How did life get so cheap in Jamaica?

My late grandmother Annie used to regale me with stories about life when she was young. I remember her laughing description of how stunned people were the first time they saw a plane in the sky, especially a next-door neighbour who bawled out 'Lawd a massy! Judgement day come!'

Another thing that stuck in the mind was her puzzled reaction to the increasing murder rates of the 1970s. She just couldn't understand it. When she was young, she recalled, the rare news that someone had been killed was always greeted with amazement that one human being could actually take another human being's life.

That's the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, We like it.

It must be a miserable experience to live in a country with the world's highest homicide rate, and one of the lowest official GDP growth rates over the past 20 years. Or, maybe not. According to the February 24 Sunday Gleaner poll, 59 per cent of those living in statistically broke and murderous Jamaica say they are happy.

A Collapse into Chaos? The Dancehallisation of Jamaica'

'I am a human being, so nothing human is strange to me' wrote the Roman poet Terence. Obsessive homophobia aside, this pretty much sums up dancehall. And no artiste better conveys its raw uncensored immediacy than Marion 'Lady Saw' Hall, the most important female artiste and most celebrated slackness performer in Jamaica's music history.

The 2007 Cross, Angry, Miserable Awards

Casting out negativity is a path to inner peace. In hopes of a serene 2008, I hereby get out of my system a few things that made me cross, miserable, angry in 2007.


Wisdom, Luck or the People?

Call us lucky or God-blessed, but Jamaica sure has a knack for just-in-time escapes from disaster. Last month, Hurricane Dean swerved away at the last moment and just brushed us. Monday night we escaped a political dead heat by the skin of our teeth.

Manchester Closed to Crime

More education and less crime - that's the universal route to progress and what all Jamaicans want for their country. One place at least is moving in the right direction, my home parish of Manchester.

Manchester probably has the highest school to population ratio in the country. Its high schools of note include Manchester, DeCarteret, Bishop Gibson and Belair. While Northern Caribbean University, Church Teachers' College and Knox Community College offer tertiary opportunities. It's very heartening to stand in front of the market at 3 o'clock on a school afternoon and see hordes of students on their way from class. This parish is investing in its human capital.

What a Nice Place Fi Live'

Well, there may be more enjoyable excursions than a leisurely drive through the Jamaican countryside on a Sunday afternoon, but short of entering paradise it is hard to imagine one. Especially if you start out from Negril.

Every time I go for a swim on that glorious seven-mile beach and bask in the mild crystal-blue water, I marvel at my luck in living a country where this kind of magical experience is available every day of the year. Sure, not everyone can afford an all-inclusive. But anyone with gas money or bus fare has access to the powder-white sand.

Giving it away for Nothing

A beautiful young lady with a stream of suitors seeking her hand in marriage rejects them all and 'breeds' for a womanising scoundrel. It's a scenario we see repeated regularly in this country, and you can only shake your head.

The Real Root of Crime

Why does Jamaica have what is probably the highest murder rate in the world? Is it poverty? Is it education? Is it inequality? Is it politics? Is it over population?

Lock up Child Molesters

Actions speak louder than words. So you have to wonder if, despite all the public lamentations, Jamaicans really want to change anything in this country. Sure, everyone says they want more jobs and less crime. But no one, from top to bottom, seems willing to make even the slightest alteration in their lifestyle to attain any of these goals.