Mon | Oct 15, 2018

C'mon, ma'am, the game is called baggage!

Published:Sunday | December 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Joan Grant Cummings, GUEST COLUMNIST

Well, it's NFL time again for the empty nesters, and what do you know, my team is messing up royally, while you know whose is poised to take the coveted 'Super Bowl'. My only consolation is that my quarterback (QB) has been there and won - already.

In addition to the NFL, we've taken to watching a 'new show' - it's called 'Baggage'. It's essentially a matchmaking game. Contestants vie to become the 'match' of the guest/seeker. Three contestants come with 'baggage' - which we ALL apparently have from our past or still present. The contestant whose 'baggage' is most tolerable to the guest wins.

Although male empty nester watches, he snorts derisively, then usually adds, "The only real reality show on TV is sports." The NFL, of course, topping that list. Then it hits me - that's what our female PM has been dealing with lately?

Let's look at this: Playing the seeker, our female PM and as the three contestants, our two-for-one male senators, a male minister of government, and a board chairman! All have acted in ways that create baggage and may explain why the PM continues to keep them in place. Remember: We ALL have baggage.

Only the country is dealing with 'Baggage - The Political Edition, where world leaders strive to assemble their best team to realise their countries' dreams. Think about it: If we replace 'baggage' with 'albatross', we will realise we've been playing this game all along. Remember, PM Bruce had the Dudus extradition affair as his baggage, and PM Michael Manley was made to feel that 'him mash up di country' with his democratic socialism/communist bogey man - his baggage.


Let's examine what has been exposed lately as our contestants' baggage. We have two-for-one male senators, the same baggage called PATRIARCHY & SEXISM: One half is 'Senator Champion of Marital Rape', and the other half is 'Senator of the Flexi-Rape Joke'.

The country is in the process of hearing arguments to amend the Sexual Offences Act (SOA), which deals with the issues of violence against females and males, including looking at different forms of rape. The UN-designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls (IDEVAW) is November 25, to be followed by 16 days of activism to eliminate violence against women and girls - November 25 to December 10.

A major agenda item is the goal of the United Nations for all countries with this 'marital rape' provision to abandon it as a policy (baggage?). According to the UN, only 52 countries have explicitly criminalised marital rape, while 2.6 billion women and girls still live in countries that have not explicitly criminalised marital rape! Woe unto us [Brand] Jamaica.

The other half of Contestant No. 1 felt we had progressed enough to be able to joke about rape. News flash: No one gets over rape. With the hue and cry swirling around the twin contestants, half to his credit offered his mea culpa. The standard, for me, is to see said senator working to remove this backward, dangerous, unhealthy and discriminatory bill from the books of post-Independence Jamaica and to participate in a national campaign to eradicate violence against women. Even the NFL has such a campaign!

Ironically, the Brits have erased this from their law books while we hang on to it like a 'mawga dog wid dry bone'. "It's how hegemony works," male empty nester points out.

Contestant No. 2, Minister of the Inarticulate Majority, has in his baggage the naming of Jamaicans who have used modern means of communications to register their objection to actions by the government and, specifically, a public board and its chairman. It occurred to me that my 'empty-nester' partner and I aren't 'tweeters'. So does this mean we are members of the 'Inarticulate majority' that the minister must also belong to by his own argument? Hmm!

We are articulate, and so are our family and friends from all walks of life. Just in time to prove it, partner empty nester muttered under his PhD breath, "Must be another Bush-ism politic at play." Then, he refocuses on Thursday night football. Dallas is whipping Chicago!

Bush-ism Politic. Tweet about that, Minister! I beamed with pride.

Then to top it off, we have Chairman 'Arro' Gant-Opaque. A real outlaw cowboy, it seems (no disrespect to the Dallas Cowboys and the Outlaw, Josey Wales). His baggage: how could one man like a rolling snowball manage to bring a national treasure to near ill repute? Luckily, the majority of the 'articulate minority' can recognise, analyse and name poor leadership and bad governance when they see it.

My humble suggestion to the PM: none of these is worth keeping without radical, revolutionary social and political transformation.


Some Jamaicans are tut-tutting as they dismiss these issues as more instances when we prove we can't govern ourselves. Others are hoping, "My party gweh whip dem! Mek she call election if she bad!" Yet others like the majority of the 'articulate minority' know that there is more at stake here than win or lose or P or L Parties.

Jamaica, along with other small island developing states (SIDS), is in the ultimate fight for its existence. Climate change is happening to us, and as we participate in the climate negotiations in Lima, Peru (December 1-12, 2014), our negotiators, a knowledgeable, capable, dedicated crew of government and civil-society members, are doing Brand Jamaica proud. We can't afford to waste precious resources.

Brand Jamaica is to metamorphose into Vision 2030 goals and the agreements in the Partnership for Jamaica for Social Transformation (PFJ/T). Jamaicans, including myself, in good faith, participated in the development of, and agreement with, these two new social contracts with our GOJ. Just as the 63 and the 21 in the Upper and Lower Houses claim to 'stand' for the 2.8 million, the so-called small, middle-class civil-society members has legitimacy as a microcosm of 'Out Of Many, One ...'.

Neither government nor governance is seen as a spectator sport to us.

To vilify, dismiss, disregard and devalue any of these 'stands' is to undermine our own democratic principles and our commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ratified and signed by Jamaica:

Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms ... in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin ... .

Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference ... and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 21: Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives

For Madam PM, and future leaders, I would strongly recommend that in choosing election candidates, ministers, appointees to public-sector positions, public boards and commissions, that you must take into account their understanding, ability and capacity to operate within the context of VISION 2030, the PFJ/T Agreement and other governance-related policies, such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). As other countries have shown, this does not require a university education. For 'leaders' to do otherwise is to undermine Jamaica's future.

Jamaica is already an 'unfinished democracy', in terms of women's participation in power and decision-making. Only eight, or 12 per cent, of the 63 members of parliament, and six (28 per cent of the 21 are female, with no improvement among mayors and councillors. Of 115 public board appointments as of January 2014, only 391 of 1,143 were female (35 per cent) and 21 per cent of chairpersons were female. This, despite a 51 per cent female majority population, and the availability of trained female candidates.

For the PM to succeed in 'Baggage - The Political Edition', a radical course change is required, already outlined in the PFJ/T. We must use a Jamaicans-for-all lens, in choosing leadership and membership of these critical decision-making spaces. Leadership that is competent in 'participatory decision-making', 'engender trust and confidence', and works within an equality-seeking framework of 'mutual respect ... meaningful consultation and honest communication'. Leadership at all levels must be equally clear about this.

We the people are still committed to the PFJ/T. Are our leaders?

Joan Grant Cummings is a researcher/consultant and gender specialist. Email feedback to