A word on indifference

“The time has come to talk of many things: of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings” – Walrus to the oysters (Through the looking glass and what Alice found there, 1852).
This quote from an obtuse but favored poem pretty much sums up how I feel about the discussion surrounding the Jamaican political landscape. Puzzled? Not for long: the walrus easily distracted willing oysters in a conversation of fancy while preparing to devour them.The same could be said of the analysis of the crushing 42 seat blow delivered by the Jamaican voters in support of the People’s National Party. Journalists have so far spent incalculable hours and days dissecting and trying to decipher the anatomy of the sound beating. No one has bothered to check on the silence.
Between the gloating and the weeping, the pontificating and the back room crossings of the aisle and all the other red herrings lies the apathetic Elephant ( or walrus) in the room.
Mounds of theories purport to explain the minds of the 52.76% who deigned to get their index finger and their feet wet- representing the lowest voter turnout in over 18 years- but relatively few have tackled the question of the mammoth 47% of Jamaicans who took the day off to cock up their collective feet instead.
Just so I’m not left out of the red herring loop here’s my 2 cents on the ones who voted and why: the Jamaican tolerance for shenanigans has reached an all time low. It’s ok to pillage and rape in times of plenty but absolutely not in times of scarcity. We also intensely dislike contempt. We have a 2 party mentality and as such when we don’t like one we simply vote for the other. Those who always vote voted but those new to voting did not. This is the real problem at hand.
The picture in a national newspaper summed it up for me. Nine young men wearing white shirts offering their vote for sale outside a polling station. Bittersweet protest of the fact that political mandates mean nothing to the lean and hungry. Lowering or raising interest rates, better or worse education, lowering or ignoring crime are all prospects for the future and doesn’t seem to apply to the now.
Survival is the only thing on the apathetic and indifferent minds of those who did not vote. Voting is a waste of time for those who fare better hustling for money while carrying a rachet- knife.
Years of waiting for various governments to get their promised acts off the ground have left us feeling jilted and has pushed us into hard scrabbling.
The mind of a hardscrabbler cares not for political handjobs, it only cares about money. So they would take the $2500 to turn up in a rally in a shirt only to leave said rally, collect another $2500 and turn up at another rally in a different shirt. No political alliance but $5000.00 to floss. Makes sense to me. I’ve bucked quite a few people who claimed to have pulled off this scam who were quite happy to collect and kiss their teeth at the stupidity of the politicians for allowing themselves to be scammed. At the end of the day we do what we must to survive.
The survival mode is only fueled by our apathy . We have lost hope in our governments and we have lowered our expectations. We are the equivalent of the abused woman who thinks her terrorist still loves her because he doesn’t kick her in her face. We actually may not believe we are loved at all but rather that it could be worse.
This behavior is as befuddling to the USA as it is to this psychologist. The wiki leaked cables have questioned our refusal to get up when we are clearly face down in the dirt since 2005. The result of the abused syndrome is the same: we stay because we fear the unknown, we stay because we expect nothing so why complain, and we refuse to vote because we do not believe our rights matter.
You see it doesn’t matter who is in power at this point, the majority of the populaces life will remain the same. No Machiavellian tactics can fix that. Its simply asinine at this point to ask Jamaicans to choose between pot and fire and the 47% chose neither. I may not agree with this stance but it is what it looks like from the outside.

Our history of refusing to confront a system we disagree with still keeps us company today. We are steeped in passive aggression. So we work a little slower, complain a little more on our street corners and verandas, all the while contemplating and planning how to get the hell out of dodge.

Sometimes though, but only sometimes, the apathetic and abused do rise and deliver a real blow to the perpetrators. What happened on December 29th was a direct result of apathy but ( I hope) it could also be the beginning of a silent and bloodless coup.

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5 thoughts on “A word on indifference

  1. Tammy, I’d be interested to know… did you vote? If yes, why, and if not, why not?

    I understand what you’re saying about the survival/apathy factors at work, but at the same time, that 47% who didn’t vote includes not only persons who are prepared to barter their votes on election day, but comfortable middle class people who presumably have no need to barter their votes for material gains. How do you explain, for example, a group of 15 middle class people in a group – of which (a) only one voted; and (b) the remainder didn’t vote, but lamented the outcome?

    I’m not so sure I agree with your analysis on pillage/rape during times of scarcity. You were perhaps too young to appreciate the turbulence of the 1970s, but I certainly saw or was aware of plenty pillaging by the then party in power that didn’t seem to affect is electoral chances in 1976.

    It is argued by some that people are prepared to give a pass to the PNP that they aren’t prepared to give to the JLP. Is it that the PNP has better mastered the art of symbolic manipulation or pseudo-empathy?

    • Ah my dear Hilaire! good to have you back. Yes I voted but I almost did not sincerely because I didnt like either of the choices given.However upon deep thought I voted for my MP responsible for my constituency because He did a good job and I have no complaints about him.
      I believe in that hypothetical group the same forces were at work. Being disgruntled with the choice given, deciding not to vote and being disgruntled nevertheless. The problem is the issues people have with both of the parties. The unhappiness is with a lack of clear hope and leadership and a belief that governments will not benefit them anyway so why bother.
      Sad state of affairs anyway you look at it.

  2. Heh heh, actually, that group was not hypothetical at all. The story of that group was reported to me by the (voting) member of that group!

    I totally get why people are fed up with the parties. But as I’ve often preached to my compatriots, the parties won’t change until we do. In short, it means taking responsibility for ourselves and our future. It means investing time and effort into holding politicians to account, whether by simple letter to the news, withholding financial contributions, etc. When I was still living in Jamaica, I often challenged politicians and their policies. When I looked around me, usually, I was the only one doing it, or one of few. People would often say to me, “we need more people like you”, to which my retort was “why don’t you be one of them?”. I never got a satisfactory response.

    As Jamaica approaches its 50th anniversary of Independence, my hope is that Jamaicans begin to transition out of the political adolescence that has prevailed for most, if not all of the 50 years of Independence. Adolescents typically want gratification of their immediate and narrow needs, but not at the price of taking responsibility for satisfying those needs. They are prone to a solipsistic worldview, which makes it difficult for them to see how their needs and interests are interconnected with others. They find it difficult to see or realize themselves as agents of the very change they desire.

    By contrast, political adulthood connotes an appreciation for individual and collective responsibility for one’s destiny, including the type and quality of government that one gets. A political adult will participate fully in the political process – and not just on Election Day. A political adult will hardly withdraw from the process, and then pout and complain about what that process ultimately produces.

    At a level, I understand that we are still in a process of decolonization – so that we haven’t quite made that transition from Freire’s notion of magic consciousness to critical consciousness. At an intellectual level I get it, but at an emotional level, it’s intolerable. There’s a concomitant fatalism to this magic consciousness (as demonstrated by the majority of the house party group) that I just can’t stomach. So you’re unhappy with the political parties or the electoral outcome. So what are you doing about it, beside whining? Jeez…

    Ok, mi dun rant fi now!

    • Hilaire you are spot on! Adolescent magical consciousness prevails in our electorate. Along with it unfortunately comes a devil may care attitude. From very good sources many restrictions from the previous govt have now been let loose and places like the wharf is where it is seen most rampantly. Word on the street is that money mek when this admin is in power. Crime is already up and brand new cars have already been bought for the new mps. Houses are also about to be refitted. How about this: Jamaicans who voted know why they voted and the votes spoke volumes. You ever see that ad with the line that goes ” I want my money and I need it NOW!” that’s what matters now apparently.
      But those who chose not to vote should really kibba dem mout and tek what they get. My advice “talk to the hand”
      Lol

  3. Rahtid, car buy a’ready??? Woy sah, we back to ‘let off’ business den.

    What’s curious is that the same adolescent mentality that I ran away from in Jamaica is very much present in my fellow Caribbean nationals here at the OAS. When serious business to be done or discussed – can hardly find a soul. Party time? Everybody deh deh… And talk about magic consciousness?! Even with the parties – magically, they think will organize themselves…

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