I recently decided to conduct an informal poll among a number of Jamaican citizens from a wide cross section of the society in order to get a perspective on how they were coping in a country in which it is fast becoming extremely difficult to live.
Needless to say I came away from that experience with a feeling of great concern and deepening hopelessness. Apart from hardcore supporters of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) who defended to the death their party and its capacity to lead, most people were totally fed up with the direction in which the country is going.
Two findings were most frightening to me. One was, as one elderly man succinctly put it, "Wi no want no republic!" And the other was, "Mr Holness need to bring back hanging, di criminal dem a gwaan too bad."
Firstly, it would appear that many Jamaicans do not have confidence in either the JLP or the People's National Party (PNP) to run this nation properly based on their respective track records, in terms of governance issues. This recurring sentiment was revealed a little over a decade ago when a Bill Johnson poll revealed that 60 per cent of the Jamaican population felt the country would have been better off if it had remained a British colony.
Secondly, the ongoing tsunami of crimes and misdemeanours cutting across the entire society against the backdrop of the Andrew Holness-led Administration appearing to be increasingly clueless or just outright inept at bringing back law and order to an indisciplined, don't-care environment in which anything goes has made John Public come to the conclusion that, perhaps, in the final analysis, the only way out is flight (literally) rather than to stay and fight.
In this vein, it is no secret that thousands of disgruntled Jamaicans who desperately want a better way of life have been using any means necessary to get out of this seemingly God-forsaken country. Recent news items which pointed to the fact that some Jamaicans were opting to use a certain cruise ship to abscond once they reach another port of entry is but the tip of the iceberg as far as fleeing Jamaicans are concerned.
Word on the ground is that Mexico has become the preferred route of reaching the United States, and a number of youth indicated that several of their relatives and friends have chosen that modus operandi, which costs a great deal of money and can prove to be a hazardous passage.
Meanwhile, in the echelons of the middle and upper middle class, young professionals and retirees are among those who are seeking ways to exit. This may sound overly alarmist to some, but in many conversations I have had with individuals who would have otherwise been patriotic and defiant, believing "no whe no betta dan yaad!", many of them are now relenting and wanting to leave to other presumably safer shores. Despite the many instances of mass shootings in the United States and the likelihood of being racially discriminated against, they say they still prefer to make that move in order to have some peace of mind.
And one of the underlying reasons they want to quit their homeland points to the high level of crassness that has overtaken the society. Indeed, when it comes to tolerance, good manners, common courtesies, and "true respect for all", we have truly descended into the abyss.
Then there is the perception of corruption and thievery in high and low places. The ongoing Stocks and Securities Limited fraud saga, in addition to numerous instances of grand and petty larceny, which in recent times have featured several members of the fairer sex, have helped to undermine trust in our financial institutions. As one female higgler defiantly declares, even as she sells her wares under a "No Vending" sign, "Everybody a tief!"
Another worrying issue is the controversial investigation of Prime Minister Holness in relation to an alleged incidence of conflict of interest and possible cronyism by the Integrity Commission. Although the matter has been thrown out by the corruption prosecutor, there is a residual feeling among the people that, although Holness was not criminally charged, there are moral and ethical questions to be answered. As a result, he may well have lost some political goodwill as well as the confidence of large swathes of the electorate.
Also, the postponement of the local government elections has not gone down well with citizens who view their right to vote as a sacred obligation which should not be trampled upon in a willy-nilly way.
In all of this, both Prime Minister Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding should be very worried, even as the nation moves towards holding a referendum to chart the way forward with a new or restructured constitution, inclusive of determining whether we stay with the Privy Council and matters relating to capital punishment, the buggery law, abortion rights, and fixed dates for elections, among other governance issues. This is going to be a tall order, especially as the process has to start with a referendum.
If one listens to the reasoning on the ground, there is no doubt that there is a great deal of confusion and controversy in the minds of many Jamaicans. No wonder Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister Marlene Malahoo Forte has raised the red flag by intimating that this will have to be a slow and deliberative process that may well take more time than had been previously envisioned.
From Pluto Shervington's "one more Jamaican gone abroad..." to Chronixx chanting "never give up the fight", and notwithstanding that there are numerous flights a day to Miami and elsewhere, there are those who will stay and fight. But will we be in the majority or end up being that defiant minority who are buttressed by the immortal words of Jamaican poet extraordinaire Claude McKay: "If we must die — let it not be like hogs, hunted and penned in an inglorious spot… Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave… Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack, pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back"?
Lloyd B Smith has been involved in Jamaican media full-time for the past 47 years. He has also served as a Member of Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. He hails from western Jamaica where he is popularly known as Governor. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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