Of course they did. Morons.

The Government has graciously decided to repeal the tax levied on printed materials. How kind of them.

The price of books will increase, however, due to

a two per cent non-refundable GCT charge on all imported books (except for religious materials) [that] will be levied at the ports”

I’m not even going to get my feathers ruffled over the fact that religious materials get away Scot-free because clearly the Church is the State’s second mistress (after the IMF, obviously). I’m just going to point out that maybe the Gov’t had never planned to tax books all along, and them threatening to do it and then mercifully rescinding said threat was probably just a power play to get on our good side. Looks like subservience wasn’t the only thing our English masters taught us.


on Reading

If you want to hide something from a black man, put it in a book.

Take offense? You shouldn’t. When was the last time you picked up something other than a light bill? Quick survey: if you could choose right now between (a) watching a 10 minute video of some girl Gaza-boxing some other girl and (b) reading a book, which would you choose?

I thought so.

The ugly truth is that the average Jamaican (read: black person; read: anybody under 30) doesn’t care about books as much they used to. I’m not sure they ever did. But with the advent of smart(er than people)phones and tablets and lolspeak and text language, reading is something we don’t take the time to do much of these days.

Children in high schools will do anything to get out of a reading assignment. People in universities find it hard to read for their degree. Grown women won’t read anything longer than a dimestore paperback romance novel. Grown men won’t read anything longer than the writing on a girl’s T-shirt.

Yeah. The “writing”.

Reading in Jamaica has become anathema. It has become the symbol of the loser, the lame one, the geek (and not the swag-kind, either). Reading is uncool and frowned upon in most social circles. Why?

Because reading is hard. Not because people are dumb, but because people are lazy. We live in a world of instant gratification. Laughing out loud has been condensed to three letters. We are consumed with fitting the most amount of information into the least possible space, so that we can spend the shortest amount of time reading it. Twitter limits you to 140 characters. Tumblrs are specially designed to be free from the clutter of words. Our brains are being conditioned to hate any piece of writing longer than a sentence.

I don’t know when it started, or who it started with, but it’s an epidemic that is wildly spiralling. Once upon a time, you had to read, or people would stick you in a corner with a pointy hat. These days, it is the epitome of cool to dismiss books with a casual “N***, I don’t read.” Our literacy rates plummet and all we do is blame white people for everything that’s happened since slavery.

If you’re going to hide behind history and shake the stick that says ‘it’s not our fault; the white man conditioned us this way’ then congratulations, I’m sure you probably read that somewhere. But you’re still flogging a dead horse. You’re denigrating the achievements of all those other black people who did something with their lives. Just because you sit at home watching cat videos all day and collecting welfare cheques (oh, I went there) does not mean there aren’t ambitious black folks out there winning prizes and achieving things despite book taxes and bad racist jokes.

Now, of course you have the one or two government officials who, in a bid to keep power in the hands of a few, start to tax printed material. Because they’re generally the rule, and not the exception. This kind of move steps on the layman who wants to buy his twelve year old daughter a copy of Great Expectations so that she will know enough not to settle for this kind of bogus democracy. But since they need to perpetuate the stereotype of black men not reading (because that’s what America thinks, y’all) they have to make books too expensive for those uppitty Negros who think they actually have a right to literacy.

But the truth is, we are all part of the problem. Every time we send ‘u’ an SMS; every time we read the Cliffnotes version instead of the actual thing; every time we ignore written instructions simply because our brain skips over the words – we are moving closer to the day when all the white folk start putting their valuables in books. 12% of adults in this country cannot write or understand a paragraph about their own lives. 12%.

And what is being done about it? Children are still leaving primary school without basic reading and writing skills. Universities are still offering courses in remedial English. 50 years after Independence we’re still falling prey to jokes about illiteracy, criminal activities and KFC.

Let’s at least try to make it harder for them to make fun of us, yeah?

The Price of Literacy

It now costs 16.5% more than it did last year for the average Jamaican to read a book. Thank you, Jamaican Government.

While my first instinct is to lambaste this tax reform as a dick move by the government, I will restrain from using bad words from delivering my initial reaction and instead try to create some semblance of a rational reply to this ridiculous measure.

But first, enjoy a few statistics:
Jamaica ranks 63rd (of 163) in the world with our literacy rate of 86.4 {source}.
Girls and women have higher literacy rates than boys and men (6% and 10% differences respectively)
In 2009 the average literacy rate of youth was 95.17
In the same year for adults, 86.36

This is the kind of educational climate in which Dr. Peter Phillips sees it fit to impose a tax on printed material, with the exception of sloppily defined ‘textbooks’ (which includes children’s colouring books and of course the Bible, because Jesus would upset the temple of the moneylenders all over again if they dared to tax His Father’s book).

And besides, he adds flippantly, the Ministry of Education already provides the basic texts through the book rental programme. In HIGH SCHOOL.

And what of those students whose required readings fall outside Dr. Phillips’ nonchalant demarcations of “textbooks”? What of university students (like myself) whose books already cost more than some people make in a fortnight (and that’s just ONE book). What about people who read for leisure?


Therein lies the source of my greatest displeasure. In a nation, nay world, where young people already eschew the written word in favour of mp3’s and mp4’s taxing printed material is akin to dropping the axe cleanly on the chopping block. We readers had pretty much been confined to the gallows before but now our feet are dangling above the gap and instead of a clean break (like, say, censorship) we are faced with the pain of a slow death by asphyxiation.

I am not being melodramatic.

Even you, reader of blogs; if you are honest with yourself you can realize this. When was the last time you picked up a book that wasn’t required for school or work? If you can answer yesterday, last week or even last month, congratulations, you are among a happy and dying minority. If like most Jamaicans, the last thing you read was your Lotto ticket (or light bill), then you will be right at home in Peter’s new world order.

I of course plan to boycott this capitalistic censorship by buying books for as cheaply as possible as often as possible. Feel free to join me. I’ll be the one chaining myself to a bookstore and reading.