How to be Jamaican

Ever so often, I become absorbed with the idea of what it means to be Jamaican.  See as a child born in the 70s I learnt the hard way that Jamaican politics, as manifested in the politics of PNP and JLP, is damaging and has devastated this country.  So I am a Jamaican, and I am trying to figure out what this means.  For a lot of people being Jamaican is a yearly experience and at those moments when we are Jamaicans it is overwhelming and powerful.  I can still remember powerful Jamaican moments, when Veronica Campbell won the Gold in the 200 meters and collected her medal with tears streaming down her face, that was a powerful Jamaican moment.

My other powerful Jamaican moment was when  Bolt broke the world record in Beijing and when those three Jamaican women, Shelly, Kerron and Sherone, crossed the finish line before everyone else in the world in the women’s 100m. For a moment there I felt breathless, who would have believed that such a result would be possible, you hoped, you tried to be positive, but nothing could have prepared you for that finish.  There have been others but those two were amazing.

When Jamaica turned fifty, the atmosphere in the National Stadium was magnetic.  The Festival Songs that were being played transported every Jamaican back to that time, in a community, at a school dance, somewhere when curry goat and plain rice and mannish water and rice and peas and fried chicken tasted way too good to be true.  Or eating, bulla and pear with some brebige, sitting on a verandah while Maas somebody or Miss something pass and shout ‘good morning’ and ask how yuh How yuh madda.

So hear I am thinking about how proud I was when Chronixx appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show.  Or when Tessanne took the Voice by storm and how incredible we were when we literally ensured that she won.  So I am wondering where is that Jamaica and where are those Jamaicans and were they real?  If they were real, how do we find them and those sentiments and use them all the time?  Jamaica needs some kindness, some love and some good vibes.  How could we have taken that identity, idea and sentiment to PICA these past couple of days, how could we have used that idea to determine how we would treat each other?  We need those sentiments at Kingston Public Hospital, or at the Tax Office when the lines are long and we feel as if we are almost without energy.

We have to somehow draw on this identity, because the other identity is wrapped in bitterness and anger and an unforgiving spirit.  I have encountered Jamaicans who are rude and abrasive and downright ugly in spirit.  Who thrive on being insulting and mean, dismissive and cruel.  The taxi driver who is so ill mannered you are left speechless, the nurse at the hospital who speaks to you with such contempt, or the doctor who looks right through you, the average Jamaican who is always ready to ‘tell yuh how much string mek yuh up’.  I have experienced them all, and we need to be rescued from a tendency in our national character to dehumanize and treat each other with sheer contempt.  This schizophrenia in our national psyche is a sickness and it is costly.  We need to think about it, which of these identities will work? I know which one, I wish we would put thought and strategy behind it.

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