Christmas is a-coming but the geese are not getting fatFriday, December 03, 2021
Christmas is most certainly a-coming but the geese are not getting fat for many Jamaicans. What with the dreaded novel coronavirus hanging over our heads like the proverbial sword of Damocles and the likelihood of the latest strain, Omicron, invading our troubled paradise, we continue to wait with bated breath to see whether we will be spared the advent of stricter curfews and lockdowns during the festive season, notwithstanding earlier assurances by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
From all indications we are in a season of discontent, and it may well be argued that, notwithstanding the ruling Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) boast about the economy going in a positive direction, which augurs well for its prosperity mantra, many Jamaicans are having tremendous difficulty in making ends meet. Begging has become a national pastime and crimes against the person, such as robbery, burglary, and grab and flee are rampant — much of which goes unreported or unresolved. Then there is fraud in high and low places, as well as scamming and 'hustlings'. The ever-weakening Jamaican dollar has been wobbling against its United States counterpart, and it would appear that speculation on the black market is gaining momentum, thus adding more fuel to the fire.
Against this backdrop, the cost of living continues to skyrocket and there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that this vexing and debilitating situation has led to much domestic violence, worrying mental health issues, malnutrition, and just plain despair.
To date, the Government seems uncaring and unbothered about this situation, focusing most of its attention on the macroeconomy, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international financial institutions have been giving the thumbs up. But, as former People's National Party (PNP) president and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller once opined: Government must seek to balance the people's lives while balancing the books. Is this “Brogad”-led Administration so inclined?
Last year many Jamaicans did not have a good Christmas because the Yuletide season was overwhelmed by the presence of the novel coronavirus pandemic as well as the residual effects of a general election that brought very little hope for well-thinking Jamaicans, given that the majority of Jamaicans did not vote and the walloping which the PNP received raised the troubling issue that a Government having such an overwhelming majority could take the people for granted and develop a penchant for autocratic rule. Be that as it may, it is my fervent wish that this year Jamaicans from all walks of life will be allowed to have a happy, safe, and holy Christmas. Let's face it, there are times when politics should take a holiday.
Needless to say, the true meaning of Christmas continues to elude many of us in this country, although we are supposed to be a Christian nation. Jamaica is credited with having the most churches per square mile in the world and, equally interesting, we are said to have the most bars per square mile in the world. Talk about the Spirit and spirits colliding!
The sad truth is that materialism and selfishness have overtaken the true Jamaican psyche of yore, which translated then into peace on Earth and goodwill to all mankind. Nowadays, as one walks the streets, the usual refrain is, “Wha happen boss? A wha u a give mi fi mi Christmas?” And it is worse if you are a Member of Parliament (MP): “Wha a gwaan, MP? Gimme someting nuh? Anju give you money fi give wi.”
In my view, the two sets of people most worthy of support at this time are the elderly, especially shut-ins, and children. I therefore urge corporate entities, as well as my fellow Jamaicans, to focus on these two groups so that Christ's mission on Earth can be truly validated.
Too often it is the greedy, not the needy, that gets attention. Those who shout the loudest, those who are most aggressive, as well as those who know how to beat the system are always first in line, thus alienating the poor, humble souls who genuinely need assistance and a dose of generosity at this time of year.
Whatever happened to the good, old, traditional Jamaican Christmas?
Like everything else, our culture has been shunted aside to accommodate foreign affectations and tastes. Our children and young adults are growing up in an environment bereft of those cultural norms, practices, and mores that defines us as a people. Now, most of our traditions and folklore are lost in translation, exiled to the hallowed halls of academia or struggling on the periphery in small rural villages where, thank God, there are still real Jamaicans.
It is against this background that the constant politicking has become perhaps the most debilitating aspect of our everyday lives. Indeed, it may well be said that politics has done more to underdevelop this country than anything else — not crime, not obeah, not wicked imperialists, not the IMF. Our failure lies primarily in a divisive political system that makes us continuously turn against each other rather than turn to one another, coupled with an education system that teaches dependency rather than independence and interdependence.
This Christmas, approaching one year after the last general election, and to be followed by local government elections, will still see us struggling to make one giant leap towards the attainment of economic independence, not to mention wresting our sovereignty from “Missis Queen”.
Both the JLP and the PNP must come to the stark reality that we are all in this thing together no matter who rules the roost at Jamaica House. The road to consensus is the only way forward lest we continue to fool ourselves that the solution rests merely with who is first past the post in an election.
The writing is on the wall. We must wake up and smell the coffee. A general election alone is not the answer; it must be a united Jamaica that takes us into the Promised Land. The sooner Labourites and Comrades savour this notion the better shall Jamaica be, and then we will have Christmas throughout the year.
Lloyd B Smith has been involved full-time in Jamaican media for the past 45 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 the Governor. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.