The Jersey Way
You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve", said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; be content." C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
I have been reading and listening to the new Bailiff telling Islanders that we need to reclaim “the Jersey Way” from its critics, those who use it to denigrate the Island, and rather use it as a term for something positive.
“I refer briefly to those who have hijacked the expression 'The Jersey Way'. It's been used over the last few years to imply secrecy, something underhand and probably corrupt, something shabby and if not positively criminal and indeed I've heard it used by senior UK figures in that way. To me 'The Jersey Way' means doing something competently, with integrity, fairly and with compassion. On behalf of all islanders, to the extent I can do so, I reclaim that expression and I encourage you all to use it with its proper meaning and to be forthright in challenging those who do not.”
There is something in what he says, but I find the note which he sounds is too full of triumph. If we are to “reclaim the Jersey way”, we must also realise that the Jersey way is also as flawed as any other way.
In fact, even in the same paper which reported the William Bailhache’s words, there was a witness statement to the care inquiry about someone who went to the police with a complaint of abuse, and discovered later that one of his original complaints had been lost but recorded, and the other did not even seem to have been recorded. He had also been told that the Attorney General would explain to him that the reasons why the case would not be prosecuted, and then was told the Attorney General didn’t have time to see him.
There is not much in that account that displays competence, integrity, fairness or compassion. It does seem shabby. And it is not the only such case like that, of people treated badly.
But we should also look on the positive side. Look at how much Islanders raised in the initiative “Side by Side” which helps countries suffering natural disasters. The Island of Haiti, for example, was devastated by a horrific earthquake on 12 January 2010. Between 200,000 and 300,000 people died in the natural disaster and half a million were left homeless. In 2010 Jersey Side by Side partnered with ActionAid to raise funds to purchase 12 grinding mills to transform products like maize into a consumable food and source of income. In the summer of 2012 this fundraising project came to completion and ActionAid are set to deploy the grinding mills in the rural areas of Haiti.
Every year there are new calls for help, and every year the Jersey people rise to the occasion. This year saw the launch of the Jersey One World Group, raising awareness of both people trafficking in Asia and the need to educate farmers in Zimbabwe, to help those people all get onto their own feet. The old adage still holds good, attributed to Maimonides, “"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
There are Jerseyman like the late Ed Le Quesne, and former politician Jean Le Maistre who help us keep our eyes on the bigger picture, and remind us that charity may begin at home, but should not end there, that Islanders should not begrudge their own good fortune. This too, is the Jersey way.
And there are other Islanders like Colin Taylor, who remind us that charity also needs to begin at home, where there is homelessness, poverty, a need for a refuge, where people struggle to make ends meet. The Alms Houses at St Aubin and Sanctuary House show us that there is a widening gap between the rich and poor in Jersey society, and this must be addressed. Helping those in need within our own community, and creating food banks which as in England, are also desperately needed here, is something that Islanders also do. That too is the Jersey Way.
And looking at the Occupation, we have Clifford Orange, the Aliens Officer, ruthlessly collating particulars about Jews and sending them to the German authorities. We have the Attorney General sending the name of a man with a wireless set to the German authorities, knowing well what would happen, but doing this for the greater good. The Jersey Way? Alas, all too true.
But there is also a very interesting article called “The Kindness of Strangers”, which looks at the Occupation in Jersey, and those who helped Russian slave workers, or helped Jewish people who needed to hide, at great personal risk, and sometimes at great personal cost (when some were caught).. The Jersey Way. Yes indeed!
So we see that what we might call “The Jersey Way” is neither one thing nor another. There are the qualities noted by the new Bailiff, although it has to be said that most come from initiatives taken by the Islanders themselves, and not the authorities. And there is also the shadow side, where people get lost in the system, get trampled upon, forgotten.
It is very much as those opening words in Narnia.
..both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.