Friday, November 07, 2008

Yes we can Jamaica

The historic victory of Barack Obama for the presidency of the United States of America (US), demonstrates to the world not only that anything is possible but is an indication of the greatness of the US. This is a country that only a few weeks ago was written off by the whole world as a dying superpower and an economic failure. I still believe that the worst of the economic downturn is yet to be seen in the US, as the crisis continues to hit the earnings of Main Street and more jobs are lost. But the wave of hope that has hit the US and the world demonstrates how important confidence is, as there is now a feeling that the US will rise like the Phoenix from the ashes and retake its rightful place as the leader of the world, not only economically but also morally.

There is no doubt that the Bush presidency has seen the US go through the worst time in its history as a superpower. The economy is in shambles; the spread between the rich and the poor is greater (the middle class is disappearing); international relations are at their lowest point and the US is engaged in armed conflict all over the world and is in a war it cannot win. During the Bush presidency the US lost its moral authority to be called the leader of the world.

The rise of Obama
The rise of Barack Obama is not only a positive for the US but also confirms the idea that capitalism and democracy are the best economic and political systems to date. It is these two systems that have made the US great, as it always gives the power to the people to do what the US seems to do time and time again: renew itself. Only with democracy and capitalism can this renewal happen. The US has gone through many economic recessions and some presidents who have not been seen favourably, even though the time under Bush seemed like the worst.

The real power of the US, however, is the will of the people that is facilitated by the political and economic systems they have. These systems give the people of the US the opportunity to make changes to what is not going right, and this is what makes them such a great nation. Government for the people and by the people in its truest sense. This historic victory shows us that in the US the urge to better itself is even more important than the remnants of racial or party divide, as the people will always put the US first.

I never thought that in my lifetime I would see a Black president of the US. I thought before that experience I would have seen Jamaica stop on the destructive path we are on and start a real process of economic and social development of the people. This has been my real passion and I am yet to see that happen. Instead I continue to see worsening economics, crime, police brutality and social deprivation in the country that I am a citizen of. So while the US has again made history, and we praise what has happened there, we also need to realise that of the 6 billion people in the world, only 280 million (or less than 5 per cent) live in the US. There is also a little country named Jamaica with 2.7 million people who have been crying out for a miracle.

And even with our reputation as having the most churches per square mile, it seems as if the church has failed to bring any morality to Jamaica. I could not believe my ears that a clergyman, and pastor of a church, could call for the resumption of hanging. This gives the impression that the church is not in the business of saving souls, but has joined the ranks of the gunmen who condemn souls. Or is it really the souls that they are trying to get at and not the flesh? What is even more disheartening is that the media, which has disappointed Jamaica with their own corruption and inadequate leadership on opinions, could continue to give credence to this ridiculous statement by covering it. How can we promote capital punishment in a country where the organs of the state, which should be controlling crime and maintaining discipline, are corrupt and inefficient? This would only provide the corrupt and inefficient system, which we have created, with the opportunity to hang innocent people who do not agree with their views.

Dishonourable leadership
And while over the years Jamaica, and in particular the common Jamaican, has sunk deeper and deeper into poverty (I disagree with my friends who claim that , more cell phones and used cars indicate progress of a country), the politicians who have been responsible for the last thirty-six years of decline do nothing more than shower themselves with honours, which have now become meaningless as there is nothing honourable about the actions of our leaders.

I was at a lunch meeting recently with some Jamaicans who have sought to improve this country, and they also still hold out hope for Jamaica but all agree that only a change, as proposed by Obama, can do any good, that is, a fundamental shift in the way we do things. If the house is structurally unsound then a new coat of paint will not fix the structural problem. It will only cover up the obvious cracks in the wall. Most Jamaicans cannot build a new house, as some Jamaicans can do through migration, they have to continue to live in the structurally unsound and rat - infested house. It is up to the leaders of this country, in the private and public sector, media, and academia, to rebuild the house on the foundation we call Jamaica for the good of the Jamaicans who cannot afford to do so.

For those who have said to me that Jamaica has proved in the 1960s that it can develop, I just have one thing to say. Like maybe about three or four generations of Jamaicans, I was born after independence and grew up in Jamaica during the 1970s to 1990s. So excuse my cynicism and urgency for a better Jamaica. I have never known what it is like to be in a Jamaica that is prosperous and is looking towards a brighter future. So while you all reminisce about the hope in 1962 and the good times of the 1960s, remember that all I know about Jamaica is the state of emergency in the 1970s, the 1980 election, the black market and foreign exchange restrictions in the 1980s, the financial crisis and high crime rate of the 1990s, and the anaemic growth and fiscal deficits continuing into the new century of the 2000s. This is the reality of most Jamaicans today, which you are responsible for developing into an aggressive set of people by the experiences you have left us with.

Jamaica, yes, we can make a change too. But it will not come by doing the same things we have been doing over the years and expect different results. It can only come though a revolutionary change. A different way of treating our people with the respect they deserve. A fundamental shift in how we approach our economic, political and social relationships. It won't come from constantly trying to destabilise the government in power, which seems to have been the purpose of much opposition over the years. It only comes from accepting that we are all Jamaicans and have a responsibility not only to each other but to working with the government of the day to achieve a better Jamaica. One thing about the US is that no matter how bitter the political contests have been, they always unite in the end for the good of the party and country. This is because they realise that the purpose of political power is to build the US and not line their pockets with the proceeds of debt.

So while we celebrate this historic victory for the world, in the election of Barack Obama, Jamaica should also believe that yes we can change, but this takes deliberate actions by Jamaicans and our leaders to transition from "yes we can" to "yes we will".



Excellent piece Dennis!! I concur, radical transformation is definitely required to place Jamaica on a trajectory for economic take-off to impurove the human condition of its people.

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