Emancipendence, then what?Friday, July 30, 2021
AS we approach yet another historic milestone in our continuing path of nationhood, with respect to our Emancipation and Independence celebrations, one may be tempted to opine that stock Hollywood quip with much gusto, which says: “You've come a long way, baby!” But, have we? And are we truly independent? Are we truly emancipated?
Even as we mark Jamaica's 59th birthday as an independent nation in song and dance, beyond the “jump and prance” is the harsh reality that the country's revered democratic way of life is being threatened by the capitulation of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) into the political wilderness. Despite its enviable longevity as the oldest political movement in the English-speaking Caribbean and Latin America, after some 83 years, the PNP is being haunted by internal strife that seems unending.
In the meantime, for both the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition PNP, that mandate left by one of our founding fathers, National Hero Norman Washington Manley, in his final speech to the party, which declared that, while his generation had seen to the achievement of political Independence, it was up to the succeeding generation to ensure that Jamaica attains economic independence, remains an elusive dream.
Regrettably, the ball has been dropped over and over, and it may well be that this nation is now at the final crossroads, where it must either sink or float economically and otherwise.
The frightening spectre of the novel coronavirus and the continuing increase in crime and violence may well wipe out any meaningful gains that were and are being achieved with respect to the various commendable efforts being made by the Andrew Holness Administration. However, the big elephant in the room is corruption, as well as what many concerned citizens discern as a creeping tendency towards dictatorial rule, fuelled by arrogance and fragile egos.
It is in this context that we need to revisit the whole business of Independence. Has it really worked for us? Or have we taken it for granted? In real terms, it may well be argued that the 59 years of Independence can be best described as “how politics underdeveloped Jamaica”. This may sound cynical and perhaps self-demeaning coming from a former elected representative, but I am all for calling a spade a spade.
It is no secret that rampant corruption, social inequities, a lack of big ideas, and an unwillingness to make unpopular decisions, that in the long run would have benefited the country tremendously, have led to an anaemic economy with the resultant rise in crime and violence, a deleterious brain drain, as well as the flight of capital.
Many well-thinking and concerned Jamaicans, in a last-ditch effort to save this country from perpetual economic stagnation, have been suggesting that there should be a coalition Government or some form of national consensus. This is in line with the proposed establishment of a social contract. The Government, private sector, trade unions, and civil society have, for the most part, paid lip service to a social partnership agreement, which would help to create meaningful, ongoing national dialogue and ultimately consensus on issues relating to economic growth and development.
Unfortunately, both the JLP and PNP continue to pursue a wholly partisan path with no room for a shared vision, which in the final analysis must be an essential ingredient in the quest for economic independence, as well as a safe and prosperous society.
It is becoming increasingly clear that if Jamaica is to survive, both the PNP and the JLP must find ways and means to work together for the greater good of the people – the essence of politics in any language or dispensation.
Governor General Sir Patrick Allen hit the nail on the head when he once said, “Our nation needs to free itself from the corrosive tribalism which has impeded a unified attack on our ingrained socio-economic problems.” He went on to state that “all leaders in all sectors must liberate the genius which is within them to craft and implement policies and programmes for the long-term good of the country, regardless of the impact on the ballot box, membership loyalty, or the short-term bottom line”.
Against this challenging background, Jamaicans and their leaders must begin to embrace the concept of interdependence. What is interdependence? One dictionary definition states that interdependence is a reciprocal relationship between interdependent entities. Says one writer: “The idea that two parties in a conflict need each other to complete their own tasks” is what it is all about. “Resolving a conflict becomes more important for both parties if they are interdependent.” And Jacqueline Grennan Wexler puts it best: “Today, the mission of one institution can be accomplished only by recognising that it lives in an interdependent world with conflicts and overlapping interests.”
Our political parties had better wake up and smell the coffee. Independence, whether from a partisan or nationalistic standpoint, signifies nothing worthwhile if treated in a cosmetic way. Indeed, the pursuit of interdependence should have seen Jamaica asserting its full sovereignty by relinquishing its last vestige of colonialism – “Missis Queen” as our head of State.
It should also see us parting company with the British Privy Council and embracing the Caribbean Court of Appeal. It would see a greater level of collaboration among all key stakeholders with respect to promoting, developing, and sustaining Brand Jamaica, which has become a worldwide phenomenon.
That great visionary, Mahatma Gandhi, made this observation in 1929: “Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society, he cannot realise his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism. His social interdependence enables him to test his faith and to prove himself on the touchstone of reality.”
The Jamaican experience can be likened to human existence. When a child is born, for several years he is dependent on his parents; then when he attains adulthood, he is supposed to become independent. However, in his later years, his very existence will depend on the interdependent relationships he has developed.
Jamaica has now matured, even as it heads towards its 60th anniversary, and the only way forward that will not take us backward and downhill must be a spirit of interdependence. Let this be the new buzzword, the mantra, as we desperately seek to reach the Promised Land.
Indeed, after Emancipation and Independence, the way forward must be paved with interdependence. We need to turn towards each other, rather than against each other. And, for starters, crime and corona need an interdependent approach.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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