ALMOST daily, those of us who should know better hit away at the institutional foundations on which this country in its modern state has been built, and denigrate and ignore the value and worth of the work done by rock-solid Jamaicans.
It is as if we have forgotten the last time we attempted such indecent lack of generosity of spirit and displaced sense of concern for the good of the country.
In the 1970s, like now, many of us in our state of disillusionment replaced cynicism for common sense and adopted a recipe of self-destruction that almost undermined the best things that had served us up to then.
The Jamaica Council of Churches, I well remember, was sued then for libel, and more than one columnist took on the then chief justice, casting aspersions on the integrity of a man who had given unblemished leadership in an area which, to this day, commands the kind of confidence that is critical to the development of a free and democratic society.
Members of the political class also came in for their fair share of dark humour. Michael Manley, like the charismatic messianic leader par excellence before him, Alexander Bustamante, received his pound of public criticism, in very much the same way Portia Simpson Miller is being bludgeoned today with criticism and cynicism.
Portia, like Michael before her, was to be voted out of power by the real masters in the land, the people, only to be returned to power by them.
I reference these examples to try and get into perspective the current pastime by some of us in denigrating our political leaders and the activity in which they are involved, troublesome though it may be.
Calls for ministers of government to be dismissed, the slide in the value of the dollar while the country awaits an IMF agreement, a precipitous depletion of the Net International Reserves, private sector demand for the speedy implementation of pension, tax and public sector reforms, and lamentations of the maelstrom of corruption in Government are, without doubt, bad news for the public leadership at this time.
But despite the lingering despair, there is hope for the future of this society in the demonstrated fact and future possibilities of the tens of thousands of us who have emerged from immiseration and deprivation as a result of the movement for self-determination, which did not start in 1962.
The call for, and action leading to self-government and the shaping of a society that we can call our own, have been the hallmark of wise and beneficial political leadership dating back to the early 1930s with Marcus Garvey, and later followed by Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante.
The work has been carried on by the political parties which have been bequeathed to the nation and the establishment of a political culture that is intended to guarantee native leadership, ideal, form, and purpose.
In this context, fear that the absence of an IMF agreement could spell doom for the local economy and our social infrastructure overlooks the fact that this country is made up of people who have been the creatures of a particular process of human development over the past 500 years and more.
And though their history has threatened to rob them of every ounce of self-confidence and creativity, they have perpetually proved themselves to be survivors and the constructive creators of new and progressive ways of living in celebration of the very humanity that others tried to deny them.
Going forward, we need to build on this process of human development rather than seek to run ahead of our headlights by glorifying external imitators posing as workable solutions to our structural problems.
Disappointment with the one-year-old PNP regime (hopes dashed and promises breached), coupled with commitments betrayed by successive governments since Independence, tell us that we inhabit a country that we are still engaged in building and shaping. It will take more than 50 years of hard work to accomplish the task at hand. The inheritors of 1938, lest we forget, knew that work had to continue to make 1962 possible.
So if there is one thing I wish for Jamaica in the next 50 years of its existence, it is that those who are the beneficiaries of 1962 will come to understand in clear terms that the next half-a-century, coupled with the rapid global changes that are upon us, is going to demand of them not only a particular sophistication, but more important, a clear vision of what our place in the wider world must be and a workable strategy for what we must make of this piece of rock. For the struggle is nowhere yet over, and we still have to work twice as hard to get half as far.
Our young professionals have a critical role to play in this struggle. With the advantage of education, earning power, and newfound social influence, they now have the opportunity to exercise real responsibility over the next 50 years by helping to prepare the society to find its own two feet on its own terms in the face of our development challenges.
This, after all, is the legacy of our political culture. The present Government needs to harness this legacy and our patrimony of experience to help it in strategising to deal with the challenges of survival and development that are peculiarly our own.
In fairness, our politicians cannot do this alone. In any event, in a democracy it is never intended that they should be the sole arbiters of the people's destiny. We as citizens have to be willing to participate, not by simply criticising earthly messiahs we design for crucifixion and ascension, but to transform our own rhetoric to action.
Jamaica remains a great society. The democracy we have nurtured in the past 50 years still allows some of our greatest doomsayers, even while being clear beneficiaries of what progress the country has made, to give our leaders holy hell for their perceived transgressions without fear of personal liquidation or premature demise.
This tradition of existence given to love of freedom, of discipline, of self-reliance and creativity did not come out of the void, and deserves to be celebrated.
In this context, the sobering words of Norman Manley are as relevant today as they were 53 years ago. "Now that we have reached the significant milestone in our history," he said then, "it is a good time to remember that we are only at the beginning of a road that stretches into the future forever and forever (my emphases)... Our being as a people depends on the strength and integrity of the political system we build and maintain... Every leader today must feel that our people's courage, their good sense, their vitality in the enduring power of their faith, in the essential goodness of life, is enormous. The trumpet of history will always be calling... Be ready always to answer the call."