So the Government will take $45 billion saved in the National Housing Trust to repay our national debt over a five-year period. Under normal circumstances the furore would be understandable but we have an emergency situation at hand. But what do we understand by the word 'emergency'?
Why is it that our sense of patriotism and nationalism seems to be confined to sports? Jamaicans abroad are patriotic because of the difficulties of being a minority in another country. One manifestation of this was brought to the attention of Jamaica in 1961 by a 26-year-old Jamaican named Percival Patterson (prime minister of Jamaica 31 years later).
In a letter to the Star newspaper while in England, Patterson pointed out that it was the West Indians in England who were in favour of the West Indies Federation even more than those residing in the Caribbean islands. On September 19, 1961 Jamaica voted to secede from that Federation.
But our lack of patriotism and unity among Jamaicans at home has its roots in our history. Yes we have had bouts of authentic nationalism, such as in the 1930s and 40s when our people were in ferment for a change of the then political order. But the sort of slavery that this nation went under has not been unlearnt, which is the real cause of our lack of patriotism.
The year 2013 marks 500 years since the Spaniards brought the first set of African slaves here. But the Encomienda System (the Spanish code of regulations for the slaves) did not apply to Jamaica, as the island was never really a Spanish colony. Jamaica had been granted to the Columbus family and therefore the island was their private estate until the capture of Jamaica by the British in 1655.
There were Africans here before 1513 who were here before the Tainos. At the Seville Great House in St Ann's Bay is a skull of an African found here. The archeologists suggest that the skull is more than 500 years old. In any case, in the region, the pyramids in Peru and Mexico suggest that they were erected by the same set of people that erected the pyramids in Egypt.
But the problems started with the coming of the English. Shortly after arriving here they brought their prisoners (called bondsmen) to Jamaica. After their six-year sentence working in the tobacco and cane fields, most of them remained here and became the pirates. At first the English did nothing about them because the pirates were the only defence against the Spaniards who wanted to re-capture Jamaica.
Eventually piracy got out of hand and no trade could take place, as the boat captains were all fearful of the pirates. So there was the Treaty of Madrid in 1670 where the Spaniards agreed to cease their demands for the possession of Jamaica in return for the English bringing piracy under control.
Henry Morgan, the leader of the pirates, attacked Porto Belo in Panama, a Spanish possession. To keep the Treaty of Madrid, Morgan and the governor, Sir Henry Modyford, were arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. But only Henry Morgan could control the pirates. So he was released and made governor of Jamaica with instructions to end piracy. This Morgan did by selling land cheaply to the pirates and they became the aristocracy.
And from that day of the criminals being in control of Jamaica, we have had problems of serious criminality. Add to that the process of slavery where to survive many slaves became "samfie' men. The difference with Australia and that continent-nation being settled by criminals is that the criminals we never in charge of Australia. It is their educated and more civilised descendants that eventually took control of that Australia when it received political independence.
After the abolition of slavery in Jamaica the Baptist Church set up the Free Villages. The Moravians, who worked mainly in St Elizabeth and Manchester, also could be credited for teaching Christian morality among the ex-slaves. There was also a sense of morality that came from the Maroons who settled in Portland. This kept criminality under control in both Portland and in St Elizabeth where the Moravian Church had not stretched.
During most of the slavery period, the Roman Catholic Church had been banned. From 1792 onwards, a few foreigners were Roman Catholic and at that period of history there was one Roman Catholic priest in all of Jamaica. That was why the Roman Catholic Church was not included in the social interventions immediately after slavery.
The rural-urban drift started to really gain momentum with the banana disease that wiped out the industry in the 1930s. That rural-urban drift resulted in the founding of Jamaica Welfare by Norman Washington Manley in 1937. The purpose of Jamaica Welfare Limited, which was financed by the United Fruit Company, was to develop the rural communities. This was to make rural communities attractive for the people to stay there and plant bananas.
But then World War II broke out. By the mid 1940s Jamaica Welfare became Jamaica Social Welfare Commission and was responsible for getting food to the war front. After the war, many Jamaicans left the island as part of Empire Windrush, leaving their children behind, who for the most part, rebelled and passed on their dysfunctional behaviour to their descendants.
This partly explains the breakdown in family life, character building and morality in Jamaica. Our education system has taught traditional subjects but has not sufficiently addressed the matter of character building.
In his book Politics of Change, Michael Manley pointed to the need for the Churches to tackle the whole business of morality. In his time as prime minister, PJ Patterson spoke to the need for Values and Attitudes. But the idea was treated as a political thing and was criticised to death, to the detriment of Jamaica.
In this period of Lent, it is the ideal time to reflect on this history and resolve to do something about it. We really need to revisit the Values and Attitudes plan. And we should do it immediately.
PATTERSON ... spoke to the need for Values and Attitudes
NORMAN MANLEY ... founded Jamaica Welfare in 1937
MICHAEL MANLEY ... urged churches to tackle morality