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It pains us to say ‘I told you so’ — Part 1

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

UNDER the headline “Celebrating our 50th anniversary in an election year”, we published a prophetic editorial on August 12 last year in which we all but foresaw the political cass-cass between Culture Minister Lisa Hanna and her Opposition counterpart Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange. With a change of date and few other minor details, the editorial could have been written yesterday: Here is the edited version:

“Next year, our beloved nation will attain our 50th anniversary of Political Independence. We believe that this will be one of the most important milestones in the roller-coaster existence of this island country.

“We expect that the occasion will be used to look deeply into what we have achieved as a collective Jamaican family; to redefine the essence and rewrite the profile of the true Jamaican man and woman and map the route we must take into the next half-century...

“We sincerely hope that the commemoration activities will reflect what is truly best and beautiful about Jamaicans. To ensure this, we cannot take the tribalist approach, again another of the unfortunate ‘talents’ that we have perfected to our great detriment since 1962.

“Let us be the first to admit that the nonpolitically partisan approach will be difficult to achieve and will test our very mettle. For one, next year is an election year, with the fiveyearly general election due a month after the actual 50th anniversary. Elections divide us to the core. And so, we had better start thinking through how we are going to unite our nation around the need to undertake this national introspection, retrospection and mapping of the way forward.

“Otherwise, we will have to put away any thought of using next year as the catalyst for a new Jamaica as some of us are advocating.

Any cursory analysis of how we have managed since 1962 will show that we are still finding it hard to govern ourselves and our politics have not always helped.

“Last year this time (2010), we related an anecdote in this space, and we think it is worth repeating. The famous Gleaner editor, the late Theodore Sealy, who helped plan the 1962 Independence celebrations, was asked what he expected of Jamaicans, once we had become independent. His response is very telling.

“Mr Sealy likened the society to a flock of birds locked up in a pen. One day, the door to the pen was opened. The chickens walked round and round past the open door without venturing outside. Then one ventured out and returned almost immediately. Then another went out and yet another. Suddenly, all the chickens realised that they could go out as they pleased, and there followed a mad rush to get out of the pen.

“That, in a way, explains some of the craziness we do that demonstrates that we have a problem dealing with our selfgovernance. We are rushing madly ahead, grasping at our relatively newfound freedom, but not fully understanding that we are responsible for charting our own destiny and governing ourselves.

“The astounding achievements of our nation have come despite and in spite of our monumental failures. But one gets the impression that greatness is within our grasp. It just might not be by mere chance that we have given the world Marcus Garvey, Michael Manley, Bob Marley, Herb McKenley, Merlene Ottey, Veronica Campbell Brown, and Usain Bolt.

“Let the 50th anniversary mark the beginning of this journey to greatness and prosperity for our nation.”

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