OH, for the good old days! Readers may well think that I am going cuckoo but sometimes it is good to reminisce on what used to be, if one is not to go totally insane. I look back to the days when as a boy I could drink water from the river and not get sick. Today, most rivers are drying up or are polluted. Garbage galore is to be found on their banks just waiting to be washed away once the rivers are in spate. Worst of all, there are those who use the river as a toilet as well as those who wash vehicles, thus adding more deleterious pollution.
I remember the days when I could drive into any countryside in Jamaica and stop by a village shop to have a drink and play dominoes without having to worry about being a victim of a drive-by shooting. These days, when one tours rural areas, many bars are closed or remain empty. There have been too many incidents of fatal shootings taking place at a bar when a domino game is in session. It is said that too often it is not only the intended victim that is shot and killed, but innocent bystanders.
As a youngster, going to a wake or what was more popularly called "set up", was for me a delightful experience. The singing of sankeys, the imbibing of white rum (youngsters were not allowed to drink any strong liquor) as well as devouring various delectable dishes, including pork and curry goat, embellished by colourful stories about the deceased and his friends went way into the night till early morning, but nobody was killed during or after. Nowadays, every so often the news reveals that someone has been slaughtered at a wake. Frankly, I hesitate to go to wakes these days because the fun is gone.
Interestingly, in former days neighbours, relatives and friends would get together and contribute to a wake. Not so anymore. Wakes have become increasingly expensive and can last for an extended period of time before the deceased is put away. Individuals who have no special connection with the dead see these occasions as an opportunity to "nyam and drink till dem belly buss". This puts a lot of stress on the relatives of the deceased who must find the money to buy a lot of food and beverage in addition to providing music. And sometimes "to tek shame out of dem yeye" they must beg, steal or borrow to satisfy the insatiable appetites of the large groups of people who usually converge on the "dead house".
A friend told me that he was travelling from Kingston once and he decided to stop by a "dead yard" out of curiosity. While there, he asked a domino player - who was gulping down one beer after another while eyeing salaciously a dish of white rice and curry goat - who the deceased was. Without taking his eyes off the domino table, he replied, "Mi no know, boss, go ask one a dem lady deh," pointing to one of the mourners. Needless to say, my friend was shocked.
Oh, for the good old days when everyone was "mannersable" and elders were respected by the young. When a church was regarded as being so sacred no one would dare to enter and steal a crucifix; when a school was so respected and revered in the community no one would break in and steal its valuable contents; when citizens took care of their garbage and every child was everybody's child. Oh, for the days when teachers loved what they did and cared about the children they taught, instead of being concerned only about salaries. Yep, whatever happened to the good
When I was a boy, Comrades could go to a Labourite mass meeting without fear of being lynched and vice versa. No longer does that scenario apply. Political tribalism is so rampant; it has poisoned the body politic. And we wonder why the country is in such a mess? No nation can prosper that does not embrace those values and attitudes that are so important and vital to peace and prosperity. Over these 50 years of political independence, Jamaica has lost so much. Our people for the most part have lost their identity. We wallow in self-pity; no one wants to take responsibility for anything.
And against this background, there are so many simple pleasures that the average Jamaican can no longer comfortably enjoy. Jamaicans are fun people; we are basically warm and friendly, kind and Christian-like. It is not so anymore, we are now a "dog-heart" nation that kills children, pregnant women and elderly citizens.
Forget Bustamante, Manley, Bogle, Gordon, Sharpe, Nanny and Garvey. Brer Anancy is the most apt National Hero for these times. The bottom line is that we need to go back to simple pleasures and to do what we need to, not only sing the National Anthem but live it. Enough said.
Lloyd B Smith is a member of parliament and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the People's National Party.