“Jamaica’s first woman prime minister the overwhelming choice of the hungry masses”

“THIS interview must, of earnest duty, begin with a solemn warning. Those who don’t wish, or can’t afford to be completely mesmerised, would do well to avoid being in the prolonged presence of Portia Simpson Miller. Like all those tapped by fate for greatness in this life, she is possessed of endless charisma, an enchanting personality and a bewitching aura that have been enriched by 40 years of tramping back and forth across Jamaica’s gruelling political campaign trail.”

I alert you again today to another example of Jamaica’s journalism. This is the lead from a story that graced the front page of the Jamaica Observer yesterday. I was on my way to work and caught a quick glimpse of the cover and was struck by disbelief. But the day got busy and I did not have a chance to read it until today. And my disbelief is now just confusion.

The Observer is apparently beginning a series on PM PSM on the 40th anniversary of her entry into public service. Fair enough, Mrs. Simpson Miller has indeed had some remarkable achievements in an environment that is not welcoming to female politicians. But there is no way that this article is balanced or fair or critical. Check out their editorial here.

Another factor at play is the fact that the Observer is typically supportive of PM PSM’s party, the People’s National Party. While the Gleaner tends towards the opposition, which is the Jamaica Labour Party. This is nothing new- across the world, most national newspapers have a political leaning, but this Observer story goes too far.

I can’t even imagine this type of writing in an autobiography. Take another read: “The Portia Simpson Miller story is compelling and awe-inspiring. It is not for the fast-food reader. It is for the hungry soul grasping at every last detail of the heroism gifted to the Jamaican woman, and with which this daughter of destiny is so richly endowed. But they know it can’t all be told in the finite pages of a 21-year-old newspaper, happy though it is to be just the chosen vessel. Once again, the interviewer is sorely challenged to rise to magnum opus status, but feels… infuriatingly… deficient.”

That is just embarrassing.

For some independent context, I will leave you now with the Pew Center’s Principles of Journalism:

4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover

Independence is an underlying requirement of journalism, a cornerstone of its reliability. Independence of spirit and mind, rather than neutrality, is the principle journalists must keep in focus. While editorialists and commentators are not neutral, the source of their credibility is still their accuracy, intellectual fairness and ability to inform–not their devotion to a certain group or outcome. In our independence, however, we must avoid any tendency to stray into arrogance, elitism, isolation or nihilism.

5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power

Journalism has an unusual capacity to serve as watchdog over those whose power and position most affect citizens. The Founders recognized this to be a rampart against despotism when they ensured an independent press; courts have affirmed it; citizens rely on it. As journalists, we have an obligation to protect this watchdog freedom by not demeaning it in frivolous use or exploiting it for commercial gain.

“Tessanne mania is a national embarrassment”

“Mr Channer and Ms Chin, and indeed Mr de Mol, he of the US$2.2 billion net worth, did not become extraordinary by watching television. They did not resign themselves to vicariously reliving the achievements of others, or projecting fawning solidarity on to strangers. They dreamed big, and worked hard, and deep down inside absolutely refused to be ordinary, to be like the rest of us. If we are ever to become great, individually and as a nation, we must stop ‘supporting’ them, and start lifting ourselves.”

This is a quote from a column running in the Gleaner today. It is by a new columnist called Keiran King. If you take a read, you will see he is a delightful writer, prone to hyperbole perhaps, but that’s not so remarkable in terms of what a columnist does, which is employ rhetoric in order to enchant and elicit a strong reaction from the audience.

What struck me, however, is the fact that this could have been written by a Canadian, say, about Carly Rae Jepsen or Justin Beiber or Shania Twain or Avril Lavigne or any citizen who has achieved substantial international fame and recognition. To be more specific, recognition and approval from the pop culture hegemony that is the United States.

It is called the ‘tall poppy syndrome,’ or ‘crabs in the bucket syndrome.’ Books have been written about it in Canada, and elsewhere I’m sure, but it basically amounts to citizens of a country tearing down our fellows when they achieve a large amount of success and recognition. Think about it. Do you ever hear a Canadian say how much they love Celine Dion or any of the others I’ve mentioned above? If anything, there is a grudging acceptance of their talent, but none of that enthusiasm that the rest of the world may show.

Keiran King’s column seems almost mean-spirited, although it is more of an indictment of U.S. popular culture and the American Dream than of Tessanne Chin and her well-deserved success. In any case, it is worth a read and sheds a lot of light on Jamaican culture. As does a saying “We little but we Tallawah,” which basically means that Jamaica is a small nation, both in terms of size and population, but when it comes to spirit and determination, Jamaica is a force to be reckoned with. You cannot argue with that.

Reggae Month in JA

February is officially designated as Reggae Month in Jamaica. This is because Bob Marley’s birthday is Feb. 6. Dozens of events take place in February in celebration of the music that defines this nation’s culture.

There is a lot more going on in Jamaica, musically, than reggae, however. Check out this video about the hip-hop scene here in Kingston.

There is also a burgeoning community of rock musicians. Check out just one artist here. Enjoy your day!

Discipline and Development in Jamaica

Fellow blogger Emma highlighted this article today on social media and I must reblog it as it says a lot of things that I think need to be said. Enjoy your Monday!

Petchary's Blog

This article from Caribbean Journal makes so many important points about Jamaican society it is hard to know where to start. I thought I would share it with you, from the Executive Director of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Dennis Chung. It is just common sense!

You can read the article at http://www.caribjournal.com/2014/02/02/discipline-and-development-in-jamaica/

LAST Wednesday I was driving to work when I saw a man throw an orange peel and another item on the road. The confidence with which he seemed to do it implied that he thought that everything was right with what he was doing. He had no consideration for the fact that it would make the streets look unclean, could possibly be a health hazard, and that this sort of action is what contributes to increased costs to clean the streets and gullies.

If enough of this type of behaviour is multiplied then you can see the…

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