Columns

Cry, my beloved country

Franklin JOHNSTON

Friday, July 26, 2013    

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JAMAICA bleeds profusely from self-inflicted wounds. Old wounds embossed by scar tissue, new wounds scarlet with irritation, infection, bright arterial blood. We have started our second 50 years with lots of experience but little hope. Our experience is no asset; it is depressing and a burden. Failure saps energy and sadly, poverty is our friend. We don't like it but we seem comfortable with the concomitant begging and samfie which we may soon elevate to culture as we did lewd music. The terrorist windshield washer is now normal; you grit your teeth and fork out with painted smile. We adapt to penury so prosperity does not excite. Expect nothing and you are never disappointed; why live? Vision 2030 is closed unless you read English. The nation lacks revolutionary zeal; who will I send, who will go? We are not far from the Kingdom but we cannot enter crawling on our belles; "oh that we were back in Babylon where slave master gave us three squares a day." Freedom is hard, no free food. Let's climb this hill for ourselves, not the IMF. Where is our leader? Even the Seabed "tek step wid we" in our own land — it hurts like hell!

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) scandal us! The top brass complain that the water, sound, lighting, a/c, decor, etc are substandard; Kingston betrays their trust. Can we disinvite them so they go home? The ISA has some 160 members and the recent session was shameful. Jamaica is unique as a third-world country with the headquarters of an international body. It should be the capstone to our status, to bring hundreds of delegates to see our glory, spread the word so millions of tourists come traipsing by as at the UN Headquarters in New York — a fear-free city, friendly people. Kingston is not it. As few as 50-plus delegates come to the Seabed sessions; none roam our streets as they do other cities. No poor country will ever have such an agency again. When the choice is importing chicken back or maintaining Seabed facilities, chicken back wins. If you romanticise poverty our nation loses big time. Let's kill poverty!

Professor Tommy Koh was a second nightmare this week. Singapore chastises us again — it hurts. Lee Kuan Yew said it years ago, now Prof's words to the press were: "When the British left, you...were in a better state than many of the countries in South East Asia, you've squandered your legacy." I say our politicians failed us for 50 years and I get cussed. Who dares rebut Prof Koh? Please tell him of the prime ministers who did great things for us. He intoned "... in 1965 our per capita income was US$500. In today it is US$50,000 a hundred-fold increase". Ours in 1965 was some US$450, Barbados was less; now Bim's is multiples of ours too. Singapore, a controlled democracy, was no miracle; nor was Barbados. They had wise leaders who made the hard decisions and people worked. We self-medicate, tie head and bawl.

Some say we did well in education — dream on! The word from Prof is "Get your fundamentals right, educate your people well, practice meritocracy..." We are still at education ground zero and it's now up to the parents and taxpayers to act. We focus on a few dunces and neglect the 85 per cent we should have in our sights. Many say it matters not what foreigners think, so forget Tommy Koh. What say you? I got an email from a wonderful man who knows I am conflicted at my nation's idiocy. I now see this big man did not write to comfort me; he is in pain but not giving in to self-pity, so "get up, Johnston; back to the coal face!" He is rich and need not care a fig about Ja but he cares; he cares a lot but his faith is shaken. He is a truer Jamaican than me as with his cash I would be visiting the fleshpots of Marrakesh now. He wrote:

Those whom are given the chance to serve this great nation are often faced with moments that make us wonder if it is worth giving. I have seen and shared some agonising moments with Comrades and have come away bolstered in my belief that there is no greater calling than that of service to your country. Many of us have had to overcome extreme difficulties in our personal lives. We have faced moments of pain and anguish but yet still, we keeping going at the task of nation-building. I am glad to be part of the army of Comrades who are given the glorious opportunity to serve Jamaica; nothing can take away our commitment.

I recognise that because of the complexity of the process of nation building, mistakes will be made. It is for this reason that I constantly remind myself and ask all Comrades to guard carefully the principles and beliefs that make us worthy. There will be misunderstandings and ever major mishaps but, if we embrace the fundamental principles of truth and honesty, then we can overcome those moments, even when it seems that no one believes us and even our closest allies have turned against us . There is joy in knowing who you are and what you believe. This gives us certainty and fixity of purpose. The steadfastness and resolve that come from our abiding commitment to these core principles will sometimes be shaken by lies and distortion; however, we must look forward, committed to the task and anchored at all times by mercy, grace and love.

I am persuaded that the People's National Party is the best hope for Jamaica. There has never been any reason given or action seen that would cause me to betray this glorious movement. I stand with all Comrades who seek to build Jamaica, and ask that at this critical time in our history we all recommit to be exact in our vocation, studied in our deliberations, honest in our dealings, truthful in our discourse and steadfast in our calling. — So I get it, so I give it!

Peter Bunting and Brand Jamaica

False pride is a terrible burden many carry. There is nothing Peter said in this USA film which impacts our brand with the white people (blacks do not matter as they have nothing to let off) who lend us money, give us aid and visit us — many know the truth but still love our country. Our brand is known by our deeds and even our diaspora won't come home for fear. The bedrock of a brand is the masses and our brand in global markets is sprint and reggae — we are minstrels. In matters of gravitas we have no brand recognition. Our brand is shaped by violence. They turn off our music at home but they can't turn off our evil ones who live near them. The USA just caught our drug Donette torturer and we are in the record book of global crime. Marley and Bolt give passing pleasure to the world; our evil ones keep their cities in fear. The change in border control worldwide is not us alone, but as I remove my shoes for airport X-ray I cuss Richard Reid. Our record abroad defines our brand; not Bunting's words. We live among them now they know us. The men who define our brand are not at Diaspora conferences as they can't travel or are in prison. Stay conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist and project manager and advisor to the minister of education. franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

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