Grab them by the bushy

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Daniel Th­waites

IENJOYED The Gleaner’s thun­der­ous de­nun­ci­a­tion of the ut­ter so­cial col­lapse on Spur Tree af­ter an Ap­ple­ton de­liv­ery truck over­turned. In­stead of rush­ing to as­sist, can­did footage of our fel­low cit­i­zens showed them en­er­get­i­cally scav­eng­ing what sur­vived of the cargo. I hope it’s not too pre­sump­tu­ous to speak in the plu­ral, not in the royal ‘we’, but its op­po­site, the Demo­cratic one, and say: We fell upon the sud­denly un­guarded rum like thirsty pi­rates.

The Gleaner’s per­spec­tive verged on out­rage. It ac­knowl­edged that there’s a sus­pen­sion of the or­di­nary rules of law and or­der in the wake of dis­as­ters, ac­ci­dents, may­hem, and when no­body is look­ing and the like­li­hood of be­ing caught is suf­fi­ciently di­min­ished.

Still, the real grava­men of the news­pa­per’s com­plaint was that the po­lice wouldn’t even likely think about charg­ing any­one.

Ac­tu­ally, by way of historical de­tour, scav­eng­ing was of­ten as­so­ci­ated with the sea and ship­wrecks. There is folk­lore that peo­ple on the Cor­nish Coast of Eng­land would, depend­ing on the weaver of the tale, ex­tin­guish lights, or set de­cep­tive ones, so as to cause ship­wreck. One ma­jor source of this leg­end: Daphne du Mau­rier’s novel Ja­maica Inn, named af­ter an inn that took its name from the Trelawny fam­ily that had ex­ten­sive hold­ings in Ja­maica, the is­land. That’s right: If a egg, wi inna de red!


In fact, there was a whole in­dus­try of ‘wreck­ing’, and nat­u­rally, we have our place in it be­cause di scamma dem deh ya! Wreck­ing was the busi­ness of re­triev­ing trea­sures, div­ing for loot, scav­eng­ing.

Read it how­ever you want, but we Ja­maicans are not afraid to hunt for the booty.

In fact, the largest find prior to the 20th Cen­tury fea­tures Ja­maica in the story. Trea­sure hunter Wil­liam Phipps, former shep­herd boy and fu­ture gover­nor of the Mas­sachusetts Bay Colony, an­chored off Port Royal in Novem­ber 1684, ex­actly 332 years ago, to off­load muti­nous crew and up­load oth­ers, par­tic­u­larly divers, to search for his for­tune. And that he did, off the north coast of His­pan­iola, in the form of find­ing and scav­eng­ing a Span­ish Galleon that was on the sea floor loaded with coin.

By the way, Phipps is most fa­mous, not for booty, but for com­mis­sion­ing a court to in­ves­ti­gate witch­craft in Salem, Mas­sachusetts.

Re­turn­ing to more lo­cal tri­als, I re­alised that elec­tions trig­ger the same sus­pen­sion of law and or­der as does ship­wreck or truck­wreck, and for largely the same rea­sons. All sorts of things hap­pen, and there’s very min­i­mal chance that the mod­er­at­ing in­sti­tu­tions – the lim­ited checks and bal­ances in our sys­tem – will get around to see­ing any­thing, much less do­ing any­thing about it, un­til it’s too late.

So I was sur­prised that The Gleaner didn’t draw this ob­vi­ous con­nec­tion in an oth­er­wise splen­did lit­tle med­i­ta­tion on ‘Cyn­i­cal pol­i­tics’, pub­lished as an ed­i­to­rial on Wed­nes­day, Novem­ber 23.

What I’m say­ing is that the scavengers are not so far away from our Govern­ment, which has mag­i­cally found $600 mil­lion to sprin­kle around the place for ‘bush­ing’ in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the elec­tion. Nat­u­rally, Desmond McKen­zie claimed to know noth­ing about it, but across JLP con­stituen­cies and di­vi­sions tar­geted for takeover, green-shirted and green-ban­gled youth are busy at make-work in th­ese few days. Don­ald Trump would ex­plain on a hot mic that the Hol­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion is grab­bing them by the bushy.

Be­fore you has­ten to as­sume that I’m un­happy about this turn of events, let me quell that con­cern. I am sim­ply not­ing it, and won­der­ing where the usual out­rage is. And in the ab­sence of that out­rage, I sim­ply con­clude that this is how it’s al­ways go­ing to be when ‘is fi dem time’, who­ever the ‘dem’ hap­pens to be.


Re­gard­ing the Spur Tree scavengers, the po­lice bore the brunt of The Gleaner’s crit­i­cism, but un­der­stand­ably, that was a proxy for the in­ef­fec­tive­ness and im­po­tence of the State. The po­lice, an armed force sup­pos­edly gov­erned by rules and trained to im­par­tially ap­ply the law, was un­able to pro­tect the prop­erty on the over­turned land-yacht.

Sim­i­larly, in the gar­ish bling-out of pub­lic money, none of the in­sti­tu­tions set up to mod­er­ate or halt that kind of be­hav­iour will have any ef­fect. They will ar­rive to the scene too late and be able to do too lit­tle. Money will al­ready have been pumped out on to the street with­out over­sight, and af­ter the elec­tion, an aver­sion to hind­sight will ask: What re­ally is the point of go­ing over all that his­tory?

Of course, ‘run-wid-it’ spend­ing has hap­pened many times be­fore. But, in re­cent times, a prac­tice had de­vel­oped of spread­ing it across con­stituen­cies, re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion.

That changes, which might ap­pear like mere mi­nor tweaks to a fun­da­men­tally flawed sys­tem of elec­tion spend­ing, were ac­tu­ally in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant in­no­va­tions that less­ened tribal ran­cour and low­ered the over­all tem­per­a­ture. Un­der­stand that seem­ingly small changes like that have enor­mous im­pacts on the ground.

In at least that change, we had evolved away from the more gauche and blunt trib­al­ism where ‘if yuh wanna get some food, yuh bredda gotta be your en­emy’. But with this re­cent be­hav­iour, we are in dan­ger of de­volv­ing into it. The bush-grab­bing and scav­eng­ing that The Gleaner called “cyn­i­cal pol­i­tics” is threat­en­ing to get things out of hand.

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