Tourist Harrassment: Not in a Vaccuum

Published in the Daily Gleaner July 11 2017

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/commentary/20170711/kelly-mcintosh-tourist-harassment-not-vacuum

Your July 7 edition carried a report with a damning headline: ‘Major cruise lines pull out of Falmouth Port’. The report went on to detail that three ships had decided to omit Falmouth from their itineraries in the upcoming season and that this would cost the town $5 million per month in lost revenues. Tourist harassment was cited as a major factor in their decision to leave us out. The mayor of Falmouth has said that he is working closely with stakeholders to address the issue.
I imagine that the harassment is along the lines of taxi drivers and tour operators and vendors trying to woo visitors off the ships to spend their money with them. Imagine that you are a visitor to this island. This wooing is likely to take the form of a relentless verbal assault, as it were, cajoling you to look and buy in an environment unfamiliar to you. Perhaps you don’t even understand what is being said, but the tone and body language and posturing have now converted what should have been a leisurely stroll into an excursion into hell, where all you want to do is get back to the relative safety of your cabin.
Now put yourself in the place of the average citizen who resides here driving to work in the morning. You stop at the red light, and one or two or even three windscreen wipers swoop down on you. They yank up your wiper blades before you cyaan even mouth a polite “no thanks” and insist on cleaning your windscreen, turning abusive when you indicate helplessly that you have no money to give them. The abuse is verbal (“Yuh too mean, Mummy!” or “Yuh a gwaan like yuh betta dan people!) and is sometimes physical, damage being inflicted directly to your car.
Or let’s say you commute using public transport. You enter the bus park (pick any one), and immediately, the ubiquitous loader man approaches you, verbally assaulting you with a running commentary on how nice you look, and he knows where you are going, and this is the bus you must take, all the while holding your arm and dragging you to his’ bus, literally shoving you into the vehicle.
The emotional and physical strain and the ever-present possibility of personal danger associated with anticipating and dealing with the harassment meted out by windscreen wipers and loader men are not insignificant, and many of us choose our routes specifically to avoid this sort of trauma. I understand the cruise ships’ decision. Too easy.
It is important to understand why this harassment happens in order to eradicate it. There will never be enough police to arrest every single harasser and keep would-be harassers in check. The craft vendors, tour operators and guides, windscreen wipers, and loader men all do what they do out of need. They are grabbing on desperately to the only chance they have identified to provide for themselves and their dependents.

SELECTIVE BENEVOLENCE

Their relentless assault, though, that aggressive push and determination to make you accept and pay for a service/product that you do not need, is directly linked to the culture of patronage that political leaders have fostered. This practice of selective benevolence, meted out to some of the many existing in a state of depravity instead of creating the environment that allows the collective to level up, has perpetuated the fight for scarce benefits and spoils.
Recipients of the largesse are envied by the overlooked, and the resulting resentment feeds a sense of entitlement. “Why not me?” I imagine that the harassers don’t see themselves as harassing, per se. I imagine that this is how they process the situation: “I need. You have. I ought to have. Take what I am offering you and give me some of your money in return.” The harasser’s need trumps any other variable in the dynamic.
Where development plans are crafted and executed, excluding and ignoring the very real need that exists in communities, rest assured that the justification that I have just outlined will prevail. Until patronage is replaced with enabling, until observing and craving are replaced by real participation, tour operators, vendors, windscreen wipers, and loader men will continue to do the only thing they feel they can do to survive.
It is late in the day to halt, and then reverse, these dysfunctional cultural paradigms that have formed and become entrenched through the years of our national development. But to give up now is to accept defeat. We need our leaders to craft and enact developmental plans in harmony with local communities. It can be done.

– Kelly McIntosh is a procurement manager. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and kkmac218@gmail.com.

Dear Jamaica: We have a garbage problem.

I’m heartsick. I’ve been putting off this particular post for two years now, but no more. So here goes.

Dear Jamaica: We have a garbage problem. We are nasty.

We’ve perfected the art of the road trip. We can now turn on a dime and head north, south, east or west. Easy: keep vehicles properly maintained, stop at the grocery the night before or on the way out, procure water, juices, rum and chasers, nuts, cheesy snacks, granola bars, keep the igloo clean at all times, keep one bag clean and packed with cups and ground sheet at all times, and at the word go, load up and head out.

View from Black Hill, Portland

And so we explore our island at any and every chance we get. Portland’s beaches and hills, St. Ann’s beaches, Trelawny’s beaches, rivers and beautiful vistas in its center, Negril’s beach, St. Elizabeth’s rolling landscapes and St. Andrew’s rivers and breathtaking mountainscapes.

Driving from St. Mary into Portland

Beautiful Duncan’s, Trelawny

Abandoned tunnel in Portland

Paradise, aka Negril

Black River, St. Elizabeth

View from New Castle, St. Andrew

I’ve been very selective in my picture taking, choosing to overlook the nastiness that coexists with the beauty that abounds everywhere.

Yesterday we drove through St. Thomas to Long Bay, Portland. Long Bay is one of the best kept secrets in Jamaica. There it sits, part of the main road through east Portie. There are no huge hotels, no fancy famous restuarants, no “attractions.” But there are always tourists there, walking on the road, sleeping in one of the many BnB’s that you can find on the internet, rolling a spliff, sucking on a cold red strip or swirling a plastic cup with ice, White rum and Ting. Heaven. The surf is rough but the water is blue and the sand is white. And it is all mere steps away from the main road. There are no loud sound systems. And tourist harassment… what’s that in Long Bay?

Long Bay, Portland

Yesterday we simply turned in off the road, parked under some coconut trees, unpacked our igloo and grill, turned up (just a smidgen…) our music, and enjoyed a few hours in Paradise. Easy. But when we looked to our left and then to our right, there it was: garbage: styrofoam, plastic, latex, glass…ugh.
I averted my eyes quickly and kept my focus front and centre. As we left and were heading back, the garbage deposited where it ought never to be all along the coast was inescapable. I said to H: “Can you imagine if we kept Long Bay EXACTLY as it is now: humble BnBs, rustic cook shops, roadside bars, but cleaned up the garbage?”

Deep, white sand right off the main road, Long bay, Portland

There is a lot of talk about our tourism product, creating visions of more rooms, more high prices attractions, orchestrated, pre-packaged tours, all things shiny and new. But simply cleaning up the garbage would result in a step change in what is our current vibe and what we offer to locals and visitors alike.

We visited Jackson Bay, south Clarendon about a year ago. This is way off the beaten track, winding south through wetlands. And there was garbage here. How? Styrofoam and plastic as well as scrap metal in the form of old vehicle chassis and discarded appliances. God.

Almost any hillside in upper St. Andrew is a potential dumping site: check out spots in Irish Town and Red Hills for example.

When last was garbage collected? 
When last was garbage collected?

So how do we fix it. Huge sigh. One perspective is that leadership in Jamaica has lost the art of implementation and has become preoccupied with speeches and box-ticking. It further posits that those in positions of influence and power have managed to insulate themselves from certain Jamaican realities and therefore expend nothing on fixing those ills besetting others; think private schools, private education, private security, gated communities, vehicles that shuttle them from A to B, high off the ground in air-conditioned insularity. They vacation in exclusive locations, out of the line of sight of road side dump sites, and in all-inclusive, created experiences, totally separate from the speak-easy that exists beside a pile of garbage uncollected in two weeks. Out of sight, most definitely out of mind.

And so priorities are set based on a particular skewed perspective and outlook by the powerful and wealthy. And those who see and know and feel The Other Side of Things, in their quest for the Great House quickly adopt the priorities of those who are where they want to be, eschewing the urgent and real needs of our present context.

Dear Jamaica: we are on the cusp of an environmental crisis of humongous proportions. The garbage in and around us is piling up. 

I’m unwilling to relinquish my safety, health and peace of mind so easily though. Community Action has to step to the front of the line now. Local leadership: YOUR TIME NOW! I have latched on to grass-roots activism as one of the first steps towards making our present system of governance redundant and shifting the current paradigm towards one that is more proactive and relevant to us. Yes, I know nothing can really substitute for national policies that are framed and resourced and enacted by central government as we seek to move from here to there. But I cannot wait. Jamaica cannot afford to wait.

Imagine this happening at the Community level:

1. Education campaigns about improper garbage disposal. Get a local company to sponsor a poster competition in the community schools. Tell them to include actual pictures of what is wrong in their community.

2. Again get a local company to sponsor the printing of dozens of the winning poster and then commission local groups like the 4H Club, Scouts, church youth group to strategically, and with permission place these posters in central areas.

3. Set a small goal of creating a garbage free zone in a public area enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Make noise about it. Use social media to spread the news of this success story. Replicate this in another area.

4. Get the Councillor and MP on board: THEY have to pressure NSWMA to cart the garbage away regularly and reliably. KEEP UP THE PRESSURE! Use social media to shame and congratulate. Because make no mistake, there are those who make every effort to bag and discard their garbage properly, but their best efforts are thwarted by the non collection of their garbage! There’s no reliable schedule of collection and public skips seem to be a thing of the past.

I think one clean area, one locality doing the right thing, made visible, will result in spread of ideals and practices. Naive? Maybe. But I’m not ready to give up. And current leadership practices have resulted in Jamaica being buried and drowned in nastiness.

Dear Jamaica: We can do this. We must do this. Get Jamaica clean and keep Jamaica clean.

garbage collection and citizens associations

This was published in the Gleaner on Saturday May 24.  I shared it on Facebook, and a friend asked a question which I have not answered yet: “Do you have a citizens association in Coopers Hill?”
She set me thinking… The simple answer is “no”.  The logical response then ought to be: ” So start one, Kelly”.  I’m sure I could.  And yes, I have a raft of (valid) excuses: I have a full-time career, I am at school and I have school aged children who still need close supervision. But truth be told, I really don’t want to start a movement.  (I might be more inclined to join a movement.) But here’s the ugly truth: I don’t want to get too close to my neighbours. I don’t want them to get too close to me. I want to pay my taxes and my bills and I want the system to work: electricity and water on demand, regular garbage collection, a responsive police and fire service and I want my neighbours to keep their grass low. And sure, I know the reality: the system doesn’t work as it should, and perhaps my constant cries would be amplified if shouted through the collective voice of a citizens association. Selfish? Perhaps. OK.Yes: it is selfish.  My FB friend has thrown out a challenge which is bothering me…  We’ll see…

Coopers Hill Tired Of Trash Service

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130525/letters/letters6.html

Published: Saturday | May 25, 20130 Comments

NSWMA boss Jennifer Edwards (left) and Local Government Minister Noel Arscott (in truck) had better get a handle on the shoddy garbage collection in Coopers Hill. - File
NSWMA boss Jennifer Edwards (left) and Local Government Minister Noel Arscott (in truck) had better get a handle on the shoddy garbage collection in Coopers Hill. – File
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Up to the time of writing on May 19, it has been two weeks since garbage was collected in Coopers Hill, St Andrew. This is how it has been over the past couple of months.
I don’t need to elaborate on all the undesirable effects of uncollected solid waste: rodent and insect proliferation come readily to mind.
What is really happening? Even as we pay dramatically increased property taxes, what are we to expect where garbage collection is concerned? The Government’s absolute failure to get this one little thing done underscores our belief that it is merely paying lip service to preservation of the environment.
Inconvenient though it may be, citizens with vehicles can load up their solid waste and take it to a public skip for disposal. What of those unable to do so? Well, what you get are garbage-strewn sidewalks, roaming dogs pillaging the mess, ad hoc stinkness, unsightly dumping sites springing up on the gorgeous hillsides that God blessed us with, gullies clogged with bags of solid waste, and the constant burning of garbage by those suffering at the hands of an administration that refuses to collect garbage in a timely manner.
What are we to do? Jamaica of yesteryear was a place that held ‘girl pickney’ to high standards of hygiene and cleanliness. “You cyaan do dat! You is a gyal pickney!”
Separate standards
I certainly do not impose two separate standards of hygiene in my household, one for my son and one for my daughter. But if only out of respect and deference towards our ancestors, I am imploring Madam Prime Minister, the first female PM of Jamaica, to hold her local government minister, Noel Arscott, and head of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (ironically a woman too!) accountable in this regard.
Let it not be said that you presided over a nasty administration and a filthy country, Madam PM. Please treat garbage collection as a priority. Allocate the necessary resources and insist upon an efficient operation. 
Frustrated Property Tax Payer 

Coopers Hill, St Andrew 

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