Columns

Jamaica's manifest destiny

Franklin JOHNSTON

Friday, February 21, 2014    

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We are creatures of history but we are not slaves to history. The British dominated our bodies but our minds are ours. We are masters of our fate. What happened to us in the past 50 + 1 years is unnatural. The arc of Independence is to begin with gusto and do well. Ours was trash, and the second 50 starts hobbled by debt. What's our nation's destiny? Will we be a satrap of the Interntaional Monetary Fund? A blighted nation on the fringe of the greatest market on earth? Are we not men?

Jamaica's dalliance with a single economy of Eastern Caribbean (EC) states is a monumental error. It distracts from matters of gravitas. The major constant before and since 1962 is our attempt to join with others — Federation, union, single economy with ex-British slave states. All these proto-unions caused us anguish; we rape, murder and are quite mental as prosperity eludes us. We lack confidence? British history dulls our vision. The Caribbean Sea runs from south of Miami to north of Venezuela. Like Tainos, we are Caribbean. They called us "Xamaica". The "West Indies" is a fiction created by Europeans who thought they found India. Britain gifted us Taino land at independence, our leaders took the bait. Is our future a mere record of Europe's mistake not geography? "Mash down that lie!" They twist history, but no one can falsify geography.

Jamaica's manifest destiny is with Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic (Dom Rep), Puerto Rico — the Greater Antilles our neighbours. Tainos circulated in our large islands — natural partners. How do we ignore them yet claim to love men far away in the EC; our link being former slaves of a common master? Emancipate yourself from mental slavery! Let us embrace destiny and the maritime logistics of the Antilles will make our ports — Kingston, Jacmel, San Juan, Mariel, Port Antonio, La Romana, Santiago, Miami, MoBay — bustle with local traffic. We will employ dozens of small passenger and cargo craft, create new ventures in inter-island trade in a market of some 40 million and tourism, many other firms may become multinational in our own back yard. We can prosper in this large market if we believe in ourselves. Let's go for it!

Start this second 50 years with vision. Let's make Spanish equal to English so by the end of primary school all are able to live in our Antilles, Latin America or the USA. Cabinet must now form a "High Council of Neighbour Relations" to strategise how to bring us closer to countries within an hour of MoBay. The UWI will become the "University of the Caribbean" with quality English campuses in Cuba, Haiti, Dom Rep — manifest destiny! English is our USP. It is the value we bring to the Antilles. A true Caribbean airline to connect our "big five nations" and POS, Timehri, Bridgetown to New York, Rio, Belize, metropoles in North, Latin America and EU is now feasible. The irony is we will be closer to our EC friends by doing what's right for Jamaica.

The West Indies is a "terminological inexactitude". We punch above our weight so name change to "Caribbean" starts in Latin America, then the UN. First, Parliament must invoke naming rights as the Taino legacy, enshrine "Caribbean" and "Xamaica" in law as none but ourselves can free our minds. Should "West Indies" — a point relative to Europe — brand our islands forever? Affinity with our neighbours will not harm Caricom as the OECS did us no harm. For 40 years Cabinets ceded our sovereignty; did you visit your capital Georgetown? You visited capitals of single markets — Washington, DC; London; Brussels; and Moscow before the USSR federation fell. We must now rely on Andrew, Mickael, Kamina, Julian, Philip, and young JLP and PNP leaders to reclaim our sovereignty: We may discover our manhood, end our demented rampage, and prosper our nation.

We need a group of visionary, patriotic Jamaicans from academia, business, civil society — backed by technical assistance as the "High Council" — to create new strategies. Our neighbours will love our new "take charge" spirit. The low-hanging fruit is interlining tourism, culture, trade, Spanish and French education here and our English education there. By 2018 we should have treaties on education, trade, food, shipping, safety, disaster, security, and travel. Yes, we celebrate English, but Empire is so ingrained in us after 50 independent years we do not talk to our neighbours. We want Caricom, CCJ, and its soft benefits, but we repudiate CSME as it holds no benefits for us. For unlike the UK, oil (or gas, bauxite) is selfish, not a resource-in-common to assist all members.

Scotland will vote later this year whether to leave the UK single market. It worked well for them, but Scots want identity, control of their resources, the acclaim of their sportsmen — Andy Murray — and sovereignty for their parliament after 600 years. By contrast, we subordinate our nation to a "bruk sport" CSME. Where is national pride? Where is self-confidence? When the Olympic leaderboard says CSME I will feel no thrill in my soul — leave my "black, green and gold"? Usain, Shelly-Ann must remain our icons. My passport says Jamaica, and foreigners know Manley, Marley or Bolt — we connect! Alec Salmon is confident fellow Scots will vote to exit the UK, but Prime Minister Cameron is fighting to keep them in. Scots want to breathe God's air. Are we lesser mortals? In 1962, we were in the fog of the British-inspired West Indies Federation, and since Independence we have been mired in similar schemes — Carifta, Caricom, CSME masquerading as our choice. We have never been free of schemes, why? Are we as competent as Singapore? Do we have to be in a gang to prosper? Are we as democratic as Scotland? Can politicians just sign us up for CSME like a gym membership? Are we just stupid? We need a vote on CSME. We have never been independent. Is the Jamaica Independence Party on? Our 1962 milestone was a freeby from Britain, maybe for the first time at last the battle for independence lies ahead. Stay conscious!

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

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