My Tropic Escape: Survival of the Most Visible
My Tropic Escape signs off its introduction as:
One Love,Innovation is relative, because when you think of it, My Tropic Escape is a tour company. Using adjectives like "luxury" and "adventure" doesn't make it more than what it really is. It's just as silly as calling a flight attendant a "international hospitality consultant", for example. Where is the risk in asking your lover to lend you his support in starting up a business in Jamaica's thriving tourism sector?
Imani Duncan & Peter Bunting
Co-creators of My Tropic Escape
I asked myself, is a person truly a wealth creator if the co-creator of her business is her former lover?
Wealth is created through several means.
- Natural resources can be harvested and sold to those who want them.
- Material can be changed into something more valuable through proper application of knowledge, skill, labor and equipment.
- Better/smarter production methods also create additional wealth by allowing faster creation of wealth.
- Ideas create additional wealth by allowing it to be created faster or with new methods.
I thought it looked strange when one minute, Imani is lovey-dovey and doing ski trips with Peter and less than a year later, is engaged to be married to Basil Waite. The Jamaica Observer's Tatler blamed Peter for the breakup, and painted him out to be the loser, but that was a hasty judgement. I think that he is an experienced businessman who has made effective use of his left brain.
And I'm saying that the press has made this middle-class girl look more ambitious than she really is. I was proud of her a few years ago when I read about her tireless efforts to get Global Justice off the ground. She was right there when it all began, so I feel that it's an anticlimax when this woman with a master's degree from Harvard University comes back to Jamaica and starts a tour company that's funded by her wealthy ex-boyfriend.
I also question her role as wealth creator because it occurs to me that her Escape Artists (borrowed term) and members of the local communities will have to serve up themselves to receive tourist dollars. How does servitude contribute to wealth? Who is becoming wealthy?
It seems to me that the tourists are the wealthy ones because they can order up anything they like. For a reasonable cost, they can enjoy the holiday of their dreams, hundreds of people bending over backwards so they can really have fun.
One woman (not a Jamaican) told me recently that she had seen an advertisement on TV for the Jamaica Tourist Board. She wanted to know where she would stay during her vacation, since everyone in Jamaica lived in the woods, under the shade of trees, eating only fresh fruit. How would she dry her hair after shampooing in the river? This was a university educated woman was in her late 20's. Anyone who has lived outside of Jamaica for a considerable period of time should have had this stranger-than-fiction experience.
I'm not bothered by Imani's ex-boyfriend's sponsorship. What bothers me about this whole thing is the fact that the press has named her a wealth creator. The term doesn't really have any meaning because none of the people who are cooking cheap lunches or pointing fingers "over there" can get rich doing just that. So, who, I ask again, is getting all this wealth?
What bothers me is that the Observer article has implied that she is a role model for young women who want to strike out on their own. How can Imani truly spread the message of wealth creation in Jamaica when she had a rich boyfriend to begin with? If I were a member of the reading public who was reading this article, I would assume that I am to look to this beautiful, educated woman for mentorship. After finding out that she had help from a special friend, I would think that it is impossible for me to make it on my own. I would then decide to make my ultimate goal in life "finding a rich man" to sponsor my ambitions.
Unfortunately, many women in Jamaica have adopted this mindset. It is one of the side effects of our culture of beauty pageantism. Many talented women enter these contests because they feel that their true goals in life will be otherwise compromised. In Jamaica, if you don't live in the right neighbourhood, or if you weren't born in the right family, you are forced to make up for it with maximum exposure. What better way to do so than to invite yourself to the coming out party of the Jamaican middle class?
The real reason that young women enter beauty pageants is to ensure their own survival. To be invisible, or out of the media spotlight in Jamaica, is a very bad thing, especially when you need a boyfriend with lots of cash.