Mr Damion Crawford, the MP for East Rural St Andrew has woken up to the reality of the precipitous road one has to travel as a practising politician in Jamaica today. He is discovering - as Mr Patterson so eloquently stated, and to paraphrase him, that the politics is about a tribal war over scarce benefits and spoils. Certainly it has been about who gets what, when, and where. All of this warring takes place in a country which is hostile to investments and in which those who play by the rules get shafted. It is also about the kind of leadership that cuts down a great section of a jungle only to discover that the wrong jungle was being savaged. In this kind of politics clientelism becomes triumphant as the resources of the state are doled out to ensure a win at the next elections. This, Mr Crawford, is what you have stepped into in East Rural St Andrew and it would be no different if you had gone to any of the other 63 constituencies, for this is the character of politics as we have practised it in Jamaica over these 50 years. Your epiphany is not late and your determination to do something about it may come across as rash, petulant and rude, as some have described it, but there is a great deal to commend your effort in this regard.
What Mr Crawford has stepped into in his constituency, and the paradigm shift he is insisting on is something that should be applauded and supported by every well-thinking Jamaican. As the "people's gladiator" in that constituency he is up against a tidal wave of old thinking that wants to preserve the status quo. Those in the constituency executive that want him to check with them before money is spent seem to want to ensure that reward for the MP's election flows in the "right" direction. It is now payback time and there should be visible signs that money flows in the areas where it should flow. Using constituency development funds to expand educational opportunity does not provide enough jobs on the ground for those who you may expect to vote you back into office.
Call him naïve if you wish. Say that he does not understand the "runnings" and that this "rasta yute", as some have derisively dismissed him, is out of his depth in what he is attempting to do, but Mr Crawford is emphasising a well-needed shift in the way we practise politics. He may come under some pressure from the higher-ups in the party who have long experienced and practised the virtues of pork-barrel politics. This would be regrettable, for they are the ones who should be setting the example to young politicians like Crawford. We will be looking to see if there will be any visible support for the new directions he is charting in his constituency. Philosophically, as a matter of governance, he has embarked on the right path. Philosophically, too, what he is attempting is not about a "little yute" in an insignificant constituency trying a thing or simply being a minnow swimming among sharks. Members of civil society, including the church and the PSOJ, should be taking note of what he is attempting and cheer him on.
What he is attempting, even if he has not seen the full ramifications of it as yet, is a small contribution by an elected official to a new paradigm of governance which should be part of the determining philosophy of governance going into the future. It is a commitment to which his leader and prime minister has spoken eloquently, but has equally not shown a commitment to pursue. If we could ever see a commitment on the part of our elected officials that convinces us that the resources of government are not the spoils of partisan war between two political parties, we would make one faltering step on the road to a new Jamaica. And it is that new Jamaica that we all should be bending our energies to build as we celebrate this year. For as we attempt to celebrate we see too much of the old Jamaica that we should leave behind and from which we have not been truly emancipated. We are reminded by no other than the prestigious Economist newspaper that Jamaica will finish the year with the slowest average growth rate since 2000 in the Americas - even behind Haiti (The Economist, July 21, 2012). As the newspaper acknowledged, most of our problems, like our public finances, are home-made. We have run fiscal deficits in 44 of the last 50 years since Independence.
Many of us will not want to admit it, but we are living in a sick society and it is very hard to celebrate sickness. Let us have some fun while we can, for God knows we need to let off some steam or we will explode. But let us not be unmindful of the larger things that will really make us into the great nation we are capable of becoming. We may start by having a greater respect for each other and developing in our hearts the love and compassion about which we often speak but seldom practise in our daily lives. We may also want to support efforts like those of Damion Crawford and other youngsters like him who want to see a new Jamaica, a Jamaica of which we can truly be proud, and a Jamaica truly befitting the most beautiful piece of real estate that God has placed on this earth.