by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Observer column for MON 28 APRIL 2014
Last week was the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare. Thank you Emma Lewis for the reminder, and for sharing with us some lines from his plays which have become a part of everyday conversation, eg ‘eaten out of house and home’ and ‘give the devil his due’. However, some of my favourites were not included, and last week’s happenings brought them swiftly home: “All the world’s a stage”; “I am bound upon a wheel of fire”; “This was the most unkindest cut of all”; “The quality of mercy is not strained”.
|from Television Jamaica|
Clearly, our Members of Parliament love the ‘stage’ of the House, and we note the ‘optics’ where good-looking folks are placed behind or beside the speakers who are enjoying their multiple minutes of fame. As I observed on Twitter the inattention of those so framed behind their leaders by the cameras, someone said this was nothing compared to what she had seen a few days before – an MP eating what seemed like bun and cheese!
Now, with the bad news of higher taxes, and delays in receiving their salaries, who could blame that parliamentarian for smothering sorrows in a ‘juicy, fruity’ bun and cheese? Indeed, while the rest of the nation was cheesed off, that member was all cheesed up!
I was reminded that ‘All the world’s a stage’ when Opposition Leader Andrew Holness decided that he would leave the Budget alone for a bit to call for a referendum on various issues including Jamaica’s position on the LGTB issue. What a piece of theatre – I can just imagine how Sister P is getting her lines together to reply: high drama!
In the midst of this all is the hapless Finance Minister Peter Phillips who is ‘bound upon’ the IMF ‘wheel of fire’. He had warned us over a year ago that he was having a rough time convincing some of his fellow members in the Cabinet that the country had to curb our spending. Well, now cows are coming home, toting passports!
The majority of the nation has agreed that the bank withdrawal tax is a pretty bad idea. We support Patrick Hylton’s observation that there has to be greater effort to widen the tax net instead of imposing this unwieldy tax.
So now we get to an appeal for mercy – and who, but a character called Portia, uttered these words in Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’:
“The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath.
It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”
We plead for mercy – not simply to roll back taxes, but to ask those who are already befitting from our taxes to have mercy on us the taxpayers, by working even half as hard as we do to earn those funds. We ask them to exercise this ‘quality of mercy’ by giving us, their employers, a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. We ask them to use loans and grants honestly, cutting out the ‘middle men’, who have given us porous roads with cosmetic asphalt. We ask them to uplift communities and put measures in place for environmental protection, so that our gullies are not choked with plastics and our markets with garbage.
We beg our politicians to have mercy on the families they have encouraged to squat in order to make up their votes. Please, take them from behind the zinc fences and out of the one-rooms so that children can be protected and not be ‘force-ripened’ by being prematurely exposed to adult situations. We ask politicians to look at their own precious children and know that they would never want to subject them to those brutal conditions.
Some politicians were young when they were taught these ‘tricks of power’ – the strategy of holding a crowd to ransom in ramshackle yards instead of bothering to ‘rent-a-crowd’ every time campaign time came around. Such cynical leaders must pray for God’s mercy on their souls, repent, and do right by the people they have so piously pledged to serve.
We ask our Prime Minister, who holds that name synonymous with mercy – Portia – to lead this charge for righteousness, to use her God-given charisma to take this nation on a path of dignity, diligence and discipline.
Jamaica, this abundantly blessed country has enough for everyone’s need, but we are burdened by evil greed. There is enough brain power in the PNP – there are well-educated MPs raised in God-fearing families. They can do much better for Jamaica if they put country ahead of party.
Church, media and civil society can no longer be silent – they must help our leaders to do better by moving into their space and, as we see in that anti-gang ad, stay so close to them that temptation will steer clear. We must help our leaders to save themselves – because this is the only way we will be able to save Jamaica.