Just an observation.
Jamaica is often known as an “Irie” island, meaning it is a no worries kind of place. The beautiful landscape and it flora and fauna, and the beaches and beautiful sea. The delicious climate. The vibrant music. The thrilling athletes. These are things outsiders get to see that would fit the notion of island paradise.Yet, anyone living on the island knows that the people in the country are often irate. While, I would not claim that news broadcasts are balanced, so much of what is portrayed daily is of an irate place and people. Much of the focus of news broadcasts recently is on things that have made citizens very angry.
A few examples, which struck me this week, follow.
Taxi drivers protesting their treatment by public officials who license their operations and the police.
People waiting at a hospital from a day and during the night, and still not seen by any medical personnel after many hours. When the news station telephoned the hospital for comments they got no reply.
People protesting in settlements that have no water, or bad roads, or schools with inadequate supplies, or other basics elements of social provision that are missing.
People are often angry with financiers about lending practices or the cost of borrowing, but they can also be angry about basic operations. Today, I saw that anger when a local financial institution decided to close early for month and quarter end. A sign had noted this would happen, but clearly some did not see it or had forgotten. Upshot? A good two dozen people banging on the door to be let in after 1.30pm so that they could make regular transactions or get funds wired from overseas. I needed to return a form, and thankfully could slip it to the branch manager, who was staying in the background behind the security officers.
The nation’s diplomatic face is very angry with Barbados over allegations by a Jamaican lady (Shanique Myrie) that she was ‘cavity searched’ by a female immigration official while trying to enter that island, and was subjected to derogatory remarks about Jamaicans. Angry words, claims and counter claims and refutations, have been exchanged across the Caribbean Sea by diplomatic representatives, and now a top-level delegation of Jamaican officials are headed to Barbados to investigate the matter further. (I got a call from a Jamaican radio station to discuss the matter, and the feelings of Jamaicans in Barbados: the station which mistakenly thought that I represented an association of Jamaicans in Barbados.)
The ‘ManattDudus Commision of Inquiry’, which is being broadcast live on TV and radio, has shown the world how Jamaicans can trade insults, as the prime minister, in particular, has been grilled by lawyers from the Opposition party. Brilliant theatre or real pursuit of truth?
But public anger is a common factor of Jamaican life. Jamaicans are often viewed as aggressive people. Exchanges often get heated and people discuss things in very demonstrative ways. Is it for show or do people really feel as angry as the words appear to be? If you don’t get angry and shout in protest are you taken for a softie or for granted? Do you have to get angry to get on?