Saturday, April 19, 2008

Jamaicans and The Dreaded Dependency Syndrome

In the wake of the recent protests in support of the latest high profile criminal Carlos Hill, I am forced to ask the question "what the fuck is going on here?".
For those who are unfamiliar, let me just run quickly through the context of the scenario. About 5 years ago, a man named Carlos Hill founded an investment company by the name of Cash Plus Limited, with the platform that it was here to save the poor from their states of deprivation and strife. The company offered investors a profit of 10 per cent per month on deposits, accepting 'deposits' from a minimum of $100,000.
Unbeknown to the investors, Mr. Hill had previously served 10years in prison for fraud and was about to face these charges again.
Cut to April 17, 2008, Carlos Hill, his brother Bertram and company executive Peter Wilson are at their bail hearing at the Halfway Tree RM Court (Criminal Division).
After a train of fleeting cases to do with "exposing goods for sale", the usual "copyright infringement","ganja possession", and your everyday machete-chopping incident, the court is ready to hear the days (and maybe month's), biggest case.
It is estimated, by the Police (who have yet to confirm), that an amount of over 8 million dollars in sums have been defrauded under the name of the company (Cash Plus Limited). They are also yet to confirm whether or not the string of offshore accounts in the name of Mr. Hill (accounts in Countries ranging from Switzerland, to Turks and Caicos, to China)hold enough money to repay his debt to society.
As a result of this incomplete investigation, both Hills are denied bail for at least another month, while Wilson is offered bail posted at 5 million...
The issue however in my book, is not that this man defrauded thousands of people, but that these people allowed him to defraud them, which brings me to the discussion of the dependency syndrome, that which as Michael Manley proposes in his book "The Politics of Change", as our major barrier to achieving a productive, unified, self-reliant Nation.
"We want Justice", as simple and logical as it sounds, this, the most commonly written demonstration placard is clue to the issue of which I speak. Allow me to clarify, I am not saying that if a child is murdered by the police in a community then "justice" should not be sought. I am speaking of an entirely different issue, people are always blaming the government for their problems, when that government is elected BY the people. While the government does possess the means and authority to oppress it's people, the people themselves are completely oblivious to their own power.
At election time we all jump on the political bandwagons, wearing our respective green and orange in support of a party, without paying attention to that party's candidates, because maybe our grandparents voted for that party. You think I would ever vote for a party comprising mainly of Upper St. Andrew businessmen? Of course not, that just looks to me like a Capitalist Empire waiting to happen. So here we are, less than a year later, with drastic tax hikes and reduction in the University's subsidy (so that now, inevitably the caste system will expand even further). "Reciprocate and pay your taxes", Audley Shaw laughs as he makes this announcement in is Budget presentation sometime last weeks, as if we are all in this together.
What's the reason, you ask, whether or not they'll tell for this drastic hike? "Free Education" and "Free Health Care", the promises made in the election campaign must be, free, free, Jamaican's are suckers for anything "free".
Last year I worked for a phone company which had duped most of it's clients by printing in bold "Free Unlimited talk-time to the U.s, Canada and the U.K", and in fine print "Minutes capped at 1000, $5 per min after". We are always warned to read the fine print but we never do.
So, on the day Carlos Hill hears he will have to watch his ass in jail for at least another month I am utterly shocked to find outside a small band of placard-holding Carlos Hill supporters. In the courtroom, the defense had referred to the man on numerous occasions as the "saviour" of the poor, to this there were snickers of amusement, but lo and behold, outside reads a sign; "Free Carlos Hill, he send our children to school, he shelter and feed the poor".
He appears to be their "saviour" indeed. Though I have never really had to wonder where my next meal is coming from, and while I am grateful for that privilege, I must ask, does one really need a saviour? Where one is mentally ill, physically disabled or otherwise incapable, I might agree to the necessity of such a person. It is hard, however to show sympathy to one who buys a new set of clothes (and hair weave) for every session, while leaving her children neglected and hungry. The children of course, did not choose their situation, and it is they for who my heart weeps.
There is a man in Falmouth who sells bags made out of matchsticks, an Old woman in St. Catherine who sells Calaloo seeds for a living, and in her backyard plants and nurtures just about any seed which may yield produce that can be sold to assist in the payment of the light and water. For them I have the greatest of respect, because they have made the most of their situation, in the face of immeasurable odds.
While to a large extent the government must be blamed for it's refusal to take as a priority the possibility of self-reliance through renewable resources like Agriculture. I have little sympathy for those who do nothing else...

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