Observations on the Impending Jamaica General Election
from a Jamaican contributor
Jamaica really does politics differently. Following what’s happening, every politician seems to have a dub. Is it a sound clash or a serious election? So many things on the island needs fixing and they’re playing this like a dance. Is it just fun and laughter to cheer up the people or a major distraction that in the long run will lead to a major destruction?
Considering the plethora of musical talent that the island has, you will find that music, whether reggae, dancehall or any other of its offshoots, infiltrates every aspect of Jamaican life. Controversially, the music has taken another turn, as it enters the political arena, with various artists voicing dubs for politicians on opposing political parties.
This election can now be rightly branded the ‘Sound-Clash election’. Will the winner of this election really be decided by the party who has the best selection of ‘dubs’ and is able to amass popular appeal, rather than the party with the best selection of policies? What an unthinkable question… but one that has to be raised, especially as the contest seems as if it is being led by personality appeal, branding and imagery rather than a sensible approach to politics with appropriate scrutiny of the party that has a sound track-record in running the country. Ironically, both political parties, the Peoples National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) claim to have that sound-track record that will help Jamaica to prosper. Surely, they can’t both be right and their arguments are not going to be settled by a catchy dubplate by a popular artist.
Thankfully, not every dancehall or reggae artist has succumbed to the delightful lure of doing dubs for politicians. Some of them have actually retained their independent stance and rather than joining the political bandwagon, they have decided to stand firm and speak out against this practice. These artists include: Vybz Kartel, Bounty Killer, Mr.Vegas, Protoje among others. This is an important stance for them to take, when you consider how diametrically opposed both fields are. Politics is known for sewing wide-spread divisions and animosity amongst the people, whereas the sweet, sweet Jamaican music has always served as a way to unite and uplift the people. With so many popular musical artists now openly backing the politicians, where can Jamaicans really turn for that politically-free, unifying space and is all this serving as a distraction from the serious issues at stake in an election?
Shensea supporting Lisa Hannah, when she sang that Lisa Hannah is: ‘Number one Trending Gal’ – See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcxHJDMgYUc
Stylo G, did a dub supporting Peter Bunting, where he sang that: Bunting is out and stunting!’- See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCUCQTPYjpM
Spice went all out for the Prime Minister, who goes by the street nickname: ‘Bro Gad.’ See:
Some Jamaicans like the excitement and fervour produced by all this. They claim that it makes the election contest hot, trendy, topical and vibrant. This approach will no doubt have a special appeal to the youths, but are these youths simply being manipulated by the hype rather than the political reality that Jamaica faces?
Will we end up in a situation where those voting for the party know the songs and dubs more than the policies that the party is setting out to build the island?
Which one of the current parties will really deliver on their pledge to: ‘Build back Jamaica’?
The fact is that poverty has increased under both administrations. Youth unemployment is at its highest level. The island is still plagued by crime and violence, with one of the highest per-capita murder rate in the region and the world! While there has been less reliance on the dreaded International Monetary Fund (IMF), there has been greater reliance on China, whose involvement has many harmful strings attached.
Meanwhile, so many of the systems in Jamaica are in dire need of reform, starting with the government. There is still the need to rid corruption from politics as politicians are often viewed with mistrust. Some Jamaicans even consider them to be thieves and liars, who they only see when there’s an election.
The recent high-profile judgement where a high court in Jamaica ruled that a primary school can ban a student from the school on the basis that they have a dreadlocks hairstyle highlights some of the colonial attitude and mindsets that still prevails on the island. There needs to be more investment in education and training, especially for the youths. Which party will ensure that young people will still see education as a way out of poverty? Many schools are crying out for better investment and more funding. There is still a gap between the funding for schools in the corporate areas and those in the rural areas.
There’s some communities who still do not have regular water supply (including mine in Port Antonio). Others that still do not have electricity. Others are still crying out for good roads, bridges and employment opportunities. More pertinent in today’s world is internet connectivity. Where high speed internet service is still needed in many parts of the island.
Therefore, let us not distract ourselves from the serious work that needs to be done. When Jamaicans vote in the upcoming September election, I hope that the policies of the party and the confidence in the administration to deliver those policies are forefront on their minds and not simply a dub-plate from their favourite artists. If not, the only song that I can still hear playing is Bob Marley, pleading with the Jamaican people to, ‘emancipate yourself from mental slavery… none but yourself can free your own mind…’ Will the Jamaican people take heed? Only time will tell.