Be heroes for Jamaica

Monday, October 21, 2019

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At a 50th anniversary celebration twinned to heritage week activities at Bellefield High School in Manchester last Wednesday, cultural researcher and change agent Dr Sandra Hamilton said something which we all know to be true.

Only, though, that we rarely think about it.

“To be a hero,” Dr Hamilton is quoted as saying, “you have to act differently...” True heroes can't be content with the norm, and true heroes must care about other people, she said.

The Jamaican experience, Dr Hamilton is reported as saying, had thrown up heroes, including officially recognised national heroes, who took extreme risks — even endangering and, in some instances, sacrificing their lives.

Jamaicans formally honour the memory of our seven national heroes, yet we also know that many others, long forgotten, paid the ultimate price for seeking a better life for themselves and others.

On the face of it, we are at a stage in our national development when our elected leaders and other public officials may not necessarily feel physically threatened for doing the right thing.

Still, it takes enormous courage and a determination to put country first in dealing with such issues as corruption in high places.

Those tasked with ferreting out the truth and in bringing the corrupt to justice must push ahead with the courage and example of our heroes, no matter what.

Police men and women, prosecutors, and the judiciary, must be resolute in dealing with rampant criminal violence and other forms of wrongdoing, without fear or favour.

Our elected officials, at parliamentary and local level, must be prepared to always put the country first, even if by so doing they end up losing the next election.

Those of our leaders, elected and otherwise, who fall prey to vulgar opportunism and knowingly choose to do the wrong thing betray those who have sacrificed in quest of a better Jamaica.

However, as Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips remind us in their National Heroes' Day messages, and as Jamaicans have learnt over time, nation-building is not only about high-profile leaders.

Dr Phillips speaks of “thousands of ordinary Jamaican citizens from all walks of life”, including teachers, police, health workers, and others who never tire in the building of a nation.

Nor, says Dr Phillips, should Jamaicans giving service in neighbourhood watch groups, youth clubs, citizens' associations, and community development committees be forgotten, as they work to “keep the body and soul of our nation intact”.

Mr Holness reminds us of the threat posed by climate change to life, as we know it, and of the role that everyone can play in their own small way.

The prime minister has urged Jamaicans to bring their lives “in line with the environment”; to do simple things like throwing plastic bottles in a bin rather than “on the street side or in the gully”, to turn off lights and idle appliances, to plant trees, and to “add your voice and action to the millions of enlightened citizens around the world mobilised individually in their locale to protect and preserve their environment and build resilience to climate change”.

Ultimately, all Jamaicans can contribute to building a better nation, and a better world, by simply doing the right thing.


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