Brav­ing our roads

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Bri­anPaul Welsh Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and pub­lic af­fairs com­men­ta­tor. He can be reached at bri­ or on so­cial me­dia @is­land­cynic

BE­CAUSE OF the vary­ing calami­ties con­se­quen­tial to Third World suf­fer­ing, I have spent the bet­ter part of the past few weeks as an un­will­ing pedes­trian in our pros­per­ous state. The daily ad­ven­tures have re­vealed that the back seat of a taxi is the per­fect place to pon­der the mys­ter­ies of life, cal­cu­late the ground speed of a de­fec­tive jalopy, as well as com­pose my last will and tes­ta­ment.

Punc­tu­at­ing the hop­scotch across the wildlife tracks and river paths we call ‘roads’ were sev­eral brief trips aboard the tele­por­ta­tion de­vices known col­lo­qui­ally as ‘robot taxis’. These prim­i­tive rock­ets were de­vised by the na­tives to help nav­i­gate the labyrinths and shanties that we re­fer to re­spec­tively, as ‘ci­ties’ and ‘towns’.

These forms of trans­porta­tion ex­ist in de­fi­ance of ev­ery law known to man but are al­lowed to op­er­ate as a nec­es­sary evil, though in light of the known con­se­quences, it would seem this per­mis­sion is ev­i­dence of the evil of the law­mak­ers them­selves.

For rather than in­vest in sus­tain­ing the safety and se­cu­rity of our pub­lic trans­porta­tion, through our col­lec­tive in­ac­tion we have, in­stead, di­vested this re­spon­si­bil­ity to the greedy and uniquely un­qual­i­fied – a dis­as­trous com­bi­na­tion of traits we can now see play­ing out be­fore our eyes in some neigh­bour­ing ter­ri­to­ries.

For all their bravado, one isn’t in­stantly con­vinced the driv­ers of these ve­hi­cles are truly pi­lot­ing them as much as it seems they are just try­ing to strike an im­pres­sive pro­file while hang­ing on for dear life like the rest of us.

Luck­ily, the lat­est in­fec­tious vul­gar­i­ties boom­ing from the speak­ers of­fer some­what of a dis­trac­tion from the scenes of my short life flash­ing be­fore my eyes.


Vybz Kartel’s lat­est sonic at­tacks, sup­pos­edly mu­si­cal pre­mo­ni­tions and not ac­tive so­cial commentary, have in­creased in vol­ume and ac­cu­racy ever since ri­vals started rat­tling his cage. Now the sys­tem has put him in fur­ther de­ten­tion hop­ing to mute his pre­dic­tions, while the pub­lic, in­clud­ing my taxi driver, think the wicked Govern­ment is try­ing to ‘box food’ from the mouth of the mur­derer they con­victed and in­car­cer­ated.

Af­ter all, like my taxi driver, Kartel has to ‘eat a food’, and the law is but an in­con­ve­nience in the grand scheme of such craven pur­suits.

Hiss­ing his teeth in seem­ing dis­gust with the in­jus­tice of it all, he turns up the vol­ume, presses the ac­cel­er­a­tor, and swerves to avoid the slow­poke po­lice of­fi­cer in his valiant but fu­tile at­tempt to pre­vent dis­as­ter.

A close call with the rear end of a lux­ury SUV that sud­denly ap­peared out of thin air was eerily rem­i­nis­cent of the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the fa­mous case that re­cently hexed the jus­tice sys­tem; and given the pen­chant for taxi driv­ers like these to have sud­den am­ne­sia, the truth of my demise would surely be less fan­tas­tic than the tall tales that would be told in the news­pa­pers.

So when you read of this week’s ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dent or bizarre in­ci­dent of vi­o­lence, don’t be­lieve any of the ex­cuses that are likely to be in­tro­duced to soften your de­spair if I’m one of the poor un­for­tu­nate souls to per­ish. In this coun­try, it’s far eas­ier to be­smirch the char­ac­ter of dead peo­ple than get live ones to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their ac­tions.

One might ask, why not take Kartel’s sage ad­vice and sim­ply tell the driver to let me off since he’s driv­ing too fast? That is eas­ier imag­ined than achieved, and when strapped to a mis­sile, the last thing you want to do is break the gun­ner’s con­cen­tra­tion.

So with hands clasped and eyes closed, I ne­go­ti­ated my sal­va­tion with the Cre­ator while won­der­ing if my salary was com­men­su­rate to the mor­tal risk of this daily dare­devil rou­tine.

Af­ter only a few hours of bub­bling in Ja­maica’s pub­lic trans­port caul­dron, one’s ex­pres­sion be­comes painfully un­pleas­ant. With the hos­til­ity, law­less­ness and reck­less be­hav­iour one must en­counter first thing in the morn­ing, and then on the way home, is it any won­der there are so many sour faces and mis­er­able dis­po­si­tions at the work­place and in our fam­i­lies?

Per­haps if more of the ‘boasy’ peo­ple, in whose names we ded­i­cate these so-called roads, ac­tu­ally tra­versed them as the peas­ants must, in­stead of look­ing down from their el­e­vated char­i­ots and lament­ing the con­di­tions be­low, they might use their in­flu­ence to help curb the neg­a­tive cul­ture that has ev­i­dently over­taken our com­mon sense.

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