The jury is still out about our Jamaican psyche. Yes, we are fun people but are we builders of civilisation, spectators or players, minstrels or masters? Are we in charge of our fate, or zombies? This IMF thing has unleashed a spirit of fear and some desperation. We seem beholden to the IMF, yet it asks no obeisance. We speak in hushed tones as if the Lord is nigh; are our leaders in thrall to a body which has no armies, navies or soldiers? no trinkets to buy us, or prisons to incarcerate us? Do we speak with great respect as men of courage or with fear as creatures born in dependence and bred in subordination; men who cannot make a decision but await a decision of circumstances. Do we have a plan for our own salvation or wait for the IMF to impose one? This not who we are so get up, speak up, work up this country now!
The JLP and PNP have strength for each other, so why are both powerless before the IMF? We had great debates about the economy months ago; where are the speakers now? Let them now tout their snake oil touted to the IMF. Is our economics only good for locals? Look how impressive Mr Shaw and Dr Philips were on the solutions to our economic crisis; where has that brilliance gone? Or was it all bulls to get votes? Do they dissimulate and the truth comes to us from outsiders like the IMF? We are bankrupt, living a lie and our only hope is to cut our expenses and work like crazy to increase our income. This is not rocket science. It is what every business and family does to survive, so Peter must set out his stall now. We will not be complicit in our own deception. We have so little self-worth we know we exist because we believe a lie or some foreigner pays us some attention. And so some foreign actor using a Jamaican accent is our new inspiration. What have we come to my Lord? This really sucks!
So here is an advertisement in America for a German car which we cannot afford and some of us think it is a compliment to us because an actor speaks in a Jamaican accent. Friend, their mission is to sell cars, though many of us speak with American accents for nothing. Europe is awash with adverts featuring minorities - Africans, Afghans, Indians, Greeks, Caribbean and our cute accents. Some adverts have been pulled by the UK's Equalities Commission after complaints from ethnic minorities. This is not new. We are curiosities with accents that attract mainstream attention and someone cloned one for the USA Superbowl. This kind of advert is normal for the UK not so for the USA market. It is not so cute when you, a minority person live in the metropoles with ceilings to your ambitions. Not cute at all.
Jamaicans are not black people in the sense that Americans are. Black is a convenient label for us and we often use it to gain some advantage. We call ourselves Jamaican at every turn, rightly, so until we surmise black will work better. When I canvass black American friends, they are unimpressed. They cannot afford as we say, people to "take step" with them. Being noticed by powerful people makes our day; they have real battles and this dalliance does not help. They fight for their dignity in their land; we can return to our land and return to theirs when we feel better about ourselves. The VW advert is no salve to their wounds but it shows we are transients they are at home and an insecure home it is. They have their demons and our confection is peripheral to their struggle - our joy is not theirs; they will be black in their land forever; we can stop "twanging" and be Jamaican by a short plane ride home. We are "blacks of convenience" as most of our diaspora are oblivious of the great struggles and issues in their lives. We are fellow travellers not fellow sufferers. As minstrels we do not know for whom the bell tolls.
So VW hires actors to speak in our accent and we feel admired; say a few words in our argot and we feel loved, say "yeah mon" and our "glad bag buss" We are an easy mark. My accent is mimicked by English kids; or adults say "I love your Jamaican brogue" and I speak English. Our sense of self seems dependent on affirmation by some foreigner. I vividly remember how we were upset that some black actor "mash up" patios in "Cool Runnings" but as Les Green says he got respect which his peers did not because he is white. And so a white actor uses our accent and we feel good, but a black actor was criticised no end. White Jamaicans speak English with a Jamaican accent, they speak Creole, aka Patois, as well and it merits no comment as they are Jamaican. Why did we not protests that they did not use a white Jamaican? We do American and German accents quite well. Still the levels of irony in this spoof are beyond most of our people as mere literacy is not enough. I wish we valued ourselves but I suppose we would have to do something like making our country prosper before we stand on our hind legs as men. I love my country but this, the IMF is grief. I hope in time we can call someone blessed, but I fear we will be disappointed. The stink of déjà vu is in the air. We have been here before. Cabinet is going down a well-worn path just more potholed since we used it often in the last 30 years. Who then can we depend on? The Church is fomenting internecine strife with heresies as they have lost the high ground in values to service clubs; the private sector is in a state as it waits on Cabinet to make decisions for them. This is risible.
Energy is a vexed question to our nation, especially business. For years, industry leaders say this is what is keeping them from being world class, yet they take no initiative to find an energy solution. What independent studies have they funded? Do they counter or confirm Cabinet's studies? It cannot be that only Cabinet proposes study options for energy. These men are our finest risk takers, their businesses are under threat yet they bring nothing to the table, they just react. We depend on them to bring sanity to the state's insanity. Why can't our "titans of industry" propose energy solutions to meet their needs? Where are their independent expert studies on nuclear power? You mean because the Cabinet is reticent and risk - averse business has no views? They have not provided leadership on CSME either.
Caricom/CSME is a major issue spoken of only obliquely by the private sector. Government took us into an innocuous Carifta and through several iterations to CSME. Have the PSOJ done the numbers? Who voted for a single market and economy? How can we have a single economy with countries hundreds of miles away? Where is the precedent? Can the private sector explain this? Who knows the financial case for CSME? What does it cost us each year? Can they tell the nation? In free societies business has a responsibility to propose solutions and save citizens from reckless governments. Have businessmen failed us? Have they acquiesced in a construct which is not feasible? The template is wearing thin and Prime Minister Cameron promises a referendum on the EU after a generation of functioning and free movement. What about our referendum? Businessmen who do not invest without a feasibility study are led by politicians into a union of unsound provenance. Can Cabinets that can't prosper one small nation prosper a Caribbean union-a single economy? Really! Which business man enters a merger with no due diligence? Our business people have lost their edge and will forfeit the nation's trust if they do not speak out on CSME. We propose to merge our economies with a dozen other nations and no one has asked for due diligence or feasibility reports? How long will businesses ignore CSME? Stay conscious my friend!
Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education.