Jamaica is officially 60 years old.
Give thanks and praise
We are still alive.
Though the road was rocky and the hills steep
Yet we survive.
We put faith and trust inna di Father
He keeps us alive.
So give thanks and praise we’re still alive
Give thanks and praise
we are twenty five
But Jamaica’s greatest national achievement in 60 years of independence has been to survive. Governments love to watch the magnificent performances of artists and athletes over six decades, hoping that voters will take at least partial credit and give political advantage. But these were individual efforts driven by individual ambition and talent.
The national policy is to design and implement fiscal strategies to improve education, health, welfare, security and infrastructure. These are the areas of national life that we should examine to see if there is anything to celebrate. So let’s take a closer look at the achievements of national policies.
So thank and praise
We are still alive.
Even if we cross the valley
from the shadow of death
we still survive.
I cannot imagine the type of societal dysfunction that would result in the recent Clarendon carnage. I can’t. The wacky platitudes of political leaders cannot absolve them of blame for having encouraged society, for more than 60 years, to descend into this kind of social abyss.
Don’t. You. To dare. To tell about. Me. His. Our. Default!
Twitterati has advanced the idea that leadership rot starts with follower rot, because we all come from the same society and homes. One of my favorite politicians, Venesha Phillips, tweeted “Corrupt politicians cannot run or mess up a clean society. Such a society would never allow it. So I tell you that it is an already corrupt society that has given birth to corrupt politicians.
I grew up in Jamaica in the 50s-60s. I can testify that excellent values and attitudes were taught in 95% of homes on the island. Society was not corrupt. But political greed spawned politically connected gangs in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Each party tried to outdo the other by creating political garrisons run by “dons.” Values and attitudes then began to depreciate. Soon, if you stepped on a man’s foot during a dance, a fight would start. Now the road rage is settled with gunfire and the family watching you from the side is slaughtered.
Political leaders associated with the gunmen turned a blind eye as the donations guaranteed election victories in the garrisons, bringing the muzzles of their political bosses closer to what Wilmot Perkins called the “trough”. Now that a thriving gun and drug trade has given these thugs political and economic independence, the politicians who embraced these dog-hearted mass murderers are suddenly concerned about the gangs. Now they want to blame us for not committing suicide by informing a police officer potentially linked to a gang. Finally, they take refuge in the blame of the dysfunctional society.
No. I’m going to part ways with Ven on this one. It is the power to dictate the affairs of others that corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. Ordinary citizens have no power. They cannot corrupt anything. The political majority (not counting Venesha) was corrupted by the spoils of political conquest, and then they corrupted Jamaica. The followers simply followed the leaders.
Today, Jamaica’s security is treated with contempt. “Vote JLP and you’ll sleep with the windows and doors open” must rank as one of the most desperate, reckless and destructive political promises of all time, ranked right up there with that of Wills Isaacs “May my eyes fall out of my head and strike like bone dice if I don’t lower the cost of living” delivered at a 1950s Cross Roads political rally.
Yes, I am old. And grumpy! And benefit from a good long-term memory.
So Jamaica’s security is now another political football. There is no more glaring example than the yes-no-maybe game with illegal (in my opinion) states of emergency followed by the PNP President’s pledge (at a much publicized funeral ) to “support” the government’s crime-fighting policies.
But, despite the sickening manipulation of national security by political leaders, Jamaica is still alive.
Well-being is non-existent. Instead, PAYE workers are taxed beyond reasonable limits and receive a pittance as a “pension” (also taxed), while bandooloo Jamaica operates in plain sight without contributing a dollar to the effort. national. Old people who have given their productive years to Jamaica are pushed aside. They have to pay dearly for health care as it is. They endure dramas topped with indignity (including exorbitant bank charges) to collect and use misery. Worse, they become invisible as their acquired wisdom is ignored or ridiculed.
But despite fiscal inequality and little consideration for the elderly, Jamaica is still alive.
Healthcare infrastructure was neglected for decades until it was indistinguishable from the dilapidated. The Cornwall area case is one of the most outrageous of the last 30 years (“the youthful exuberance” and the “run away” from strong suitors) as the minister tried to pass it off as a few months of minor renovation. Five years later … .
Doctors and nurses are undervalued, underpaid, overworked and have facilities that would make David Copperfield despair. Then in another example of preferring insult to responsibility; deviation on transparency, we are told that it is our fault. We eat too much and exercise too little. Poor my Israelites! We get up every morning looking for bread (so every mouth can be fed) but do we have to eat expensive healthy foods and buy exercise bikes?
So we don’t really need properly equipped and operated hospitals. Right?
Despite the crumbling public health infrastructure, Jamaica is still alive.
Infrastructure? Road networks have improved, but the government has abdicated its responsibilities, contracting out construction and toll concessions to a maze of foreign companies (China and France featured). What’s in it for Jamaicans? So we pay taxes to the government and tolls to China? Everywhere yu tu’n macca jook yu!
Despite this infrastructural poppy show that benefits foreigners and gives the government political advantage at the expense of road users, Jamaica is still alive.
DECLINE IN EDUCATION
In 1990, the government produced a five-year education plan on this premise:
“Given the recognized link between education, science, technology and economic growth, [we must] develop a strategy that capitalizes on this interaction.
During the decade of the 1980s, enrollment in biology declined by 22% (only 26% passed – a 17% drop over the period); enrollment in chemistry remained unchanged, but completions decreased by 7% (47% passed); and Physics enrollment increased by 23%, but completions decreased by 9% (44% passed). To fully understand the sharp decline in academic achievement during this decade, I recommend that you read an article prepared by Peter Whiteley and presented at the second biennial UWI Inter-Campus Conference on Education (1994).
What have we done since? The square root of frack all, as usual.
In 2018, the Minister of Education enthusiastically announced a 3.8% increase (compared to 2017) in the total number of CSTC passes, but only 68% of entries passed.
On closer inspection, only 46.5% passed mathematics. At the end of 2019, only 42.5% of CSTC students had passed five or more subjects, including English and/or mathematics. Only 28% passed five or more subjects BOTH English AND math. When do we plan to start working on this “recognized link between education, science and technology and economic growth” the government trumpeted 30 years ago?
A series of Samfie political artists (many of whom were educated abroad) determined to discourage independent thought have under-educated Jamaican citizens for 60 years. Thus, the majority of us are not “independent” of anything and very dependent on the remnants of the political trough of Bucky Massa. So we swallow and regurgitate our party’s daily dose of propaganda and we troll and abuse those who tote the other party’s line. For 60 years, education has been political football along with safety, health and welfare.
The good news is that despite the lack of education, the lack of opportunity, the lack of easily accessible health care, the lack of well-being, the lack of accountability, the lack of governance, the lack of real democracy, Jamaica is still alive.
So, by all means, let’s celebrate! Let’s enjoy float parades, festival dances, competitions, the Grand Gala. Give thanks and praise. We have something to celebrate. Jamaica is still alive. And as long as there is life, there is hope.
Peace and love!
– Gordon Robinson is a lawyer. Email your comments to [email protected]