Sat | Sep 18, 2021

Alfred Dawes | A case of triple standards

Published:Sunday | June 6, 2021 | 12:09 AM

The peasants are not revolting, but they are upset. We are seeing played out in front of our eyes what we have always joked about: that there are two Jamaicas. There is one for the poor and remnants of a once thriving middle class, but who the other Jamaica is for is a bit hazier. At times it is simply for the rich. Another time, it is for the tourists who used to vacation where we live but now vacation where we suffer. Then, of course, there’s the Jamaica for the politically connected who can drop names and use links to move mountains. To say we are a country of double standards is an understatement. A suitable characterisation is that we have triple standards: one for the poor, one for the rich, and a standard for the ones favoured by those in power.

From funerals and memorial services, hotel beaches and public beaches, to yacht parties on Maiden Cay, there is a disparity in what the different classes can do. The have- nots will easily find themselves herded into trucks and paraded in front of cameras, apologising for breaking the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) should they be selfish and stupidly put everyone at risk because they need to party. The haves, although they have a little leeway in jetting away for parties or jamming local hotel pools, still find themselves suffocating under the mask of selective enforcement of the DRMA. Meanwhile, the politically empowered Haves keep parties in their complexes much to the chagrin of their neighbours.

Do not be fooled. The entertainment sector is still in swing. The parties on a Friday night at the uptown hotspots draw hundreds. The music is locked off at curfew time the earliest, and the cars parked on the road and in full parking lots betray the selective application of the law. The descendants of the field slaves, however, find themselves partying in the clearing of a cane field or by the banks of remote rivers. The Friday night uptown spots at Kingston hotels are open secrets. We just accept it and shake our heads. Two Jamaicas we say.

SELECTIVE APPLICATION

The DRMA is constantly wielded over our heads by petty warlords running fiefdoms to exert their newfound powers over others. We know of the blatant selective application of the rules they want us to fear. We know they have no answer should we ever confront them about their double and triple standards. Handpicked individuals and corporations receive Letters of Marque, and others who are not favoured are threatened to be hung as pirates should they behave like the appointed Privateers. You could a have likkle more, yuh cyaa have enough to be treated like the Chosen Ones. The Serfs dare not even try a ting. The DRMA says you can’t. Two Jamaicas? No, three Jamaicas. We see it daily.

It is never the foreigners who we should get upset at when they attempt to enjoy their vacation. We should ask ourselves, what are the hotels doing right why there are no mega outbreaks even with a multitude of travellers from all over the world mingling freely at the resorts? At any moment in time, a tourist would have been exposed to several guests whose vacations overlapped and who, in turn, would have overlapped with other arrivals. Does the 14-day quarantine make sense for locals when business travellers are free to go about their business without a quarantine period? Why should tourists be confined to a corridor and starve local attractions outside of that “safety zone” when hardly any locals who travel even bother to quarantine? Jackass say the worl nuh level. But our worl is more like a step pyramid. Djoser-land we love.

It is bad when the prime minister himself has to come out and say that we are seeing the blatant hypocrisy of two Jamaicas. Who, though, upholds this status quo if the buck stopper in chief is upset at the situation? When will we call out the names of the drivers with the whips who oppress us on the new plantations? It is not enough to say that the bureaucracy is what is sustaining this inequality. A bureaucracy, like a corporation, is made up of living, breathing individuals who, by collective responsibility, determine the trajectory of the country. The mandates and directives handed down come from faceless committees and working groups, but these individuals should be named and shamed. Who decides what is to be enforced, and who gets authority to do things without fear of sanctions while others who do the same are treated like criminals? We want names!

LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY

The lack of accountability of the faceless bureaucrats in the organisations upholding the triple standards is just another symptom of the disease that prevents us from progressing as a country. The slavish adherence to protocols is one thing. The selective, slavish adherence to protocols when it suits them is another. Therein lies the problem. Nobody is held accountable when the decision makers decide to selectively apply the rules. The defence of “well, others are doing it, so why target me” rightfully does not hold water. However, the optics are not good. The people are seeing it, and they’re not liking it. The muted response from many is solely because the greater good must be served, and if we are to get out of this pandemic, the work of those in charge must be unfettered. This uneasy peace will hold as a result of nationalism alone. That equilibrium should not be tested by the continued blatant disregard for what people are feeling as they sacrifice and watch others flaunt their preferiti status. The peasants are upset. Don’t give some cake and the others stale bread.

- Alfred Dawes is a general, laparoscopic, and weight-loss surgeon; Fellow of the American College of Surgeons; former senior medical officer of the Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital; former president of Jamaica Medical Doctors Association. @dr_aldawes. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and adawes@ilapmedical.com.