THE EDITOR, Sir:
Over the years, Jamaicans have found themselves reduced to a position where a large segment of the population ekes out a meagre existence on the margin of society. This has condemned us to a state of frightening mendicancy. We now have even more cause for concern given the recent statement by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that 43 per cent of our people are living below the poverty line.
As a result, we have become a very greedy and cynical people. We are prepared to mete out the greatest hurt (including murder) to our fellow citizens in order to gain the slightest material advantage. Similarly, we selfishly pursue personal gain, many times illegally, without the slightest concern for the consequences of our actions on others.
One need only look at what has happened in the (banned-but-soon-to-be-reopened) scrap-metal business. Individuals were prepared to remove manhole covers, dismantle bridges, railway lines and other critical infrastructure to satisfy their immediate desire for a day's earnings. Indeed, I have no doubt that the resultant closure of the scrap-metal trade has done little to dim the flames of this rabid and incessant greed.
This 'eat-a-food' mentality is also evident in the disgraceful harassment of our tourists in resort towns. Anyone conversant with what goes on, especially in the craft markets, will know that the pedlars are very much aware that this overly aggressive behaviour has the effect of driving away tourists, but they do it anyway. Their unbridled selfishness and greed propel them to lash out for the quick buck and render them blind to their own self-destruction.
Duplicity and corruption
Even more depressing, though, is the fact that this tendency infests almost every area of commercial activity. When expensive consumer goods are categorised as 'chicken back' to evade the payment of customs duties, the same mentality is at play. Other instances of this 'eat-a-food' mentality include the illegal access of public utility services, bogus licensing of motor vehicles, and bribing of corrupt police and civil servants.
Accordingly, there are clear danger signals when a new government assumes office with zeal and eagerness to please its supporters. Programmes such as JEEP and organisations like the National Solid Waste Management Authority are particularly prone to exploitation by unscrupulous individuals and businesses.
An eat-a-food culture is certainly not the type of attitude to distinguish a country on the verge of its 50th anniversary of Independence.