It’s the end of another calendar year, time to make new year’s resolutions or re-commit to the ones we made a year ago but never quite stuck to. As I thought about the things I want to do in the new year I realized they all coincided with improving my little home-land. I must admit that even though I have given it much thought I have no idea how I will effect change that will have meaningful impact on enough lives.
Those of us who are blessed to live overseas cannot afford not to think about those back home, irrespective of our personal circumstance. We avail ourselves to the reality that life is getting almost unbearable for the majority of ordinary Jamaicans. I look back today on the country I grew up in with deep dark melancholy. I remember a time not that long ago, when our country was considered the pearl of the Caribbean. Other Caribbean natives feigned being Jamaicans to those who could not decipher the difference in our accents. People from the other Islands wanted to come to Jamaica to live. We were the center of learning, our Schools and Students second to none. Our Athletes the pride of the region. We were renowned for the Arts , culture, yes the birth-place of Reggae, we were considered a Godly Nation. We respected each other, every family helped to raise the other’s kids.
Authority figures like Teachers and Clergy-men were held in high regard, Cops traveled without guns. Seldom would anyone harm the elderly or the very young. Then something changed in the early 70’s, we never recovered. Our Country did a complete 180 degree turn , it wasn’t gradual it was dramatic. All of a sudden it wasn’t cool to earn what you needed, you were entitled to it. Those who had material wealth were instant pariahs, made scapegoats, pawns in the quest for State Power. When they protested they were told to board one of the 5 flights leaving daily for Miami. They were made persona-non-grata in their own Country. What affront, what arrogance? The entire middle and productive class took flight out of fear for their lives, many were killed.
Our Country descended into economic chaos, the moral compass forever changed. It is darn near impossible attaining economic growth or development when you chase away the entire productive sector and replace it with Government cronyism. The decay continued with most of the companies we knew as little kids in the 60’s which survived through the 70’s eventually giving up. Many disappeared because of Union/political strong-arming. Others forced to move away to greener pastures or simply closed for good by the astronomical cost of doing business. Bullying by Trade Unions, extortion, high energy and security costs sapped the life-blood of many and continue to do so to even the most stubborn, the most patriotic.
Today we wonder where went wrong? Really ? Where did we go wrong? How can we ask when many of us were there, some of us very young but there nonetheless. Today Jamaicans are shunned by our neighbors near and far. Our people made to feel like second-class citizens. Many forced into silence so as not to be identified by our accent, our once proud accent. Even as the tiniest nations register growth and relative prosperity for their citizens, Jamaicans cower in absolute fear at the next round of taxation , currency devaluation , price increases, and other austerities.
Our Nation’s future is uncertain. Uncertain because we continue to do the same things, yet expecting different results. When will our people discard the old philosophies of handouts and belly full politics and say no more? Will they recognize there is something greater than themselves? Love of country, love for their children and most of all love of God? Will they ever stop to think, “we’ve catered to our most base instincts of instant self gratification , it hasn’t worked so well, let us try another approach”?
That is my fervent hope.