Columns

God save the Queen, but who prospers us?

Franklin
Johnston

Friday, August 23, 2019

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August 6, 2019 is done and dusted. At a function at which many said the Queen had been oppressing them the drumming was spiffy. We sang, danced, gave honours, yet the recent Statistical Institute of Jamaica/Planning Institute of Jamaica survey says poverty increased. But why let facts get in the way of a good party?

We should celebrate Independence, but we should also create economic freedom and mark it. Other West Indian islands had decades of prosperity, not us. The per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of the Bahamas and Trinidad are above $30,000; St Kitts, Antigua, Barbados have above $20,000; St Lucia, Grenada earn above $15,000; we were below $5,000. Yet, we are all black majority, black-ruled nations. We produce the same stuff, so what's wrong with us?

They outperformed us in education — even the cart man speaks English, accent notwithstanding — and they had Nobel laureates. We had eight prime ministers, and none prospered us. We tightened belts; some mobilised us to cut cane, others banned books and activists as they feared bloody revolution — all failed.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Sir, we celebrate a dead date. Let us reason this out. August 6, 1962 is our father's magnum opus, not ours. We wine, dance, sing each August for 57 years to celebrate Alexander Bustamante's and Norman Manley's success. What of our own?

What in 57 years have we done worth celebrating? Sir, we have 350 days before we repeat the empty August 6 ritual and we need our own achievement for August 6, 2020. Begone, mindless revelry! Sir, lead the nation; change it or own it!

God save the Queen, as she is ours. Before Independence our fathers loved her. She protected them from the white legislature and ex-slaves petitioned her for relief. Since 1962 we no longer love her and never petition her to curb murders or corruption. Where is our governor general? We claim emotional and psychological damage and want to remove the Queen, yet others strut their “Sir John” and “Lord Taylor” and live well.

For 57 years we 'chaw fire' at royal statues, memorials; wear jacket and tie, judge's wigs; and speak English from those we claim oppress us. Yet, our West Indian peers worked with, around, or embraced them. Some got education and prospered. Why not us? Some say remove Queen and we will be educated and prosper? Well, dweet den, nuh! Mental slavery which entraps us is turgid, but is it the Queen or in our fantasies? Our governor general is quietly doing his good. Is he in your way?

If we are to banish mental slavery it must begin with politicians. Why call Members of Parliament honourable when many are not? America won its Independence and cut all ties with the British; they use no honorific titles! We 'hug up' the British thing and dance. Do you know senior public officers check which politician is “most honourable” or “right honourable” or plain “honourable”; whether his wife or girlfriend is? Why? Because some get angry if wrongly announced and sanction them. The man who bought votes last week and won the election is styled honourable this week? Bulls! Sir, call people by their offices; no honourable garnish!

The men and women meriting national honours are tried, tested performers, and honourable. Incidentally, please decide who gets an award and deliver it without this or that “class”, as it seems a cheap consolation prize. We perpetuate the class structure then nuance it by classes within a class; all are equal, but some are more equal than others.

The Queen is omnipresent. How do we exorcise her? First, check your land title. She owns all land and you just keep and care it, so defend Cockpit Country, but it's not ours! Are you Taino; won Jamaica in war or bought it as President Donald Trump tries to buy Greenland from Denmark? Our ancestral land is not here. The Queen regnant is head of State, and the brass work, fine lanyards, silverware and heraldry of the security forces and civil service are hers and can oust a prime minister. Will we raise her royal standard on our intended new parliament building?

What would it take to excise the Queen from our lives? It is easy, but not cheap. The Queen is infused in everything official. The rough cost to remove her was once millions; easily a billion now. Every piece of paper, Act, legal document, title; security forces, uniformed services; agreements with foreign powers, the works, bear her imprimatur. The future Prince Archie intrigues me, but I hold no brief for the Queen, and the cliché to use her to excuse failure is born here, as we are experts at failing. She is no brake on prosperity, liberty, equality in other West Indian, African, Commonwealth nations, so why here? Could it be that the beam is in our eye? Stay conscious!

 

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and lectures in logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.

 


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