Mon | Oct 22, 2018

A culture of nastiness indeed

Published:Friday | January 5, 2018 | 12:02 AM


I sojourned in Songyuan, China for approximately four months in 2014. On the night of my arrival, I had one of the most nauseating experiences.

After leaving the airport, I developed a need to use the restroom, and so, I asked the gentleman who had collected me to take me to one. He asked our driver to stop at a minimart. There, I purchased snacks to sustain me on my three-hour journey to my abode, and I requested use of the restroom.

The restroom was not as I expected. It was unbelievably filthy: the toilet was stained black with grime and filled with murky water, and the room reeked of fetid matter. But this was not all. In this same restroom, I saw bags of flour, rice and sugar, and cases of soft drinks being stored. The horror of it all caused me to deny my growling stomach the snacks that I had bought.

On another occasion, I went to a restaurant for takeaway food, and I realised that one of the cooks had used the restroom and returned to the kitchen without washing his hands. I was able to determine this as the wash basin that he should have used was situated outside the restroom, and, others, like him, who had exited the same restroom, stopped at the basin to wash their hands.

Another day, I was in a major department store in the city, when I heard someone coughing or rather, hawking. I spun around and realised that it was a Chinese lady who was doing so. She then spat all her bearings on the floor. Yes, the floor INSIDE the store.

Days later, some men who sat close to me while I dined in a restaurant repeated this lady's act. I then realised that it was quite commonplace for the Chinese to hawk and spit just about anywhere, even in clear view of others.

I also witnessed babies, dressed in open-crotch onesies and pants being allowed, by their parents or guardians, to defecate and urinate at the entrance of local food shops.


Not shocking anymore


At the time of these experiences, I remarked how very clean Jamaicans can be, and how none of the acts described would have been committed by a Jamaican. However, since my return home, I have realised that many Jamaicans are, in fact, no better. We truly have "a culture of nastiness", as Audley Gordon, the executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), has said.

Quite a number of Jamaicans hawk and spit almost anywhere like the Chinese I encountered. Many of our streets are slippery with catarrh and strewn with garbage. Look around you. Public passenger vehicles, particularly the Jamaican Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses, are littered daily by Jamaican commuters.

I can clearly remember travelling on a JUTC bus, and en route, I had to dodge two cockroaches that crawled on the seat that I occupied. I have even had to tell a young man to take his garbage with him, after I observed how carefully he had stuffed his patty bag and soda bottle in the corner of the seat before exiting the bus.

Countless areas in downtown Kingston, especially, are rank with human excrement. Uninhabited lands in various communities have gradually turned into dumps. Often the garbage disposed in these areas is not bagged, and so the waste attracts flies and rodents over time.

Certainly, we cannot perpetuate this utter nastiness. We must dispose of our garbage properly, and work concertedly to preserve the beauty and cleanliness of our environment.

Shawna Kay Williams-Pinnock