Portia's progressive perspective
The Editor, Sir:
Judging from the talk shows, the most contentious issue emerging from Portia Simpson Miller's Budget presentation were comments on the PATH beneficiaries in a recent Government public-relations exercise.
A similar theme was picked up in one newspaper's editorial on Saturday, April 16, as it examined her questioning whether the Sports Development Foundation should be competing with private companies for headlines and title sponsorships. Another example might be those time signals by government ministries that have become popular.
My personal beef is with the 'brandardisation' of the Jamaica Cultural Development Corporation (JCDC). New logos and new images are fantastic and important in modern Jamaica, it might be argued. That's accepted. But if no one answers the phones at the JCDC when you call the offices (an experience I had just recently), what's the point? As for that large corporate sponsorship, will they be the title sponsors for our national festival this year? Will there be the (place name of sponsor here) national festival? You see, I worry that persons interested in kumina and revival, for example, will unconsciously become a 'market segment', as 'audiences' have become 'markets' in television. Perhaps I am overreacting. We will see.
The political divide of the 1970s is playing out in the 2000s through the use of media and marketing. It is much more subtle. It is manifested as the questions - what should be promoted and what should not? What is gauche, 'vulgar public relations' and what is empowering public education? It is an ideological issue and really, the side you take depends on what one believes in. it is a sensibility.
I did a highly unscientific poll. University students were divided. Some saw the programme as "bigging up" the youngsters, others did not. Most had grown up in the 'sponsorship era' of the 2000s. That's all they know - the neo-liberalism that bought/brought with it branding, bunting and promotion. It is a part of their everyday lives. Some persons in their 30s and 40s and beyond, who bridged the 'institutional era' of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC), etc., thought the PATH exposure to be shocking exploitation of the children. I remember hearing this before Christmas, when one telecoms giant accused the other of exploiting children in advertising.
Beyond issues to do with public relations and marketing, for me, Mrs Simpson Miller address spoke to me about Jamaica's greatest political challenge - finding the right mix between the every-man-for-himself entrepreneurial, neo-liberal embrace of the money market and the 'together we can' of 'running a boat'.
Mrs Simpson Miller referenced the word 'culture' in many instances in her speech. I think that's a progressive way of seeing things.
I am, etc.,
Institute of Caribbean Studies
University of the West Indies