For the past ten days, I have been unable to write anything positive or negative for persons considering a move to Jamaica. I am not exactly sure why but it appears that I may have stumbled upon writer’s block.
The recent election of Barack Obama combined with the sheer possibilities of onward progression in the United States has changed my current view of Jamaica. Jamaica now feels like a glass fish bowl where I am the fish swimming around with both eyes focused on an external target. As the fish, I find myself constantly wondering, “What lives outside of this bowl?” “Will I ever be able to escape to the outer world?” “What is happening in my old stomping grounds of Washington D.C., New York City, Atlanta, Florida?
Although the Jamaican sun still shines and the weather continues to be beautiful and sweet, in my eyes, the country has become rampant with social crisis and decay. Incidents of kidnapping and raping of women and children have increased over the past two weeks; a fact I find difficult to grasp and which leaves me feeling incredibly sad.
“I can do two things,” I tell myself, “I can pretend that all is well and that things are great on the island,” as I do not personally know anyone who has been raped or kidnapped. On the other hand, I can reflect and learn effective coping skills as a way forward. So perhaps my hiatus from blogging is in keeping with the latter.
I have often repeated that I refuse to feel caged up or threatened by the crime in Kingston. I face each day with joy and enthusiasm using the same precautions I would utilize in any major city. However, of late I have been coordinating with pals to run, walk and cycle in groups which I must admit has been a first for me as I have always enjoyed the freedom of bolting out solo.
Early morning walks alone and saying, “Howdy!” to people on the streets has been restricted as I continue to hear stories or read forwarded emails of women being attacked between the hours of 5am and 6am. I have attempted to stop watching the 7pm local nightly news as I find the broadcast to be far more graphic than I am able to tolerate.
As such, I have resorted to reading the newspapers and listening to radio talk shows only. This is not much better as the radio talk shows have also become increasingly negative with the tragic stories from callers. I have come to realize that these callers are not making up daily stories but instead are crying out for leadership to steer the country into a more positive environment.
Generally, I believe that Jamaicans are trying to make positive strides and that crisis seems to be an international state of affairs with America being “bruk” i.e. broke and even Germany which is “soon bruk” i.e. on its way to being broke. From these examples, we see that Jamaica is not the only country that is facing challenges, nor are racial tensions in existence as I read in one US. newspaper yesterday .
Jamaican Musicians are singing positive lyrics for societal change while Jamaican journalists write stories about an ideal Jamaica and Jamaican pastors preach against the “bad man and bad mind” mentality, encouraging members to do what is right. The questions I ask myself daily are
Are the people who are committing these horrible atrocities capable of listening to the musicians, journalists and preachers?
Are they willing to make a change for the betterment of the communities in which they live?
Will an illiterate, angry, uncaring and unforgiving individual who may have never experienced gentleness or kindness, get up one day and recognize that his daily acts of fighting, stabbing, shooting and raping are wrong?
Whose responsibility is it to teach a man or woman right or wrong? Good or bad?
I try not to be judgmental of the Jamaican culture when I am told by Jamaicans that I am too “soffy-soffy” i.e. I am too soft or fragile. Perhaps more “soffy-soffy” persons may be the solution for bringing balance to a country in need of forward movement. Perhaps more “soffy-soffy” persons can take on leadership roles to provide an environment with an education system, where every boy or girl regardless of colour or social class is able to afford a proper education and grow up in a loving supportive environment without threat of rape or sodomy.
An overhaul of the Jamaican education system is a lengthy process and may take several years to reap any serious benefits, but change must come. In addition, an overhaul is clearly not the answer to all of the country’s recent troubles; however, taking steps to put some type of order in place amongst the chaos and despair may be a blessing in disguise for this beautiful land. Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago comes to mind. I continue to feel sad for Jamaica – a land which I am currently struggling to LOVE.