Why Today’s Young People are not interested in Jamaica’s Politics

I do not remember how old I was when former Prime Minister P.J Patterson won the election, a foreshadow for the end of Edward Seaga’s political career.
I am sure I was in high school for I recounted a truck of PNP supporters drove pass me one afternoon screaming “Power” with music blaring from cars. I shouted back “Shower” and my schoolmate took one of  the orange flags and gave me a “good lick inna me head”.I was around fourteen I think  and surprised if not fearful at how people in the truck began hurling insults at me. One lady congratulated my friend for ‘licking’ me in the head with the orange flag. It was the first time I witnessed how angry people got over politics. I shake my head at the memory. “The way how them did a gwaan was like them did want stop the truck and come lick some sense into my head.”This memory came to me this morning as I read the Observer issue on the Candidacy for the  Central Westmoreland Member of Parliament Post. My family and I mean on both sides,  my maternal and paternal relatives are staunch PNP supporters. I recall having heated debates with my father over the notion that I was a stupid little girl to want a white man to rule my country (Edward Seaga) when Jamaica was a predominantly black country and Mr. Patterson was the most fitting candidate for the role of Prime Minister since he was black. 

Jamaican Polling Station - Image Soure: uk.reuters.com
Jamaican Polling Station – Image Source: uk.reuters.com

I once asked my father what complexion was Micheal Manley and Norman Manley?  My father glared at me and I was banned from that day from even saying the (LLLL) ‘the L sound’ in his house. I was fourteen years old and the only rationale my dad gave me for supporting his MP was that he was black and came from Micheal Manley’s Legacy. I was not interested in that, I only wanted to see another party in power.

I wanted to give the other party a chance to rule. I was fourteen but challenged adults at the Pipe Stand when I carried water in the morning and they warned my father about my ‘Labourite’ leanings and how he could not afford for labourites to capture my young mind for I was very intelligent. My father further emphasized the ban on the the word “Labourite” within his earshot. 

The same thing happened when I was in sixth form and Bruce Golding went up against Portia Simpson Miller. I remember my peers and I being elated that Portia Simpson-Miller won. I  recall being in heated arguments with the men on the corner after school when they made assertions such as  “No one seeing their period” should run the country. They claimed that men could not rule under a woman’s frock tail. This is the place that I am from. This is how people think where I was born and socialized. I wanted to see a female at the helm, it was important to me as a young woman. It was a testament that regardless of my sex with hard work and perseverance, I could one day rule the world. I wanted Portia to win for I was from similar circumstances like her. She triumped against Peter Philips and my classmates and I were happy for we young Jamaicans wanted to see progress. I cried when I saw her on Television after the bitter presidential battle for the PNP leadership and heard Shaggy’s ” Strength of a Woman” playing in the background. I was genuinely happy for her. 

  

When the next General Election came around my peers and I were still interested in seeing a another Party in power. One afternoon I entered my father’s business place and was in a Lime Green blouse with sequins on the front. My father’s political activist friend was there and I will never forget how he pointed at my shirt and asked how my father allowed me to wear such a disgraceful colour in the house. He said that his house was painted in Orange and that he did not even drink Heineken. He said he hated the colour Green. I did not argue with him for my father shot daggers at me with eyes that told me to shut up. I felt sorry for my father, watching him struggle everyday selling food to send me to school, a child as brilliant as I am and after placing third in the CXC National Awards and Second for  CAPE Literature in English, I asked him one evening if he could not get some assistance from his “Political Party” to send me to university. He smiled at me, his face etched with understanding, crows feet at the corner of his eyes and for once I believed my father understood why I gave him hell about politics. I was not promoting tribalism, I was a child questioning the political process and why this business of politics did not seem to brook any developments for my peers and I. I will not question my family’s loyalty to the PNP. I did some reading and I have heard stories of some awful things that took place in the eighties and that might be the grounds for their resentment. I was born in the late eighties and my father said ” Young Bud nuh know storm” He was not particularly pleased about buying female paraphernalia with food items I believed he said one day  in a very colorful language and he did not want to experience that again. 

Albeit Bruce Golding was intellectual and represented the change my Sixth Form Liberal Arts Classmates and I wanted. We were disappointed. We had high expectations and Bruce ruined it. We might have expected too much of him to erase the ills of a system established by another for years. We suffered in the west, we were suffering before and we suffered more for as my granny put it ” Socialist was not in power”.  I remember one day on the cusp of adulthood at twenty years old and entering the corner shop and hearing the owner, an Activist croak in contempt. ” Them nuh say a change them did want. See them get change deh for them did feel say Bruce coulda help Jamaica and now me live fe come see Labourite a trust down me shop”.  I wondered if he was making reference to me since I owed him three hundred dollars for a pack of tough crackers, a Tin of Sardine and a Pepsi. I thought about the fact that I supported him with little regards for party lines and he had the nerve to bring politics into business. He did not seem to have a problem collecting my “Labourite” money when I bought from him during the four year tenure of Bruce Golding. He judged me based on the arguments I had for a change of Government and I did not even vote in the election that ushered Bruce into power. I did not have a vote. I was not on the electorate list. 

Due to my dissatisfaction with the Jamaica Labour Party and the cruelty that was meted out to the people in the Tivoli Garden’s Incursion, I wanted the Labourite Government out of Power. I was twenty two years old and I gave my first vote to the People’s National Party for I wanted to see what the Portia Simpson Miller, the woman who rose against all odds to become the leader of the People’s National Party could do. I believed in equal opportunity and  I prided myself on making a sound choice as an adult. I was not voting for my MP. I saw him once on a campaign, I was like my father voting for a party and not my constituency candidate. He can never seem to fulfill his promises. We asked for better roads and each morning after trucks of Marl were deposited on my street, I had to throw water on it to keep the dust down. The entire community was afflicted by the common cold and the flowers that fenced our yards were white from the deposit of dust. It was a white Christmas in my district.

The “socialist” laughed and said ” Seet it deh, dem ago fix the roads” and yet joined hands with us each morning watering the road to keep down the dust. I laughed for therein I found an epiphany. It mattered not who was in power, whatever decisions they made affected us all. Labourite and Socialist babies caught colds and even the PNP activist hung his head in shame but still murmured. ” Anno really the Mp we vote for is the party”. I was angry that these elders would gamble my future and that of my peers on favoritism each time they went to the polls. I weep sometimes because they have destroyed my Jamaica. I had high hopes for a future here. Now I like many of my classmates am  considering migration. Jamaica no have nothing fe offer we. These old people mash up mi country. I just broke down in tears writing this because that is exactly how I feel. I once considered entering politics but was discouraged when I approached young people to talk to them about politics. They did not want to hear anything from me about any “P’s”. They did not turn out at the last election for they did not know who to vote for. They rather not choose the lesser of two evils. 

I have nothing against the shopkeeper or my father. They grew up in a different time and I cannot adequately understand what shapes their beliefs. I however know that they are going and I am coming and I am tired of these feelings of depression and disillusion. I admire my father and the shopkeeper for they are hard working people, struggling and it;s a shame that their loyalty has never benefited them much above the ordinary. I am upset that they may have been taken for a fool. Maybe when I get older I will understand. They are victims like so many other Jamaicans. 

A lot of young youths that I grew up with are laying in tombs including my own family because they did not see a way out of this paucity and turned to a life of crime. On top of that I have to go on Facebook each day and read posts from my peers who claim they will never return to Jamaica and encourage me to leave as soon as possible and ‘leave the old neygahs dem down there with them stupidity and corrupt politicians’. I am looked upon as a fool for having any confidence that one day a Jamaican leader will rise up and take us out of this decrepit context. A leader like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Marcus Garvey. A  leader so visionary that he/she will move the gun men to put down their guns and if they ever take up arms it would be to become rebels for a cause behind a revolutionary leader. 

Now the prices on the  items in the shopkeeper’s shop have tripled in the last four years. The tin of Sardine that was fifty dollars is now a hundred and thirty dollars. Almost as expensive as the chicken back that I use to buy for twenty dollars a pound. When I ask him “how the things them just a go up so”, he said it did not matter who was in power, it would be the same thing. I knew what he meant.He would rather suffer under his party government than experiment with another. He shouts that ” Labourite” will never rule this country again.  My community is overrun with young men with nothing to do but “pree” illegal. I foresee that this coming election might be a bloody one. These youths are frustrated, tired of old people forming governments with no regards for this youth generation. I admire Lisa Hanna but standing from where I am and maybe I am wrong, maybe I have not read enough or experienced as much of this world at twenty six years but I am yet to see something being done about our youths. 

  

For now I will continue to vent in my stories, write on my blogs and make disenchanted posts on Facebook to irk my former classmates until they unfriend me for all this negativity. Maybe a better Jamaica is just a dream but I won’t stop dreaming. I do not think asking for a better Jamaica for my three year old is too much to ask for. Or maybe it is? People say that I should shut up and do something about it. I do not care about any parties, I just want a good leader and this is all I can do.

 I am frustrated. Tears continue streaming down my face. This was not what my forefathers fought for, they would be ashamed of what we have become. Tired of Journalist writing recondite prose in their political reviews instead of addressing the real issues! Tired of my brothers complaining that the only work available is Cane Cutter, Hotel worker or Scammer! Tired of politicians quarreling over foolishness while this country is on its way to becoming another Haiti!  I am tired so I wrote this article for the course of history was never changed by the many but the few who risked exposing facts; reminds me always that the pen is mightier than the sword.

Let the Chips fall where they may! 

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Crystal Evans

Crystal Evans was born in Westmoreland Jamaica. She is the author of several books centered on her experiences growing up in rural Jamaica and the Jamaican cultural nucleus. She is a voracious reader.

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Stafford Perkins
8 years ago

I didn’t get a chance to read your epistle in full but I realize from the little I read, you don’t know what Norman Manley looked like. He was a black man, not very dark skinned, but a black man. He was married to a white woman, Edna who bore Michael. Michael was light skinned but a black man, similar to Barack Obama.

Stafford Perkins
8 years ago

Crystal, I have read it all and I feel your pain. But here is the problem with us when we are in Jamaica.. We put too much of our trust in politicians. I am not saying we should not vote… Quite the contrary… We should vote and we must vote but we have to stop voting for a party… we have to stop voting for personalities… We need to seriously listen to what these candidates are saying and vote for your best interest… We need to vote for a person whether they are P or no P. Then, the big… Read more »

Ramesh Sujanani
8 years ago

Hi Crystal, this is an excellent article, with a lot of humanity in its paragraphs. I am somewhat older than you, and I recall the wars of 1980, part of which took place downtown around my shop at time. I too am despondent, seeing the changes in our country: caused simply by greed, laziness, and ignorance.

Anthony Hutchinson
8 years ago

Thanks for this article Crystal… I am one who constantly shares my views also… who vex vex… Stay firm young lady, the die hards cannot win because life will come to truth one day…

Ramesh Sujanani
8 years ago

Norman Manley was also not quite black; he had a low brown tone I recall, but then I hardly knew him. But Michael was very charismatic, with progressive thoughts. I thought he was the one that would show us the way: But as time past in his term, I saw him get closer to Castro, and people leaving responding to the ” five flights a day” remark, and the amount of guns in circulation, I thought then he was leading us up the wrong hill.

Karine Stoddart
8 years ago

I have been saying the same thing for years. Jamaica is a wonderful country but if this country continues to rule by the same members in both parties this country will never get better….none of these politician cares about this country nor its people…its just a job that pays well and great benefits with excellent retirement plan

Ewan Samuels
8 years ago

we need to start thinking with our brain and not our feeling vote for result not this die-hart thing, i like your article !! Haiti ting i hope not. pore more fire upon them pick packet politicians yah more fire blaze it sister don’t cool…..

Janet Margaret Davis
8 years ago

After having read this article, I can only agree with the author. I lived in Jamaica for nine years and when the political party in power changed from PNP to JLP. But it was the young, new voters who chose the JLP to rule the country after PNP had been in power for 18 years. Yes, it was certainly time for a change but it was the wrong change……clearly what it needed now is a THIRD political party to be in the running for leadership. As it stands now, the leadership is going back and forth like a ping pong… Read more »

Training Academy and Learning Labs

An interesting article, which echoes the sentiments of many of your age and others like myself who have lived throughout the 70s. I must say Jamaicans have a history of being a PNP country, which is accepting your poverty and believing some man (or woman) will ONE DAY lead you to prosperity (promised land). The old voters loved Norman and accepted Michael, the young poor loved Michael for reason presented above (promises of the promised land) With this formula that never comes to fruition, we will forever be where we are. At some point we will have to give another… Read more »

Andrea Hardware
8 years ago

I identified with her position in so many instances. I too wanted to vote on issues and not party. I too wanted a change, i also was happy to see Portia ascend to the top position and i too am tired of both parties and what they have offered. I too am ready to leave as my kids will have a harder time here if i dont.

Andrea Hardware
8 years ago

I also believe that the constitution should be revisited with a view to embed a clause which requires an evaluation of the elected representatives much earlier than 5 years when we are asked to go to the polls again. I believe its the only job in government that there is no annual job evaluation and one gets a contract that last 5 years. So the elected representative doesnt perform for 4 years, his constituent is dissatisfied but we cant fire him till 5 years have elapsed, then they may go to parliament to tweek the constitution so the elections is… Read more »

Sutton Kev
8 years ago

Great article crystal. This writing depicts some of my sentiments growing up of wanting to see another party in power…cause I was really wondering if that’s how our life had to be like in the impoverished and sub living standard conditions I experienced from birth..I just wanted to see what the other party would do. But after growing up I realize this is a bigger problem than I thought. It wasn’t about the parties or even the people running them..it was the SYSTEM that was in place. We adopt a system of governance implemented by our former colonial masters which… Read more »

Basil Williams
8 years ago

Love the article! Hard for the system to change when voters refuse to hold politicians accountable. Weird how your dad was biased on the views of race and you wanted P.S. Miller to win because she is a woman; same thing!

Bepat Samador
8 years ago

I love the article ….well said

Garfield Johnson
8 years ago

The Jamaican political problem can be easily solved by a show of no confidence in either party by not turning up to vote during elections but we are not bold enough to make that statement. if nobody votes than a government cannot be elected. Its simple.

Andrew Campbell
8 years ago

loves this article, so true and heart rending to the bone, we really need a person of well being to bring us hope in jamaica….sigh

Andrew Campbell
8 years ago

loves this article, so true and heart rending to the bone, we really need a person of well being to bring us hope in jamaica….sigh

Adam Augustus
8 years ago

I understand some of your frustrations as a young Jamaican but there is some history missing from your perspective. A lot of Jamaica’s debt and infrastructural deficit has nothing to do with the quality of our post-Independence leadership. I recommend you give the documentary “Life & Debt” a watch, its on youtube. This is not to say our leaders have not failed us, but there is much more to it than that, and yet much more than can be done to fix it. I’d love to continue the conversation.

Ro'Mando Dushay Douglas

I wholeheartedly appreciate this post. It is something fresh, inspirational and bias free, which today, are not features of our opinions where politics is concerned. I believe Jamaica lacks inspirational leaders. Our political leaders today, divorce themselves from leading by positive and inspirational ideologies such as Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King Jr. Politicians don’t have to come with their decorated flattery and subtly deceptive promises to us. They can however inspire us to by motivating us and let us see power and light in ourselves for hope. It is not easy to administer a country, especially that of Jamaica.… Read more »

Clive Neilson
8 years ago

A feel fine yuh. Nonetheless, here are the answers. It’s a mind thing, thinking is not automatic it is learnt. Next its about LOVE,the opposite of which is selfishness,if I have to say more then all is lost. Then you have sacrifice not for all but for those who “get it “. There’s more but that’s for starters.

Kipling Equality Powell

While I understand and agree with most of what I read one thing confused me how could such smata girl vote for such a not so s

Aggrey Hds Brown
8 years ago

well portia F**ked us up… end of that..

Donovan DV Henderson
8 years ago

This country’s foundation is set is messiah politics.. The politicians will deliver us, therefore we just sit and accept whatever comes our way. This is a bad thing but what are we to do???? Month end comes and we have bills to pay… therefore we will never have a revolution and run both parties out and demand better from our reps.