Too many of their methods and attitudes mystify me. For example, 10 UWI students gather in my living room at The Terrorist's behest (The Old Ball and Chain's youngest).
By the time I enter ye olde humble abode to join Old BC in front of the upstairs TV, they're huddled together, heads down, feverishly fiddling with flat, rectangular toys (aka iPhones). Laptops dot the landscape. When quizzed, they volunteer they're "studying". Not a word is spoken, not even to an immediate neighbour, as they let their thumbs do the walking. The Internet is God. Computers, iPads and iPhones are His Earthly Vessels.
Apparently, actual human interaction has been outlawed. Sports are all played indoors with thumbs and screens. 'Street smarts' means falling while entering parents' air-conditioned SUVs and scraping elbows. Mummy is a permanent backstop; Daddy an ATM.
When I was a pimply teenage nerd (dinosaurs roamed the Earth), it was a rite of passage to adulthood to steal one's parents' car for a night out. Once, we drove to Mandeville (petrol was 44 cents per gallon). On the way back, the battery fell out of the car, but we didn't know until arriving home. We promptly switched a battery from a friend's car into my mother's car before she woke up. She never knew her car had left home. Had we crashed, a friendly body man would've been found to miraculously fix the damage before morning. What happens in Mandeville stays in Mandeville.
Today, children demand their own cars or, at a supreme sacrifice, their use of their parents' car as the family's priority. Yet, none have a clue how a car works. They jump in it and turn the ignition key as if there's a divine right that the car should start. Any mishap on the road - from a flat tyre to a shortage of coolant to a write-off from a head-on collision results in a phone call to Mummy.
"Sissies!" my grandfather would call them.
These days, no parent waits for a child to become ill. Digital-age children live on a diet of prophylactic pharmaceuticals that would make Marion Jones proud. Asthmatic children are kept twice daily on the Ventolin pump whether or not they show a single symptom. When I was six, I had the worst case of asthma. When I couldn't breathe, emergency services leapt into action and I was put underneath a towel to inhale the vapours given off by menthol crystals in hot water. You see, in those days, doctors and medication cost money that parents didn't have. Both were to be avoided like the bubonic plague. In our home, 'fiscal consolidation' programmes meant the environment lost to poverty reduction.
POORNESS OF BLOOD
One day, my dear departed mother was heard complaining publicly about my feeble nature (persistent asthma). In those days, matriarchs described all ailments suffered by non-athletic, nerdy children as "poorness of blood". This covered a slate of illnesses from the common cold, through asthma, to infections of any kind. Vaccines and antibiotics were like robotics, futuristic figments of science fiction writers' convoluted minds.
Anyway, a Rasta man approached Mum. "Mother," he began, "Me can cure de pickney." My mother who, decades ahead of her time, had no fear of Rasta, asked how. "Meet me back here tomorrow." She did. He turned up with an Appleton Bottle full of a brown liquid. "Bury dis inna yu backyard fe a week," the Rasta told her, "Den give the boy a tablespoon twice a day till it done." She followed his instructions. I've not wheezed since.
If you complained of a minor injury (no broken bones), your father, desperately trying to avoid yet another medical bill, advised you, "Walk it off, you sissy." If you stepped on a nail or were bitten by an angry crab you got the same advice, "Walk it off!" (with the angry crab still hanging on to your toe).
One day, aged about seven, in a game of backyard cricket, I was fielding at very close backward short leg (copying my hero, Gary Sobers) while my 12-year-old brother was batting. He tried to pull a short-pitched delivery through square leg; missed the ball; but connected flush with my forehead. I carry the mark to this day. I was, as my old school chum Michael Espeut used to say, "cononnscious" for a while. Adults scurried from near and far. When my father (a pretty good cricketer in his own right) saw that, eventually, I was awake and alert, he said, "Cho, man, walk it off."
I definitely couldn't complain about anything as silly as being called a name or criticised. "Sticks and stones ..." was my father's irritated comment before returning to his race book.
But today, the Internet is God. So, some no-name blog has listed Lisa Hanna among the 10 worst-performing ministers in the world. Jamaicans have taken it seriously. Some have actually quoted the list as if it were an authoritative one. Walk it off, Lisa. The fact is that, in my opinion, you're among the best-performing ministers in this Cabinet. Have you made mistakes? Yes. For example, you're driving in one.
Look here, Lisa, people who don't make mistakes haven't tried to do anything or haven't lived long. You've struggled with a difficult ministry, but have brought your personality and individual thought process to it. Most of your Comrade ministers resemble porridge, in that they take the shape of the pots into which they've been poured and maintain the status quo. You've tried to make a difference. For any change agent, criticism is inevitable.
Lisa's detractors fail to acknowledge the protection of Jamaican children is an inherently complicated task. Lisa has used
out-of-the-box thinking rather than knee-jerk, populist announcements. What has become a cancerous sore over decades won't be cured overnight, but Lisa has:
recognised she can't do it alone;
assembled an inter-ministerial working group to tackle the many-headed dragon;
sought help from volunteers from all sectors to form a Children's Task Force;
The idea that two heads are better than one is uncommon among politicians who prefer to form advisory committees, rather than working groups/task forces, to delay real action. When the advice comes in, it's usually hidden away in File 13 while the political 'leader' flails about like a bull in a china shop using pork-barrel politics as policy. If Lisa sticks to her guns, quietly and methodically, Jamaica will end up with a comprehensive children's policy that works because stakeholders, especially parents, will be on board.
Lisa Hanna is a leader, not a follower. This is no more evident than in her easy accessibility and her forthright manner of addressing all criticism squarely without flinching. Her most attractive feature is her high self-esteem, exposed by her constantly seeking genuine consultation before making critical decisions. Jamaica should be proud of Lisa Hanna.
I have a similar message for Lisa's JLP counterpart, 'Babsy' Grange. Thirty-eight years ago, as a law student, I knew not 'Babsy' Grange. But I studied a lawsuit brought by one of the early state-of-emergency detainees named Olivia Grange. The suit unsuccessfully sought to test the disgraceful state of emergency's validity. I immediately admired young Ms Grange, who was brave enough to speak up for Jamaica when it was most unpopular to do so.
Like Lisa, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange is a leader, not a follower. She needs no coat-tails to cling to. She has toiled consistently to uplift the socially unfashionable through political activism. Her seminal contribution to Jamaica's music industry is well-known. She has shed blood, sweat and tears for the right (like Queen Ifrica) to speak her mind publicly on what she sees as immi-nent danger to her beloved JLP and, consequently, to Jamaica.
I'm amazed at persons who, for selfish reasons, have twisted Babsy's clearly articulated views into being "against democracy". Suddenly, the JLP leadership public challenge is "democracy" and those opposed to it or its timing are anti-democratic. Suddenly, it's the likes of Babsy fracturing the JLP as persons grind axes while spinning the public challenge into the best thing since sliced bread and labelling people like Babsy as creators of damaging cass-cass. Walk it off, Babsy. This is no chicken-or-egg dilemma. Clear thinkers have no difficulty seeing the already hotly contested challenge (TBA) came first followed by cass-cass.
BABSY ALL THE WAY
In this particular cass-cass, I'm with Babsy all the way. She speaks for the JLP and for Jamaica. Her record of public service proves it. Her record of public service demands she be heard.
For those smugly smirking JLP MPs who've suddenly discovered "democracy" in their preferred candidate's strategy, I've some questions:
Is it 'democracy' for 5,000 persons to select the person who'll eventually run for prime minister from the JLP, whose membership and supporters are numbered in the hundreds of thousands? In the US, the party leader who'll run for president is decided by a national vote of all party members in primaries held every four years.
Is it 'democracy' for a leader selected by 5,000 to be thrust upon the rest of us as opposition leader/prime minister when the Constitution provides that both crucial national leaders should be chosen by MPs?
Is it 'democracy' for that process to prevent me from voting for the MP of my choice unless he/she also represents the party whose leader I want as prime minister?
To those actively pushing this privately funded farce as 'democracy' in order to ensure their candidate gets his chance to bypass the Constitution and fawn over 5,000 delegates to overthrow the duly appointed opposition leader, I say, what democracy?
Jamaica's sham democracy is, in reality, a robotic regurgitation of England's monarchical system, where democracy is an illusion and 'subjects' have no rights.
Democracy? Give me a break.
In the meantime, I'm to swallow the hogwash offered that this preferred option creating public trashings of each other by political party factions (thus significantly weakening the party's election chances) is in furtherance of 'democracy' and not a strategy to put in a constitutional office someone who doesn't have the required parliamentary support to get there constitutionally? Puh-leeeze.
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to email@example.com.