Double Standards and Lawlessness in Jamaica

Like, I was in the line, we were waiting to run and the guy was telling me to line up straight. I was like, ‘Really? We’re about to run and they are going to make me stand in a straight line?’ There are just some weird rules here,’ said the man from Jamaica, where freedom is unlimited.

The above is an excerpt from an Article on Usain Bolt’s perception of the London 2012 security rules. I was more than mildly offended when I read the section highlighted. I couldn’t determine whether the journalist was being sarcastic or really believed that Jamaicans have unlimited freedoms. I imagined that the author of this article was exposed to Jamaica as a tourist where he/she was allowed to do as he/she pleased by the seemingly self-hating and foreigner-glorifying inhabitants of resort areas. It was not one week after I contemptuously read this article that I was exposed to a situation that caused me to alter my view on the subject.

I was seated inside an improperly parked bus in a rural transport centre. A police officer approached the driver and pointed out to him that he was obstructing the free flow of vehicles to and from the park. The driver decided that it would be more appropriate to leave the park for the sidewalk than to heed the instructions of the officer and park properly. The policeman pursued him and he drove around the town in an attempt to escape the ticket he clearly deserved for such a violation. Some passengers asked the driver to stop and allow them to leave while a lone man reprimanded him for being a careless lawbreaker and said he should continue the journey without attempting to fill the bus as he was evidently in the wrong. The driver’s defense was that he isn’t the only one who parks that way and he does it because ‘everybody ha’ fi eat a food’ and ‘everybody ha’ pickney fi feed’. He then began to recite his operating expenses; ‘toll a eight hundred and eighty dollar,’ ‘a nuh water run e’. Clearly his stance is that parking and loading in an orderly fashion limits his chances of earning enough to survive.

A woman seated in the front of the bus1 decided that she should take on the man who was being the voice of reason and justice. ‘All yuh soun’ like one ex police.’ By this time the bus was full of passengers picked up from sidewalks around the town and on the way to Kingston. She continued; ‘A police have the most bus pon road and none a dem noh licen’. An unuh get wey wid murda cause ef unuh tap unuh fren bus a road unuh nah ticket dem. A poor people ah feel di grunt(brunt) ah it. Everybody ha fi eat a food. G’wey. Y’a police.’ She then began to relate the story of a policeman she once dated who ‘own di w’ol a di bus dem pon Half-Way-Tree route’ and ‘everybody know seh when dem see fi him papers dem fi move on cause him a let off.’ In summary, she doesn’t believe the police has jurisdiction over the ordinary citizen who breaks the law as they also commit crimes without facing penalty. Oh, the same woman who defended the driver’s obstructive parking decided she should take on a man who requested a stop on Highway 2000 because ‘anyhow police did see dat a di driver woulda ina trouble’. Funny.

I am also coming to realise that many Jamaicans are becoming increasingly selfish and bear a shocking sense of entitlement to others’ wealth. I believe the phrase for living for oneself is ‘cut2 and guh thru’. Robbery is often heard as a motive for murder and it is this sense of entitlement and disregard for the value of work that has fueled the widespread lotto scam that, according to my friend from St. James, 2 of 3 persons living in Montego Bay are involved in or have no problem with. I wonder if the businesspeople who refuse to pay over their taxes, causing the government to overburden ordinary citizens are, like the policeman with many buses, letting off? The system doesn’t seem to be willing to catch up with them and I am tired of the dismal state of affairs.

On the same day I took this bus, I was seated in the front of a minivan3 on the return journey. A woman was asking that the windows be opened because she is claustrophobic and about to throw up. The man beside her who refused to open the window said, ‘Seh wha, yuh homophobic? Then you couldn’t travel in a plane then. Window can’t open up deh4’ Then the driver decided to inform the passengers close to him that he isn’t opposed to doing a charter service for homosexual passengers, ‘only thing mi do a ovacharge dem.’ It was widely considered funny.

Freedom[from the law] is not unlimited in Jamaica but I now clearly understand why some would be of this impression. The levels of criminality and tolerance for such that I was exposed to in only one day would probably cause many to lose faith in the nation.

I will remain a law-abiding citizen of the island and hope that the revolution will be swift.


P.S. What do you believe can solve Jamaica’s problem of lawlessness and disregard for authority and others’ hard-earned property? What do you believe is the root cause?

  1. where no men are allowed, clearly stated by a sign behind the driver’s headrest []
  2. the line or through the crowd []
  3. where men are still not allowed []
  4. in the air []
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  1. Yardii
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 6:04 PM | Permalink

    They lady who spoke out against officers owning the most buses on the road is right. But yes, there is double standard in our nation. Position and Power I guess… Which side of the fence are you standing?

  2. grace
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 7:48 PM | Permalink

    Michael Manley and his culture of the 70s engendered a dependency on govt. People felt they shouldn’t work for what they want and that any rules put in place were a step backwards to slavery. Solutions: undo history or teach consciousness of ppl like Marley or Garvey.

  3. AL
    Posted August 21, 2012 at 1:19 PM | Permalink

    Criminals whether white or blue collar commit crimes for the thrill or the benefit; the gratification in what is stolen, scammed, ‘earned’ or what is obtained with the proceeds of the crime. The lawlessness which we see daily does not differ much from outright criminality; our habit as a people, generally, is to find the easy way out which often requires one’s action to not be ‘regulated by or based on law’ or ‘not restrained or controlled by law’. That will see the bus driver doing what he did to “eat a food”, police officers accepting bribes, ordinary drivers exceeding the speed-limit (I do that, shameful but true), persons circumventing the matriculation requirements for medical school because they know someone who can ‘help’…lawlessness pervades our society and our psyche…and like the proverb says we see the beam but NEVER see the mote.

    The solution is for Jamaicans to become the opposite of lawless and be ‘law-abiding, orderly and follow rules’…that is not easy, but it starts with me…I need to observe speed-limits, persons need to look into themselves or be educated/advised to see the benefit in not littering the gully behind their house so when the rains come they don’t get flooded, not peeing on the sidewalk that their very kids might use…public education and general buy-in by the populace is important…..but EVEN MORE important is the issue of ACCOUNTABILITY….it matters not if the person is affluent or dirt-poor, there are no small crimes or breaches that should be ignored or swept away, yes there is need for discretion but let the courts or whatever regulatory system is in place decide…and don’t get me started on the overburdened, under staffed, resource starved court system that is just limping along, basically surviving on platitudes and patches….

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