Carlyle McKetty

Carlyle McKetty

Carlyle McKetty

In a recent story in the Weekend Star, Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest person ever, and the first man to hold both the 100 meters and 200 meters world records, a recipient of the Order of Jamaica national honor, was described as a “horrible neighbor” and the story continues to elicit comments from across the spectrum. Neighbors, journalists, comedians, entertainers, professors, civic leaders and many others continue to offer analyses and opinions on social media, broadcast media and elsewhere while Bolt remains silent on the matter. The matter is seen as being so significant that, evoking collective guilt, one commentator has suggested that the critique of Bolt amounts to a “dis” for Jamaica. Yet, unlike any challenge Bolt has ever faced on the track, this time, for Bolt to win, Jamaica must loose.

Few have drilled down on the salient issue and many of the ancillary matters arising out of the report, choosing instead to focus on eccentricity of personalities and mangled utterances. At the core of the matter is neighbor to neighbor relations and by extension, a 1997 Noise Abatement Act which governs their nexus with the authorities. Jamaica’s maneuvers with respect to long sought after amendments to the Act, something which has plagued the music and entertainment sector for decades and remains an issue, begs for insightful public policy considerations. From all appearances, in Kingston the focus seems to be on confining the disturbance of neighbors to communities like Rae Town, Woodford Park and others located below Halfway Tree, but this Norbrook incident casts a new light on the issue and raises the question of whether the authorities can continue to drag their feet and turn a blind eye to making and enforcing meaningful public policy to address this matter.

For Jamaica to win, not only will a meaningful noise abatement policy be required, but the police brass will have to address the reported glibness with which an officer responded to an inquiry from the media about noise complaints in the matter. So far, we have not seen that, nor have we heard word of any further query by the media to law enforcement, even as the family of Mario Deans continues to mourn his death at the hands of police. Furthermore, the consequences for Vision 2030, the goal of making Jamaica, "the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business” by the year 2030 seem dire, as we see a celebrated dancehall entertainer reel off expletives in defense of the right to take downtown uptown, warts and all, in response to the complainant’s zeal to repatriate Bolt to from whence he came.

The report in the Weekend Star has served to highlight a centuries old problem of inequality and injustice in Jamaica, as Jamaicans from around the world make their way to the 6th biennial Diaspora Conference in Montego Bay, set to begin in mid June with two days of religious observances. The Rastafari Movement, which started out as a resolute anti-establishment initiative in pursuit of equal rights and justice has now in many ways been co-opted, and we now see a locks wearing minister of government championing the downtown entertainment zones where one can “shell down” Kingston with unbridled noisemaking; and the struggle to achieve the “Out of Many One People” ideal flails with no sight of an abatement in inequality, Vision 2030 notwithstanding.

Perhaps the most significant observation to be made in all of this however, is the nature of wealth and class. Despite being one of the highest paid athletes in the world and notwithstanding the myriad of volunteer Bolt surrogates, to date, we have yet to see evidence of Bolt having a professional image/PR/damage control/brand management team with a presence or an impact where the media is concerned, reminding me of when grandma used to say to me that “class a class.”

I invite your thoughts and comments in the comment section below.

Carlyle McKetty is an urban planner with a specialization in community economic development and president and co-founder of Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music (CPR). He is also host of Real Talk and co-host of Social Living on CPRLive, CPR’s internet broadcast platform.

Monday, 01 April 2013 15:02

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