Lately, it feels as if the world has turned upside down and the noise from everything shattering gets louder every day. This is so to the point that we no longer listen because confusion is the standard operating procedure in our daily lives. What's more, the global news cycle in any one week is enough to make you want to pull the covers over your head and stay in bed.
Consider theses headlines: 'Elon Musk fires Twitter employees who criticise him'
'Israel deploys remote-controlled robotic guns in West Bank…'
'The worst drought in 40 years killed 179 elephants, 20 times more than poachers did in the past year…'
'Mark Zuckerberg admits he 'got it wrong' as Meta lays off 11,000 employees…'
'Gov Gavin Newsom's wife breaks down describing Harvey Weinstein's fish like penis in court'
'Donald Trump announces he is running for president in 2024…'
'First Digital Nation: Tuvalu Turns to metaverse as rising seas threaten existence…'
And then there is Jamaica, which many Jamaicans are now describing as "not a real place"; due in part to the countless everyday examples which give many of us pause to shake our heads in bewilderment and disbelief.
Whether we watch a man verbally abuse passengers to exit a taxi, inexplicable fainting spells at Oberlin High School during devotion, real-time videos of students stabbing and assaulting other students, residents blocking roads for better infrastructure and services, or politicians making their points of view, there is little doubt in my mind that the frustration of Jamaicans is at a tipping point. If we continue to mishandle it, chances are we will soon become unrecognisable to ourselves and the rest of the world.
While we may joke at the memes of the harsh realities, it is no laughing matter. Why? Because, as Jamaicans, we represent a revered nationality, culture, and country which have symbolised mobilisation and calls to action with defiance in the face of significant opposition to help the oppressed; an assertive and sometimes unapologetic acceptance that, as Jamaicans, we know the answer. Yes, we punch way above our weight class globally. So why don't we do this at home?
Every day, every Jamaican is faced with choosing between what's right and what's popular. Our choices are oftentimes held hostage by a culture of aggressive abuse and violent threats that often passes for disagreement. That's the new par for the course. The volume of undisguised violence, antisocial attitudes, and vulgarity of the disagreements towards one another on the road, at school, at work, on social media are like loudspeakers screaming at Jamaicans to wake up and smell the foul rot into which Jamaica's proud history of decency and mutual respect have sunk.
On any given day I am confronted with repulsive exchanges of random people on my own social media pages exposing the dark and biting underbelly of this new harsh culture. Its very sad to watch it unfold. However, unlike many people who are quick to right off Jamaica and Jamaicans, I am not one of them. I believe Jamaica is a real place. I believe in us. And I believe in our ability to harness another tipping point that makes us genuinely Jamaican — our courage.
When Norman Manley, in 1956, stood up against the world at the United Nations and declared Jamaica would ban trade and travel with the apartheid Government of South Africa, he stood alone. He stood for what was right. He chose a most unpopular battle that appeared impossible at the time. Yet, Jamaica was the first country in the western hemisphere to take such drastic action.
Manley had the vision and courage to believe he would be vindicated by history. Jamaica continued to play a seminal role in the anti-apartheid global struggle so much so that, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Jamaica was one of his first visits to convey his respect and gratitude to Norman's son, Prime Minister Michael Manley and the people of Jamaica.
Nearly 70 years after Norman Manley took the decision Jamaica finds itself at another historical crossroads — choosing to live more harmoniously with one another while giving all Jamaicans the dignity they deserve. These goals are not beyond attainability.
"Old man to pickney, so wave unuh hand if you with me
To see this sufferation sick me
Dem suit no fit me,
To win election dem trick we
Then dem don't do nuttin' at all
C'mon let's face it, a ghetto education's basic
And most ah de youths dem waste it
And when dem waste it
That's when dem take the guns replace it
Then dem don't stand a chance at all…"
Jamrock, which for many is a hellish experience for far too long: It's time we change the reality. Hence, we must wake up and understand our responsibility as our country's future generation of power, by asking ourselves how our actions add value to our remarkable history. Let our desire to see our country prevail drive, with earnest, our ideas, trends, and social behaviour so dramatically that they cross the boundaries of our critical mass threshold, reaching a boiling point and spreading like wildfire.
Where do we begin? We should first have the entire country vibrating around shared passions, motivated towards excellence and universal quality education. Then will see the changes we all need. But we will require bold leadership working towards the same goals to get here.
Therefore, my advice to our nation's respective political leaders is the time has come to courageously work together in the best interest of Jamaica and all Jamaicans. Your collective courage is responsible to future generations to take a stand and act in a manner to give our children, in particular, the best options to succeed right here at home and build our country.
Your duty and value proposition must be to grow the purchasing power of our people, driven by a universal purpose grounded in compassion, imagination, and love. Please eschew ridicule, resentment, and political public one-upmanship from your dialogues as you work towards ensuring that when you look back, you'll leave a proud heritage for you and all our children to say with gratitude, "Thank you for being ahead of your time."
Jamaica is the land of all our birth. Let us not make its value extinct. If nothing else, our combined pandemic experience should cause us to realise the importance of working together for the greater good, because, in the end, there's no me or them. It's all us.
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.