Thursday, December 06, 2007

True blue for life

Last Saturday was one of the happiest days of my life, when Jamaica College (JC), the greatest institution in the world, won the Manning Cup for the first time in 33 years. Anyone who knows me well understands that the reason JC was my only choice at common entrance was because of its football tradition. I waited for 30 years after entering JC to see the Manning Cup come home to its rightful place, and even after so long I will still take it. For me the Manning Cup is more meaningful than any other trophy JC has lifted, which since I entered included everything else. Much respect to the team and coaching staff that brought it home for all the JC alumni.

As I always say to my friends there are two types of people in this world, those who went to JC and those who wish they went to JC. This great institution has produced many Jamaicans who have and continue to make significant contribution to Jamaica. We have produced three of Jamaica’s eight Prime Ministers to date (Norman Manley, Michael Manley, and Bruce Golding), a West Indian Captain (Jimmy Adams), Olympians (such as John Mair who is a part of the current coaching staff), scholars (such as Professor Hall and Trevor Munroe), and business greats (such as Karl Hendrickson, Jimmy Moss-Solomon and Maurice Facey). And the list goes on and on of great Jamaicans we have produced.

And we will continue to produce contributors to Jamaican development, which I would feel proud to be named amongst one day. All JC alumni, present and past should be aware of the great tradition of greatness they have to uphold once they enter JC.

Seriously though, what an institution like JC shows us is the effect a single institution can have on national development. And such an approach may not be a bad one to take. Of course we want to see the entire country develop to the highest standard, but in every development there are always winners that lead the way. In other words while we develop the entire country we need to look at centres of excellence that will lead the way.

We have seen this in tourism where Sandals and Superclubs have set the standard for all other hotels to follow. We see it in business also where one or two have been leaders in their industry, for example in the fast food business many have developed their model based on KFC. This is the way that markets operate, and we will see where new leaders will emerge once a new entrant improves on the previous standard or the current leader falters. As an example, the prominence that Microsoft once held in the technology industry is being shared today by companies such as Google and Apple. Similarly countries lose prominence over time and new super powers emerge.

What is takes though is for high standards to be set by one or two institutions and for the market to encourage others to follow. This is one of the significant problems that Jamaica has faced, particularly with crime, over the past ten to fifteen years. Standards have been set, as will always happen when a vacuum is left, but left unguided those standards will be the wrong ones. When we look at the crime situation, we see that what has happened is that over the years the general break down of law and order has led to standards of viciousness, corruption, and easy money being set. Because we have failed to institute effective organs of discipline such as in schools or an effective police force we have left Jamaicans to develop standards for their own survival. There are no rules that they must obey and so the natural laws kick in and people do whatever is necessary to survive.

Because of the bureaucracies we have created, and the lax manner in which we have sought to enforce laws, if they are enforced at all, we have succeeded in creating a society where indiscipline is the order of the day. I have been writing for a while that if we want to deal with the crime problem in Jamaica we must attack it from the basic levels of discipline. In other words we have to ensure that the laws of the roads and public nuisances are obeyed. I mean how can we expect to solve crime if we cannot even enforce discipline on the roads and that the Noise Abatement Act.

General indiscipline
Two weekends ago I was exiting through a one way and a taxi sought to enter, indicating to me (the person with the right) that I should move over and allow him to break the one way. Well I refused to do so, standing my ground, and eventually he had to reverse onto the road and allow the traffic that had piled up to leave. What was noteworthy also was that the people in the taxi were on his side, demonstrating the level of indiscipline in the society. I was watching the news a few nights ago and saw where the police went to shut down a dance that had gone on until the next morning, and the patrons were on camera saying that the police was fighting against them.

A few mornings ago Emily Crooks was speaking to a policeman, Radcliffe Lewis, who said that a mother of a wanted gunman, whom they found dead with a gun in his hand was saying that she would report the police to Wilmot Perkins and Cliff Hughes because they were looking for her son. The irony is that the police found him on the bed beside his mother murdered by other gunmen.

These examples show that the problem we face today is not just a few gunmen running around and terrorizing the country, but a general breakdown in law and order that has led to a society that does not appreciate the difference between wrong and right, including many in the police force. So how does arranging a few police operations to tackle this solve the problem? It doesn’t. What is needed is a general approach to dealing with discipline in the society and making people know that even the most trivial of laws must be upheld or the law will hold you accountable. Unless we start with the visible areas such as the roads and noise disturbances it will only be one successful operation after another without any general effect.

This again brings me back to JC, where the current Chairman (another great Danny Williams) and the principal (Ruel Reid) has made significant strides with the school. The discipline has improved tremendously and with it the academic performances. They, however, never started by trying to clean up the discipline with “sting operations” among the student body. They ensured that the teachers first and foremost were brought in line and then that the students were made to follow the rules and the standards of excellence that were set. When one goes to JC today we will see signs such as “The school of champions” littering the school yard, as we try to impress upon the students that they are in fact champions, having to deal with them as products of an undisciplined society.

The programme of JC’s transformation is working, although we have had incidents such as the unfortunate stabbing some days ago. It will be a process but we will continue to have our eyes on the prize and will get there, both for JC and Jamaica. but as all JC alumni, past and present knows, FERVET OPUS IN CAMPIS.


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