As we approach the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's Independence, some of us have been trying to point out that it is also a time for reflection. In a nation where scant regard is paid to history, the mere celebration has caused many to ask what we have achieved, and ask questions about whether it was better under The Queen (although I have not heard that line in weeks, perhaps due to the good work of the media houses). Reflection is not only about the good we have achieved but also on what we have not.
Two weeks ago my column was entitled "Clifford Campbell, born 120 years ago". Thanks for all the positive responses, most of which were sent to my e-mail. I was nine years old when Sir Clifford assumed the post of governor-general on December 1, 1962 and I heard the talk.
But those older than me have pointed out that I omitted to mention the judges and the parish custodes who resigned because they thought it was beneath their dignity to serve with a black man as governor-general. While we have come a long way from those days, the mental slavery where we look down on ourselves still exists. This is one thing that needs correcting.
Last week, my column was entitled, "Norman Manley and SDC". E-mailing me from the Middle East, Richard Billings told me that Jamaica Welfare was voted the United Nations model for community development, although he said he would have to do the research as to what year it took place.
I must confess that I have not gone to the offices of SDC in recent times and I took my research form my "mental library", having worked at Social Development Commission in the 1970s and having done further research at the National Library of Jamaica some time ago.
In my column last week, I expressed concern that the SDC management might not know the history of SDC but was told by Billings who had a Facebook conversation with some SDC staff that there is a year-long exhibition at SDC at the present time.
Apart from the marvels of technology where I learned from someone now emailing me from the Middle East about an exhibition taking place a few miles from my residence, I did not know that Jamaica Welfare/SDC has UN recognition. Yet we decry our very own institutions and those who set them up. This also needs correcting.
Mark Brooks found it incredible that Jamaica provided food for World War II soldiers so I invited him to come with me to the National Library. I explained to him that food for the war effort was the only reason the private company, Jamaica Welfare Limited, became Jamaica Social Welfare Commission (name changed to Social Development Commission in the 1960s).
But Brooks taught me that the bulk of the food came from places like Argentina and the USA. However, that was not enough so they turned to Jamaica.
Beresford Davidson wrote that his father told him that boiled bananas from Jamaica consumed by soldiers during the war saved the planet from Adolph Hitler. So there were indeed some parents who passed on this information to their children, and confirms my research.
Many, including Ewart Walters, wanted to know what type of food was sent to the war front and I replied that I suspected that it was not only ground provisions but meat.
The Jamaican folk song Dip and fall back (another name for the food preparation known as "rundown") explains that it was developed immediately after the war when everything was scarce, especially meat. Ewart Walters telephoned someone who confirmed my research and stated that it was mostly meat and lumber that left Jamaica for the war effort.
While any praise that I might get for knowing some history massages my ego, if everyone in Jamaica was taught history properly, as should be the case, I would not be conspicuous as a historian as there would be no need for me to write basic historical facts about Jamaica. It bothers my conscience that I get praised for stating simple facts that everyone should know.
Can we take a "leaf from the book" of the Jews who traditionally learn history to appreciate why things are the way they are and to be thankful? In Jamaica history is learnt for the purpose of passing examinations and is usually forgotten as soon as the exams have been passed. This should be corrected.
The killing of innocent Kavorn Shue is the latest example of police excesses that have gone on for far too long. Kavorn's father and grandfather were often part of a team of carpenters and masons who did any extensions or repairs needed to the house I grew up in.
It must have been a proud moment for his parents to see their son pass the GSAT for Jamaica College a few years ago and later graduate. Now a life has been wasted that could perhaps have contributed far more to Jamaica than the policeman who shot him. We need to correct this.
And to do all of this we need to work out a strategy to improve family life. I believe that strategy should involve the schools.