Columns

Let's get it right and let's fight!

Al Miller

Sunday, September 03, 2017

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In the last month alone, another 141 Jamaicans have been killed - at least those we know about. These bloody, senseless killings have brought further pain, torment and anguish to families, and have heightened the levels of fear in our citizens everywhere. If what we have been doing to address the situation has not worked, then we must accept that it cannot work. To keep doing the same things and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.

When will enough be enough? What will it take to move you, your neighbours or your circle of friends to action? Must such calamity and evil come to your house, your business, or your friends for enough to be enough? Concern, outrage, empathy, and anger are appropriate responses to the constant violence, but they are no good unless they produce action that brings about change. If the crime situation is left unchecked, calamity will surely reach you, and it is only a matter of time, and it won't be long.

For many of us it has already come to our homes, neighbourhoods and business places, yet we still have done no more than mourn, talk, then return to apathy. Many feel helpless, even hopeless, and think there is little or nothing that they can do. Wrong! There is always something that you can do. What you must not do is do wrong to achieve right, and what you cannot afford to do is nothing.

'Action, not a bag a mout'

Responsible citizenship always calls for action when things are not going right. Love for one's neighbour always calls for action whenever there is a need. Self-interest always requires action in the face of threats to one's own well-being or that of one's family.

Jamaica is our land! Ours is the responsibility to fix what's wrong with it, and equally to stop those who would destroy it, whether from within or without. Active engagement and involvement ought not to be optional, but imperative. As good citizens we must be alert, determined, responsible, and resolute in making our voices, votes and vision loudly heard. Whenever things are not going right, we must act!

How should we channel our energy? We must get involved in creating positive change. In our democracy we elect leaders to manage our interests. So our first action must be through the ballot box. Don't just say that there is no one worth voting for. The main political parties benefit from the apathy of the non-aligned voters, and they use the various garrisons as bulwarks against the effectiveness of the independent vote. Your vote is only powerful when you use it.

We must ensure that those we elect have the necessary capability and hold them accountable to fulfil the assignment. Certainly we must give them our fullest support, guidance and encouragement as they do the nation's business. Equally, if they demonstrate an unwillingness to act, or if they persist on a negative path, then we apply a two-pronged approach — pray them out and vote them out.

The chief qualifications we must look for in the leaders of a new Jamaica are the strength of their moral character and their commitment to transform the social negatives of our nation. They must not only know what is right, but they must have demonstrated integrity and the will to do what is right.

Let's get our priorities right!

Our nation continues to experience a serious moral, social and economic crisis that only principled leadership can correct. So, while we have made a few strides economically, the worsening moral and social issues threaten the gains and stifle growth and development. This makes the moral and social aspects our greatest priority for urgent attention.

The present Government, like the last one, has misplaced its priorities. They speak of the social and moral crisis, but act primarily on the economic issues. Few resources are directed towards addressing the moral and social ills. This has been the tendency because of the ignorance, short-sightedness and lack of conviction that social and economic success is driven by spiritual and moral stimuli.

The advisors and planners who influence the decision-making and resource allocation are predominantly economic thinkers who approach the matter from a particular angle, oblivious to the essential underpinnings that drive economics. For example, they cannot easily see how the moral factors of low trust levels, lack of integrity, poor work ethic, values and attitudes directly affect productivity levels and the favourability of the business climate. It must be clearly understood and accepted by Government that moral and spiritual decline always precedes social and economic decline. Whenever there is spiritual and moral restoration, social and economic revitalisation follows.

Moral and spiritual decline continues to plague our nation. We ignore to our peril the significance of the moral and spiritual factors in all aspects of our personal and national development. We have ignored it in family life development; ignored it as an education priority, and ignored it in institutional development and capacity building. Most importantly, we continue to miss it in leadership selection in the political, public and private sectors.

Let's get it right and let's fight!

In the last 30 years, this failure to focus on the spiritual and moral factors has resulted in rampant crime; callous acts of violence; and grievous acts of inhumanity against each other. We are faced with levels of abuse and injustice across the nation, coupled with the poverty and deep sense of hopelessness and fear that grips the majority of our people. It is time to determine that enough is enough and halt the slide. It is time to acknowledge the significance of the spiritual and moral factors to our growth and development.

I am constrained by the love of God and love of my fellow man to fight this diabolical monster that has dominated the national landscape for decades. I am convinced that we can defeat it, and we must defeat it now!

I am committed to play my part. Are you committed to play yours? Together we can do it. Every problem created by man can be solved by man with God's help. In that truth lies my confidence.

Let's take a deeper look at the fundamental problem areas of tribal politics, garrisonisation and donmanship that form the seedbed that allows crime and violence to flourish. I have mentioned that in recent times it seems we have stopped talking about the rise of garrisons, donmanship and political tribalism. It is as though we somehow believe that they no longer exist, or perhaps are not relevant to the issues with which we are still grappling. But they remain critical, and both conversation and transformation must ensue.

Tribal politics

Tribal politics has given us divisiveness, corrupt practices, and election violence that has morphed into general violence. It has bequeathed us the fight over scarce benefits, bullo work, and other harmful practices that even the tribalists are getting tired of. The new leadership of the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party must, first, by private conviction of heart, and then publicly, prove their commitment to end the old-style tribal political approach. It cannot continue in the new Jamaica that we are trying to build. Those who cannot change their thinking and behaviour are either too old, too old-fashioned, or too mean-spirited to remain. There is no place for the tribal mindset going forward.

We can do politics without being tribal and divisive. We can hold different views; be on different sides, and yet be respectful and share common goals. We are mature enough to recognise that we can play on opposite sides for training and development purposes, but remain very conscious that we all play for team Jamaica and must all put Jamaica first.

Both parties should immediately begin a messaging campaign to their supporters, indicating the concept of a new Jamaica, and begin inculcating the mindset for change. This does not require any initial financial outlay. It only requires the will to act! They can begin with the positive rhetoric, but putting some resources behind it would certainly speak volumes.

They must begin the internal party dialogue to obtain commitment to pursuing a new path, and must begin to weed out those who are stuck in reverse until their transmission can be fixed. We need a public commitment from both parties on this matter.

Garrisonisation

Garrisonisation is an evil and unjust system that victimises good citizens of Jamaica, especially the residents of the garrisons themselves. They are subjected to poor educational opportunities, inadequate social services, denial of good jobs, and upward mobility.

Garrisons must be dismantled. They are the literal hotbed of our crime and violence. Most of our gangs are headquartered in garrisons. Many of our serial murderers are born in and socialised by our garrisons. Our precious children, especially our girls, are abused and raped in our garrisons.

If enough is enough, then what do we do about it? If we have had enough of murder, enough of violence, then what do we do? We must dismantle our garrisons. They are draining the life of our nation. It doesn't take much to realise that if we continue on this path we will not survive as a nation.

Does the political leadership accept that the garrison system is an evil one that must be dismantled? What is the present thinking? We need a clear response from the parties on this matter.

Donmanship

We have allowed a parallel system of leadership and justice to arise that provides societal solutions of one sort or another to the people engaged in it; despite the obvious harshness and evil. This is the system of donmanship.

Dons fill a vacuum that some aspects of our governance have created. It may not be comfortable for us to admit it, and we certainly don't approve of it, but the system is effective. It provides for some people a certain kind of stability and security; justice is swift and sure, and leadership achieves what it sets out to do.

There is even a system of taxation. I recall a meeting with our privately owned public transport operators some years ago. They were being extorted (taxed) at the rate of $200 per trip, per vehicle, every day of operation, as long as their route ended or began downtown. Despite our appeal to them that this operation was funding criminal operations for a certain don, they had no difficulty in paying it because they and their vehicles were secure. If there was any incident of theft, culprits were swiftly located and stolen property restored. The flip side, of course, was that they would end up with slashed tyres if they failed to pay.

If donmanship is to end — and it must — in the 'new Jamaica' model, the State and its related agencies must be prepared to provide the services that communities need, which our dons have been providing. Do our political parties believe that the donmanship system must end? We need a response from the parties on this matter.

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

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