Columns

Reflective reminders on building the new Jamaica

Al Miller

Sunday, December 31, 2017

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We are at the end of another year that has seemed to roll by so quickly. The new year is upon us and brings with it so much uncertainty. For many it engenders fear and anxiety, as they think it is going to be just more of the same mayhem. Others look forward with hope that things will get better. Then there are those pessimists who say this year was worse than last, so there is no reason to expect anything different. Where are you?

The fact that we are still upright above the ground gives us much to be thankful for, and it suggests that our assignment on the planet is not yet over. We should embrace the opportunity that a new year brings to find (or refresh) our purpose and aggressively pursue it to the finish.

As we close the year, I invite you to reflect with me on some of the major themes and comments made in this column over the year. The intent is to have an overview as we look at some of what it will take to create the new Jamaica. This is a matter about which I am passionate, unflinching, and cannot be deterred, even by the many detractors. This nation must be transformed and I am committed, as some are, to do whatever it takes that is legal and right for it to be realised.

Despite what some suggest, I have never and will never, by the grace of God, knowingly do anything that is illegal or contrary to biblical principles. National transformation, for me, is more than a good activity; it is a calling to fulfil.

The column has sought to examine what it takes to build a great nation and to show what hinders it. National transformation does not just happen. It is the result of deliberate action.

In 2017, our nation saw some little flickers of light giving hope for the possibility of better tomorrows amidst the deep darkness and gloom that have overshadowed our progress for decades. However, our murder rate has skyrocketed again, and at the same time we have seen the best performance in the economy for years. This Jekyll and Hyde system cannot offer the stability necessary for serious, sustainable development.

Most of us cry for real continuous growth in the nation and we desire to see the destruction of the negatives that seem to override everything. But it will not happen without the determination of us as citizens to do what it takes to create national transformation. We must choose to make this next year count by becoming a great contributor to positive change in our sphere of influence, striving to help make Jamaica great. This has to become a driving force in 2018 for those of us who love this country. I am convinced that we are more than able to make it a reality.

Consider the following advice. “The teaching and practice of common values… determine that nation's social and economic prosperity and cannot be left to 'natural processes' for their propagation in society.” So said Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad, and I wholeheartedly agree. Had nations like Rwanda, Bosnia, Burundi, and others accepted and acted expeditiously on Mahathir's words, perhaps there would have been no civil war, ethnic strife or genocide as part of their national journey. I hope to God we follow his advice before it's too late for our island nation.

So let's look back at the nine foundation pillars which I consider essential in building great nations, and therefore critical to establish the new Jamaica that we all long for. We will also look at some significant issues mentioned that block the building process.

Justice

The first and primary pillar is justice. In an early column (Sunday, January 15), headlined 'Old problem, new thinking', I opined that, “Crime is not our root problem but the result of the problem. The root problem is injustice. Every criminal act is an act of injustice done by someone against another person. Therefore, what we need to focus on fighting is injustice.”

Is anyone listening? “The only way to deal with injustice is to establish justice for all. This was the vision of our founding fathers at Independence…”

Truth

Then in a series of articles titled 'Facing the Truth' (February 19, March 5, March 13), I offered that truth was our second pillar. “Truth,” I reminded us, “is one key to our personal and national prosperity; it is the catalyst for justice and the basis for trust... Truth is a foundational principle that naturally calls us to get to the root of a matter to better understand the cause of the problem and find lasting solutions.” When truth, justice and trust are commonplace, an atmosphere of peace is the result. Peace provides the environment for the hard work that leads to real prosperity.

The absence of truth allows fear and deception to creep in and blind the eyes to reality. This causes us to ignore or hide from the truth, which in turn results in bondage and enslavement to, or tolerance of evil practices, such as the breakdown of family, corruption, garrisonisation, greed, and other vices.

Vision

The third pillar I presented was vision! Most of us are aware of the adage, “Where there's no vision, the people perish.” It is from that premise that my article 'Vision or Perish' asked the question: So where are the visionaries and the vision?

I wrote on March 19 and still strongly believe that our nation needs a 'call to action' type of vision, “which all can engage, own, and contribute; one that enables them to see their own dreams and those of their children realised within that vision. Vision is the basic ingredient from which great nations are built.

“With a clear national vision, our leaders will be better able to galvanise the nation towards a path to real growth and development. Citizens can better keep leaders accountable and judge their performance against the vision to determine who can best take us to the desired destination.” But don't forget, leaders, that vision must be sold! You must do the salesmanship necessary for people to buy into the vision and echo it from every mountaintop and valley from Negril to Morant Point.

Work

But vision is of little use if people are unwilling to work to bring the vision into reality. So, on April 2 I presented the article titled 'The transforming power of work'. Let me remind you that, “Vision is the firewood that fuels work. Work is the mechanism that drives production. For nation-building, work is the natural progression out of vision.

“We aspire to be a great nation, a great people. But greatness can only be achieved by working to attain it. The capacity for greatness is within each person and within us as a nation, but most often we lack the will to do that which will make us great. The Creator made us for success and gave us abilities to succeed.” Our success comes through hard work!

Order

The fifth essential pillar, which I presented on April 9, was order. “It is often said the first order of business is order. Tremendous truth is in that statement. Very little of lasting value and beauty can be sustained in an environment of disorder. This applies to personal life, organisations, businesses, and nations. The God of creation sets us a pattern. The Earth in the Genesis account was in chaos. God's first intervention was to bring order to create a framework for structure, systems, creativity, innovation, and beauty to develop.

“To get order we must first have a clear vision, with supporting values, and strong, trusted leaders focused on achieving set goals. With order, everything else will begin to fall into place. Without it, we will keep circling the mountain and cause generations to perish in the wilderness of disorder.”

Equality and equity

On April 16, in a piece titled 'Equal rights...and justice', I challenged us to “...face the reality that the societal construct of haves and have-nots, classism, and other inequalities that drove us to seek Independence remain with us after 54 years. But if we desire to fulfil our motto, 'Out of many, one people', and to have a peaceful, stable, and just society, then the sixth pillar of the nine pillars I am suggesting as essential must be the twin pillars of equality and equity.

Love

Seven is the perfect number, we are told, and coincidentally, but perhaps divinely so, I presented love as the seventh pillar necessary to build our new Jamaica. I remember reasoning with you on April 23 in a column titled 'The Overlooked Factor' that “...Some may question the basis of love being a fundamental pillar of nation-building. The reality of the physical, visible world often makes us forget that the majority of life's activity is not things you can 'touch', but that does not make them less real. Love is possibly the most powerful force in our world, yet it operates in the invisible sphere.

“You do not build a society on the economy, as seems to be the thinking of some people in the present Administration and of others in the past and in academia. Great societies are built by people united and committed to work for a common cause in an environment of love, justice and peace. A thriving economy will be the natural outcome. Happy, focused people will build the best economies. It is not economies that build nations, people do. When our leaders refocus and embrace this truth, greatness will not elude us.”

Righteousness

The eighth pillar is Righteousness, taken from a well known biblical adage, “Righteousness exalts a nation…”

Righteousness is doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time. I believe that righteousness, as a pillar in nation-building, is a principle directed, first and foremost, to leadership in a nation, and secondarily to citizens. Righteousness in leadership therefore means consistently adhering to the principles of love, truth, justice, integrity, fairness, humility, wisdom, kindness, equality, equity, and care for the poor as the standard. Is anyone listening?

Family

I reasoned on Sunday, May 14 and Sunday, May 21 that the eight pillars previously discussed: vision, justice, truth, work, order, equality & equity, love, and righteousness are best developed in this basic unit of society called family. This makes the family the single most important institution in the nation.

Strong families make strong communities, and strong communities result in strong nations. The ninth and last pillar that I suggest on which to build a great nation, the new Jamaica, is family — indisputably considered to be the foundation of society.

A country cannot afford to ignore the pillar of family in the nation-building process. To do so is short-sighted, even ridiculous. It is time to give this nation-building bedrock called family the important attention it deserves. And not just any family model, but the model that has been proven to be the best for nation-building. Let's get this right for a prosperous Jamaica.

So there you have it, nine critical pillars for building a great nation. Are we putting them in place? Can you identify those that need repair or complete installation? Remember, they cannot just happen by themselves, they must be deliberately installed.

Additionally, there may be a few national inhibitors to our development — political tribalism, garrisonisation, donmanship, corruption, and crime and violence easily come to mind. However, installing these nine foundational pillars would no doubt nullify some of these inhibitors.

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

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What do you hope that this new year will bring you most of all?
Happiness
42%
Love
8%
Marriage
6%
Children
4%
Better job
10%
Money
31%

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