Sun | Dec 4, 2016

We need a revolution

Published:Monday | November 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Michael Abrahams

Michael Abrahams, Online Columnist

As the controversy surrounding the purchase of 'Outameni' unfolds, and as the plot thickens, it has become apparent that there has been dishonesty and a serious lack of credibility on both sides of the political divide.

This is as good a time as any to review our political system and accept the fact that it is very difficult to trust either the People's National Party of the Jamaica Labour Party. Their track records in accountability and transparency are unimpressive, resulting in corruption and cronyism being enmeshed in our political culture.

The only way out of this quagmire is a revolution. Not a violent or bloody revolution, but more of a socio-cultural one, a change in our collective mindset. If you review our history, you will see that whatever we have been doing for the past 52 years is clearly not working. We are one of the most indebted countries in the world, with one of the highest murder rates and our governmental corruption rankings are unimpressive.

Our leaders often receive much of the blame for placing us in this position, and rightly so, but we have to blame ourselves as well. We have supported and tolerated political slackness for decades and are now paying the price.

If we are to survive as a nation, we have to stop thinking in orange or green, and think instead in black, gold AND green. The effects of political tribalism must be attenuated, but in order for this to be achieved, the sizable apathetic population needs to be roused from their slumber and make their voices heard.
To be honest, their apathy is understandable, as both parties have repeatedly let us down, leading many Jamaicans to size up our political situation as 'six of one and half-dozen of the other', and to further complicate the situation, we are now facing a serious leadership void.

But to remain apathetic only serves to empower those who govern us with an attitude that they can do whatever they want to do and suffer no consequences, as many of us are resigned to the concept that 'a jus so di ting set'. But it does not have to be, and in order to change the 'settings', our constitution must be reformed.

One of the reasons why some of our political representatives have become so brazen with their dishonesty and corruption is because they know that once they are in, they are likely to retain their jobs as long as their party remains in power. In some countries, the citizens have the power to have petitions signed to get unsatisfactory performers booted. In Jamaica, we have no such power. This has to change.

In some countries, one can vote for a member of parliament from one party and a prime minister from another. In Jamaica, we cannot, and people often sacrifice a good MP in order to vote for the party of their choice. This has to change.

Some countries have term limits for their leaders, preventing them from becoming too complacent in their positions. In Jamaica, we do not. This has to change.

Let's face it, both parties are quite comfortable with our mindsets and the constitution the way they are, as it benefits them. They have their loyalists who they can manipulate and the apathetic who are no threat to them. But the situation as it is does not benefit us, and if we do not agitate for change it will probably never happen.

In order for change to be effective, the populace has to be educated about what the constitution is, and how changing it would benefit them.

And we must be vocal about our concerns. Grumbling on verandahs will do nothing. We need to utilize social media, electronic media, print media, word of mouth, flyers, posters, t-shirts, marches and protests to get our points across, or we will lose our country to greedy and myopic pretenders.

If we are not motivated to do it for ourselves, we must at least do it for our children, for if we simply sit and do nothing, they will inherit an even more ominous situation to contend with and will rightfully blame us for their misery. According to Whael Ghonim, the Google executive who helped to jumpstart Egypt's democratic revolution, "the power of the people is stronger than the people in power." We must always bear this in mind if we are to move forward.

Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.