As someone who tries to follow and keep up, as best I can, with events in Jamaica and here in the US, I have come to a (startling?) conclusion: We are in an age of inanity, ignorance and any other form of stupidity. We are in an age where the aforementioned qualities are being seen as virtues and where diplomacy, intelligence, objectivity and critical thought and analysis are seen as liabilities and those who possess these qualities are suckers and are subject to ridicule.
Today in the US, just about every American seems to have some complaint about the healthcare system and close to three quarters of the population agrees it is a broken system in need of fixing. President Obama also feels this way and has decided to take this issue head on with the help of the US Congress. So what is happening? Americans, at least some of them are getting mighty riled up about wanting to fix the broken healthcare system and they are even more so because of a ‘public option’ idea that has been floated as a means of getting all Americans covered. All Americans, that is, except those in the country illegally.
An interesting sidebar to this is that there are some Americans who are going around protesting government takeover of Medicare, a government-run insurance scheme for the elderly. Then of course you have folks who one would imagine are a bit more intelligent going on TV or other media talking about government is going to take over the healthcare system and limit their choices of who their medical carrier and doctor can and will be.
In Jamaica, we have problems that have been years in the making but for which any number of folks are willing and eager to blame this administration that has only been in office for a bit over two years. So for most of the 1970s, all of the 1990s and the first three-quarters of the first decade of the 21st century that the PNP has been in power and each time coming close to bankrupting the nation does not count.
This is the same PNP that was beset and bedeviled by one scandal after another back in the 1990s and earlier this decade that is going to teach its younger members about government and governance, according to a headline in The Gleaner over a month ago. This is the PNP of PJ (Paterson) and Portia(Simpson-Miller); (Bobby) Pickersgill and Paulwell; Peter and Peter (Phillips and Bunting) and of the portly and ‘pork belly’ (what, no futures!) otherwise known as Roger Clarke (I ran out of other P n’ P’s within the PNP but I welcome any additional info in this regard).
This is the PNP that wants to preach, pontificate and promote good government and governance to its future leaders but doesn’t want to purge the politically prurient from within its midst. This is the PNP that wants to blame Jamaica’s economic and social ills on this present government while doing its damnedest best to absolve itself of any blame. After all, things were quite rosy during the 18 years prior to the summer of 2007 when they were in office.
As for the present government, it came into office determined to do better than its predecessors and so far it has not been that much better. Yes, one can say that the global recession has not helped but it’s not as if Jamaica’s economic woes just materialized in these last two years. After all, this was the same JLP that was castigating the then PNP-led government for all manner of ineptness and corruption. This is the same JLP whose leader promised to be transformational and different and his finance minister was making outlandish comments, statements, utterances or whatever one calls them in order to help his party win an election.
We see where a government agency is spending between $50-$60 million (J$) to refurbish a house for a government minister who can’t ‘live in squalor’ while the PM is calling for cutbacks in spending by all government ministries and agencies so that his government can find money to pay its employees and meet basic obligations.
Today, we have politicians and political parties that view expediency as the currency that can help them to get ahead of their competition. Today, we have political parties, whether in the Americas, including the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Africa that sees insulting the national intelligence and otherwise keeping their voters and nations in the dark about what’s really going on as the way to get to power (and stay in power). After all, for any number of these parties it’s not about doing what’s best for whatever nation they’re in but it’s more about doing what they can to bolster their chances come the next election cycle.
We see, whether in Jamaica or in the US, folks getting their own shows on radio or TV and rather than try to educate and uplift and try to encourage civil discourse on and about the issues they instead try to appeal to people’s baser instincts. In the US you have radio personalities who make a fortune by getting folks to act stupid or just getting stupid folks on their shows so they can humiliate them or just get them to make an ass of themselves on the airwaves.
Today we have critics who see any number of these media personalities as ‘creative geniuses’ and these ‘creative geniuses’ are then paid a king’s ransom to stay on the air to transmit and hype their BS that is anything but creative. And we wonder why this has become the age when stupidity and ignorance are celebrated as virtues.
Another sign of the stupidity and inanity of the times we’re living in is the nativist responses that always seem to pop up when folks in the Diaspora make certain proposals as to how their homelands can improve their respective quality and standard of life. Too often, whether it’s the regular person on the street or some media personality or op-ed piece in the newspaper, the response seems to be the same: “We don’t need no blankety-blank someone from abroad telling us how to do things here.”
Then the guilt-trip part kicks in: “If you have the answers then how is it you’re over there and not living here” or something to that effect. People who expose themselves to others and other cultures can help to make a better society from that exposure.
The Interstate Highway system in the US came about because of what Dwight Eisenhower saw of the Germany as did US and Russian advances in jet engines and rocket propulsion. We also know that ideas such as these were born from what happened back in the day when those Eastern Asian empires and the Romans and Greeks and some African empires held sway. The idea here is that folks saw what others were doing and thought it was better than what they were doing and emulated it and tweaked and modified it for their use and improvement.
It would be easy to say that calling out folks as stupid and crazy and being dunce is engaging in the very thing one is criticizing but is it? If you were to do this just so you can call folks by derogatory names or putdowns then you’re not really doing anything to enlighten and otherwise uplift society. Instead, point out where you believe someone is wrong in their assessment and/or POV and try to rationally discuss the issues.
Variety might be the spice of life but that does not mean that its unsavory parts should govern our lives. Instead of disagreeing for the sake of being disagreeable how about disagreeing because you can think of a better way or have a better idea/solution as to solving a problem. Instead of political leaders doing what they feel they have to in order to win reelection, how about doing what has to be done to better and improve the standard and quality of life in your neck of the woods.
This too, this age where stupidity and ignorance are being celebrated as virtues will pass, and as far as I’m concerned, it can’t happen soon enough. History is replete with these episodes but more often than not that was due to not too much intelligence and not too much interaction with others as communication methods were not as advanced. Today, that’s not the case and that’s what is a bit puzzling even when we know that a lack of political will as well as the personal kind are major contributing factors.
Caption: Sign of the times.