Why social distancing does not work in Jamaica

A few years ago, there was a video about an African tour guide explaining to visitors to a seaside area where Africans were enslaved and put on ships bound for America and the Caribbean, that of all the places he mentioned, he reserved Jamaica for last as our case was as interesting as it was unique.

This guide shared that Jamaica was the final destination for the most dangerous, cantankerous and rebellious slaves that were deemed troublemakers, yet strong as an ox. These rabble-rousers were offloaded on this fair isle and that, he said with a cheeky smile, is why even to this day we are seen by some to be a difficult people to deal with.

Fast forward to 2020 and that wise African’s perception rings true as we continue to be difficult to handle, even by other Jamaicans. We are stubborn, opinionated, wilful and unwilling many times to comply with the simplest of orders or rules. Often, when told to follow regulations we question authority and ask ‘Why? or ‘Who says?’. When you hear that you automatically know it is going to be a long exercise.

With COVID-19 running amok in Jamaica, social distancing was called for in every instance from entering supermarkets, to remittance outlets and banks. Yet, there was general resistance as people still pushed and shoved to get into places, refusing to form lines or observe physical distancing. In many instances, we seek to challenge the system until the relevant authorities remind us who is boss.

We do not always think that rules apply to us because we are smarter than most, so we either ignore them or pretend we did not know they exist.

Another reason why social distancing is getting a beating in the public is that, quite frankly, most people do not care. They see COVID-19 as something that only elderly will get. Even worse, some have been told the symptoms are flu-like and develop a nonchalant attitude as they will eventually recover, sparing little thought for those they may infect and who may not be so fortunate.

We’ve been chronic rule breakers since rules were first are dumb barriers made to be broken. In short, we have little regard for the laws of the land, even when it’s for our benefit. As someone said, until COVID touches individuals in a personal way, they will continue to treat social distancing with scant concern.