Towards building a Jamaican community spiritThursday, September 02, 2021
Yes, I readily admit this letter joins the queue of advice on 'wha fi do' to emerge from the present crisis. It starts with Prime Minister Andrew Holness accepting Howard Mitchell's urging that “he step up and lead from the front”. That is step number one.
At the same time, he would gain respect and greater moral authority if he accepted that, he and his Cabinet are responsible for bringing the crisis to its present depth and magnitude and, therefore, they need help.
Step number two would be to do something like last year's crime consensus. Bring into one room, around one table all Jamaica's leaders — representatives from Government, the Opposition, private sector, non-governmental organisations, and communities; medical and social science experts; doctors and nurses.
More than symbolism, this will be a step towards unity and the positive cross-fertilisation it brings. More accurate than citing “indiscipline”, it will be a move towards diagnosing the reasons for the absence of one-Jamaica community spirit that is long-standing and deep — from master and slave, different and warring tribes, field slave and house slave, blacks and brownings, trade unions and political parties, party-aligned communities fighting one another, family against family, and inside families.
We have been from birth a fractured people, a splintered log held together by the thin bark Independence wrapped around us. We are all responsible for our individual anti-community behaviour and partisanship.
Step three would be to form a COVID consensus that will include:
* a vaccination process that reaches into communities
* a prescription for how to organise future lockdowns
* provisions for those who lack the resources to stock up
* acceleration of the pace at which field hospitals are being built
* better forecasting of staffing, oxygen, and other essential needs.
And, for the longer run, budget priority should be given to social infrastructure — remuneration and working conditions of our nurses, teachers, doctors, social workers, and police — and special attention to the basic needs of communities to demonstrate respect for all groups, and to begin building a one- Jamaica community spirit.