Columns

Flag-burning, Pistorius and the Church

Clare Forrester

Wednesday, February 27, 2013    

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In one of her 'news and views' blogs, I note where Deon Jackson Miller suggests that the much talked about Saturn advertisement featuring the burning of a Jamaican flag was inspired by the excitement created over the VW Superbowl commercial, although this seems less likely based on the production dates of both ads which are similar.

However, she may be right, given the reliance on yet another Jamaican artist, Barrington Levy's Murderer soundtrack. However, I suspect that the advertising agency would have got an audience of millions more had it used the flag of a Middle Eastern country or perhaps China, although by now the producer may have gone into hiding. I am one of those uncomfortable with the crass treatment of Jamaica's flag by the advertiser, but if as Jackson Miller contends the aim was to get attention I would hope that this advertisement is much less successful.

While I am not comforted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs' statement in reaction to the call for public repudiation led by the former Minister of Culture, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, Minister Nicholson's position may well have been the least undesirable path to take. Why play into the ploy of these crafty advertisers? Precisely what are they promoting anyway? Has this ad been broadcast anywhere besides on YouTube? One media report suggests that it is about a German coffee shop but my research so far has shown it to be a promotion by Saturn electronics. Deon says that the message is clear. Besides illustrating the message behind the saying "storm in a tea cup" I'm not so sure.

One blessing that may hopefully emerge from this impasse is a new respect for our flag. Given the attention that this particular advertiser has been getting, one wonders how is it that there was such a loud silence in response to the many abuses against our flag, especially in recent years. I have seen the flag reproduced as a rag, table cover, clothing material to name a few examples. None of these are supposed to be acceptable or tolerated based on the guidelines about use of our national symbols. So if Ms Grange and company are seriously disturbed about any disrespect to our flag, as they should be, then hopefully they will take the concern beyond a call for the excoriation of the Saturn company.

Teddy McCook

I was among the hundreds who gathered to celebrate the life of the late great sport administrator Neville 'Teddy' McCook at the Kingston College (KC) Chapel on Sunday last. In the best understanding of the Jamaican saying, he got a 'nice' funeral. Best of all to me was hearing the superb performance of the KC Chapel Choir. Maybe the choir was on a sabbatical of sorts, but for a while they seemed to have been missing from the scene.

In the interim, TVJ's 'All-together sing' contest among secondary schools' choirs has stimulated the growth and strengthening of some really quality choirs for which the company should be credited. KC, however, from my perspective, remains peerless and on Sunday, we were reminded of the universal quality of this institution. Teddy would have been proud. As a Jamaican, I know that I was. Happy to note the presence of several national and international track and field icons at the service including from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) hierarchy, senior Vice Presidents, Lord Sebastian Coe and Bob Hersh, also Stephanie Hightower, President of the USA Track and Field Association; just one indication of the respect in which he was held at all levels. At the zenith of his administrative career, Teddy institutionalised many developments within the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) for which he was at times soundly criticised, but from which we are today reaping the benefits. Although presented posthumously, the IAAF gold medal was a deserving tribute which hopefully will be appropriately mounted in our yet to be established Sports Hall of Fame or museum.

Apology to Glen Mills

My long-time friend and sports journalist Laurie Foster pointed out to me that I was incorrect in last week's column in refuting the claim by Glen Mills made in Don Anderson's book that Nikole Mitchell was a part of Jamaica's 1992 team to Barcelona. Realising that Foster was one of Mitchell's mentors at the time, I resumed my research and sure enough, both he and Glen Mills are absolutely correct; although Mitchell was not named to contest any event. Regardless, I now unreservedly apologise to Glen for not accepting his information on Mitchell. However, I am still looking forward to reading about some of the behind-the-scenes positions that excluded this schoolgirl athlete and/or more especially Grace Jackson on the 4x100 metres relay team; also about decisions made in Los Angeles and Atlanta when similar concerns prevailed about relay team selection.

Oscar Pistorius

This case is likely to be talked about for many years to come and is one in which there are poised to be many losers. While the world ought not to forget that the beautiful and talented model, the athlete's fiancé Reeva Steenkamp is the biggest causality in his fall from grace. The impact of that fall may be even more far-reaching. Here was the supreme poster child for courage and determination, whom Grenada's 400 metres gold medallist at the London 2012 Olympics Kirani James described as "special" although he had finished last. Pistorius certainly was also the poster child for the international community of persons with physical disabilities and a sought-after advertising commodity. It is quite unusual these days for athletes to suffer a hit in their pockets for anything besides doping charges, but this case may be much worse. Estimated to receive endorsements amounting to some US$2 million annually, he was definitely among the world's most in-demand sports personalities for marketers. Today, however, his name has been dropped by most if not all the big name marketing companies as details of Reeva Steenkamp's shooting emerge. I weep for Reeva Steenkamp, and even though we ought to await the verdict of the court in determining guilt or innocence as charged, by his own account he is at least guilty of monumental recklessness unbecoming of anyone, let alone an international icon.

The Church and IMF/taxation proposals

The Webster United Church will hold a public forum on Thursday, February 28 starting at 5:30 pm, to explore varying perspectives on the government's taxation package. The organisers have confirmed a range of panellists designed to present perspectives on as wide an area of concerns as possible. These include an economist, tax specialist, representatives from small businesses, exporters and the church.

In her sermon on Sunday morning under the theme of "Rest and relaxation" Rev Dr Marjorie Lewis noted the continued hardships faced by many Jamaicans who need to find an economic model which encompasses the ideals of compassion and justice. That was endorsed by Rev Astor Carlyle who had said earlier that the intention of the forum is to promote a discussion that "is simple enough for the 'man on the corner' to understand."

Dr Lewis, who will moderate the forum, lamented that her research to date had not revealed any country in the world which had been benefited from IMF prescriptions and said that Jamaicans must have a say in working out their own solutions.

Based on other public statements recently, it is clear that the church means to be more proactive in the country's search for economic solutions. In a recent public statement by the Jamaica Umbrella Groups of Churches (JUGC), the leaders "commended the people of Jamaica for their willingness, despite the earlier sacrifices they have made, to make an even greater one in the interest of our nation. It behoves our Government to demonstrate that it takes seriously the sacrifices being made by our people and all will be done to ensure that we are able to reap the benefits of such sacrifice."

The issue of whether the church will be affected directly by the removal of concessionary taxation rates is yet to be determined.

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