Saturday, 24 June 2017

A Culture of Greed And Corruption

When A.L Hendricks penned the words to the song “Jamaica Land of Beauty”, he must have foreseen the potential that this beautiful island had in this vast and increasingly complex world. Hendricks went on to seal his commitment to a new nation with the words. “We promise faithfully, to serve thee with our talents and bring our gifts to thee. Jamaica we will always in honour of thy name, work steadfastly and wisely and never bring thee shame”. The potential would have required such commitment to national development has been railroaded by consistent social indiscipline and political corruption. This genesis of corrupt practices in Jamaica is rooted in every aspect of society and its tentacles have no new ground to cover. On a daily basis, the vicious consequences of these illegal activities are being plastered in our minds through conventional and social media. Our nation is covered in the blood of victims, innocent or not, taken by the brute callousness of hardened criminals. Corruption can be simple in its manifestation, as well as, it and can be acquainted with regular everyday citizens, not just through the corridors of politics or commerce. 
A Culture of Corruption
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of listening to Cliff Hughes Online. During a feature called ‘Ask the OPM’. A gentleman called the talk show to highlight the corruption in the police force but before he was allowed to extend his point, he started out admitting that he was driving at an extreme high rate of speed. His admission was so alarming that Mr. Hughes was rather quick to castigate his reckless actions, and rightfully so. The caller went on to tell of his experience after being pulled over by the police. Instead of being arrested or given a hefty ticket, the police officer, according to this caller, was adamant in giving this reckless driver the option of “paying’ his way out of his trouble or being penalized by the law. Of course, the caller chose the former and provided monetary compensation to ease his rather awkward dilemma. Both the host of the radio talk show as well as his guests from the Office of the Prime Minister was alarmed by the caller’s experience with the police. My own reaction was a little different in that I have heard of numerous cases where members of the public have had similar interactions with the Jamaican Police. Why as a society Jamaica’s propensity for indiscipline and corruption remains despite various attempts to rid the society of this menace?
It is safe to say at this point that indiscipline has become rooted in our culture and over the years has gotten increasingly worse. Many Jamaicans feel that prosecution for criminality is usually nonexistent so this reality feeds the wanton disregard for law and order in many spheres of life, from road usage to political policies. I have driven on many of our roadways and it has become the norm for careless and often times reckless driving to take place on these sometimes busy thoroughfares.
Outside Perception
A few months ago I was in a barbershop in the small town of Davidson NC. As soon as the barbers realized that I was from Jamaica, one quickly and without hesitation asked why is it so terrifying to drive on the streets of Jamaica? The question came from observations made over multiple visits to what he himself claimed was the most beautiful place he had ever seen. However, he has always been terrified by the way Jamaican drivers used the roadways.  I thought about my response and with a smile started to give him my own interpretation of the vehicular skills of my countrymen. I explained that Jamaican masculinity dictates, as in every aspect of the life of a ‘real man’, he should be the best at what he does and he should be aggressive and confident in his doings. As it relates to driving a motor vehicle, the driver should be skillful in how he maneuvers that motor vehicle and the limits of this machine should be pushed to the extreme at all times. Should you as a man choose to drive within the guidelines of the road code, you may be considered interference to another man’s endless quest to be a ‘shotta driver’, a local term that denotes the superiority of his skillfulness. You will of course be subject to colourful colloquial expressions in an effort to demean your masculinity as a “ediyat driva” etc. It is not unusual for lawful road users to be occasionally bullied, verbally insulted or criticized while trying to use the roads in Jamaica.  After this caller was caught speeding by police, he certainly thought that he was now in trouble through his own admission, with the law. Nevertheless the representative of the law, the policeman, who swore to uphold the Jamaican laws in his commitment to serve and protect, sought to break that same oath through greed driven motives and blatant corrupt practices. Some may argue that the police in Jamaica are given an impossible task to curb the criminality in the society, yet they are poorly paid, given limited resources and have very limited access to psychological support. These instances of inadequacy cannot be an excuse for members of the Security Forces to be engaged in these kinds of unlawful practices. The officer may be finding it very difficult to make ends meet and sees his behavior as a means to subsidize his income. He is willing to destroy his reputation and the stability his job provides for him and his family.   
The Way Forward
We must seek to change the thinking that “ah so Jamaica run”. We need to move away from the ideals of paying our way out of trouble and draw the line between integrity and the scourge of corruption. Can we as a society continue to sustain this festering of corrupt activities and at the end of the day consecrate ourselves as a developing nation? The society must put measures in place to fight corruption in every form if we are to seriously contend with Hendricks’s ideology of steadfastly working to build a better nation. In order to maintain our integrity intact corruption must be addressed once and for all. It is only then can be have an inclusive society; one that is prosperous and progressive.
Kurt Hickling, is an educator and cultural studies advocate with an interest in the cultural dimensions affecting males.
I wish to thank Kurt for his contribution. You may send comments to Kurt, whether via email or through Twitter!
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