RECENTLY, I got a message from an ardent supporter of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. I recognised him as someone who had an adverse reaction to something I had written, which he saw as a criticism of her. He let me have it.
This latest message was addressed "to those who love to hate Portia". Partly out of exasperation, I replied: "Why did you send me this?"
He disarmed, so I wrote him again: "I do not hate Portia. I respect many things about her and I feel deep compassion for her. But I am concerned about our country and I would feel the same way regardless of who was in charge..."
It was important to make the point because so many of us, I find, are unable to process that there can, in fact, be separation between how we feel about an individual personally, and a dispassionate assessment of his/her performance at a particular time, or suitability for a particular role.
In the dichotomised political space in which some still live, there is no room for anything except deep emotionalism. Never mind the fact that all the evidence suggests that this has ill served us and is responsible, in large part, for where we find ourselves today, battling the tide of competitiveness and change in a very leaky vessel.
I am grateful to this newspaper for allowing me to be a part of the discussions, while I remain physically absent, and to Papa, God rest his beautiful soul, who buried my "navel string" at the root of an orange tree at home in Manchester.
My soul, my spirit, my entire being, is irrevocably tied to my ancestors'; to sprawling forests and undulating hills; to happy waves, and the smell of fresh fish and salty air at Alligator Pond Bay; and so shall it ever be, so help me God!
The feedback to this column, and others in this newspaper and elsewhere provide rich insight on how engaged people are. I am intrigued, for example, by how far ahead of the political directorate many people are in their assessment of the issues.
I am also genuinely surprised at the difficulty many people obviously have with reading comprehension, and I am not being condescending at all. I speak, as a trained teacher of English Language, and, yes, as someone with advanced training in communication.
Recognising words is one thing; understanding what those words mean when they are put together a certain way, in the context of a paragraph or an entire essay, is completely different.
This lack of higher order reading/thinking skills has much to do with why so many children are unable to pass English Language exams. It is not because Jamaican (patois) is their mother tongue. That, too, is just another example of irrational thinking.
All is not lost. Thin though the silver linings might be, they exist.
Justice Minister Mark Golding and Security Minister Peter Bunting demonstrated this with their thoughtful presentations at the Civic Center, Silver Spring, Maryland, two Thursdays ago, at a lecture presided over by Jamaica's Ambassador to the United States, Stephen Vasciannie. The ministers accorded themselves like polished professionals, as did Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington. Without a single reference to PNP or JLP, they outlined the challenges they face and measures they are taking to address them.
It felt suddenly like Shitu and his crew were not in charge of the ship — that we may yet avert complete disaster.
No, I am not that gullible. They made good presentations, naturally warranting more discussions than time allowed. This is why Dr Claire Nelson's loud interruption and temporary take-over of the event was so jarring.
Vasciannie, the epitome of equanimity, deadpanned throughout the decibel — a plea for money to work on projects at home. I felt that, however well-intentioned, the end result was disrespectful to the ambassador and everyone present.
Effective leadership, I believe, tempers emotions with reason and respect, most of all. Those who lead or aspire to, must be careful that their desires come only from the noblest place, lest they become merely tools for controlling others, including the very people they seek to "liberate."
I believe, too, that we Jamaicans need training on how to control our emotions, and how to distinguish between responses that are coming from an emotional place and those that come from a reasoned, logical place. We need to understand which of those responses are appropriate, when, and where.
Somewhere in the school curriculum, this must become a priority. Minister Bunting, this, too, has a part to play in how we curb aggression and violence in our culture.
Simpson Miller will be the last prime minister to win an election based solely on emotional appeal. The world today demands more.
For now, reason demands that we do not invest too much energy helping her to fail. Her failure will be ours, collectively, at a time when it is the last thing we need.
So with only goodwill toward her, I hope she will cut the Cabinet by four or five ministers and lead the charge for a more rational, and ultimately, a standardised executive. This could be her real legacy.
Her ministers, fortunately, are not all asleep even if it seems that way sometimes, as Golding and Bunting demonstrated. Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister AJ Nicholson's, too. He wants to restructure our missions to focus more on trade — make them productive.
Advances in communication and travel mean that some traditional functions of missions are no longer essential, and greater cooperation in international relations have diminished the external relation functions, as we knew then.
Meanwhile, associated expenses, a hyper-competitive world economy and Jamaica's fragile situation make it an imperative that missions today have an aggressive trade and outreach function. Of course, in the information age, the term 'trade' has to be appropriately defined.
Overall, efforts need to extend far beyond the Diaspora. With just 2.5 million Jamaicans abroad, this is a tiny, tiny market.
Plus, globalisation, at its core, means "beyond boundaries" or "beyond diasporas".
For us to rise from the ashes, the ability to see the 20,000-foot view, combined with rationality and standards, are prerequisites.