A common proverb is that ‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.’ This is meant to indicate that although things may seem bad from our individual perspective, we should count our own blessings. I can say without a hint of doubt something along this line has been said to us all over the years.
I vividly remember my mother’s rants about ‘The children in Africa,’ whenever I had to eat a meal that I did not like. However, there is a difference between being grateful for what goes right and ignorant for what goes wrong. Unfortunately it is the latter attitude that has tainted almost all of Jamaican society, particularly politics.
Every lesson requires a background before the actual teaching, and thus I shall provide one here. When Jamaica gained independence in 1962, it inherited much of the old industry, infrastructure, ideals and systems that had been constructed and used by the island’s mother country, never mind that this ‘mother’ was abusive and exploitive, and that once her children served no purpose, she was more than willing to let them go. Never mind that this child, in its haste, adopted the systems of its maternal parents so quickly rather than invent its own. The political system Jamaica has currently is called the Westminster model. As the name suggests, it is based on the British electoral structure. Although the Westminster model may be tailored to contend with issues in British society, it is lacking when it comes to Jamaican issues.
One unspoken assumption made by this system is that the people who will utilize it will be an orderly bunch and not ‘rock the boat’. Jamaican people in general may have a good heart but that does not diminish the fact that we are unruly.
The Jamaican people are the way they are due to the circumstances that their ancestors found themselves in throughout the colonization period. These often, no, almost always involved divisive socio-economic classes, which in turn led to conflict. This can be seen throughout our history. Enslaved for master, peasant vs plantocracy, uneducated vs elite, white vs black. It is the same story, only told and presented in a different manner. Now it comes in the form of JLP vs PNP. One key difference, however, is that prior to this, the socio-economic conflicts led to progress, growth, and development. It is thanks in part to the Baptist War why the enslaved became free; thanks to the Morant Bay Rebellion why the needs of the peasants were recognized; thanks to the Frome Riots and other protests in the 1930s why the working class finally gained its voice. However, no conflict has degenerated into a rudderless boat, with no steering, going nowhere.
The us vs them that exists currently among party supporters leads to no real change, only more of the same: violence, the destruction of lives and livelihoods. This can even be seen in something as simple as name and title choice. The minority in the Parliament are called ‘the opposition’. However, their role in reality isn’t to ‘oppose’ the Government, and fight them for everything, leading to legislative deadlocks and arguments while the situation on the ground remains stagnant. Their role is to provide insight, suggestions, and offer a better way of doing things, to ground the more radical and unfeasible ideas of the ruling party. That definitely isn’t what’s happening in Gordon House.
Conflict before was a vehicle of change, now it is fact of life. Ask any law-abiding Jamaican, and they will tell you that while they abhor the violence, it is likely here to stay. However, if you were to prod them a little bit further and ask them why is that the case, they probably couldn’t answer, although it is right under their nose. All they would need to do is stand before a full length mirror, and gaze into it.
The issue is the people themselves. Jamaica is a democracy, and that word means that the power of change is in the hands of the people. However, although the general populace grasp the leash, they have let their hold on it lax, perhaps they have even forgotten what they are holding altogether, or that they are holding anything at all.
They have willingly allowed themselves to be consumed by a ‘false hope’ that the situation will naturally improve on its own, or that this is the best that things are going to get. Of course, there are some that see the issue as clear as day, and take action, but the form of said action often involves running away, rather than addressing the underlying issue. Why move to higher ground if you see cracks in the dam, when you have the ability to seal them?
The truth hurts, but one must look it in the face if one wishes to understand the issue, and then solve it. The best medicines are always the most bitter. We have allowed ourselves to fall into the abyss on complacency, and now we must pull ourselves out. We have the ability to do so, and that can be done by moving above things such as party alignment, and instead look specifically at the direction we want the country to go, to improve the daily lives of all Jamaican people.
That can mean many things — supporting a third party (something we should have done long ago), changing the system of government to make it more inclusive of the Jamaican society at large, and other such measures. However, the result should be the same: a revival of the spirit that carried us out of slavery to independence. A spirit that calls for action, not ignorance. The alarm bell is sounding, Jamaica. Wake up.