CHRISTMAS is most certainly acoming, but the geese are not getting fat. Begging has become a national pastime as so many Jamaicans try to make ends meet. The dollar has broken the 90 to 1 barrier against its United States counterpart and it would appear that speculation in the black market is gaining momentum. All this is happening against the background of a pending International Monetary Fund agreement which has been too long in coming, notwithstanding the fact that a confident Minister of Finance and Planning Peter Phillips continues to assure an impatient nation that a letter of intent should be signed before year-end.
Over the weekend, I met an overconfident Jamaica Labour Party operative who told me to saddle up. This means that the Opposition JLP is getting into an election mode even before the first year of the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration has come to a close. Are things that bad, one may well ask? Clearly the JLP hierarchy smells blood, but isn't the Green Brigade getting too jumpy or power hungry, for that matter?
Last year, many of us Jamaicans did not have a real Christmas because the Yuletide season was overwhelmed by the spectre of a general election.
Indeed, many of the detractors of the then Prime Minister and Leader of the JLP, Andrew Holness, had likened him to the Grinch who stole Christmas because he had called the election in the midst of the festive season. Maybe that is one of the reasons why his party got such a thrashing at the polls? Be that as it may, it is my fervent wish that this year Jamaicans from all walks of life will be allowed to have a happy, safe and holy Christmas. Let's face it; there are times when politics should take a holiday.
Needless to say, the true meaning of Christmas continues to elude many of us in this country although we are supposed to be a Christian nation. We allegedly have the most churches per square mile in the world and equally interesting, we are said to have the most rum bars per square mile in the world! Talk about the Spirit and spirits! The sad truth is that materialism and selfishness have overtaken the true Jamaican psyche of yore, which translated then into peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind. Nowadays, as one walks the streets, the usual refrain is, “Wha happen boss, a wha yuh a give mi fi mi Christmas?” And it is worse if you are a politician. In my case, I have been told repeatedly, “Portia give you money fi give wi.”
In my view, the two sets of people most worthy of support at this time are the elderly (especially shut-ins) and young children. I therefore urge the corporate entities as well as my fellow politicians to focus on these two groups so that Christ's mission on Earth can be truly validated. Too often, it is the greedy, not the needy, who get attention. Those who shout the loudest, those who are most aggressive as well as those who know how to beat the system are always first in line; thus alienating the poor, humble souls who genuinely need assistance and a dose of generosity at this time of year.
Whatever happened to the good old traditional Jamaican Christmas? Like everything else, our culture has been shunted aside to accommodate foreign affectations and tastes. Our children and young adults are growing up in an environment bereft of those cultural norms, practices and mores that defined us as a people. Nowadays, most of our traditions and folklore are lost in translation, exiled to the hallowed halls of academia or are struggling in the periphery in small rural villages where, thank God, there are still real Jamaicans.
It is against this background that the constant politicking has become perhaps the most debilitating aspect of our everyday lives. Indeed, it may well be said that politics has done more to underdevelop this country than anything else. Not crime, not obeah, not wicked imperialists, not the IMF. Our failure lies primarily in a divisive political system that makes us continuously turn against each other rather than turning to one another, coupled with an education system that teaches dependency rather than independence and interdependence.
This Christmas, approaching one year after yet another general election, followed by a local government election which still sees us struggling to make one giant leap towards the attainment of economic independence, both the JLP and the PNP must come to the stark reality that we are all in this thing together, no matter who rules the roost at Jamaica House. The road to consensus is the only way forward, lest we continue to fool ourselves that the solution rests merely with who is first past the post in an election. The writing is on the wall. Now that Jamaica must once again be in the throes of yet another IMF conundrum which in the very final analysis robs us of our sovereignty, we must wake up and smell the coffee. A general election is not the answer; it must be a united Jamaica that takes us into the Promised Land. The sooner Labourites and Comrades savour this notion, the better shall Jamaica be and we will then have Christmas right through the year!
Lloyd B Smith is a member of parliament and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the People's National Party.