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Discipline: It's tangible

Lisa Hanna

Monday, September 04, 2017

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The following is an edited version of a presentation to the Association of Surgeons Jamaica:

“Jesus, it's can't be 3:30 already...just five more minutes? Maybe I should just call to let him know I can't make it in this morning...”

Somehow I make it out of bed; sleep walk to the bathroom; drag on my gym clothes. Somehow the car arrives at the gym unscathed. “Oh crap, I forgot my shoes!”

For those of you still wondering, I hate to work out. Yup, it's true, especially on “legs day”. On those dreaded days I'm required to squat 250 pounds on my last set.

Can I squat 250 pounds? Yes, I can.

Do I want to squat 250 pounds? No!

Fitness is one of the most honest demonstrations of integrity. It's certainly the most accountable process to which we can expose ourselves. It's the one thing you can't fake. Once you claim you can lift 250 pounds, you'd better be ready to prove it. Just as I can't get up tomorrow and run a marathon, I didn't get to this point yesterday or last week. It has taken years of hard work, dedication, and most importantly discipline to train, even when I'd rather not.

It's what I call the “tangible intangible”.

It's intangible because it can't be touched or traded. But when we talk about “values and attitudes” we're talking about one thing: discipline. So discipline is tangible as it can be seen, be measured, and set you on an irreversible path of personal success.

Just recently I asked some students at one St Ann South Eastern primary school to help with picking up garbage across the school compound. The principal raced towards me, “Stop, MP. if the parents hear that they'll come to chastise me because they told me they don't send their children to school to pick up garbage.”

I was shocked.

But having thought about it, I understood. Over 40 years I've watched some Jamaicans throw garbage out car windows, dump it into gullies, eat and throw things at their feet, no matter where they are. To them it's someone else's responsibility to pick up after them.

So I started picking up the garbage, and guess what? The children helped me.

For me, discipline is non-negotiable. It's the engine that drives any individual towards progress. But it's a learned behaviour, and without it a large group of diverse people just can't (and won't) live together bound by a common, agreed set of rules necessary for their advancement.

Jamaica has become an undisciplined nation.

Jamaicans have become an undisciplined set of people.

It could be said Jamaican politicians head the list. Why? Everybody learns from the head of the stream. As premier leaders who make laws that govern citizens, we should hold ourselves to higher standards, and in turn set better examples for citizens to respect.

Discipline and double standards cannot coexist. Regrettably, in Jamaican politics there are too many of the latter and too little of the former. When a country's leaders and exemplars permit obvious double standards to become the norm, this seeps into the fabric of society, weakens productivity, damages relationships, and glorifies mediocrity.

If we truly want to renew Jamaica, all of us as politicians must be prepared to draw a line in the sand today and commit to the principle that old-style Jamaican politics must end at that line. A lot of the old paradigms must be thrown out. This is about a race against time to haul Jamaica into the new world, and we're not taking it seriously.

For example:

• November 11, 2014, Alibaba, China's biggest “e-tailer”, recorded more than $9.3 billion sales, a single-day record worldwide. In one day, one Chinese company sold more than twice Jamaica's national budget.

• “Of the $1.8 trillion of new global economic activity in 2013, China alone accounted for $1 trillion, or 60 per cent of it.” China, which liberalised its economy less than 30 years ago, is now the world's largest manufacturer and has the most private billionaires of any single country.

• India has more children earning educational honours than USA has children.

• For the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2017, doctor was not on the list. Home health aide was #1, and truck driver #9 earning US$40,000/year.

• Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second; 3.5 billion searches per day; 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.

In today's world, the number of Facebook and Instagram users outnumber citizens of China, USA and Indonesia combined. Our children have a different construct of reality; they don't need TV, they don't need telephone landlines, and they don't need to buy cameras — their telephones do it all.

This millennial generation (individuals age 16 to 36 years old; 1.7 billion worldwide) will have the most spending power of any generation in history, expecting to spend close to US$3.39 trillion in 2018. In less than 10 years three out of every four workers globally (75 per cent) will be a millennial.

Jamaica hasn't positioned itself to offer the goods and services millennials demand. My generation shops on Amazon. What future does that hold for retail stores as we know them? What services can Jamaica offer this market in five years? There's the call centre business, but we can't be a one-dimensional economy. We must set the stage that gives millennials the ability to access success in the land of their birth in real time, because time for them moves a lot faster.

Jamaicans have natural talent. But talent without discipline is unsustainable. It falls prey to hype and ultimately self-destructs.

Jamaica is now on a solid platform for economic growth thanks to fiscal discipline imposed since 2012. Prior to that we ran fiscal deficits and spent more than we earned, resulting in little or no growth. Finally, we've joined the race, albeit languishing well behind. If we don't go about catching up in a disciplined way we'll always be dead last in the run towards world relevance.

This year marks my 10th year as Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern. The experience has reshaped my life and added inestimable value. The people of St Ann South Eastern are my family, and I'm indebted to them for their love, criticism and life lessons. There is nowhere else I'd rather have spent the last decade.

It's also the place I've encountered some of the most undisciplined politics. I've been amazed as to how a principled approach and my refusal to join the ranks of the undisciplined has been rewarded with abuse, resentment and public calumny from those who won't give up their comfortable, old-style, undisciplined approach to representation.

I don't want any of you to think I'm special or alone in this experience. It wasn't about me. My predecessor had the same problem. As long as we continue to practise these old approaches, whereby lust for power and control manifests principles of convenience or a “wait your turn” attitude, because loyalty trumps competence, we'll continue to breed political indiscipline in which Jamaica now wallows waist deep. I'm tired of it!

So I prefer to take the apparently uncomfortable/inconvenient approach, and I act:

• I speak about illegal “production” of music from prison being played on free-to-air radio stations.

• I speak about the double standard applied to Jamaican women's health and their right to choose.

• I advocate for rape to be gender-neutral, instead of current laws that define sexual intercourse only as penetration of a vagina by a penis.

• I attempt to bring accountability to Jamaica in general, and my party's officer corps in particular, by expressing “no confidence” whenever necessary.

• Rather than spending more each year on Independence celebrations, I started to reduce expenditure and save millions by developing internal talent.

• I spent less time talking and more time doing. As a consequence, for the first time children were removed from adult correctional facilities and Jamaica moved up 52 spaces on the global childcare index, beating countries like Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, and Luxembourg.

Why? I want real change for my country. I've never known how to embrace indiscipline. I don't know how to pander or compromise my personal integrity or discipline. I've never been anybody's groupie or member of anyone's clique, cabal or secret alliance. I won't start now.

I know my time in politics may appear controversial to some, but I'm not a controversial individual. I'm a principled Jamaican with a focused determination to renew Jamaica, reintroduce discipline, productivity and internationally competitive standards.

Some of us as politicians are too insecure and afraid, so we hide behind bombast, bluster and undisciplined hype, which promote systems that scorn transparency and disregard merit.

We'll never renew Jamaica this way. I want success for Jamaica in our children's time.

Yes, I'm sure I'll continue to complain every morning when my alarm goes off. We all have these moments. But we get out of bed because of our ingrained discipline. Let's ingrain discipline in every Jamaican and every sphere of Jamaican life.

Lisa Hanna, is Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern and former minister of youth and culture.

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