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Happy 50th, Jamaica

James Moss-Solomon
Sunday, August 05, 2012


TOMORROW marks the memory of 1962 and all the hopes and fears of a people going towards a possible process of self-governance, and a new ability to choose which course to steer.

It is also appropriately a Monday, and many will remember celebrating on the first Monday of August until we changed the official date to the 6th so as to accommodate Emancipation Day on August 1.

It is almost reminiscent of the Christmas carol O Little Town of Bethlehem insofar as "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight". It is a time for reflection and renewal, it is a time for both memories and visions of the future, and it is a time to heal the wounds that afflict this little nation.

The first commendation must be to the media and academia that, in a conjoint way, have stimulated and publicised the thoughts and analyses of many important items and concepts. There have been numerous presentations on education, politics, economics, citizenship, crime, governance alternatives, and reparations. The careful and thoughtful analysis and commentary that have flowed from this exposure cannot be allowed to decay or lose its currency.

The very content gave rich insight into the stages of educational development, the importance of each stage to the developmental and learning process, and the care and nurturing of young minds. This was supported by many discussions on nutrition, health, and wellness in general that will help to guide future public and private decision-making.

The economic analyses of the past 50 years revealed a rather unusual convergence of ideas between the macroeconomists and the retired politicians. If we learned one thing, it is that what people say when in positions of power is not necessarily what they actually do, and furthermore may be in opposition to their real opinions. So we learn the valuable lessons of being able to detect fact and fiction and the good sense to know the difference.

At last we can say that we have not done nearly as well as we should have without the usual immediately vitriolic partisan response. This is also a positive indicator that should be a part of maturing.

Every parent can see the difference in response between their 15-year-old children and those same kids in later life becoming parents themselves. There is a natural transformation from adolescence to adulthood, even for a country.

Then there has been a rebirth of our cultural inheritances from our various ancestors and a resurgence of knowledge in this regard. The importance of our varied religions and the tolerance of our society to these differences has been celebratory, not confrontational. The rekindling of morality and community has been constructive and has set foundations on which to build.

The dance and the theatrical arts have taken us on a journey that has made us all feel some degree of self-worth and an appreciation of the old and new in harmony. Such is the nature of the older societies in the natural progression of simultaneous new discoveries in harmony with established values coexisting in the same space, albeit respectfully, of each other.

It takes imagination for some to understand the numerous modern communications devices and at the same time know what a punch card or a manual typewriter is. Don't even try to explain an indelible pencil or a chimmey!

Certainly these few months have seen the re-establishment of the African and Jewish phenomena of the storyteller and the importance of that person in congregations, communities, companies, and other groups in keeping institutional memories alive (even if slightly embellished).

In my own circles, the young people love the stories about Fred Kennedy and Carlton Alexander and their various exploits, and my own family love hearing about our own rural roots. This is an important part of Jamaican life that has been recently reborn as we seek to celebrate our 50 years, and we should never allow them to wane again.

Well, this is certainly the time for Barbara Gloudon and Fay Ellington to share old-time Jamaica and the continuing legacy of Louise Bennett with the entire nation. This is the time to hail the work of Rex Nettleford and Olive Lewin for bringing our history alive through dance and music. Also their intellectual input will greatly assist the understanding of our culture when combined with past Prime Ministers Seaga and Patterson.

There is so much knowledge outside of politics that is too important to be lost; since immortality is not the destiny of the human race we must deliberately retain those important events. We must resolve to place these invaluable reflections in a safe repository for the benefit of our successors.

The opportunity now arises for us to again enhance our knowledge of the wider world through our diaspora and to engage trade and business in an entirely new way (yet similar to the dominance of the 17th and 18th centuries when we were a centre of commerce). We could almost rename this return to prominence in the Hollywood style of Back to the Future.

The streets and buildings decked out in our national colours (and not party colours) signal a rebirth of nationalism. The focus on the Olympics at this time drives the people forward in a whirl of happiness, hope and prayer that should prevail over our more base tendencies towards crime. Now, efforts to clean up communities across the island must also be applauded, and I hope that the spirit will be maintained.

Even as two of our long-serving representatives to Jamaica get ready to end their tours of duty, they have delayed their departure in order to share our celebrations with us. They are the ambassador of the Republic of Chile and the high commissioner of India who have become significant figures in our daily lives. They have long surpassed narrow diplomacy and have woven themselves and their countries into our national consciousness. As we say in Jamaica, "Good friend better than pocket money".

They have both surpassed the realm of being foreigners and have even gone beyond friendship into the realm of family. They will be missed for those attributes and for bringing their nations to the consciousness of those persons who may have missed the important elements of mutual exchange.

We say thanks to these outstanding men, and wish them and their families 'bon voyage' to their native lands, and a speedy return to Jamaica to continue the love and respect that they have earned.

So even as we enjoy our churches, beach parties, street dances, musical extravaganzas, and Olympic exploits, let us all resolve to keep this moment alive in our hearts in a way that will be analysed by those who review our performance in 2062 as a turning point in the history of this great nation when we achieve 100 years.

God bless Jamaica, its citizens, our families, our friends, and our collective future as we embark on a second important step on our journey.



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