TODAY, we celebrate 50 years of Independence and although I was nowhere around in 1962, I have heard enough about the palpability of the euphoria, pride, and joy that covered every nook and cranny of this beautiful island that always makes me feel so proud to say, "A Jamaica mi come from." To understand this signal achievement is to understand the tremulous period between 1665 and 1944.
To appreciate the benefits of political Independence is to cherish the hard work and sacrifices of our national heroes and single heroine who, along with many other strong and fiercely loyal unsung heroes, fought gallantly and relentlessly for freedom, decency and democracy. There was no mighty gunfire. There were no bullets or bayonets on August 6, 1962, but the brutal antecedents which covered the days of slavery and on through the struggles and challenges that ushered in the 1930s, particularly on the labour and industrial relations front, should jolt
us into accepting the reality that
our political Independence was years in the making.
Our independence was paid for with real blood, sweat and tears, long before the lowering of the Union Jack and the awesome unfurling of our own black, green and gold flag. Political independence is as much about an experiment as it is about an experience. It is never to be viewed as the final accomplishment of all things, because it is an evolutionary process that requires fine-tuning, some measure of revolutionary thinking and actions, and enough recalibration to keep it alive.
Political independence, as far I am concerned, was never intended to be viewed or treated as life in the great beyond where milk and honey flow ceaselessly, or where the streets are paved in pure gold. In other words, political independence is not a synonym for utopia, but rather a template from which to construct a prosperous and enabling society.
So, let there be no doubt whatsoever about the significance of what we accomplished in 1962. For regardless of the disparities between expectations and real achievements, every one of us should be justly proud. Proud that we have been good stewards of our democracy, the brief years of political turmoil and immaturity notwithstanding. Unlike our big and important North American friend, we have not assassinated any of our prime ministers, and unlike one of our Caribbean friends, we have not had a single coup d'état. Yet we remain passionately fierce about our politics and political allegiance.
It is time we suspend the rather bizarre habit of fussing over what is and what could have been, had Jamaica not elected to obtain political Independence. Proponents of colonial rule believe that the "mother country" would have done a better job managing our affairs. To them nothing else really matters, except to be styled "British subjects" while flashing pounds and shaking up shillings and pence in their pockets. They want back the money "wid di lion pon it" and nothing else will do. The sad truth, however, is that the "mother country" had long wanted to wean us. We had become both a burden to her financial breasts and an unbearable weight on her financial spine. She had long extracted the joys of motherhood and she saw little or no extractive worth in this side of her family.
We are where we are now; we cannot undo the past; we cannot undo political Independence by crawling back to Great Britain, cap in hand, for some crumbs to fall off its table and into our vessel. We have to accept our fate, but do everything within our powers and grasp to use our political freedom as an enabler to accomplish socio-economic development and prosperity. Crying over spilt milk will get us absolutely nowhere, neither will wishing upon stars for a return of the "good 'ole days" bring any measure of prosperity to a people so generously endowed with talents, forgiveness, ambition, pride, strength, determination and enterprise.
As it is with many of us, so is it also with nations; 50 is the new 25; and this is not to be confused with recklessness or irresponsibility. Jamaica is young enough at 50 to take control of her own destiny. This is not the time to proclaim obituaries of hope for a brighter tomorrow, or offer requiems of fear that we are eternally stuck in the current economic maladies. It is the time for all of us to get up, proclaim and reclaim the true Jamaican spirit - it is the same spirit that lives in our athletes, artists, artisans, academicians, farmers, tradesmen, professionals, teachers, doctors, nurses, bakers, dressmakers, carpenters, police and students that make us successful and proud.
Fifty is indeed the new 25, and we must demonstrate this every day by redoubling our resolve to start making political Independence work for us. It starts with us beginning to take our politics seriously by entrusting our legislature and the executive branch to men and women who are capable, deserving and credible. It starts with us making that important shift from being low-information voters toward becoming high information. It starts with us becoming braver politically and financially. We "round up" our mouths a lot about how defiant and determined we are to get the best from those who represent our interest; yet we recoil faster that it takes a mongoose to sneeze when situations demand obvious defiance and toughness of character.
We fuss and fight every day about the lack of economic development and bemoan lacklustre economic growth, and rightly so, because achieving and maintaining healthy personal economies could translate to us achieving a strong national economy. However, enough of us have not elected to empower ourselves financially. We do not take calculated risks; neither do we take the requisite steps to educate ourselves financially so we can become stock owners, manufacturers, or movers and shakers in the financial markets. Mark you, some of it is cultural, but we have to begin to appreciate the changes that are happening around us and get on board. This is a great way to celebrate our 50th and to welcome the next. In the meantime, I say, Happy 50th, sweet, sweet Jamaica, land of my birth.