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News and Views by Dionne Jackson Miller

pointed commentary on current affairs in Jamaica and the Caribbean

Month

February 2012

Local Government Elec…..Excuse Me…YAWN!!!!!!!!

Yawn
Yawn (Photo credit: Martin Cathrae)

Local government is supposed to be close to the people, really local representation. So why does any discussion about local government elicit a collective yawn? Here are three possible reasons. Feel free to add more.

  1. 1. Low keyed campaigning – many people get to know their constituency representatives and Members of Parliament during the frenetic period of campaigning for general elections. There is no such high profile campaigning for local government elections and as a result, that initial period of visibility is lacking. Election day comes and goes without most people ever knowing who was running to represent them.
  2. Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

    After election visibility  – after the very low-keyed election the councillors are often not as visible as Members of Parliament. Some MPs have newsletters, or other ways of reaching out to constituents. How many councillors do likewise? How often do you see councillors attending church services or the other community events that help to raise a representative’s profile? I’m not saying it never happens, but I can tell you that I have lived in at least five constituencies in three parishes over the years. In all cases I knew and saw my MP, but never ever, before the present, can I recall a councillor being very visible. Let’s be honest. I usually didn’t know who he/she was.

  3.  Irrelevancy – the very issues that local government is supposed to be dealing with are badly managed. Community roads, parochial water supplies, managing the process of building approval and town planning – the councils often seem to suck at this. The roads are full of potholes, water supply problematic and as for the chaka-chaka process of urban planning, and the total inability to prevent zoning breaches – forget it.  If you’re not making a difference in people’s lives, why should they care about you?

Where do we go from here, as the song goes? Next time for that!

A Weary Runner/Walker Asks “Where Are The Bins?”

 

Image from freedigitalphotos.net

So I joined the masses and did the Sigma Run/Walk/Wheelchair 5K Race.  Great event, for a fantastic cause and pushing the healthy lifestyle theme as well. My time? Hey I did it for charity!! Who’s watching the stopwatch? Especially when it becomes clear that you’re not breaking any records!!

I am, however, driven to ask – can we please have a few more bins along the way? Ok, make that a lot more bins. The only stretch on which you see lots of garbage bins is the stretch along Constant Spring and near to Half Way Tree.

For the initial part of the route, after you grab the first set of (very!) welcome plastic bags filled with juice/water/whatever,  and the last part, once you pass Half Way Tree, where you may grab another bag, there are very few bins of

Plastic Bag
Plastic Bag (Photo credit: Clearly Ambiguous)

any kind.  I know there is clean-up afterward, but isn’t there a way to minimise the need for clean-up, so runners/walkers don’t leave a sea of plastic bags in their wake?

After you take a few sips of the juice/water/whatever it is, you then have the choice of running with the unwanted plastic bag in your hand or throwing it onto the ground. Guess what most people do? So while you’re huffing and puffing, trying simply to keep one weary foot going in front of the other (ok, that’s me) you also have to be dodging plastic bags full of juice in case you slide and fall.

I know whatever is done, there will be people who will still just dump the bags on the ground, comfortable that someone will be coming later with a broom and a bin. Still, I don’t think it is beyond us to do this a little better.

It’s not just road races.  This is generally the case with most public events/functions in Jamaica. The attitude seems to be, someone will clean it up after so why bother. Well, it looks horrible. And we can do better.

EVERYBODY HATES JPS


“That reminds me of us being “pothole free by 2003”. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“My comments are not fit for air play…kt”                        

“They full of crap my light bill no stop go up right no my bill is 10 mash and i’m not doing anthing different the meter reader no stop stay a u neighbour yard and read u meter them need competition”

Those were a few of the comments on the “Beyond the Headlines’” FB page, following JPS’s announcement that the company could lower electricity prices by 40% by 2015 by building a new power plant powered by natural gas.

Yes, there were a few fairly positive comments, such as this:

I welcome the announcement.sounds good.i see some ifs and buts there,so lets wait on the results!”

However, we also got calls and scores of texts, the majority of which were hostile and disbelieving.

No surprise there.

High electricity prices, a perceived alacrity to cut off customers’ electricity and bad customer service have combined to create a customer base that is extremely hostile to the Jamaica Public Service Company and believes the company is only out to gouge the consumer.

JPS  is clearly hoping to get public opinion and advocacy on its side, to push the government to take quick action on the natural gas project.

The problem for them is that their wider customer base hates them. I don’t think I’m overstating it. Mention JPS and calls start to flood in from people who can’t understand their high light bills, and can’t get any answer from JPS other than the directive “You have to pay it.”

Lower prices would help. So would a regulatory authority that the public believes actually stands in the breach for them. But that’s for another time. In the meantime, JPS has a lot of talking to do.

Five Memories of Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston -  Concert in Central Park   /...
Whitney Houston – Concert in Central Park / Good Morning America 2009 – Manhattan NYC (Photo credit: asterix611)

1. Seeing this beautiful, young, black teenager in the pages (and on the cover!!) of Seventeen – one of my favourite magazines, but one which featured mostly white girls. In an era in which I was searching for black, female images in the media, the photos of Whitney were a joy to me.

 

2. Buying her first album – on cassette (!!) for my new and highly-prized radio/cassette player and playing it so much my younger brother begged my mother to make me stop! Who could get enough of that first album with that unbelievable, soaring voice? I never got tired of songs like “How Will I know” “Saving All my Love” and of course “Greatest Love of All.”

How Will I Know
How Will I Know (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. Her song for the 1988 summer Olympics “One Moment in Time” became my favourite Whitney song. Inspirational, so evocative of the beauty, power and glory of sports, and of course, that fabulous voice.

4. The incredible 2002 Diane Sawyer interview – fascinating for so many reasons. The power of TV, of an interview which takes right at just the right time, of a good interviewer getting the interviewee to open up (speaking as a journalist) and the dawning realisation of the tragedy that had become Whitney Houston’s life (speaking as a fan).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kovGM1ZrCck

5. Seeing the first report of her death of Facebook and not being even a little surprised. Sad primarily for her daughter and family. She had already given us,  the fans, so much.

 

Five things I learned from Mutty Perkins

1. Enjoy the job. 

It was always seemed to me that Mutty enjoyed being a talk show host. He loved debate and dialogue, and seemed to really perk up when someone called in and started out with a negative comment. “Mr. Perkins, you know you bias,” some caller might say. “Oh?” Mutty would respond, ready for the fray. “Why do you say that?” And the discussion would begin. He never seemed tired of the callers, never seemed as if he was phoning it in, and never, ever sounded as if he couldn’t bother or was out of touch with what was going on.

2. Read Read Read

I never failed to be impressed with the breadth and depth of Mutty’s knowledge. From constitutional rights to law to politics to history – he was undeniably and comprehensively well read. And it showed through conversation, not through any attempt to shout to the world “See! I read!”

3.  The Power of the Monologue  

For years, we tuned in every day at 10.00 am   to hear what Mutty was going to say in his monologue. Whether the death of Michael Manley, a PNP victory or a JLP win, we  listened eagerly to hear his views, and match them against our own.

4. The importance of human rights and constitutional rights

One of Mutty’s biggest contributions to Jamaica was raising our awareness of human rights issues. Long before there was Jamaicans for Justice, there was Mutty. In a country of short term memories, he made sure we never forgot the atrocities that led to the death of Agana Barrett. He never stopped commenting on the weaknesses in our constitution in relation to the protection of basic human rights,  continued to highlight the vulnerability of the poor and in essence, gave  an articulate, informed and passionate voice to those who had no voice.

5. There are no sacred cows

There is no more valuable lesson for a journalist.  From Prime Ministers to captains of industry, from trade unionists to lawyers, Mutty took on anyone. It’s worthy of note, however, that it takes confidence to do this, confidence born of sharp intellect, a broad and deep knowledge base, incisive analytical skills and the ability to think on your feet. All of those, Mutty had in spades. And for those and many other things, we will miss him.

 

How should we react to this dance hall song?

 

Common musical notes
Common musical notes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

I had heard about a new, popular dance hall song with particularly offensive lyrics, but only went in search of it on the Internet after seeing this letter in the Gleaner.

 

 

 

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120208/letters/letters2.html#.TzJjci-Rzk4.facebook

This is the link to the song. WARNING. YOU MAY FIND THIS SONG OFFENSIVE.

The lyrics will offend many of us. Clearly not all. This is what one person posted on a thread discussing the song.

“Its called hyperbole…. He doesnt mean that he wants to rape women just that he would NEVER be a battyman. For example if someone says when pigs fly i will do ___ they dont mean they are waiting to see pigs fly. Its just a figure of speech.
The context in which potential kid says it makes it acceptable. (So long as this dejay doesnt make di paper a few weeks from now accused of 

rape ). Otherwise i say it is just a darkly humorous line.”

So there are, unsurprisingly, different vews on how seriously to take the lyrics.

So how should we react?

 

That’s a real question. I don’t know the answer. The argument goes….if it’s being played in the dance hall space, we should leave it alone. It’s a song for adults, being enjoyed by adults.

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

The problem of course, is that it is almost certainly being played on buses, cell phones and that thousands of young people are hearing and absorbing this lyric. Will they be able to brush it off as “hyperbole”? Will public outrage make any difference one way or the other – other than to make the song even more popular? Those of us with children or teenagers in the house can sit them down and have a talk.

 

Not all young people have that kind of countering influence. So what about them?

Given the rest of the song, which is what we in the industry call NFAP (Not Fit for Airplay) it would be a little difficult even to suggest that teachers use it as a tool to start a discussion (they would have to do it, presumably without playing the song or making much reference to the rest of it)….so what do you think? Any ideas?

We HAVE a Jamaica 50 song!!!!!

I was a little startled to see the suggestion in the Gleaner that Eric Donaldson’s iconic festival song “Land of my Birth” be named as the Jamaica 50 song. Why?

BECAUSE WE ALREADY HAVE A JAMAICA 50 SONG!!!!!


http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20111204/ent/ent7.html

In addition, the Jamaica 50 song is much more appropriate, in my view. This is because, although Eric Donaldson is undeniably talented, he is just one of our many gifted artistes. In comparison, the Jamaica 50 song, “Find the Flag” written by Mikey Bennett, brings together for this common, nationalistic cause many of our most talented and popular artistes, both vintage and contemporary,  to perform a catchy, energetic rendition that should find favour with Jamaicans – if they ever hear it!!

Let us not allow the hard work and talent of our musicians go to waste. This song should be played at every possible occasion, and given as much exposure as possible.

By August 6, 2012, every Jamaican should be able to sing along with it. And sure, we’ll also be singing “Land of my Birth.”

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