Every Jamaican who has ever traveled abroad is well familiar with the time honored tradition that on the return trip to the Island, we always bring an extra suitcase or barrel filled with goodies for the host of relatives and friends who all come to ‘check yuh fi a smalls’ whether it be a simple T-shirt or a slew of designer outfits. The one thing I always noted were that people usually expressed some sort of gratitude for whatever token you brought, content with the thought that you even remembered to bring something back for them especially considering that most of them ‘neva sen yuh guh nuh wheh inna di fuss place!’
Lately, I have noticed that there has been a shift in the mentality of some Jamaicans. I do not wish to speak in absolutes and use words such as most and all, but let’s just say a large number I have lately had the misfortune of coming into contact with. They seem to be as Oliver Samuels once remarked in one of his infamous skits “Beggy beggy and covetous”. They always seem to be in wants, needs and problems and as soon as they see you, they are under the misguided notion that you have all the answers because you have been living abroad. The attitude has taken on that of entitlement, as if because you had the opportunity to migrate, you somehow ‘owe’ them something. The undercurrent of bitterness and resentment is always present whenever they converse with you and they leave the impression that they are somehow ‘entitled’ to whatever you have because ‘yuh come fram foreign, yuh cyan always get more’. If you are not careful, you would leave Jamaica almost naked because of the stories of hardship and destitution that you continuously hear. When they are finished, you are left so humbled and guilt ridden that you almost feel as if you are the one that is personally responsible for whatever difficulties they have to endure, until you find out ‘dat a lie dem a tell and if yuh happen fi guh a dem yawd, you will see them profiling with all two an’ three cell phones, and a huge satellite dish is on the roof top, meaning, they are living quite nicely, sometimes way better than some abroad. That in itself does not bother me, what really troubles me is the con. It seems like Jamaicans have become adept to conning and hustling in order to get ahead. It’s like no matter how much they have, ‘dem wouldda tek out yuh eye’ just to deprive you of it. No matter how small the item is, the mentality seems to be ‘Gimme dat nuh!”
The worst part of it is that people now are unwilling to accept the obligatory pack of socks or T-shirts that you may offer; they are now demanding what they feel they are entitled to receive from you. A friend of mine relayed a story the other day about the fact that when she handed one of her brother’s the packs of underwear and T-shirts she brought him, his remark was that, “…if dat’s all yuh couldda bring, yuh might as well keep dem!” He had actually preferred T-shirts from Hollister or Moschino. Another friend relayed her embarrassment when her white employer took a cruise to Jamaica and came back and asked her, “Why do Jamaicans beg so much?” She said she couldn’t answer because it happened on numerous occasions when she visited, the moment you disembark there are throngs of people asking you for this or that, never mind the fact that they don’t even know you. Another friend remarked that when she went home for her two week vacation, almost every one in the district came for something, most leaving annoyed and disgruntled because she didn’t have ‘a money’ to give them. It prompted me to ask, “When did we become a nation of beggars?”
It is not only the Jamaicans that live on the Island, but those residing abroad as well. I recently ran into a girlfriend that I haven’t seen in a few years who after telling me how much she missed me, promptly asked me for the sandals I was wearing. Initially I didn’t give much thought to it because I knew she had always been a shoe lover like myself, but I was taken aback when we met for dinner the following day where I wore another cute pair and (honest to goodness) she actually looked at my shoes and said, “It’s really those I want. Can I have those too?” Then because she had heard rumors that I might have received an in heritance from the passing of a relative she asked could I not only pay for dinner, but give her a small loan. If it were only her, I would not feel too badly but it happened quite a few times with various friends and relatives who feel because you might have received a windfall of any sort, you are supposed to share and share alike.
Jamaicans have always been known for maintaining their dignity and pride. No matter how difficult things were, we always showed gratitude for whatever little we had, and contentment with anything anyone could do to assist us. We were never ones to beg, con or straight strong-arm others for what they had. Honestly, it been at times embarrassing to hear what some Jamaicans will do to get what they want from you. Before you say that it’s a sign of the times, and that other nationalities do the same thing, let me just say, Jamaicans have always struggled through poverty and strife and yet have always endured with dignity. I would really like to see a shift in the thought process of our people and have them realize that just because you are not complaining, does not mean you are not experiencing hardships too.