Saturday 17 April 2004

A Tale of Two Islands

This week's Spectator is a "Travel Special Issue".

Rachel Johnson describes her recent visit to Jamaica. Before departure, one of her companions suggests buying travel insurance:

"I mean, almost all the murders in London are committed by Yardies and here we are flying to the murder capital of the Caribbean."
After viewing the tourist sites and staying in a luxurious resort hotel it's time to see the "slums of Trenchtown".
I asked Oliver if he would be locking the van, because it was hot and I wanted to leave my bag. I dumped it on the front seat, full of dollars, a mobile and a digital camera. One hour later, on our return, I got back into the van first. It was unlocked. But my bag and belongings, which had been in plain view of some of the poorest people in the Caribbean, were untouched. (Readers whose cars have been broken into in the swishest parts of London will share my humbled sense of amazement.)
And there's more:
Later the same day we toured a Christian primary school, where 90 per cent of the children come from broken homes, junkie homes or no homes. The children, in their blue and gold uniforms, were smiling and disciplined, with shining faces, and for the second time that day I wondered why dirt-poor parts of Jamaica could manage things that Middle England seems incapable of mastering.
This line of thinking was confirmed when Ms Johnson arrived back home in Notting Hill:
I discovered a burglar had buzzed a paving stone through our front window in the night and nicked a laptop - a nastiness I can't imagine happening on my island in the sun.
The Great and The Good tell us that crime is the result of poverty. But in 2002 the GDP per capita of Jamaica was $3,739 and here in the UK it was $25,426.

In Ms Johnson's experience, Jamaica is safer than London and manages to provide a better education system. Why could that be? My suspicion is that Jamaica's authors, journalists, poets, songwriters, cartoonists, artists, religious leaders, police chiefs, judges, schoolteachers, academics and politicians love their country and respect its history, traditions and culture. In Britain they don't. I think it really is that simple.