Danae Peart | So go the roads, so too the country ...
When I left Jamaica 21 years ago, I distinctly remember that it was after an infamous gas strike complete with the regular protest tools like burnt tyres on our roads. I distinctly remember driving over the potholes on my street, which were, in essence, craters. En route to the airport, I remember thinking, “I definitely won’t miss those”. The craters on my street got fixed a couple of years ago, and other craters widened on almost every other street. Jamaican roads are literally an indicator of the success or failings of the country.
Perhaps this fact explains my initial reaction to a member of parliament setting up crowdfunding to help repair the serious road damage in her constituency post- storm-related flooding. First reaction was shock and a bit of shame. For surely the country that portends “prosperity” can afford repairs caused by a crisis. Then my memory returned - and reality with it. Jamaica has never really been able to afford the roads we deserve. It is why new beloved highways are built by foreign investment and workers. Similarly, foreign investors contribute to extraction capitalism, which also gives soil erosion. It is why haphazard and pithy repairs are done just before elections, and it is definitely why more road craters remain now, after the floods.
RANT WON’T SOLVE MATTERS
As a quintessential Jamaican, I want to blame someone or something. As I replay videos of the flooding, I hear victims declare: “No, man! The Government haffi do something about this.” So maybe we can blame the Government for this? Well, not so fast. The Government is responsible for resources and infrastructure and should manage and deploy it wisely across the island.
However, is Government to blame for persons living near rivers or on the edge of hills with many landslides in their future? Perhaps in a roundabout way. Blame the Government for continuing to uphold norms that see the average person priced out of safer dwellings and locations and for decades of not addressing or managing the wear and tear across the island and the significant income disparities. Which government? All of them!
Somehow getting that rant out does not solve the matter at hand ... an MP sees no other option than to crowdfund to do repairs. Is this a plan that may end up being copied in other areas? And pray tell, who are the expected donors? The diaspora, right! Yes! We who bundle up in winter yearly, who pay taxes to our new governments (they are not exactly great at road care either); we who, each year, give to causes “back home”,thinking it makes a difference; and we whose remittances are counted in the GDP of the island; we who fix up a school here and donate some wheelchairs there.
We who feel extremely patriotic to the island, which has on many occasions, told us we no longer belong. We who cannot vote from abroad and hold very little influence over those who manage the resources. We who feel unsafe if we dare decide to return and live in the homes that winters built.
Yes, we will give again - with some level of forgetfulness that 21 years ago and 31 years ago, the same issues existed. Poor roads, poor people, poor vision, poor reactions ... poor us!
Danae Peart is based in Canada and is the former CEO for VIBE105 FM and VX3Exchange. She currently works in healthcare administration and runs a media and business- consulting firm. Send feedback to email@example.com