The contrast was stunning. In the first instance I listened to John as he told me about his plight and what he hoped to be his ultimate economic redemption.
Two years before, the 32 year old had purchased ‘a likkle piece a car’ which he repaired on his own over a period of one year then began using it as a route taxi. Because he had no red plate he found himself playing hide-and-seek with the police and the transport authority.
‘Mi mother sickly with diabetes and nobody in the house working. Is just me one. Di amount a time and money mi spend fe get back di car just fi mek dem tek it way again. So di last time dem tek it, mi never have di money so me just allow dem fi add it to di scrap heap. Wi fight and dem win.’
Over many years John had spent time tinkering in a garage watching auto mechanics at work and had picked up a lot. Lately a sister from abroad had been sending money to assist with the mother’s health problems and it had freed up John to do something positive with his life.
‘Yu know what I notice, he said. ‘All of di mechanic in the garage have no papers, no certification. So me make some contacts and get enrolled in an automotive school. I want to know more about the theory and the newer, computerized stuff in cars. Ultimately a want to open mi own garage.’
After that I found myself in conversation with a man in his mid 40’s. The discussion was about suicide and the death of Faye Jacobs. I tried to point out to him that many people have troubling matters in their lives that weigh them down quite heavily. They feel all alone burdened with these pressing matters and need people close to them in a lean-on- me long moment.
‘Fuckery dat! A weak people kill dem self. Look how life sweet,’ he said as he sipped from a glass of rum. Someone had bought the drink. ‘Mi nuh have no sympathy fi people who do dem shit dey.’
The conversation went downhill and I gave up.
A few weeks before, a man had told me that he would kick out his young son or daughter if it turned out that one was gay. ‘Why would you do that?’ I stupidly asked.
‘Mi nuh want no abomination inna mi house! Can’t stay!’
‘So where does love enter the picture. Don’t you love your child? How do you throw out your child because the child is gay?’
He began to raise his voice. ‘Yu nuh hear whey mi sey. Him nah stay! She nah stay! Even if dem haffi live a street dem not staying!’
One somehow expects that as people age, maturity on a range of matters also occur. That, I have found is not necessarily true as many people become hardened and much less flexible. As example I find that many Jamaican men are soft on rape but tough on homosexuality.
‘Just because yu hold dung a woman and tek it don’t mean sey yu rape her,’ said a man to me about a year ago. He was constantly laughing.
In the 1960’s when I was in my mid teens a group of about 10 of us were returning from a street dance at Independence time. It was about three in the morning. As we were passing by a low fence in Arlene Gardens one of the braver ones said he knew a helper living in a room at the back of the yard.
He jumped over the fence and we all followed him. We hid in the bushes as he softly called out her name from a window. As she opened the door, in the dim light she saw about three other boys and asked him what it meant. After discussions she agreed to ‘handle’ all of them.
In the comedy of errors that followed – one boy found a garden hose, turned it on and placed it through the window because he thought the boy inside was ‘taking too long’- I felt most uncomfortable plus the idea of a ‘battery’ was even worse. I left.
Later that same morning, Saturday it was, we all met up and I was the big laughing stock. I was the only one who did not get any pum pum. ‘Wiggy soft’ was the mantra.
A few days later it was I who had the last laugh as all of them were ‘leaking and burning.’
Many of us seem not to be able to learn from past errors. In the 21st century we still have teachers punishing children in 19th century style. Our politicians lie to us as they have always done and we still buy the con.
Our men still piss in the streets and we thrown garbage everywhere. The family is now only a description of something which had meaning in a far off past.
We tend to take our cues from those in the business class and while I would never broad brush big business in Jamaica and label them as charlatans, I would hope that big business develop a common message that can be easily assimilated by the younger generation.
When I left KC in 1969 every youngster I knew who wanted a job before going on to tertiary studies could get one. Today the picture has changed radically and the politician does not have the nerve to tell the people the truth.
The age of nine-to-five is dead. This must now be the age of professionalism (no, not more lawyers) and entrepreneurship.
The past is dead and only our children can determine and make happen the undefined future.
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