Bread, Butta and Goats (Islands that is)

Tesanne performing at Redbones in KingstonI don’t like the cold! I can’t handle it and there are parts of me that crave the disorder, that like living in a place where bomboclaat means something. But let’s face it. Jamaica is in trouble. Big trouble. I’ve seen in my twitter timeline where people are casually placing bets about where the Jamaican dollar will be by the end of the year. This idea unwomans me. It makes the Jamaican in me, the tendency to take kin teet and kibba heart bun, quail up and hide. I’m a struggling business woman, if the dollar reaches J$125 – US$1 my entire livelihood becomes unfeasible. But I don’t like the cold. I can’t migrate and truthfully, I don’t want to because … because … because I love this “bruk-spirit kiss mi ass place”.

In the wake of Tessanne’s fantastic performance on NBC’s The Voice, the phrase ‘bread and butta’ has gained remarkable traction in the last few days. In a land where more and more people will have to turn to dumplin and butta (because we can’t afford oxtail or any other ‘meat-kind’) the timing is perfect. Jamaica needs to tap into the resources that can allow it to not merely get out of poverty, but facilitate wealth creation for its people.

So we are told that we cannot afford to trade the possibility of sustenance, of “bread and butta” for “two likkle lizard” and some non-existent goats on an island. The trouble is we are all goats on this island. Or maybe we are sheep, mindlessly bleating and doing nothing to change our direction as we walk toward the cliff heedless of the fall ahead.

And the fall is coming. Actually, it’s already here.

A river in St. Andrew rises with the falling rainSo never mind the fact that the Chinese have a woeful environmental track-record in their own country as well as other places they have been. I mean if you’ve driven from Kingston to Spanish Town in the early morning recently, you can see that thick brown smog, you can even smell it as it lingers in the air, hovering near Duhaney Park and slowly drifting further and further up the Boulevard. So the environment done mash up already, and soon the two tourists we still have will notice it.

So never mind, that already we cannot manage the current level of damage from storm-surges, muchless when we kill off the remaining reefs (one of the island’s most extensive of which is in the Portland Bight area). Or that no, there are no longer so many fish in the sea and the Portland Bight was supposed to provide protection for them.

Never mind that the Portland Bight (which includes the Hellshire Hills) is actually a protected site as agreed in an international convention, and more importantly that it is home to several endemic species and is used by manatees, turtles and numerous birds and has the island’s largest fish nursery, which means that the destruction of the mangroves will literally translate to the fishermen’s fishpot ketching trash.

Because, in truth, what other option do we have? Sugar, Bananas, Cocoa, Coffee none of these agricultural products offer the route to cash they once did, and we now grow more town houses than any other crop. Manufacturing is a bust, tourism is not quite cutting it, and with the global economic downturn, the remittance industry is in now more in tamarind season than its salad days.

So what else is the government to do? It has no other option but to sell the natural resources to the highest bidder, hide its head in the nearest sand dune and pretend that Jamaican people have a direct line to the Lord and can turn back any hurricane with prayer.

Oh wait …

Maybe there are options. Maybe we could stop the bleating and bleeping and invest in the creative industries. The copyright sectors have already proven themselves, with little or no support. Up to 2005, Copyright sectors provided 4.8% of the country’s GDP and employed approximately 3% of the population. Heck the importance of its development is even in Vision 2030 but then, that’s a piece of paper you can’t even take to the bathroom muchless the bank.

So, despite the potential of these industries that require less formal education, thrive with small businesses, provide high levels of employment and pay higher rates, the creative sector remains on life support. The in flow of films have moved from a gush to a trickle to occasional drops, so much so that the film community made themselves a video calling out  the government for its lack of support. (Link to the video below)

And they shouldn’t be doing this alone. The country’s future rests with film, with music, with theatre, with ICTs, with sports, with publishing with art, with fashion and design all of which feed into the other sectors including tourism, manufacturing, hair dressing agriculture, and numerous others. Alas, even while our fields lie fallow, we still a “farm fool” and we look on while the UK builds rebuilds its economy with creative cities, while numerous others tap into the growth potential of the creative economy.

Through the creative industries we can skank our way to prosperity. Bob Marley seh so, Usain Bolt seh so, and when she done win The Voice, Tessanne going to seh so.

Rather than speculate on the possible manna that can fall from the table of the Chinese, we need to be building our own routes to bread, butter and curried goat.

And maybe, maybe I think that this is all possible because well … I don’t like the cold, and so help me, I still love this “bruk-spirit kiss mi ass place”.