"Awe! Awe!" a young woman chants, with her fist shaking in tandem, watching the protest through the screen of her cellphone. This despite the fact that the prime minister was a couple of meters away.
I'm watching this unfold through Facebook. Some people gathered there to demand that the PM stops the parking fees (it is unclear to me if everywhere or just around the main street), and that transit be allowed back on the main street.
The scene is a caricature, and the PM fails to hold in his laughter more than once. Everyone there knows, to some degree, that having either of those demands met will represent little change to the economic situation of the island. But impotence breeds anxiety and so I suspect people just felt like the situation is becoming unbearable and they just had to do something.
Store-owners are adamant that parking fees for visitors (through a system of parking meters) and the prohibition of traffic for the main street has resulted in no customers visiting their stores. This is resulting in the loss of jobs and the rise in criminality, a retail employee explains.
While these are valid points, the scene reminded me of current day United States, where a lot of people who used to work in the mining business and factories lost their jobs mainly to globalization and the technological revolution, yet blame immigrants and socialist movements for the unemployment rates.
In Aruba, people are protesting the parking fees, because it's better than just accepting that a lot of people want to buy clothes online these days rather than at stores, because a store will never ever have the width of selection than the entire internet does, and because it is simply cheaper to buy online. Instead of yelling at the PM, how about the merchants themselves come up with some solutions to target the challenges the ever-changing world is throwing at them? Probably because that would require listening to their workers and their customers, and in my experience, they would rather listen to corporate. Anyways, the only workers still working are the ones who keep their mouth shut and agree with management. While I'm at it, let's point out that oftentimes, the manager got that position by default rather than by merit.
But I'm not gonna stop there, because it's not just the causes of the decline in shoppers that seem to be misunderstood, but also the consequences. Since we started paying parking meters, criminality has risen, ladies and gentlemen. Like we all believe what we're dealing with is honest people turning to crime to feed their families.
Not because kids are joining gangs and partaking in criminal activities from a younger age. It's not because we are working longer hours than ever for less money than ever, or that childcare is mediocre and overpriced, or that breastfeeding is still an issue all over the world that parents can barely educate a child. We are all sitting here pointing our overindulgent fingers at the poor parents (and the parking fees!) for the poor children turning into criminals, all the while ignoring that the reason both parents have to work extended hours is to support the materialistic lifestyle we are all subscribing to. The lifestyle that gives people the same worth as items, where money is God, where you literally spend the majority of your time doing things you hate just so that you can flash that purse or piece of jewelry. And then we expect that same kid who grew up watching his parents leave him every day in the pursuit of money to "have a better life", who saw that "better life" translate to things, we expect that kid to value morals or family or whatever above money?
Absurd. I really think it's time we stop deluding ourselves and start addressing the real causes of our problems. Such as, why is there nothing for people to work at other than the refinery, the hotels, retail, banks or law? Or, why does the owner get 8x more than the worker on average, compared to 3x about a decade or so ago*?
Now that the parking meters are being removed, let's focus on these important things and get to action.
*I remember I read this a while back on a newspaper here, but don't take it as a solid fact. But go look it up anyway, and then talk about it with people.