HALLOWEEN is actually Old English for "hallowed eve" or "holy Eve". I am not concerned with the European cultural adaptations to the October 31 date when Pope Gregory II moved the Feast of All Saints to November 1 in the early seventh century. Far more important is pointing to the saints here on earth and those gone before us as examples of goodness.
And speaking of saints on earth and in heaven, last week I made the mistake of referring the US evangelist Billy Graham as "the late" Billy Graham. Actually, Mr Graham is still alive and is looking forward to his 95th birthday next Thursday. Thanks to the countless readers who pointed out the mistake. I am happy to have so many readers, but what a way to be reminded.
As a nation, the closest thing we have to All Saints Day is National Heroes' Day. The real pity is that the honoured are not awarded after the sort of scrutiny that occurs in the churches that honour saints, such as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.
The Roman Catholic Church has de-canonised some of the saints despite the thorough scrutiny. Will Jamaica ever reach the stage of where we remove someone from the honours list, other than those who are subsequently convicted? Some will argue that national honours in Jamaica are for accomplishments and services rendered, whereas canonisation is rendered on those who have been virtuous.
This, however, leaves many historians wondering what did some do to receive Jamaican honours. Some are even tempted to ask a few of the honorees if they paid for the honours and, if so, whom did they pay and at what price?
In 1969, Jamaica had its first National Heroes' Day, having developed a system of Jamaican honours. Both Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley were to be made national heroes upon their death. At the time, the Jamaica Labour Party was in power and Hugh Shearer was prime minister.
But Norman Manley died on September 2, 1969, some six weeks before the first National Heroes' Day. Of course the JLP could not allow the People's National Party to be able to claim a hero while they could not. So Bustamante was also made a national hero -- the only declared Jamaican national hero in his own lifetime, so far.
For what may be deemed political expediency, the JLP would not wait for anyone to investigate any claim that Bustamante was credited wrongly for the work of others like Saint William Grant and Allan 'Father' Coombs. Bustamante died in 1977.
The idea of an All Saints Day is really inspired by the scriptures, especially the Roman Catholic Bible which contains 72 books -- not 66 books as in the King James Version. Roman Catholics know what Protestants refer to as the Apocrypha, as the Deutero-Canonical Books. However, even Protestants and non-believers refer to the Book of Sirach, Chapter 44 as a reference for awarding honours.
The PNP's second general secretary was Vernon Arnett, who served in that position for 24 years (O T Fairclough was the first). Arnett also served as minister of finance from 1959 to 1962 in succession to Noel Nethersole who died suddenly. Arnett won Nethersole's Central St Andrew seat in the subsequent by-election.
When Arnett died in 1981, I got a sudden visit from my brother, Paul Burke, who was asked to contact me.
Paul was asked to get his brother who had studied theology to show him Sirach 44 in a Roman Catholic Bible (no Internet in those days). This was read at Arnett's Anglican funeral at Kingston Parish Church. Sirach, which is not found in the King James Version, is also known as Ecclesiasticus (not Ecclesiastes which is found in all Bibles).
On Self-Government Day, November 11, 1957, Jamaica moved to full internal self-government by taking charge of security. On the night before, the chief minister later Premier Norman Manley, in his radio broadcast (No TV until 1963), quoted Sirach 44, which begins: "Next let us praise illustrious men..."
The succeeding verses speak of those to be praised such as farmers, counsellors, princes and governors, authors, composers, and stalwart men. Do we have stalwart men and women, examples of upright Jamaican family men and women? Yes we do, even if they are few and far between. Why are these examples not being utilised to train our young people?
There was a news story in the Jamaica Observer a few weeks ago about the "romping shop" behaviour of high school students in the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre. This regular practice by some high school students is, no doubt, partially inspired by the sex-madness on the Internet. The reality, however, is that we have properly provided for our youngsters.
In terms of practical solutions, we need national school bus system that is run differently from the last time. The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) should not operate it, because as soon as the school holidays start the school buses are used as regular buses. And then the buses never return to the school bus service, which was what happened the last time. But, if the JUTC cannot get their hands on the school buses then that will not happen.
The school bus system should be private buses, and the franchise should be awarded by the Ministry of Education, taking them further away from the long arms of JUTC. This would reduce the use of the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre by students and lessen the opportunities for misbehaviour.