Dalton's win should awaken us to new realities

Al Miller

Sunday, December 09, 2018

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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. — Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version [NIV]

On Monday, December 3, the Jamaica Observer celebrated with the headline 'It's Dalton!' The report following may give us insight into the psyche of the winner:

“ 'I just won the X Factor!' Those were the first words which Jamaican Dalton Harris managed to utter yesterday as he tried to recover from the announcement that he had just been declared winner of the popular British televised talent show.

“His knees buckled as the show's host Dermott O'Leary read his name ahead of a hail of confetti, lights and fanfare.”

The Gleaner of the same day gave him front-page prominence with the headline, '1-M Voice', X Factor winner set to become global megastar. They reported that minutes after Harris was declared winner of the 2018 edition of the UK talent show, Prime Minister Andrew Holness congratulated him on Twitter, sharing: “The entire Jamaica is proud of you. Your phenomenal talent is now unleashed on the world.”

I am not an X Factor aficionado but I am told by fans that it was clear that Dalton was in a league by himself for many weeks now. Surely he must have realised that. Yet when he won he didn't beat his chest. He instead responded in a manner that I can only interpret as humility. I am further told that over the weeks of rehearsals and performances, he endeared himself to contestants, spectators and judges by displaying a consistently humble and friendly spirit. So friendly, in fact, that it caused him a bit of backlash (see picture of him in fellow contestant's lap).

The backlash got worse for Dalton after he spoke frankly of the poverty and child abuse that was part of his upbringing. The way some Jamaicans responded you would not believe that many of us can identify with him. Perhaps the negative responses he received are because of our Jamaican adage which warns us, 'Doan wash yuh dirty linen in public.'

Well, Dalton was not afraid to wash his. Perhaps more of us need to step up and wash, so that the lesson learned and new adage coined will be, 'Don't dirty your linen!

Here we are again at a watershed moment in our nation. Another Jamaican has stamped his class on the world stage and in so doing placed Jamaica in the world's spotlight in a positive way. Every time one of our citizens does so, my prophetic mind senses and sees the potential benefits and the lessons to be learned from the God-given moment in time. What are some of these benefits and lessons you ask? Here are a few considerations.

Develop, don't destroy potential

Never has one nation had so much talent yet done so little in a deliberate way with what they have. There is an objective we used to have when I was serving with the National Transformation Programme (NTP) — every citizen a producer, nation-builder and valued contributor. This is a programme to which I am still committed. Isn't it time we had a Government (both sides of the house) that genuinely views its citizens in that regard? Isn't it time we had communities who view residents that way? Isn't it time we have families who view their children like that?

It has been reported by Dalton, and carried by this newspaper and other media houses, that Dalton endured horrible emotional and physical abuse growing up. I wonder if his mother knew the heights to which her son would ascend would she have treated him better in his early years? Would she have protected him more?

It's time we began to more deliberately target for development individuals and products with evidence of high potential. I know that our Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) has been doing tremendous work developing talent in our schools, so we already have a model. I also know we develop talent through agencies such as Social Development Commission (SDC) and HEART; however, these agencies target underachievers and offer second chances.

I suggest that we have an agency that deliberately searches for and identifies super talent in all areas — sports, the arts, the sciences — then we deliberately channel them in programmes to guide and accelerate their talent to its highest potential. This will always be good investment of the public purse. This is the kind of effort a new-era prime minister and those of the future could embrace in their 'Jamaica first' portfolio.

This is not a new concept. In the private sector it's called talent management. It is often overlooked or thought of as unnecessary, but check the super successful companies and you will find that talent management is a common practice.

What is talent management?

Andreas von der Heydt, head, Kindle content at Amazon, Germany, writing for The World Economic Forum, defines talent management as follows:

“The science of using strategic human resource planning to improve business value and to make it possible for companies and organisations to reach their goals. Everything done to recruit, retain, develop, reward, and make people perform forms a part of talent management as well as strategic workforce planning.”

Andreas observed that “...stakeholders...often tend to forget what's at the very heart of lasting business success: Identifying exceptionally talented people, developing them, and retaining them. In one sentence: Talent management matters more than ever!”

Sadly, this business concept that should fairly easily be translated to the development of its super-talented citizens as a human resource investment is often overlooked — with maybe the exception of sports. It's time to deliberately plan to prosper and not to harm our talented ones, especially those who are from the lower strata of our island nation.

Why do we have to unleash a farin?

Why do most Jamaicans have to migrate to become phenomenal or achieve good success? Why can't we develop the systems and structures here in Jamaica for us to uncover and develop our super talents and unleash them to the world? Yes, we have to some extent done so with sports, and to a lesser extent music, but I am particularly proposing that we up the ante.

Let's pause to celebrate the fact that our Jamaican reggae music has been added to a list of international cultural treasures which the United Nations has 'deemed worthy of protecting and promoting'. Some time ago Senator Damion Crawford proposed the idea and, in her usual inimitable style, current Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange successfully made the case for reggae music to be included on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Grange even led the UN caucus in the singing of Bob Marley's One Love after the proposal was ratified during the 13th session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which began Monday, November 26, in Mauritius.

Yes, wi big suh, and we don't even officially teach music in all our schools. Why is music not in our early childhood and primary curricula? So, in this area of Jamaican excellence, recognised by the UN, we should return music to the core curriculum for our early childhood and primary schools in order to ensure that we keep producing musicians indefinitely and sustain our competitive advantage. May I hear an “Amen” from Dr Nicholeen DeGrasse-Johnson, principal of Edna Manley? For if we are graduating music students from Edna Manley College, why don't they have the option to become music teachers in our schools? Over to you, Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid.

Flip the script: Kiss don't kick!

The Dalton win raises another issue that, as a society, we should address in seeking to build the new Jamaica. We have the propensity to often see the negative rather than the positive. We are quicker to criticise what's wrong or what we don't like about situations than applauding what's right.

Unless particularly prodded or asked directly what we like about it we don't mention it, or we simply go straight to the dislike. Some other societies operate conversely and reap the benefits of higher individual self-esteem among its citizens. It's time we learn this lesson and flip the script.

A positive and empowered people leads to a positive and empowered nation. We must become more intentional in affirming the worth and value of our children. Flip the script and begin embracing them, instead of chasing them away. Let's kiss them, don't kick them; heal them, don't hurt them.

Dalton, in spite of what he has been through, was able to press through in pursuit of his dream. Most of our males do not seem able to overcome the negatives of upbringing to muster the level of self-confidence and inner motivation to drive them to the top. The majority never matriculate to higher education, and even those who do the higher percentage never finish. This reality is deepening a social dilemma for our tomorrows. There is a diminishing number of eligible men in comparison to women leaving university. I am informed that the ratio is at 70 to 30, or in some cases 80 to 20. Our women are moving up the corporate ladder while the men are moving down the scale and fast disappearing from the corporate world. Male absence is equally noticeably in leadership of home, church and schools.

We must deliberately engage and invest in more government and private sector programmes which target our parents, our teachers and other child influencers to positively affirm our children. For many of our boys this is where their self-esteem is damaged, and they begin to lose respect for self and reverence for the lives of others. A constantly abused and degraded male child will become an adult abuser and destroyer of others. Evidence will be seen in his abuse of the women in his life and eventually in his ability to take life without much remorse.

Isn't it time to take stock and cease and desist the verbal and emotional abuse of our children, particularly our males? Special attention has to be given to rescue and build up and redirect our young males. These problems, if left unchecked in a society, will cause greater future deterioration of our social fabric and further inhibit Jamaica's ability to move from poverty to prosperity and “under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race”.

Jamaican Dalton Harris is playing his part, are you?

Rev Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or pastormilleroffice@gmail.com.

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