a certain level in all sections of a polity, the trust factor has to be built. The prime minister has to trust his ministers before there can be any authentic unity in the ranks of the JLP, the governmental administration it controls and the Cabinet.

The bartender and her clients probably have an easier passage at most times than the next Cabinet meeting. But the relationships may just be quite similar.

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