Chicken Little Syndrome, my coinage, does not advance the national life of this country. It retards it.
Some might be familiar with the 2005 Disney animated production Chicken Little. The film was actually an adaptation of a European folk tale. In the original story, an acorn falls on the head of Chicken Little, the main character. She begins to think that the sky is falling. Incidentally, Little is a female in the original tale. In Disney's animation, the parallel character is a male. Anyway, Little panics and runs to warn all her colleague feathered friends of the supposed approaching catastrophe. Little's friends, share the frenzied panic, except for Foxy Loxy, who maintains that Chicken Little and the panicking bunch have been struck by a mistaken notion, and that the sky is not in fact falling.
The moral lesson of the original story is that we should take great care to avoid the paranoia of those who see the world only through apocalyptic lenses. Stinking thinking, misinformation, and disinformation are among the primary tools of doomsayers. Their ultimate objective is to destabilise institutions, retard and immobilise folks.
Bingeing on calamity
There are many Chicken Littles among us. They seem to get a kick out of predicting disaster. Some wear colourful religious robes, several don the cape of trade unionism, many the cloak of civil society — de facto interdealer brokers for often undisclosed interests — plus many among us carry the mantle of political antagonists who foolishly believe that their singular responsibility is to prick political blood from the Andrew Holness-led Administration.
Last Thursday, while driving, I tuned into a radio station which serves a religious 'menu'. A so-called prophet was there busy reeling off his predictions for 2022. His predictions of global environmental catastrophes, plane crashes, economic recession, plagues, earthquakes, and mega-fires, plus numerous other forecasts of desolation caused me to wonder if the prophet had binged on a combination of Nightmare on Elm Street, Bride of Chucky, and the Jaws series during the days leading up to and on Christmas Day. But then it occurred to me that the prophet might have had a little too much sorrel that may have been laced with the famous 'JB strength' rum out of western Jamaica.
I am always very suspicious of clergy who preface nearly every sentence with the words, “God told me to tell you...” Some of these men of God would want folks to believe they have a monopoly on God. Nonsense! I treat the prognostications of those men of the cloth with a pound of salt.
Now, please don't get me wrong. I am an unapologetic believer in God.
I believe that religion serves a crucial function in society. But I do not believe that one should suspend reason when considering matters of religion and/or any subject.
God gave us the power of reason not for us to hide it under a bushel, but to apply it consistently and generously. The Bible advises, “Prove [or test] all things; hold fast that which is good,” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). I agree.
There is a proliferation of Christian Littles in Jamaica. I don't believe we should allow the fear or even threat of personal damnation and destruction, which these 'sky is falling' proponents invariably spout to deter us from critically examining their 'foretellings'.
Relatedly, now that the news cycle has largely abandoned the bizarre story of Kevin Smith and the shenanigans of his operations at Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries, in Montego Bay, St James, many seem to have forgot the heated discussions as to whether there needed to be State regulation of churches in this country.
We should not let the opportunity of what unfolded at Smith's cult set-up to go to waste.
The time is still ripe to address the glaring weaknesses which contributed to the rise of Smith. There are others like him who are lurking, hoping for the dust to totally settle so that they can resume their nefarious activities under the guise of Christianity.
I believe our church associations should come together and set detailed national standards for church operations and governance in Jamaica. Every church needs to be accountable to a central body and must be periodically audited by that body. The results should be accessible to its members and the general public.
I will not dance to the drum beat of State regulation of the Church.
Noises of industrial turmoil
On the matter of drum beat, sources from within some of the major trade unions whisper that the internal drum beat of industrial turmoil have already started. Why? Some union representatives are not confident about the Government's ability to implement the public sector compensation review this April.
The Government says the review is intended to overhaul the structure of salaries and other emoluments in the civil service to make it more equitable. Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke told the country last November that the Government was “confident it will be able to commence implementation of the proposed public sector compensation review in April 2022”. Yet some, for reasons best know to them, insist the sky is falling.
Clarke, to date, has demonstrated that he has a firm hand on the management of the national purse and, more importantly, that he is a man of his word. On those bases I believe the Government will be able to make good on its commitment. I think certain trade unionists, albeit difficult for them, must resist the urge to 'fry' Clarke with the fat of his predecessors.
The Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition Mark Golding has been up and down the highways and byways of the country for the last many weeks trying to get his base ready for our 17th local government elections. Based on reports in sections of the media, Golding seems to have come away from his criss-crossing of the country with the view that Jamaica is on the brink of disappearing like the lost planet of Atlantis. Copious evidence proves that, despite the overlapping challenges of a pandemic, which virologists and related experts say is the worst in the last 100 years, Jamaica's economy — thanks to the Holness Administration's commendable management — has remained buoyant.
Jamaica has received plaudits for her continued positive economic recovery, locally, regionally, and internationally. Based on reports which I have seen in sections of the media, Golding and the People's National Party (PNP), nonetheless, insist that Jamaica's economic sky is falling.
The PNP needs to understand that its obsession with lime juice politics is not a winning political strategy. It is small wonder that 89 Old Road continues to fail to win political traction, especially among the nation's youth.
Notwithstanding the long-standing and now almost ubiquitous social decay, which I have detailed previously, I am betting on Jamaica. I have plenty of company. Those who identify a problem for every solution, because the people rejected them on February 25, 2016 and again on September 3, 2020, are involved in an intellectual Ponzi scheme. They would do well to revisit what happened to and Bernie Madoff.
While those who suffer with stage four Jamaica House Withdrawal Syndrome spew direct and subliminal messages of doom and gloom in the hope that this will alleviate their wrenching political pain, reputable investors are logging on to viable investment opportunities here. I provided plenty evidence of this previously.
Shun opportunistic pessimism
Like former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, I believe that which ails Jamaica can be corrected. We have plenty that is right about our country.
Jamaica is still a very young democracy. That is no excuse, of course, for the fact that we have made many dreadful political, economic, and social errors and missed too many opportunities to grasp paradigm shifts.
But there is no time for pity parties. We are not the first nation to have faced seemingly insurmountable challenges, nor will we likely be the last.
Going forward, I believe we must not be afraid to borrow the templates of successful nations and tailor them to our peculiar needs.
Fortunately, for Jamaica, we do not need to spend time reinventing the wheel. And, most importantly, we need to cease repeating the political, economic, and social mistakes of the past, while hoping that the results are going to turn out miraculously different.
I am no Pollyanna when it comes to the realities before us as a nation, but I will not join the Christian Littles, Political Littles, Economic Littles, and Social Littles who preach that the sky's falling. Beating the drums of unavoidable failures flies in the face of free will and choice which God has blessed us with. It is up to us.
Republic can wait!
As I see it, Jamaica should devote her energies to dealing with the long-standing afflictions of crime and violence, economic underachievement, social decay, and a politics which our longest-serving prime minister, P J Patterson, described as “a fight for scarce benefits and spoils carried on by hostile tribes that seem to be perpetually at war”.
I can well understand the burning need of some for Jamaica to jump on the republic bandwagon. They are figuring that such a move would significantly sanitise and deodorise tattered political and related legacies. We must not be bamboozled by such diversions. Neither must we be misdirected from the real and great challenges that face the majority of poor, dispossessed, and downtrodden Jamaicans on a daily basis.
I surely don't hear and/or see many who are struggling to pay rent, meet the obligation of a mortgage, put food on the table, send children to school, in the midst of additional expenses of the pandemic and in general negotiating the realities of living in Jamrock shouting, “Give us republic status!”
The clamour for Jamaica to 'follow fashion' and join the republic parade — or, more properly, charade — is coming from, in the main, those whose bellies are full, those who know where their next meal is coming from, and many who have benefited from schooling at great public expense, but in many instances have failed to deliver the kind of leadership and/or made the required sacrifices that are needed to advance this society way beyond the low-skill, low-pay realities which hang over the majority like a sword of Damocles.
As I see it, Jamaica has bigger fish to fry, as we say in local parlance. How can we seriously talk about republic when the majority, the vast majority of the students who graduate from the various rungs of the education system are scarcely ready to advance?
How can we seriously focus on becoming a republic when our debt-to-GDP ratio is still one of the highest in the world. Most of those who are shouting, 'republic now' can afford to hire security guards, purchase the latest electronic gadgets to enhance their safety, and/or access numerous ways of protecting themselves from the march of a long-standing and metastasising crime rate — one of the highest in the world for the last 35 years.
As I see it, putting our house in order is priority number 1, 2 and 3. I feel confident that, with the application of the required political will and matching national steadfastness, we can overcome the seemingly insurmountable hurdles in our collective path.
Among other things, Jamaica must not continue to repeat a particularly critical and costly error of her past. That is allowing ideology to trump our immediate national priorities. We did so in the 1970s. The results were near ruinous.
I have absolutely no hesitation with Jamaica assuming republic status, eventually. However, I strongly oppose the false urgency of republic status, which some among us want to force on this nation, primarily because it fits neatly into their narrow and personal world view of ideological relevance.
Happy new year to everyone!
Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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