Jamaican cyberspace is filled with keen insights and valid criticisms about the mismanagement of Jamaica’s economy, human capital, crime problems, and the general lack of viable leadership from independence till now.
Some commentators decry the PNP’s ineptitude at National development and stated focus of “party over country”, while others bemoan the JLP’s fractious nature, and inability to connect with the wider public. We can also point out the links between political motives and criminal gangs, and how both the JLP and PNP have blood on their hands which will never be washed away. Furthermore, we have scandals upon scandals, corruption upon corruption, exploitation and selling out at the quickest opportunity… if we want to talk about problems in Jamaica, we have a limitless supply.
However, I believe we need to change the narrative, and truly look at the source of Jamaica’s problems if we intend to solve these problems. If we do not know the cause, then we will forever be slapping bandages on the symptoms, and simply coping with the status quo instead of effecting a fulsome cure. I believe the source of our problems is a lack of self-value and self-worth in the Jamaican psyche. It reveals itself in the way we treat each other in Jamaica, and the way we view foreigners/outsiders both here and abroad. It reveals itself in the way that a Jamaican worker would be a virtual non-performer at his/her job in Jamaica, but becomes a model employee and key resource person if he/she gets employment in Canada or the USA. It reflects in the way we abuse the environment, we take no pride in maintaining our surroundings, sell out whatever we can to get whatever we can in the short term, and to look out for self first and foremost. Most importantly, it reflects in the way we seek bailouts, handouts and external assistance, rather than recognizing that we have to look within to fix ourselves. We take pride in our icons such as Bob Marley, Usain Bolt and Louise Bennett even as it seems we do our best to avoid the hard work and effort they put in to achieve greatness.
If we will change the narrative, we need to acknowledge our failings as a people. Yes, our leaders have failed us, but we are the ones who select them, elect them, and reflect them. Even those who refuse to vote still bear some responsibility for the poor leadership, as the only thing needed for evil to succeed is for good persons to do nothing. A country gets the leadership it deserves, and we need to ponder this seriously while we decry the incompetence displayed by our leaders and public officials. Jamaicans love the easy fix, and the first thing we need to recognize is that there is no easy fix. All of us, from rich to poor, politician to pauper, Cherry Gardens to Tivoli Gardens will need to contribute towards fixing our country.
This will include education reform, political reform, and a re-engagement of the silent majority who have checked out of the political process even as they speak passionately on verandahs and on Twitter. This silent majority, if awakened and properly harnessed, can turn the tide of poor leadership by simply demanding more and letting their ballots do the talking. We have seen that politicians clearly do not care about keeping promises or serving any needs except their own. However, how can we be surprised by this? If the politicians know that you will not vote for them, why should they not cater to the ones who put them in power? We cannot speak about what should be, we must speak about what IS. Our vote is the only leverage we have against the politicians, and we give up much when we keep that weapon sheathed.
So what are the solutions available to us? One possible solution could be a new political party/movement, untainted by the sins of political violence and generational corruption/ineptitude. This new movement could engage the silent majority and disenchanted PNP/JLP supporters with a message of hope, upliftment, transparency and commitment to Jamaica instead of to special interests or party supporters. This new movement could (and should) aim high with its manifesto, and present a ground-up plan to regenerate the minds of the youth who will take over in the near future (if not the present). This new movement would (and should) remember that the most important investment it can make in a country is not in infrastructure, economics, mining, logistic hubs or divestment of non-performing entities, but instead is in its HUMAN RESOURCES.
Another possible solution is to begin a grass-roots level push to uplift the youth, to mentor and adopt even one young person and give them hope for a better way. Another possible solution is to re-engage with what we see in the news, rather than ignoring it or wishing it away. The most important step is to DO, and not just TALK. When we start that, we shall see the beginnings of a new era in Jamaica. The present generation of leaders has failed us, and cannot do better than what they know. The upcoming generation must do better, see better, lead better and avoid the self-serving methods of those who went before them; but they cannot do it unless we help them to do it.