Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | January 14, 2013
Home : Commentary
A petition for Jamaica
By Robert Lalah

It's too bad we can't always get what we want, isn't it? Sure, our desires would likely clash with other people's, and yes, if we were still all supposed to get whatever we wanted, this could trigger a cataclysmic fracture of the space-time continuum, and ultimately lead to the implosion of the universe. But it would be fun while it lasted, I'll tell you that!

It's nice to think that you can get what you want, with very little effort, though. Around Christmas time, parents tell their children that if they behave themselves, go to bed on time, and refrain from any undue horseplay, Santa will bring them anything they like.

Governments sometimes have the same kind of trouble managing expectations. Their attempts at being accessible and transparent can backfire.

Take the United States, for instance. In 2011, the White House launched a section it dubbed 'We the People', on its official website, that allows residents to petition the government on anything - and I mean anything - they want. The immediate flood of responses led to the inclusion of a few conditions. To receive an official response from the government, a petition must now reach 25,000 signatures within 30 days.

So what have the good people of America been asking for? A lot of good things. Some want tighter gun laws and others are seeking tougher sanctions for police who break the law. Good stuff, sure, but highly unimaginative.

Enter the more radical band of Internet petitioners who would never allow such a golden opportunity to go to waste. One group started a petition for the US government to build a Star Wars-inspired Death Star (basically a machine to blow up planets) for national-security reasons and to create much-needed jobs. By late last week, the petition contained more than 35,000 signatures and the White House had to respond.

"The administration does not support blowing up planets," the statement asserted.

"Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?"

I'm sure sci-fi lovers got a big kick out of that one.

There was also a petition for the government to deport CNN's Piers Morgan for his views on gun control. Send him back to England where he's from if he doesn't like our guns, said the more than 100,000 people who signed the petition. That, too, gained an official White House response. This one pointed out that people wouldn't be punished for expressing their views on any matter of national concern. Too bad for Morgan, since he publicly expressed, as the petition grew, that if he were to be deported, he'd gladly relocate to Jamaica and do his show from here.

JAMAICA's causes

All this got me wondering what we in Jamaica would ask for if a website like that were set up here.

I'd be the first to sign a petition to ban those annoying vuvuzelas people have started taking to stage shows and other entertainment events. Why you'd take a horn to blow constantly throughout a musical performance is a mystery to me. You paid to go to the show, ostensibly to listen to good music, but spend your time tooting your own horn.

Lock offenders in a room and force them to listen to that Gangnam Style song at full blast, non-stop for 24 hours, I say. Give them a taste of their own medicine.

I'd also support a petition to change the format of our parliamentary sittings. It's important work that goes on in Parliament, but it all tends to get a bit dreary. It's no wonder so many people in there are constantly on edge. Let's have some Bob Marley and Dennis Brown music played in the background as we discuss national issues. Put some pictures on the walls; maybe that one of dogs playing poker, to add a touch of whimsy to the place. Pass around some snacks, change all the chairs to recliners, and give MP Lisa Hanna a special seat at the front of the room so everyone can be reminded that God is indeed good.

Sign me up, too, for any petition to allow motorists to legally wallop taxi and bus drivers who run them off the road; to appoint Usain Bolt Minister of Cool; to get Pearnel Charles to decide on one hair colour and run with it; and to exile L.A. Lewis to the Isle of Man-are-you-irritating.

Hopefully, Errald Miller is monitoring this article and will pass on the petition website idea to the prime minister.

Robert Lalah is assistant editor - features, and author of Roving with Lalah. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com

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