Defending Jamaica just the same


Friday, May 02, 2014    

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I am not ashamed to say I love my Jamaica. Yeah, yeah... all that sentimentality. Does that stem unemployment, diminish corruption, understand the ways of politicians, prevent an 11-year-old boy from stabbing a two-year-old? Most of all, have we changed significantly after years of nationhood? Why do we continue our attempts at self-destruction?

I don't have the full answer, but one thing I know... despite all the 'chupidniss' around, I still defend my Ja. When I hear that a Canadian court had to acquit two of my countrymen for wrongdoing on Canadian soil, because the Court couldn't find an efficient translator of Jamaican speech to 'Canadianese', I took bad sinting mek laugh. That's Jamaican... and I love it.

We can't laugh all the time. Two much 'crosses' round here. Right now I'm beginning to feel like I'm in a time warp; heading back to one of the worst of times when combative politics took over and we felt compelled to hate one another. When we come to one of those crossroads, where we take the path of sworn enemies in the name of democracy, it is not nice. That is why I'm beginning to watch for warning signs in the current atmosphere where we seem headed for another clash.

Two political issues have been tilting the balance towards political dissension which we can well do without. It started with Finance Minister Phillips' attempt to impose a tax which, on the face of it, was no big ting. One dollar out of every $1,000 to make up the deficiency in our account would be regarded as nothing elsewhere. But it is here. Before we knew what was happening, the "troops" were being mobilised for war. Small-minded people saw it as wickedness, and before you know it, temperatures were rising on the street. Audley Shaw, the Opposition's spokesperson, when it comes to money business, set Wednesday of this week as a "drop it or else". The message was delivered to a meeting of party faithfuls. Not surprisingly, when word filtered on to the street, it became politics time.

Before it could get out of hand, Minister Phillips withdrew the tax. Elsewhere, things might have cooled down, but the same day a representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) let it be known he was no longer supporting a proposal for the development of a new energy plant intended to help us with less-expensive power. Next thing you know we were on the barricades again with the offending company, EWI, moving to the centre of the storm and its integrity questioned. The minister of environment got even more central than central. Things began to get ugly, and there we are, as the week ends.

As the heat began to increase with calls for the minister's resignation and all the usual huffing and puffing, I had this awful feeling that I've been this way before. Certainly the political rhetoric sounds very familiar. Now, if only someone could remember how ugly it was the last time, and decide that we will not let it happen again because we know when to stop this time.

The date for the next general election has not been set yet, but it would appear that someone or 'someones' are extra-eager to get going. If this is indeed so, how long can we be civil to each other? What about those who cannot hold out? Who will cool it down when the fire begins to flare? In my wildest dreams, I hope that we could be civilised enough to call a solemn assembly, as some would say, sit down together like civilised people and work out the problem. Ah well, we can dream, can't we? It's full time to fashion a new Jamaica, built on the integrity we love to talk about, but fail to practise.

There's a whole lot we have to rediscover about ourselves. Someone pointed out to me recently that there seems to be eagerness among younger Jamaicans to bring about their version of an Arab Spring, using social media to latch on to some of the discontent in the hope that Government can be replaced.

Once upon a time I would have got a good laugh at this, but these are different times. It's not funny, not because youth activism is laughable, but because not everyone is prepared to understand the full meaning of revolutions. If the goal is to seek out the best for Ja, why not? Let's do so together. After all, we will have to face the future, not one by one, but in whatever numbers we find ourselves.

SALUTE TO FRIENDS: This week, South Africa celebrates the 20th anniversary of its freedom gained after the bitter years of Apartheid. When the resident envoy to Jamaica, High Commissioner Mathu Joyini celebrated the event with a gathering of theirs and our people earlier this week, she spoke with eloquence and enthusiasm of what the relationship between our two nations has meant to hers:

"Jamaica holds a special place in the hearts of South Africans and it is a solid, recognised brand... We would almost never have succeeded in our struggle without the dedicated and principled support of most of the international community, particularly that of Africa and her Diaspora in the Caribbean, especially Jamaica."

For her, it was not mere words. She has visited every corner of our country, getting to know people, paying respects to our heritage. She is the only person I know who can tell you about Mandela Street. Yes, she knows Mandela Park and Mandela Highway. It was in the course of one of the outings she came upon Mandela Street. Wey dat? Off the Junction Road.

When last you went into that corner of Jamaica? That is why I like her, for that and her sense of diplomatic sensitivity. She says this week has been extra important for the young people of her country who have come of age; and will, for the first time, go to the polls to exercise their franchise as citizens of a new democratic South Africa. Let us wish them well.

The media of the world seems interested in South Africa's problems -- the same as ours. Mathu Joyini is interested in a new dawn of a new day for the Rainbow Nation. We wish her and everyone all the very best, just as we did their elder statesmen when we had the privilege of seeing them on Jamaican soil.





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