Facing the truth
Education, dons, families, sex, music and economics
In my last article, ‘Facing the Truth – Part 2’, I started to trace when and how we as a nation slid off the path of truth as a standard, and truth-telling as a practice, and how the absence of truth has corrupted the whole national fabric. The result is the present ruin we are currently experiencing. I continue to strongly posit that it is only on the platform of truth that we can restore trust to obtain peace to move us to prosperity.
TRUTH REVEALS THE ROOT
Truth is a foundational principle that naturally calls us to get to the root of a matter to better understand the cause of the problem and find lasting solutions. A reader responding to an earlier article commented that “for more than 50 years Jamaica has attempted to solve its problems by starting in the middle of the problem-solving process”. He further stated, “the problem-solver needs to identify the cause of the problem and resolve it from there”. This is a profound piece of truth that many might say is stating the obvious. Yet sometimes it is the obvious that is often overlooked to our detriment.
It is with this in mind that I am pressing us as a nation to face the truth about our present conditions, then dig deep to find solutions that work. We are losing generations. The nation does not have the luxury of circling the mountain again. Here are a few more critical issues which we must stop side-stepping and face the truth if we are to progress and prosper as a nation.
FACE THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR REALITY
Number 1: We are oppressing our people with demands that do not fit our present realities. As a nation, we are not where we want to be but we are where we are and we must accept this reality. If we fool ourselves into thinking we are somewhere we’re not, we will never get to where we want to go.
In many respects, we act as though we are a first world country and make demands (or allow an imposition by external agents) for that circumstance – demands that don’t fit or contribute to advancing our progress to developed nation status. We are still a developing nation with different needs and realities than developed nations. We therefore have to apply different strategies until we have first world conditions to support the standards.
THE TRUTH ABOUT EDUCATION
Number 2: We are not sufficiently preparing the next generation of leaders and citizens to contribute to our nation’s progress and to achieve prosperity. Notwithstanding advances, after decades of independence we have been unable to properly educate all of our children, with many still leaving school illiterate or barely literate.
Boys are hardest hit. Many only pass through school so pass out with nothing. There are more high school quality spaces for girls. Boys are not matriculating through higher education. Spend time with many of our males and you will find them extremely underdeveloped in the cognitive and affective domains of learning. They lack basic reasoning and comprehension abilities. You will notice that their response mechanisms to most situations are either violent or sexual or both. We have a major problem. It is a root cause of most of our social problems.
THE TRUTH ABOUT DONS AND GARRISONS
Number 3: We must admit the fact that in so many areas of our national life, control has been ceded to non-State actors who wield enormous influence over the organs of the State and communities. We refer to them as dons or sometimes more euphemistically as area leaders.
We must also acknowledge that this parallel system is now firmly entrenched in our thinking and the ways in which we operate, because it provides so many services to our people who have been neglected by the State and its various apparatuses. Like a cancerous tumour attached to a vital organ, we cannot now just cut out the problem all at once. But we must treat the tumour because it is killing us.
We must now, without partisanship, strategise to dismantle the illegitimate system in a manner that does not create multiple problems to solve the one. I always contend that if you create a problem to solve a problem you have not yet found the best wisdom to solve the problem, so think again before acting.
THE TRUTH ABOUT FAMILIES AND FATHERLESSNESS
Number 4: The basic unit and strength of a nation is a healthy family (nuclear). Ours are disappearing. Absence of fathers in homes is wreaking havoc in the nation. The research to confirm its effects abound; lower IQ of children, increased incidence of poverty, teenage pregnancy and criminal involvement.
We have not seen serious efforts by successive governments to address this issue. Approximately 85 per cent of children are born to single parents. Well over 70 per cent of households are headed by mother only. We need a national response to this issue.
As has been done elsewhere, we may need government to institute policies that favour married couples; such as tax incentives, housing and other benefits. We must reward the behaviours that create social good.
THE TRUTH ABOUT SEXUAL ABUSE
Number 5: Sexual abuse is a major and commonplace problem that has become rampant in our nation. Its impact on victims is devastating. It must be confronted head-on! This is a complex issue that has its roots often in wrong beliefs. For example:
Sex Legends: Sex with a virgin being a cure for an STD. Sex with a young girl will restore vitality.
Sex Culture: The ‘gallis mentality’ and sex being used as a bargaining tool in economic arrangements. The economic provider in a ‘family’ is entitled to sex with any for whom he’s providing.
Sex Ignorance: Some people being unaware that the law prohibits sex with a child less than 16 years of age. Many people being uninformed of the negative and devastating impacts of early sexual activity.
Yes, we have laws on the books and advocating State agencies exist to monitor, enact and arrest. However, if even our lawkeepers and pastors are now leaders in breaking the law in this area, then clearly we have a problem of great magnitude. The long-lasting impacts on the victims of sexual abuse and consequently on the society as a whole demand that we urgently address this issue and stop pretending as though it were not commonplace.
THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR MUSIC
Number 6: Our cultural approach to sex and violence is often in full display in our music. There has been much debate about this recently but surely we must now acknowledge that music and the arts generally, are not merely reflections of the society. They are very much a part of what shapes attitudes, thinking and behaviours. Has not reggae music impacted the world and spread the philosophy of Rastafari across the globe? Music sets trends; in fact, the root Greek word ‘muse’ means to think.
How much longer can we afford as a society to allow every form of negative and anti-social thinking to be broadcast across the nation’s airwaves in the name of artistic freedom? Can we be bold enough to say that some things are NOT good for us and we need to change our diet?
THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR ECONOMICS
Number 7: The truth is we consume much more than we produce. Yet all the economists advise that for a nation to become wealthy its people must develop the habit of saving and investing. We must change our thinking and train our children to think differently in this area. We must become a nation of savers and investors and curtail our desire to have things that we cannot afford.
THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR CLASS DISPARITY
Number 8: We have no conviction about becoming a more egalitarian society and so we do not pursue policies aimed at creating a more equal society. Hence we maintain a stratified society. Let’s face the truth that we have not embraced our motto ‘Out of many, one people’.
We say we want development and economic growth but our history sadly shows that the economy and even the whole societal construct are really not structured for the poor to move up the ladder. Our system is set to ensure that the poor remain poor (barely having enough to sustain self) and that rich become richer. Yet the history of developed economies show that prosperity usually goes hand in hand with more and more people having the opportunity to move up into the middle class and beyond. Which leads me to:
THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR MSME SECTOR
Number 9: We are not committed to our Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) sector. Lip service only. We say small business is what drives development, but our system allows the opposite. Where an MSME grouping is successful and increasing, the economy of that nation grows and adds jobs and value.
In Jamaica, the system favours big business and the MSME sector is underserved despite many years of agitation and advocacy. Jamaica’s MSMEs are dying because of the cartelisation of most industries; with large cash liquid conglomerates dominating and swallowing up the weak.
THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR COMMERCIAL BANKING SECTOR
Number 10: The banking sector is not committed to its primary function of profiting from lending services and development of investment portfolios, but instead to profit from arbitrary and unjust fees. They are now charging for same old services and were making profits then, and are only doubling profits now. Grapevine has it that soon, charges will be coming if you change your mind in the bank. Regulators must protect from this rapacious capitalist thinking by our commercial banks.
THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR CONSTITUENCIES
Number 11: Insignificant change has taken place in our inner cities and rural parish political constituencies. In many cases, these constituencies have had a popular member of parliament (MP) as their representative for decades. Yet the weight and influence of these nationally and internationally known MPs has not improved the quality of life of their constituents. Isn’t it time an MP is rated based on the quality of life and services to his or her constituents?
These and other areas where we are hiding our heads in the sand have worked to destroy trust in the ability of our leaders to create and maintain leadership systems and structures for first world development. To restore trust and to resume progress toward prosperity, we need to face and act on the truth in these areas. The sad truth is that we probably are unprepared or unwilling to face the truth of this.