Compared to a country like Haiti, Jamaica is a prosperous land, particularly when we lived there in the 1970’s. They had natural resources (bauxite, sugar, coffee to name a few), tourism, and plenty of entrepreneurs and professional people.Compared to a country like Haiti, Jamaica is a prosperous land, particularly when we lived there in the 1970's. Click To Tweet
Political parties are known to be fickle
A few years into our stay in Jamaica, one of the political parties that was voted in became very cozy with Castro. Soon they legislated a few too many laws that made the people who had money skittish, to say the least. Many left the island with their money while they could, for fear that they would not be able to give their children the kind of life they once had. The decision to go or leave was difficult for nearly everyone! They loved their country. But they couldn’t take that kind of risk. They remembered only too well what had happened in 1960 in Cuba. Depending on their professions or businesses, many found ways to move their money to safer places. Often, they felt they had to move their families as well.
As a result, much of the talent Jamaica once had, started leaving the island. Some have returned, but from what I understand, the country has never quite recovered. We have friends who left and others who stayed. As it turned out, that prime minister was sent on his way eventually and a more conservative one came to power…for a time. Their tendency is to change governments about every 8 years. One friend of mine who was strongly for one party felt it worked better for the country to change every 8 years for better balance in the country. The prime minister is chosen from the party that is the majority party so it does away with some of the issues we are struggling with in the US right now. That is background for some of what I have to say here.
With this exodus of people came losses of jobs for maids, and lost jobs from business that left the island. It led to the poor becoming poorer!
As Americans, we have expectations that all will go well for us and our families. I know I did. We want the best health coverage available for reasonable cost. We expect any illness for our children to be something they will be able to recover from. That goes for our family members too.
Seeing life from the view of the poor is quite different than my middle class background
As I lived in Jamaica, especially during the earlier years there, I mostly knew or met poorer families or lower middle class people. They worked hard at whatever jobs they could get. They didn’t expect a lot from life. They often learned a trade or skill and worked. They rarely considered going to University. That was for the better educated with more money.
When a child became ill, they prayed fervently, hoping the child would survive. Often they were able to get help at the government hospitals. It was free or nearly so, but it involved hours of waiting, impersonal care and not always the best medical care because the doctors and nurses didn’t always listen to the patient. The view was often that they were the experts and the patient didn’t know anything. So they were supposed to listen to the doctor or nurse who knew it all!
For a person who is poor or poorish and doesn’t feel knowledgable, that is a horrible way to be treated because regarding the patient, they are the expert! Only they know their symptoms and condition. But I digress! I’m on my nursing soapbox!
There were times when it truly was miraculous that a child survived this kind of care. But when one died, despite the grief, I was often surprised to see a resignation there that amazed me. Of course, the mothers were sad, but they weren’t surprised really. It was almost as if they shrugged their shoulders and said, “Oh well. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”
As an American, this shocked the socks off of me! Of course, this would never have been found in the more wealthy or even upper middle class homes. They would have had private medical care and had access to a different kind of care from the start.
But I found this true among the poorer people. It is probably true among the poorer people in the U.S. as well! There is a realization that they don’t have access to better care. That if anything is going to happen for them, GOD is going to have to do it…literally!
I still remember talking to a woman who had had a stillborn baby not long before. She spoke of it sadly, but almost with a shrug. That’s life. And it truly was for many of them. The loss of loved ones and children was not as unusual as it was for us in the U.S. There were freak accidents all the time because it was far from being a culture that was concerned about safety!
Electric wires fell on children and people, killing them instantly, cars ran into them. Few cars even had seat belts, much less people who used them. People rode around in all kinds of makeshift vehicles. No one wore helmets when riding bicycles back then. It was not a safe place. Weird things happened all the time! And law suits were extremely rare!
I realized that poor Jamaicans had much in common with poor Americans…poor healthcare, low expectations for their lives, educational disadvantages…
For sure, expectations were very different, for the most part, than mine were as an American. It seemed to me that particularly among the poorer and lower middle class, expectations were much lower than in an American at the time.
Of course, minority Americans would have had less to look forward too back then vs. a Jamaican person who would not have the same disadvantages because of the color of his skin. Skin color wasn’t a disadvantage there like it was here. Blacks were in the majority along with Chinese, Asian Indians, Jamaican whites who generally were of British background…and every combination of afore named races you could imagine!
And that was a delightful adjustment. The motto of Jamaica was “Out of many, one people” and it was true overall. Were there any tensions? Of course! But for the most part, there was a pretty decent relationship between the different races. People didn’t seem to care what another person’s race was. But where you have people, you will always have relationship struggles.
I think there was a lot more concern about class…but we won’t even go there right now.
Challenge: Do you struggle with your expectations of life? Do you expect life to be all peachy and smooth? Do you get upset when problems come?
When you are going through difficulty, does it help or make it more difficult to see it as something that has come from your Sovereign Heavenly Father’s hand?
Or is your background more of someone who was poor and you feels hopeless about your future? GOD is in the business of giving hope!
Wow. Very insightful and interesting post. You have definitely opened my eyes up to a new perspective. Thanks for sharing!
I have so much I could say. I def agree with gabriele. Unfortunately the powers that be in the u.s.a forgot to look at history and the decline in other countries before they decided to send us down that path. Wondering if we can recover? Interesting perspective on death and tragedy too Martha.
it’s very difficult because we often have mixed emotions ourselves. we often don’t want to pay the price we need to, to tone down our lifestyles. we don’t want it to hurt. we want our lives to stay the same without any pain. it’s a lot easier just to blame it all on the govt. especially if it is one we aren’t thrilled with (if that is the case.) it is quite a complex issue to change things up. politicians don’t want to pay the price they need to b/c they won’t get re-elected. we don’t want to pay the price we need to b/c we don’t want to live on less. it’s no fun at all…especially when no on wants to pay the price.
i have no idea if we’ll recover. i’m not overly optimistic.
You asked some good questions at the end of your post. I am living a privileged life and I don’t know if this life in America is sustainable.
as i have thought about life in america in the 1970’s compared to now, i realize the change has been dramatic. particularly in terms of expectations! it was very weird!