If you haven't noticed, Jamaican young people are stylish, hip, and have swagger. So no matter their status, rank, or address, they will show up in the latest fashion trends resembling the runways of Paris, New York, and Milan.
They make it their duty to visit and dine in popular restaurants, arrive at exclusive hot spots and parties, and demonstrate that they are living their best life now — not waiting to get old to do so, even if their bank account is slim.
They are on a modern mission to own their future. Just check their Instagram stories and status; you will see what I mean.
Today, Jamaican teenage girls and young women love European designer handbags and shoes. They know the names and varying seasons of Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Louboutin, Tory Burch, and Coach. They are sharp to identify them. Even if their budget can't purchase, they will replicate the look.
Jamaican teenage boys and young men are no different, "Clark's pon foot", Ferragamo and Gucci belts, Ralph Lauren, Bad Bunny, Balenciaga, and Adidas. Their style constructs must be "on fleek" always. These values are perhaps why high schools are having such a difficult time with our boys wearing tight khaki pants to school. That's the trend.
Our young people strive to live out loud and want the best for themselves. I have no problems with their philosophy. After all, why should they not look good, have nice furniture and appliances, rent or own a modern home, have a high-paying job, have enough money to eat out at least twice a week, take a vacation, and have a great social life with their friends?
Growing up, my mother made most of my clothes, and I was oblivious to the name of international designers. It was not until I won Miss World in 1993 that I learned the real world of global fashion, and even then I could not bring myself to buy some items because of how expensive they were as they conflicted with my value proposition.
So how did our under-35s get here?
First, they were born in a modern technological world that gives them information at their fingertips in real-time. Further, many are professionals who attended liberal institutions, while some are enrolled in liberal colleges, travel, or have relatives in the Diaspora who keep them up-to-date and trendy. For others, it's Instagram and TikTok.
You may say you don't understand how and why because these were not your values growing up.
Young people today don't like hard work and want everything now; a get-rich-quick attitude without formulating real grit, determination, and sustained application for life's challenging journey.
But here's where you're wrong. All the young people I have met, spoken to, and continue to dialogue with have a social consciousness and are situationally aware. Many of them help to care for their families financially and are climate change and LGBTQ activists, youth leaders, church band players, young business starters, and community volunteers. They are all liberal, with a progressive mindset desiring equal opportunity, social equity, and justice. Their goal is to make enough money to live well. And, despite their personal objectives, most of them want a better Jamaica and want to play their part to help towards that development. They just do not want to do it politically.
I refer to them as champagne socialists.
A champagne socialist is a term coined in the United Kingdom in the early twentieth century to describe the liberal elite. The term is used when outlining the hypocrisy of self-identified communists, socialists, and liberals whose 'wasps', 'preppy', and 'yuppie' lifestyle directly conflict with their political or social beliefs.
Left-wing commentators have used the term to criticise centrist views. For example, some traditional left-wingers regarded the UK's first Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald as a "champagne socialist" who they said deceived the Labour Movement. At that time, MacDonald's luxurious lifestyle and interactions with 'high society' were said to have been a corrupting influence that led to the end of the Labour Government in 1931. The Tories later used the term to describe supporters who brought Tony Blair's New Labour movement to power in 1997.
Champagne socialists live an appealing aesthetic lifestyle with socialist leanings and values. That sounds like a contradiction in terms, right? Well, welcome to the new Jamaica.
Our leaders need to know what they are up against, especially against the urgent need to strengthen our patriotism for future development. So how do we get our modern, preppy youth excited to get involved? What will it take?
First, we will never engage them with the politics of the past. Our youth are fed up with the constant posturing of political goalscoring of who did what, who did it first, and the unyielding public relations surrounding the policies for their development — often with irrational or indefensible decision-making according to tribal party lines.
That only 38 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2020 General Election is a severe cause for concern. That's 714,326 who voted out of a possible 1,913,410 individuals registered to vote. Put another way, more than 60 per cent of the electorate did not vote.
Are our young professionals, university students, and recent high school graduates motivated to get enumerated?
The chief characteristic of the modern world is the scope and speed of change (Tony Blair, 2011). Yet, changing or change are in stark contrast to the structures of established political parties, which emphasise tradition, long service, loyalty, and past achievements. The average Jamaican politician speaks to history, whereas young people want a plan to own their future. They don't want the politics of 20 years behind 20 years ago. They want leadership that is in tune with their current hopes and has a measured path to give them the ability to live their best lives; not 30 years from now, but in the time it takes to study for their college degree.
Therefore, if you haven't noticed, Andrew Holness and Mark Golding, you are surrounded by a younger generation of champagne socialists who pursue a capitalist focus imbued with social consciousness.
Lisa Hanna is Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern, People’s National Party spokesperson on foreign affairs and foreign trade, and a former Cabinet member.
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