Institutional Failure?

So here I am, sitting at Seacole listening to Judith talk to a group of young women about development and dependency and Caribbean Politics and Economics. I am reading ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama and Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. I am hopeful the NIDS ruling just took place and I feel all warm and fuzzy about our democracy. I want to find it and hug it and reason with it because we have treated it with such scant regard. I needed to catch up with my democracy and chit chat.

But here I am also feeling vulnerable, UWI just sent me a letter congratulating me on spending fifteen years at the institution. I have been wondering why I stayed in this relationship with this institution for so long it has been my most abusive relationship to date. UWI is a patriarchal space hyped up on machismo and male privilege, I have seen and experienced discrimination and silencing and undermining and physical intimidation and emotional abuse and isolation. This moment of coming to terms with my own culpability, how I have allowed myself to stay in this space until they sent me a letter of congratulations for being abused for fifteen years. I am heartbroken.

I am trying to find hope however. I know its time to move on. So this morning I am forcing myself to re-examine and identify the things that are at my core. What did I value and still value? What are the life lessons, I can learn from this moment of intense disquiet? I know what I need to do is re-center and re-focus.

I am thinking about how institutions have failed us as a people, as a collective and as individuals. Two years ago I came face to face with the church and its commitment to perpetuating sexual abuse and the protection of pastors and church leaders who use the church as hunting ground and make victims of poor and vulnerable young women. I have met a university and its administration focused on all the wrong things. Preoccupied with their reputation, not caring how they damage people who further damage other people.

Another institution that I question are political parties, especially the ones in Jamaica that only function to win elections, I do understand that this is their primary focus but it is not their only purpose. Who awakens the political consciousness of the next generation? Who explains what citizens are suppose to do? Who teaches us how to strengthen our democracy? This is also what political parties do. I am dissappointed in our political parties and our politicians who fail us everytime.

Institutions are flawed worldwide. But in Jamaica our institutions are failing us, they have done very litle to challenge inequity and injustice most of the time perpetuating a flawed concept of who and what we should value. Institutions, like a university need to give their students frames of analysis that are relevant because it is the ability to unearth the truth and speak truth to power that will see us through as we navigate systems of inequality.

Some time ago I read, something from someone who I dont remember his name now, speaking of the UWI in the 1960s he wrote “The University has grown old without growing up” for nearly 18 years I have mulled over those words, what did he mean in the 1960s? UWI was barely a full degree granting institution then. Just about twenty years old, yet if I were to find a critique I think those words would be apt and perhaps the sentiment the same.

So, I am here, wondering how to find peace in relationship with institutions that fail us time and time again. Please dont tell me to go in and change them, it doesnt work. They suck you in and break your spirit.

How to remain hopeful?

I am writing because I have run out of words.

My mind went blank.

I for a moment could find no thoughts to indulge in.

I need words to hide in.

I need words to keep myself busy.

They do that for me they occupy my time and take my mind to places I know I will never physically go.

Words provide me with solace and comfort and beautiful things.

Without words I am locked into the silence of agony and I cannot imagine an escape.

I am losing myself slowly.

Each day I find it harder and harder to find myself and bring me back from the hell of silence and emptiness that takes me over.


I found myself in a rather unfortunate exchange three days ago with Wayne West. I had promised myself to not engage people like Mr. West. I personally find his politics and his way of dismissing and demonizing people unacceptable and disrespectful.

Yet here I was in an exchange with the gentleman. It was primarily because he had used an article from the Gleaner with a picture of myself and declared on his facebook page that Third Wave feminists were the greatest threat to civilization. West’s proposition comes from his equating pro-choice women with Third Wave Feminism. This is of course not true, there are some women who believe that the decision over whether or not to have an abortion is a woman’s decision. I am pro-choice, I believe that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is a a woman’s decision. I do not believe that I am sufficiently invested in the contents of a woman’s womb to want to engage decisonmaking to influence her choice to carry a child to full term.

Not all women or men who believe this are feminists. Some women have accessed abortions and are today living satisfied lives. They enjoy the fact that they got the chance to correct what would have been a grave mistake, they had to make a tough decision and having done so they are grateful and happy. Some of these women go on to have other children some dont, either way they took a decision and are living with the ‘consequences’ of their choices.

Wracked With Guilt

The idea that women who have had abortions are sitting at home wracked with guilt is an interesting one. If women are filled with guilt, is it because they are genuinely sorry they made the decision to have an abortion? Or is it because their decision has been so scrutinized in guilt and shame that the lense through which they view an abortion has been heavily tainted by societal drama and judgement? Too often those who speak against women being able to access safe abortions make the point that women suffer mental and emotional anguish from their decision and for that reason they should avoid the regret and self-blame and keep the pregnancy because when they take the first look into their child’s eye all becomes right with the world. This is of course true in some cases, but of course this is not always the truth.

A Man’s Voice in Abortion

I believe that a decision to carry a pregnancy to term or to terminate a pregnancy is one that a woman in the situation at the time must make. She has to decide which people weigh in on that decision, whether that includes the father of her child is again dependent on the woman and her life circumstances. Those who argue for a man’s voice in that decision are very much right but this of course depends on what are the circumstances of that pregnancy. I have met women who have had their pregnancy terminanted to fulfill the wishes of their male partner who then used that information to shame and silence the woman. I had a particular troubling experience once where a friend of my family got pregnant and was excited about her pregnancy, she told her father who seemed excited at first and offered to take her to see his doctor. She had already visited a doctor and had confirmed her pregnancy. When she left his doctor the day she was told she was not pregnant, the doctor asked her to lay down on his examination table and I think he gave her something to drink. She doesnt know what happened after, she woke up groggy and out of sorts, her panty had been put back on her body and she was taken home apparently no longer pregnant. The boyfriend broke off the relationship soon after and she cannot remember what took place in that doctors office. She was devastated and had no answers. I remember another young woman at UWI while I was studying who got pregnant and her boyfriend made it clear that she had no choice but to have an abortion. In his words “some girls you sleep with some you marry” she was the ‘sleep with’ type she couldnt carry his child. She had the abortion and their relationship ended soon after. So many of us can recite stories of women who ended a pregnancy at the behest of their male partner. I wonder then at the hypocrisy of those who speak as if men are victims of women who arbitrarily have abortions without consulting them. At a Gleaner Editor’s forum that I participated in recently one of the participants spoke about men being in pain from women’s decison to abort. I almost had a heart attack. I want to meet the man, because it perhaps is a lone man.


The decision to have an abortion is a personal one that a woman has to make with the people who she will need to lean on for support whether or not she carries that pregnancy to term. This might or might not include her male partner.

Third Wave Feminists advocate a range of principles, ideas and beliefs chief among them is the idea that all women, regardless of their race, socio-economic status, colour, sexuality or religious belief should be respected and their views taken into consideration when laws or policies are made that will affect them. Some women believe that they should be able to have an abortion some women believe it is wrong and that it goes against their philosophies of life and being. I respect their right to choose for themselves, I think women should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves.

How We Perpetuate Violence Against Women and Girls

Discrimination against women exists in many forms, from cat calling to femicides but there are many stops in between. Just three days ago I was listening to a radio programme which had the host essentially expressing concern that the current situation where women were coming forward to make allegations against men for sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence was having a chilling effect on men’s ability to engage in courtship activities. Throughout the show the host, and later her guests lamented what they see as women’s excessiveness in reporting sexual harassment; their concern was that by speaking up and out in this way women were essentially a threat to the natural order of things. The narrative on the show suggested that pretty soon men and women would have to stop procreating and reproducing, in essence, when women came forward to speak about their abuse they were acting in a manner that would threaten the human race.

The argument that men are entitled to harass, intimidate and impose their will on women is a clear representation of male privilege, represented in this case by a prevailing idea which maintains that men are entitled to women’s bodies. The point is further bolstered by a belief that this is how men are and they must not be prevented from doing what comes naturally to them. During the conversation on the radio one man commented that the problem men are having is with ‘feminists’ who have managed to make everything between men and women a problem. He made the point that when women are accessing public spaces they would have no problem with male attention if feminists had not caused trouble. To him the issue is not with male behaviour, the issue is those women who call themselves feminists, who have an ulterior motive and must not be trusted.

Male entitlement and male privilege persist in a culture which still sees women as existing to please, pacify and satisfy men. This is typical of a rape culture where we believe and perpetuate the idea that a woman’s consent is not important in sexual engagement. If we continue to perpetuate the idea that women do not know what they want then we are normalizing the idea and practice that rape, sexual harassment, cat calling and all the ways that sexual violence exist are natural behaviours of men that women must tolerate.

Sexual violence is not a joke, it persists in a culture of gender inequality and a belief that men must find ways to do what comes naturally to them. The violence that comes with male privilege is bolstered by the idea that women are asking for too much. In a patriarchal society, male privilege and entitlement are but the norm and men and some women agree that this is a desirable status quo to perpetuate and maintain. Deciding to challenge patriarchy must mean challenging the behaviour of men and those women who normalize violence and discrimination and demonize women for asking for better and equal treatment.

Violence against women and girls is not limited to violent attacks such as rape or other forms of sexual and physical violence. It begins with the idea that women are inferior to men; we all need to understand that without the thought the behaviour wouldn’t exist. In the work place it exists as discrimination and the persistence of the gender wage gap. It exists in churches and schools where harmful gender stereotypes are maintained and passed on to boys and girls of course it exists in the family and on the street. As long as we are teaching boys and girls that it’s okay to maintain male privilege and entitlement we are perpetrators of violence against women and girls.

Radio call in shows are important manifestations of our democracy. They give us insight into popularly held beliefs and ideas about important phenomenon such as violence against women. In this case I was in awe at the perspectives expressed and the misogyny which emanated from the opinions expressed by the women and the men who called in or texted in during the programme. We have come far but we have so much more work to do as we seek to challenge prejudice and discrimination against women.

Making ZOSO Work

Many of us want the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) to work.  We want any plan that suggest that it could control the ‘crime monster’ to work. But I am afraid we might not be seeing one that can work in ZOSO, it needs too many things, beyond legislative changes, beyond a well resourced police force, beyond the political will to do the right thing about our crime problem; it needs an understanding of the issues that sit at the root of the problem.   Firstly, I think our solution needs to acknowledge the problem with post-slavery, post colonial societies and violence.  We tend to romanticize a time in our past when our societies were peaceful and we respected each other’s human and democratic right.  This is not so, this could not be further from the truth.   We need to quickly get past the misplaced nostalgia and acknowledge that as a people and as a nation, our recent history is not one that is located in peace, respect, tolerance or peaceful conflict resolution.   Our communities and our people might therefore be doing what they know, what has become imbedded in their  post-slavery DNA.

The Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) need to adopt historically located, research driven, proactive poverty alleviation strategies in each community it occupies.  One of the problems I have with how we respond to social realities in Jamaica is evidenced by how we treat with providing housing for Jamaicans.  I do not see a philosophy of community and families in how housing is provided for  Jamaicans or the kinds of houses provided.  I have engaged with the National Housing Trust on several occasions, I find that their philosophy of providing housing solutions as oppose to building communities is shortsighted and unfortunate.  NHT housing schemes have no social infrastructure, the houses are clearly not what Jamaicans envisage or imagine for themselves, as soon as a housing scheme is handed over the citizens start to build and modify the homes to suit their needs and taste. The inconvenience of gravel, marl, cement and steel all over the community is not just unsightly and aesthetically difficult; it is also a clear indication that these are not the kinds of houses Jamaicans envisage for themselves, hence the modifications and expansions.   Beyond the unsatisfactory nature of the houses is also the absence of the other trappings of community – spaces for engagement, for children to play, for leisure activities for adults and a space where the community leadership can manage itself and the community.

The truth is most of our state agencies tasked with responding to the challenges of community development, poverty alleviation and citizenship engagement find the average citizen a burden.  Our social intervention programs do not work because as a nation we believe that those who have not made it out of poverty and desperation need to struggle with their ‘lot’ because they could have pulled themselves up by their ‘bootstrap’ if they wanted to.   So the ZOSO social intervention program should have already been the norm through the work of the Social Development Commission (SDC), Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and the Program of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) these are government departments and agencies that have already been tasked with addressing these historical, cultural and systemic problems.  The fact that we need a ZOSO is evidence that these solutions have not worked in the past in the ways they have been implemented.

About six weeks ago the need for greater emphasis on parenting support for Jamaican parents found itself on the national agenda yet again, when a video of a mother beating her teenage daughter with a machete went viral.  The video led to conversations far and wide over our parenting philosophy as a nation, some of our parenting practices and whether we are engaged in downright abuse of our children under the guise of punishment.  Just last week UNICEF  released two reports speaking to violence against children and adolescents in Jamaica;their  global report, titled  A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents   two other reports looking at violence against children were published on that day one from the UWI:  Global Report 2017: Ending Violence in Childhood  and an update on crime data and children which was presented by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). we got confirmation backed by statistical data, supported by experts and researchers who made it plain that our brand of punishment in parenting was nothing short of cruel and inhumane treatment.   Yet those tasked with the responsibility of engaging our citizens in their role as parents are not in communities, health centers and schools talking with parents about the skills and strategies that they need to employ to make them into more productive parents.

There is the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD), different kinds of youth clubs; even police youth clubs to help build relationship between the police and our youth.  We have Boys Scout, Cadets, Girls Guide among others – longstanding organizations that are tasked with engaging children and young people beyond the 8:30am to 3pm school day.  The truth is we have not been short of solutions as we have tried to understand and respond to the problem of lawlessness and crime in Jamaica.  What we have run short of are persons and agencies that have the ability to implement successful programs and leadership which holds everyone accountable.

What if we had real communities? where people could support each other and there were regular meetings of the community to discuss problems as they developed?  What  if we had community engagement spaces where young people could find training and engagement opportunities that were available and ready to ensure that there were no idle hands for the devil to hold on to?  What if communities didn’t graduate their more affluent, educated and influential members to communities Uptown, where the aesthetics are pleasant and the environment is clean where residents feel proud of their neighbor and their home.

In rural communities the school was the epicenter of the community, the principal was one of the natural leaders.   That principal would also more than likely be a Justice of the Peace (JP) there would also be a strong church leader or church leaders and they would serve on the school board.  The principal’s cottage on the school compound was a central edifice representing leadership and the presence of authority.  I have been noticing how the cottages have fallen into disrepair in some of these rural communities and how they have been left to rot.  a different kind of leadership will emerge in these rural spaces, one that will perhaps not be welcomed.  I wonder what we will say then, when the effects of our  lack of attention bears fruit.

I remember when Montego Bay was called the friendly city, when we could walk on Bottom Road and sit on the Beach Wall at Dead End and eat jerk chicken from Pork Pit.  After awhile no one seemed to notice  the numbers of young people who were no longer being engaged by the sea, no one seemed to notice how the communities in Montego Bay lacked structure and leadership, no one seemed to remember that Montego Bay was a city beside the sea, easily accessed by external forces.  We were focused on Kingston and its inner-city communities in all the wrong ways.   Now Montego Bay is finally on our lips beyond the idyllic town by the  sea where white people from America come to enjoy sun, sea, sand and sex.    The visibility the second city has now gained makes it impossible for us to ignore the citizens themselves.    Yet the signs were always there, visiting Montego Bay should be a must on the agenda of  concerned citizens of how not to build communities.  On the one had there is the informal ‘squatter’ settlements like Flanker or Tucker,  and on the other are the badly built housing schemes at Catherine Hall or Cornwall Courts.  I will never forget the incident in 1994 when developer Joe Witter attempted to ‘claim’ land that he had acquired in Flanker.  What followed was a national incident and the matter of landlessness as a critical factor in Montego Bay life was put on the agenda, but no plan was developed to address the issue.

ZOSO will only work if it has a philosophy of community that is located in who we are as a people and the experiences that have brought us here.  It will only succeed if it seriously and rigorously apply the solutions that we have thought about, have developed over the years, but we have implemented badly.  It cannot engage in social development and social protection programmes  with the same level of disgust for the people it needs to engage most, that now pervades the public service.  ZOSO and those who implement its social protection arm need to recognize that we are here because we have not been serious or sincere about our belief that we can solve this problem.  I think we need to start with our community building practices. We need to build communities, not housing solutions, we need to tackle the problem of homelessness and landlessness in this country.  Both issues speak to a lack of awareness of how  land and a home can help people to feel a sense of belonging and can help them to restore dignity.  perhaps what is most powerfully suggested then is the need to address issues of poverty and marginalization.  Poverty has devastating and deleterious  effects on people, their psychological well-being we need to acknowledge this.  When ZOSO goes into a community, we will know it will succeed when it really tackles the problems.



A PNP loss or a JLP win?

On October 30, 2017 the Jamaica Labour Party won what Cliff Hughes, one of Jamaica’s leading journalists, called the most “consequential by-election in Jamaica’s history.”  The by-election was a critical one, the PNP’s President and Leader of the Opposition Dr. Peter Phillips described it as a referendum on the performance of the JLP government. For the JLP Leader and Prime Minister Andrew Holness, this was an opportunity to increase a razor-thin majority and put the government in a more comfortable position.   For political pundits, it was the first electoral outing for Dr. Peter Phillips in his new role as Leader of the Opposition and President of the PNP.  For those who believe Dr. Phillips’ moment in politics has passed it would certainly indicate whether comrades saw his leadership as viable. For these reasons and perhaps more, the by-election in St. Mary South Eastern  was a litmus test for the current state of party politics in Jamaica. It was an assessment of the leadership of both parties and a potential assessment of the work of the JLP as government.

Jamaica is blessed with academics, opinion makers, and experienced commentators (on all things politics) who share their opinions on a regular basis on all forms of media platforms – new and traditional media.  Much of the conversation since the publication of the preliminary results of the by-election have centred on what the PNP has done wrong, why the PNP lost and will continue to lose and what is wrong with the PNP’s machinery and leadership.  There has been very little assessment of why the JLP won, what the JLP got right, the JLP’s particular brand of electioneering and their strategy in  St. Mary South Eastern.

It would seem that many are smoking the “Jamaica a PNP Country” weed.  There is generally an unspoken agreement among so many in traditional and social media that the PNP is the legitimate ideological leadership force; when they have won they have done so through the classical ‘beauty of politics’, good organization, skillful communication, graceful charisma, and of course located in the ideological wisdom of the 4Hs. It would also seem that the JLP, on the other hand, has won through brute force, bully politics, unsophisticated ideas and a power hungry focus that is almost uncivilized. This is the narrative that permeates the Jamaican political landscape.  To say both parties are the same then is to imply that in some way the PNP has descended into ‘gutter politics’.  Generally, the PNP’s complaint after an election loss points to theft, thuggery, intimidation, violence and vote buying.

It is the same cynicism that meets an assessment of the leadership of Andrew Holness; there is a hesitance to engage him as a complex leader, who has evolved and grown through time and who demonstrates a keen understanding of the political moment and the current political culture.  To many, he is baby Seaga and at any minute the  rank and file of the JLP will challenge his leadership and be once again caught up in political battles and uncertainty. The argument goes further to suggest that Andrew should not be trusted as he leads people of questionable character, the PNP on the other hand has within its ranks some of the finest politicians in the country, all believable, bright and trustworthy.

There are two narratives emerging then out of this election, the first explains that the PNP is no longer listening to the people and as a result are losing their ability to connect and influence, they are out of touch and are only listening to each other.  The second is that the JLP spent ‘a bag a money’ in  St. Mary South Eastern and that they imported thugs and bad men to intimidate the people of the constituency.  In any case what it adds up to is that Jamaicans either have to be intimidated into voting for the JLP or they are ‘vexed’ with or have ‘fallen out of love’ with the PNP, hence the PNP loss.

I believe that by leaving this false, uncritical narrative unchallenged we are missing a grand opportunity to really speak to the truth of our politics.  If we continue to represent the Jamaican state as possessing just one legitimate political party, then we miss the mechanics of the JLP, we miss the intricacies and specifics of political change and the maturing of our political leadership and culture.


Calling it for Andrew

The by-election in St. Mary South Eastern is for all intents and purposes an assessment of the leadership of Andrew Holness and Peter Phillips. An examination as it were of Andrew’s perceived authenticity and rootedness and Peter’s relevance and survivability.   The sub-conversations that are being had are focused on the leaders of the two parties and their ability to lead their respective parties.  How the leaders are handling the challenges of this by-election is  seen as a litmus test for how they will manage at the helm of the party.  After Monday’s election we will most certainly know which party leader will more than likely face dissent and a challenge to their leadership.  Both parties have handled this particular litmus test in very different ways.  One caught on the back foot too often, the other managing to set and control the political narrative with much skill and competence.

I would never have imagined that the ‘Born Yah’ narrative would have resurfaced in Jamaican politics.  I never experienced it, but I heard about it as the narrative which was an important phenomenon in the relationship between Michael Manley and Edward Seaga.  Only, in its early use, it was the albatross around the JLP’s neck.  For the St. Mary South Eastern by-election it had the same effect on the young Dr. Alexis.

The ‘Born Yah’ phenomenon was one of the important moments of this election. Perhaps the PNP did not anticipate the impact of Dr. Shane Alexis’ nationality. The fact that they didn’t, was to their undoing. When they started to peddle their sweet shiny new Shane – young bright doctor – it looked as if they had the formula for victory. Dunn did not look as sweet or new or shiny, but within a month, Dr. Dunn became the writing on the wall , the ‘Dunn deal’ or as others have suggested, the ‘argument Dunn’, because he so easily fits. He is a part of the community,  he is a son of the soil.  A perfect foil for Dr. Dunn, the candidates were sold as polar opposites in respect of their connection to the community.

The JLP narrative was simple – one fit, the other didn’t, one knew the community, the other didn’t, one could relate and had connections to the community, the other didn’t.  For a number of the people in St. Mary South Eastern, Dunn the hometown boy had proven himself; he ran in the 2015 election and he lost, but he stayed and worked.  He grew up in the community, went away to school and came back home; he didn’t move to Kingston, he stayed.  The people knew him and had come to see him as a man who would stay and work in the constituency win lose or draw.

Shane’s initial response to the citizenship issue was not smart.   He had commented that he had wanted to apply for Jamaican citizenship but he was too busy and the lines were too long.  Firstly, he trivialized the issue, and once again the PNP misread the political moment.  This was an issue that Jamaicans were paying attention to.  It could not be trivialized or downplayed.  Dr. Alexis and the PNP walked right into the set up.   The arguments for this particular intervention were already developed and were already being peddled.  Secondly, he clearly does not understand the rural/urban dichotomy which defines Jamaican life and how rural people respond to people from Kingston and their sense of importance.    In either case, he gave life to the idea that he was not ‘born yah.’

What I now know is that the JLP is mastering the art of  controlling and defining  the political narrative.  They won the social media battle, they won the mainstream media battle, and for all intents and purposes they might have won the on-the-ground battle. The PNP has not managed to keep itself in the news in any sustained way for the entire election season.  When they did manage to make  the news in a positive way, their ability to sustain positive attention was almost non-existent.

Of note though, is the fact that Dr. Alexis made it to mainstream national media after issues of his nationality was brought to the fore.  Even though their tends to be agreement that no-publicity is bad publicity, Dr. Alexis’ presence in the media was not positive and in many ways led to a questioning of his legitimacy. For a while his candidacy controlled the media, but it was with a narrative that served the JP more than it did the PNP. On the other occasions where the PNP had some presence in the media, they seemed to complain excessively about everything.

I fear that in many ways the PNP does not believe that the typical Jamaican voter understands the political game, and go to the polls as a lamb to the slaughter.  But Jamaicans are much more politically savvy than we give them credit for.  I suspect, that at the close of polls tomorrow, we will see that the JLP ran a solid campaign.  Andrew Holness would have further solidified his lead of the JLP and Dr. Peter Phillips would now be forced to re -strategize.

New Zealand’s ‘Jacindarama’

While the USA has been engaged in “navel gazing” of the most intense kind, caught up in buyer’s remorse over President Trump, the British have been caught between a “rock and a hard place” over their Brexit referendum at the same time Jamaicans are contemplating citizenship and elections, New Zealand elected its youngest prime minister, a woman, 37 years old Jacinda Ardern. The matter of youthfulness and political leadership is a constant on the agenda of political leadership since a relatively young Barack Obama at 47 years was elected to lead the United States. Since then Canada’s Justin Trudeau at 45 became Canada’s youngest prime minister in 2015. In many ways political leadership had become the purview of old men, and in Europe and neo-Europe, the purview or old white men. Jacinda Ardern, at 37 years old is in many ways a revolution. Young women do not traditionally inspire the confidence of the patriarchy, her election is therefore interesting and certainly an exciting new development for women’s leadership and for political leadership generally. In fact she succeeded Andrew Little, who resigned at 52 years old; under his leadership the party’s popularity dropped 23%. Little represents the traditional, the ideal of who a leader should be. Interesting that he had to resign to give the party a chance at leading the government.

Jacinda Ardern is among a group of only thirteen women heads of state. Less than 7% of world leaders are women and certainly she stands as the youngest among them. She is a rare occurrence, not just in New Zealand, she is also global rarity – a woman leading a sovereign state at 37 years. I am not sure if we can predict any global trend or change with her leadership but certainly, this is an important moment in women’s political leadership.

Ardern describes herself openly as a feminist who is putting issues of equal pay and supporting women in whatever role they choose, on her political agenda. She is passionate about issues of the environment, attends Pride rallies and has spoken openly about her own problems with anxiety connecting with a mental health crisis that New Zealanders are grappling with, her open show of emotions connected with an issue that most men leaders would perhaps ignore, she is inspiring many and humanizing her leadership in profound ways. Her political agenda is leftist, humanist and exciting. She is committed to a fairer New Zealand and has indicated that she will have a referendum on personal use of Cannabis by 2020, and to exploring the historic abuse of children in state care and to ensuring that rental homes are warm and dry. I like the the issues she has put on her agenda, sounds like the classic tagline for putting people at the centre of politics.

The New Zealand electoral system is a mixed member proportional representation (MMP) system. They had previously been a first past the post, two party entrenched system but this was changed in the early 1990s. There are about one hundred and twenty (120) seats for contestation in each election. In an MMP representation system smaller parties have the potential to become ‘king makers’ if the larger parties do not win an overwhelming majority of the votes. In the case of New Zealand even though the incumbent National Party won more votes than the Labour Party, neither won a clear majority; by themselves they could not therefore have formed the government. Two smaller parties won enough of the votes to ensure that the two major parties would need their support to form the new government. To form the coalition government The New Zealand Labour Party joined forces with the New Zealand First Party and the Green Party to form the government. With all their seats combined – Labour party with 36.9% of the votes and 46 seats, New Zealand’s First Party with 7.2% of the votes and nine (9) seats and the Green Party with 6.3% of the votes and eight (8) seats joined forces to form the coalition government, which now has a sixty-three (63) seat majority and 50.4% of the votes. Though her party did not win a majority of the seats so that she would have had her own mandate, her leadership of the Labour Party was what pulled them back from the brink of political obscurity after languishing under the leadership of Andrew Little. She has been described as convincing and charismatic and the ‘Jacinda effect’ became the highlight of the election.

If we look closely enough and if we think hard enough about it, this wave of election of younger politicians to leadership: Macron at 39, Trudeau at 45, Holness, 43 and now Jacinda Ardern at 37; could be interpreted as a rejection of the staid, boring and status quo preserving politics of old men. Can I conclude that voters are tired of political leadership that is more focused on the preservation of traditions, institutions and systems and less on people and the politics of well being and progress? Patriarchy is typically hostile to younger men and women in general, would it make sense for me to ask if this could be a ‘middle finger’ in the face of patriarchal leadership and perhaps a decisive indication that voters are tired of ‘muscular’ politics which is tough on talk and soft on action. Are voters asking for a more responsive looking and sounding government? The jury is out, but there are a number of factors which can be assessed in an attempt to arrive at a true assessment of what is at hand. what I know for sure is that no one saw ‘Jacindarama’ coming. She took the world by surprise, perhaps when we stop being amazed at the lows to which American politics can go we will look to places like New Zealand and find a woman leader who in her own indomitable style has put a serious crack in the women and political leadership glass ceiling.

Crime, Zoso and Jamaican Politics

It is a fact that crime is Jamaica’s biggest development challenge. My adult experience as a Jamaican is built around a consciousness of a worsening crime situation and an acceptance that in my lifetime I will not see any significant change in the reality of crime and in particular Jamaica’s murder rate. I have accepted it, we cannot break the back of the crime monster in Jamaica.

Like most Jamaicans, I know that the solution to the crime problem is not solely located in improved policing, or an effective judicial system. It is in fact a combination of several critical influencers, chief among them a response to poverty, and all its attendant evils. Like most Jamaicans I have also come to recognize that the work needed to ‘break the back’ of the crime problem is not one that government and oppositon is willing to do. Jamaica’s history, tells an intriquing tale of political parties and politicians being critical players in the perpetuation of the intractable crime problem. They are players because they benefit, it keeps them in power. How can a political leader justify the existence of garrisons in the ways they have emerged in Jamaican politics? Better yet how can they lead such a constituency and not know they have lost credibility?

So my take on the recent Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO). I like most Jamaicans hoped and prayed it would work, it would result in less murders and violent crime. I was particularly excited by the social intervention plan and wanted to be excited at the prospects of a social intervention plan that would strike at the heart of poverty, marginalization, hopelessness and would re-inspire those of us who have learnt that it is perhaps best to stop hoping.

ZOSO is strong on the policing part, even if it is not the kind of policing that would help to solve the problem. But it is weak on social intervention, I am still waiting to be impressed, it cannot be a fair or an expo where the government agencies go into a ZOSO and hand out pamphlets and make powerpoint presentations.

I am waiting on the social interventon plan this is what will make the difference, but it will only make a difference if it speaks to transforming people’s lifes.

Bolt’s Last Race

He didnt cross the line in front and way ahwad of everybody else this time.

In this race he looked more human, more like the rest of the pack. He struggled throughout and you could see the agony on his face and feel the pain in his spirit as he crossed the finish line. This is not how he finishes his races, when he runs he has joy in him, you didnt see joy in this race you saw struggle and pain.

I have been watching birds in the wind. How they fly with the wind, they never struggle, they allow the wind to carry them along, with no resistance you see them allowing themselves to be swept along, falling easily into being carried by the wind. At points when the wind fades a little, they stretch their wings and fly for a little, but just a little because as soon as the wind picks up again they release their struggle and are again carried along. Clearly, their purpose is aligned with the wind.

As I saw Bolt in his last race I thought of the birds that I have been observing and I said to myself, he had to retire at this point because he was no longer being carried by the wind. His body was not allowing him to glide through the run the way we are use to seeing him get up out of the blocks and run. Bolt’s power on the track is the joy in his run. The way he uncomfortably gets up out of the block and gets his body to the point where it can run. He use to be able to run anybody down and past them because he was being carried by the wind. In this race he struggled, he couldnt run down his competitors the way he use to.

So he finished third and we didnt know what to do. Somehow third doesnt suit him. It really doesnt, he should be in first place. Somehow Bolt’s first meant more to us than we had imagined because when he defied gravity, when he defied the mechanics of his body, when he defied the limits of humanity and ran at inhumane speeds we were convinced of our own super power. He reminded us that we were not ordinary, but more than anything else he reminded everyone that we were not ordinary. Bolt was our message to the world, our announcement of arrival, so when we walked into a room, his prowess and progress explained who you would get, what and who the Jamaican was about.

Our hero stumbled tonight, he met his kryptonite, his body. We cant always stay on top, we stumble and fall sometimes, in the final analysis we can dance with the wind for only so long. We must know when to bow out gracefully. When to leave the stage and exit. Bolt saw it coming. He is leaving at the right time.

I was humbled by his spirit in this last race. There was no defeat in him, just an awareness that he hadnt won, but he was still celebrating, still aware of his hold on the crowd. Still aware that when he ran he ran with our love and our pride. I love Usain Bolt. I am sure that yet again he will allow the wind to carry him on his next assignment and there again he will defy laws of human possibility and through him we will learn more things about us.