Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Garth Rattray | Can you adapt to the new Jamaica?

Published:Monday | October 31, 2022 | 12:06 AM
In this file photo women are seen fighting on the road. The fight, reportedly, was over a man.
In this file photo women are seen fighting on the road. The fight, reportedly, was over a man.

Our society is changing much faster, for the worse, than decent citizens can adapt. The rate of change is increasing exponentially. Just the other day, I was driving through a shopping plaza when I came upon an obstruction caused by a long truck sticking out into the drive way and a line of vehicles trying to pass it. The remaining space was far too narrow for me to get through. I was stuck and traffic was building up behind me.

Naturally, in short order, a taxi driver, two cars behind me, stood outside his door and addressed me as “elder”. Although he was too far away to accurately assess my predicament, he shouted that there was plenty of space for me to drive through. He punctuated his angry and loud outburst with a very colourful expletive. Once upon a time, a real Jamaican would have exited his vehicle, walked forward and helped me navigate safely through the narrow space if it were possible. Eventually, a driver that was in the way was able to move forward and free up the blockage.

It doesn’t take much for someone to use vulgarity to describe what you should do to your maternal parent. A millisecond of cautious hesitation when the traffic light goes green, coming to a complete stop at stop signs, waiting for a half of a second before overtaking a parked vehicle to avoid breaking the law that’s all it takes for someone to dump a steaming pile of verbal nastiness on you.


The magnitude of boorish and crass behaviour, aggression, endangering others, utter disregard for the law, bullyism, and the disrespect that drivers mete out to others is unprecedented. If I did not already have a driver’s licence, it would take a lot to convince me to acquire one in this toxic environment. Driving has become challenging, dangerous, and distressing. Other drivers make some of us feel like impediments to their progress on ‘their’ roadways. Although we pay hefty taxes and insurance premiums to drive, many of us are treated as if we are trespassing on the private thoroughfares of other road-users.

The number of publicised and unpublicised crimes and murders is astounding. The level of brutality evident in the committing of these crimes is nothing short of blood-curdling. The ease with which anyone can kill or have anyone killed is frightening. The disregard for the sanctity of life is shocking. The callousness, and disrespect in how the macabre images of human suffering and death are captured and distributed is mind-numbing. This is not the Jamaica in which many of us grew up. And this is certainly not the Jamaica in which most of us want to live.

Many of us are finding it very difficult to adapt to the new Jamaica. We cannot adapt as fast as the changes are occurring. The decline of discipline, standards and morals is occurring at an astounding rate. Decent citizens are way behind the curve. We feel as if we are immersed in a boiling cauldron of ‘modern’ Jamaica with its hostility, violence, lack of empathy, amorality, and corruption; and we don’t know how to adapt.

But how does one adapt to seeing school children fighting one another and even teachers? How can anyone adapt to seeing school children killing one other? Is it possible to adapt to the level of volatility and violence in the schools? Can anyone adapt to the numerous gangland murders and murder-for-hire killings that are occurring? Can anyone adapt to the slaughter of sweet, innocent, little babies, and infirm elderly people? What technique can be employed to adapt to the daily reports of violent deaths all around us?

I am working very hard to adapt to the reality of citizens being left to fend for themselves in an economy that retails based on the United States dollar, but remunerates based on a very weak Jamaican dollar. It is impossible for citizens to adapt to the very real fear of being unable to afford the most basic utilities, food, and shelter in the coming years.

People are still struggling to adapt to the feeling of abandonment. We are left at the mercy of the utility companies. They are so expensive that our production is being hampered and citizens are struggling or unable to meet their costly bills. The highways were to be more than just rapid transit expediencies; they were to offer safe alternatives, but now they are expensive luxuries.

Many citizens don’t know how to adapt to a society in rapid decline. It’s nigh impossible to adapt to a Jamaica where anyone with enough money and/or connections can do anything and get away with it. Try as they might, citizens can’t adapt to noisy bars, clubs, and vulgar dancehall ‘sessions’ that constantly disturb their studies, peace, and rest. The authorities obviously do not care. Can citizens adapt when commercial and/or high-rise constructions invade their residential communities? When the government becomes conveniently blind to the structures and deaf to the citizens’ complaints, it directly contributes to the nation’s widespread deterioration.

The authorities will need to be bold and make unpopular decisions to institute order, discipline, and accountability in society. Otherwise, citizens will either abandon ship, conform and add to the burgeoning anarchy, or be forced to buckle up and go along for the hair-raising, heart-breaking downhill ride.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Send feedback to and