To those politicians who don't read the papers or watch the newsSaturday, February 21, 2015
ARCHITECTS are required to be knowledgeable in the area of building construction and design. Design requires a good deal of understanding of social activity, which is what determines how we use the buildings we use for our daily activities. Reading about many different things has given me great insight into design and other things that contribute to design success or failure. Reading illustrates and gives perspective to most things around us in our society today.
It is in this light that I have taken to reading about the history of the Caribbean and the African slave trade, recently, in order to better understand how we as a group have come to be the way we are in Jamaica. Our history in Jamaica is reported in the news media daily, so to hear from the people responsible for the decisions that affect the almost three million Jamaicans that they don't read the papers or watch the TV news is alarming. This is like a doctor preparing to operate on a patient and refusing to hear from the patient what the ailment feels like or how the ailment is affecting him.
Turning to the history reported by our older history books, many aspects of our social construct and economic development are clearly revealed as to how they came to be. Some forty years ago, Eric Williams, former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, wrote a book called From Columbus to Castro, which outlines generally the activities during the creation of the Caribbean region and the policies imposed on the region through the abolition of slavery and to the Cuban revolution. The book reveals the methods imposed through war between European powers to cooperation between allied European powers, eventually incorporating the American economy. It is a fascinating book, especially when I recall how efforts by Michael Manley of Jamaica and Maurice Bishop of Grenada failed to forge a new way of doing business in the region, since the cold war was the guiding principle of international trade.
We, as little island states, were then, and still are today, helpless in the face of the actions of the Europeans even after slavery and Caribbean independence, then the Americans and the cold war and its "New World Economic Order", now the Chinese who are determined to make the world their own by making everything for everybody, depriving every economy of an economic base. Today, even salt fish, that used to come from Canada, is now from China. My fear is that we are already too late to make our own way in the world. We are now subject to loans from anybody, and stipulations from everybody, being unable to generate any kind of economy. We once read that sugar created a great amount of wealth for the Europeans, now we hear that tourism is to be our saviour. So we have exchanged the task of field labour planting sugar cane to labour as busboys and bellhops catering to anyone who will give us a US dollar. Are we to be slaves forever?
This brings me back to our leaders who apparently are not well read and have had no interest in how history put them here. They continue blindly following the money for a mess of pottage; unfortunately dragging us down with them on their path to nowhere.
Informed dialogue among our leaders about what is right for the nation of former slaves taken by force from Africa has not, it seems, sunk into the heads of our leaders who sit in comfort in positions of authority. They think they are being paid to live and look like kings and queens. While the streets are littered with the frustrations and futility of the struggles of the masses, politicians are saying we have progressed since slavery and that we should be grateful for what we have. Well, this is one Jamaican who is unhappy with the lack of vision, lack of capability, and lack of caring shown by those we elected to represent our interests and lead us out of the crucible of slavery's cruel legacy.
Unfortunately, I am only one voice and I can only write of what I believe to be true, of what I read, and of what I see. The rest of us Jamaicans who can, who are not busy lurching
from one crisis
to the other, and
who can comprehend where we are and how we got here, need to advise those sitting in Government of their responsibility to the struggles around us and the least fortunate among us. Not by benevolent distribution of the remaining loot from imperialist conquest, but from the resolution of our minds in determining our future.
In a world that is becoming increasingly similar to what existed in the 15th century, where the world's wealth was being carved up to be shared among the powerful -- and black slaves were a part of that wealth in the 15th century -- we must change our future by apprising ourselves of our past to make a full understanding of its relationship to today, every day.
Today, knowledge and information are the new currency of trade. The human ability to translate that knowledge into tangible values is where the rubber hits the road, and is where the value resides. So to my leaders, I put the question to you, what will be your legacy? Will you be remembered like Henry Morgan, who satiated himself on the loot taken from the Spanish and was rewarded by his king and queen? I can't say. Many of you have already been there and your legacy is the sorry state of affairs of the land of wood and water. That can't change.
I would like to see before the next election -- a short two years from now -- responsible leaders who have read the news and do watch TV, and who are easy to talk to and talk with. I want to have leaders who care about the trials and tribulations of the people of Jamaica and who listen to the people, not talk down to them. The future of Jamaica does not lie with the Chinese and their money, the IMF and its stipulations, the EU and its largesse, England and whatever it wants to say it has given us. The future of Jamaica lies in the education of the Jamaican people, from Morant Bay to Negril
point. Jamaicans have demonstrated what they can do in spite of the lack of vision bestowed on us by the colonial history of the country. We need leadership by those who share our problems, issues and values. We can and will rise to the challenge.
In doing all these things to rise up from the desperate circumstances that we find ourselves in, we must remind ourselves and teach our children about the facts of slavery, how we came to be slaves. We dismiss our history of slavery at our own peril. The facts and vestiges of slavery are very present and not too far from many of our people, and our leaders don't know what they are looking at because they didn't read the paper or watch the news; they didn't read their history books. Wake up, Jamaica, read our history. The way forward is all there.
Hugh M Dunbar is a registered architect. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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