An egotistic determination to create a disciplined cultureSunday, June 27, 2021
I can remember visiting a primary school in my constituency some time ago and asking some of the students to help with picking up the garbage on the school's compound. The principal, seeing my interactions with the students, raced towards me shouting, “Stop, MP, if the parents hear that their children are picking up garbage they will come here and chastise me, because they told me they do not send their children to school to pick up garbage.”
Imagine my shock, especially because of my own school experiences growing up, where after every lunch break, time was allotted by the teachers for us as children to pick up the litter. Whether I put it there or not this was a mandatory exercise.
So, on that day, I began picking up the bag juice bags and other bits of paper on the ground and the children, seeing my actions, came and assisted me.
Growing up in Jamaica over the past 40 years it would be safe to say that we have all witnessed, at some point, someone throwing garbage out a car windows in traffic, or dumping it into our main gullies, or dropping it at their feet after they have eaten and walked away without any remorse, personal responsibility, or self-discipline.
We all have a personal responsibility to keep our surroundings clean and protect our environment. However, it is the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development that has the awesome responsibility to “facilitate the development of communities that can deliver sustainable First World services through modern, participatory, autonomous, and adaptable systems for the benefit of all citizens”. They intend to do this through the following objectives:
(1) safeguarding lives and properties through fire prevention response and public education;
(2) providing effective solid waste management practices and public cleansing standards;
(3) increasing community participation and economic benefits through initiatives for local, social and economic development;
(4) creating and sustaining an effective, efficient, transparent, and objective system for delivering social assistance services;
(5) building resilience and improving the effectiveness of the national disaster risk management capabilities to respond to adverse events;
(6) strengthening and improving the delivery of services of the local authorities;
(7) providing access to potable water in rural communities; and
(8) implementing rural electrification and house wiring programme. (Source: Estimates of Expenditure 2021-2022)
Of the $17.3 billion this ministry received for recurrent expenditure this fiscal year, the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) accounts for 15 per cent, or a little over $2.6 billion. Some argue that this sum for the NSWMA is not enough given the pile-up of garbage currently in communities, gullies and beaches.
In February 2019 Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie announced that the new anti-litter Act will place greater emphasis on compliance to minimise the illegal disposal of waste by imposing stronger penalties, including higher fines for illegal dumping. But can an academically developed national policy work if our culture remains undisciplined towards the dumping of personal waste? Or should the Government make a concerted effort for more public receptacles and collection?
Recently in Parliament the Opposition spokesperson for local government Denise Daley called on the NSWMA to ensure that our nation's garbage collection and disposal were regular and efficient. She also recommended the establishment of a municipal court and ticketing system, and the hiring of more litter wardens and enforcement officers to engage communities with a massive public awareness campaign to keep communities clean.
A way of life
Everyone realises the long-term benefits of practising a healthy lifestyle, eating right, and regular exercise. Why then does the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the United States say that more than two in three adults were considered to be overweight or obese?
Some would argue that personal fitness is the most honest demonstration of discipline we can undertake, perhaps the most accountable process to which we can expose ourselves. Why? Because it is the one thing you cannot fake. If you tell someone that you can run a seven-minute mile, and they say prove it, then you will be measured accordingly.
Just in the same way people do not get up overnight and become a marathon runner, people do not get up overnight and learn discipline. It takes training, practice, hard work, dedication and, most importantly, personal integrity to do what is right even when no one is looking.
When I have questioned seniors about the most significant change they have seen in Jamaica over the years they all tell me that it is the deterioration of discipline in society. They tell me that discipline is tangible in that it can be felt, it can be measured, and it can set one on an irreversible pathway of personal success.
Discipline is non-negotiable and it is the ingredient that drives any individual towards progress. But it is a learned behaviour, and without it a large group of diverse people just cannot and will not live together bound by a common, agreed set of rules. Formally defined, it is the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.
In an interview conducted shortly before his retirement from politics, the Norman Manley was asked for the secret of his success as a barrister. “Was it your flair for courtroom work?” the interviewer asked. Our national hero replied: “Hard work, first of all; seven days a week, 16 to 18 hours a day. It was an absolutely egotistic determination to win every case I was engaged in.”
If we are to improve the status of Jamaica and, in turn, the quality of life for our people, then we must embark on a new pathway of progress which places the urgent priority of creating a disciplined society at the centre for future development. No amount of new policies or money will improve our nation until we first re-engage our people's value system with personal integrity and self-discipline as a way of life.
Going forward, Jamaica needs a regular inoculation of this approach if we are to be successful in keeping our country clean and protecting our environment. Bombast, bluster, and undisciplined hype will never be the way out of the present crisis we face with our garbage disposal and collection.
Therefore, let us all encourage hard work and with it an egotistic determination to instil disciplined approaches at all levels that build respectful reciprocal relationships, and renew Jamaica together.
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.