Tue | Aug 14, 2018

Two Jamaicas

Published:Wednesday | June 28, 2017 | 12:00 AM


After a lovely weekend at an international conference at a hotel belonging to an international chain, I wondered if I was in the same Jamaica that multiple murders and the killing of 11-year-old girls in downtown Kingston was also taking place.

The conference in Montego Bay was followed by a weekend in a gated community, a short drive in the congested downtown area, followed by a visit to the growing alternative Montego Bay in the Freeport.

Then it struck me that I, like some of the more fortunate citizens who call Jamaica home, was living in an enclave separated from the blood and gore that afflict the most vulnerable and the citizens who have no choice about where to live and work.

It would then make sense for the minister of tourism and political representative of the blood-soaked town of that part of Montego Bay to wish to keep the news of the killings out of sight.

The truth came to me again as I remembered a conversation with a Cuban visitor nearly 40 years ago. The visitor remarked about the amazing juxtaposition of rich and poor in Jamaica. I think that situation may have become worse today.


'We reach'


So when one of a group of children from an inner-city area in Kingston was driven to Lookout in Red Hills not too many miles away from their home exclaimed, "Jesus Christ, we reach a foreign!" The other replied, "Gyal, you fool! You can't drive to foreign; you have to fly to foreign." Some of Jamaica is in Jamaica and some is in foreign.

The truth is that we live in one country, and when there is a murder described as gang related, as the death of a mentally ill person, or because of domestic violence, we are all affected and even implicated in our cowardice and, perhaps, impotence.

So when we go to celebrate Jamaica 55, we have to think carefully about what we are celebrating and what is Jamaica really. Like the planters of old, it was a place to make a fortune that was spent in England. It is a place to do business, but not a place to live and love.

Patriotism seems to be a fast disappearing and vainglorious hope. As a student recently told me, the narrative to is get a good education, find a good job, and go to foreign.