How did we come to this sorry pass?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

I am still in shock after viewing online footage of Jamaicans scavenging for meat in the Rio Cobre following the tragic accident on Flat Bridge last Wednesday night.

I cannot believe that this is what Jamaican people have been reduced to. Can we not see the significance and implications of this activity by our fellow Jamaicans and the reality of their Jamaican existence? C'mon! Wake up, Jamaica! How much lower can we go? Why have our citizens become so desperate that they have to be fishing and diving for waterlogged cow foot and oxtail out of a murky river to eat? I don't know what spin the sociologists or politicians will put on this, but to me this is clearly basal survival instinct.

Our politicians and some newspaper columnists have been touting Jamaican pride and our "rich" cultural legacy and "our" achievements on the world stage over the past several months. Yet, after much of the Jamaica 50 celebrations have passed and the London 2012 Olympic successes have started to fade from memory, the real Jamaica has surged to the fore. If we want any clearer indication of the depths to which we have sunk, we just need to summarise the events of the past month (rape of five females, vigilante killings, murdering of pregnant women), which highlights what the real Jamaica is all about. The success of a handful of athletes every few years does not equate to Jamaicans' ability to obtain or create jobs to provide for themselves, their families and to live in comfort. We are certainly not destined for greatness based on our current trajectory, set in motion years ago.

The system of dependence for poor Jamaicans, who cannot maximise themselves and find it difficult to work meaningfully towards their dreams, has been foisted onto us under the guise of the political promise of a "social safety net". The poor, who the politicians love so dearly, are to supposedly benefit from this "safety net", but instead it is used as a tool to capture the people and keep them down. Our political class has ensured that they, their offspring and their friends will never have to, or come close to, eking out a living in the way exhibited by the residents of the Bog Walk Gorge last week.

The way forward, to uplift our nation out of the rut it has been in for decades, must be by equipping Jamaicans with tools to cut themselves free of the social safety net. We should be looking to strengthen literacy through intensive reading, writing, grammar, elocution, and comprehension sessions in our primary school curriculum, and do away with this patois-teaching idea in schools, as touted by our very literate university elites who want to teach the "common man" his language.

We should be looking to transform our culture back to the values we used to have, where we used to show respect for our fellow citizens, to demonstrate civility and decorum, rather than making excuses that this is who we are. We must get the economy on track by cutting the size and expenditure of government, and by taxation reduction coupled with improving the ease of tax payment, instead of Jamaica being one of the hardest places in the world to pay taxes.

Our nation's founding fathers, national heroes, our African ancestors who did not make it across the Middle Passage, and our forbears who suffered in bondage must all be turning in their graves, watching on in amazement as to what we have become after 50 years of self-rule.

Dr Stefan Hemmings





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