Tomorrow marks a great Jamaican holiday that pays respect to six men and one woman who have been chosen to represent much of what we believe has made Jamaica leave slavery and come into the modern world. We honour them and pay our respects, as a matter of rote, without understanding their lives and sacrifices within the context of the times in which they lived.
Nanny of the Maroons and Sam Sharpe confronted the then world power that is the British Empire and all their might and "majesty" with bravery and cunning. Nanny proved that military might could not overcome the resolve of a people to be free and to be left in peace. Sam Sharpe challenged their moral right to enslave their fellow men, and did so within the beliefs of the Christianity that the British had instilled in Africans.
Paul Bogle and George William Gordon challenged the colonial Government by using the rights of citizens under the law to voice opinions that did not necessarily agree with despots entrusted with the delivering of justice. Marcus Garvey, Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante challenged the very rights of imposed rule by external sources, and instilled the belief of a fundamental right of a people to self-determination.
There are themes that run through their efforts, and the first is that injustice cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. Second, there is no God-given right for one person to be exploited by another. Third, change is a necessary ingredient in freeing a nation or people from bondage in a sustainable way. Fourth, someone needs to say that things are right or wrong without the fear of intimidation or violence.
Our national heroes stood for a belief in something better for the majority of disenfranchised, mistreated, or abused persons, and some laid down their lives in standing up for people's rights. In reflecting on our situation today, how many of us are willing to take a stand that is not motivated by self-interest?
Corruption, killing, rape, embezzlement, and other crimes abound, and should evoke strong reactions from every decent person in our society. Instead, we will pray that God will join the police force and smite the unrighteous, or make laudable speeches from podium and pulpit while accepting corruption and its proceeds, or simply spend mindless hours on Facebook and shut out reality. This spineless acquiescence disrespects the very persons that we would honour.
In looking overseas we almost deify the names of Fidel Castro and Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, and many other 'freedom fighters' in the region and in Africa without recognising that these revolutionaries led armed resistance to the abusive regimes that confronted them. Yet, we ourselves are afraid of making the changes that would avoid the devastating consequences of civil unrest. Such is the nature of a failure to think, analyse, and act appropriately. It is a dangerous game to play if you discount the possibility that things don't always go as planned.
The Wailers will now be fully recognised for their revolution through music and songs of freedom and justice. I wonder what Bob and Peter would say about our current state of bowing to local crime and corruption? Would we recognise ourselves as the new 'Old Babylon vampires' or perhaps 'Old pirates come to rob I'? You could be certain that they would be set up to be killed all over again.
The love of country does not permit sitting still and watching insanity and not saying and doing something about it. We need to examine our own moral fibre and make a decision if we are to be men or mice, so "squeak up"! Equal rights and justice are essential, and as said by Peter Tosh, "everyone is crying out for peace, no one's crying out for justice".
This year, many awardees with no visible political stripes will be honoured and I wonder if this positive change will continue. If it does, then these are important indicators for a return to service above self, and love of country. Following on from Independence most decorations with Jamaican colours remain up in a show of nationalism over the crude political graffiti that deface the walls of the country. It is a show of defiance and determination to respect private property and deter those who would destroy rather than build.
Let us remember the many unsung Jamaicans that may have died without appropriate recognition, and encourage those alive to continue to look to a brighter future for Jamaica. Let us all try to inspire young Jamaicans to achieve, and to expect that with hard work and honesty this country will, like the Phoenix, arise from the ashes to soar like the dreams of those gone before.
Let us all understand the psalmist who wrote "I will lift my eyes unto the hills; from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord". It is appropriate, for a society that respects the Bible, that we understand that our religious beliefs do not condone wrongdoing or brutality. The greater power needs to hold us all and allow us to clearly see that the road ahead needs our full concentration.
So, tomorrow when I go with my best friend Aggrey to receive recognition for service, we the children of the revolutionary 1960s will feel a sense that we walk in the footsteps of men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the betterment of our nation. Who will we be if we fail to rise to the challenges that confront us today? We would be less than men if we did not honour those with integrity, sincerity, and patriotism for Jamaica, land we love.
I just hope I don't trip going up the stairs. Work is still burning in the fields.