Back-to-school loan lessons with the Chris Brown concert

Screenshot 2023 07 22 At 2.48.05 Pm
American singer Chris Brown (photo: courtesy of Twitter)

If you want to go to the Chris Brown concert at the National Stadium, Kingston, on August 27, and are short of anywhere from US$45 to US$10,000, you can get a loan, have a night of fun and take anywhere from a year to four years to pay off the memory. Heck, you can probably use some of the loan money to buy a data plan and go live from your seat or standing up point and prove that you were there with the hot people and the not people were somewhere else. That is US$10,000 to J$1.5 million, by the way.

It is not the first I have read about entertainment event loans in Jamaica – even before the microfinance entity now offering the Chris Brown concert loans did the same thing last December for the Burna Boy concert, also at the Stadium, a few years ago there were loans for the ‘Emancipendence’ party series in Negril. And, there is also Carnival costume financing. Now that is a special one – a loan for a costume that will never be worn again, to walk and wine on streets that you can trod for free, any day of the week.

However, the timing of the Chris Brown concert really gets me. It is smack before the back-to-school moment that is a focal point of each academic year, at about the time when various corporate entities, politicians and popular reggae and dancehall performers host treats to help get the youngsters ready for entry into or return to the education system. In all fairness, the company inviting persons to come in and get a Chris Brown concert loan offers education and funeral loans, among others, but it is the entertainment events which have really hit the jackpot for them.

It is a business and successful ones meet a demand. And, there is a demand – a desperation even, camouflaged by smiles and clothing – to be seen to be happy. For many persons it is not enough (or possible) to be happy in their own space; they have to be where a person is supposed to be happy, they have to seen being happy and their happiness has to be comparative. And they will pay for that, even if it takes the length of a four-year undergraduate degree to do so.

So, the company offering the Chris Brown concert loan, which may just be disbursing money to borrowers who are currently paying off a Burna Boy concert loan, is not cruel. The interest rate was not stated, but chances are it is high because there must be a lot of risk involved. After all, at some point the borrower will get to the reality check moment of recognising that they paid for an asset which has disappeared. That is even worse than a car, which depreciates faster than the 0 – 100 kilometres per hour times that manufacturers push as a selling point. Education, on the other hand, is an appreciating asset, much like real estate. But that is not where the demand is, for this company.

The entertainment loans have to be put in the context of rabid consumerism, the need to not only be ‘smaddy’, but to be acknowledged as ‘smaddy’, for the unspecified but ever-present ‘dem’ to not be able to ignore the arrival at a place of prominence, even for one night in one little place on the endless stage that is the world. That is a perennial issue with small societies – every little thing can look large. And get this – in a way this expenditure on fleeting fun is a supported by the government, as the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) focuses heavily on events to boost visitor arrivals.

At least the liquor companies try to look as if they care, advising “drink responsibly”. Maybe there should be a slogan, “borrow responsibly”.

Lightning, it is reputed, does not strike the same patch of earth twice. I have not met or heard of anyone who has tried out that notion by standing barefooted in the rain, waiting for strike one – and that is before strike two, if they make it, but I do know that I will not be at the National Stadium in Kingston on August 27, loan or no loan.

I was there in early July for my annual dose of low-cost, high-quality entertainment, which is ‘Trials’, as Jamaica’s National Senior and Junior Championships are known. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the $500 Bleachers entry fee on the opening day and other low costs to see high quality athletics performances. That is value for me, but I suspect that many persons who will take a loan to go to the Chris Brown concert would curl their lips in scorn at the mere thought of putting on ordinary clothes and sitting in an ordinary seat and watching extraordinary performances by highly trained professionals and amateurs.

We just have different value systems.

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