The cost of “Freedom”
Each person has the ability to make choices. These choices impact many aspects of our quality of life. The freedom to embrace the work ethic, the choice to apply oneself to the task of acquiring an education, additionally the moral foundation on which we will interact with others - all these are the choices we make daily.
In recalling the recent poll by Don Anderson, which has the people placing their highest value on freedom, I am forced to question what role this has in our collective quality of life. We have the freedom to decide that attendance at a place of employment is to be governed by "Jamaica Time". The fact that establishing fixed hours with appropriate start, break and end times as specifics of employment most certainly leads to choosing to debase the work ethic.
It is apparent that this choice is deliberately made. If an employer were to rigidly enforce the time, as specified, the workplace in Jamaica will be most uncomfortable. What is wrong with this boss, they will ask. Does he/she not know that there is heavy traffic on the road in the mornings? What does he/she expect? The days of slavery are over. Man free! This is likely to be the response by the employee.
That this is a choice we have made that can be altered with a change of environment is very obvious when the same workers get to New York, London, Toronto or Cayman. Work begins at 8.30 a.m., and we will move everything to get to work on time or before time. Snow, sleet, cold, rain or traffic, no problem then. Be on time or lose the job. The rent must be paid, when due.
This is the approach to "freedom" that is contributing to our economic stagnation. Rules do not matter. A prominent, but misguided political figure once spoke of the worker "owning" his/her job and the trade unions have made it a word from the gospel of truth. Nestle has announced job cuts. I recall that the same Nestle had a problem with being asked (told) to pay workers who were off attending to union business on a regular basis. Did this contribute to the high uncompetitive costs?
The Chinese have had to make significant staff changes at their sugar operation - security guards first. This was precipitated by heavy property losses during the watch of the security guards. Now they sever relations with 200 for other labour management issues. We continue to believe that our embrace of the misguided 'freedom' expressions should have no consequences. We pay a heavy price as individuals and certainly as a country.
The expression "Jamaica, no problem" is a convenient mask to how we adopt values and attitudes. Stealing from the job is no big deal. Use the office computer, paper, ink, staples to prepare your child's educational assignment is not really stealing as I only take a little. Multiply that by the number of employees who do the same thing for hours each day and you get the picture. The tanker driver who delivers petroleum products privately, sells some on the side. The rationalization is that the big oil company is making millions of dollars. No big deal. In addition, I am not being adequately compensated. Prominent supermarkets rarely have the correct coins to make exact change. The exchange is always made to accrue in their favour. Multiply that by the thousands of weekly shoppers. How much does that total?
Let me make it abundantly clear: there is no place where the perfection standard is to be found, but somehow it is to be understood that Jamaica is unique. We just need to do these things in order to make it in these times of employment challenges and wage freeze for those who have a job.
The concept of "freedom" has become so much of our situational ethic that only some people bother to pay property tax, when due. Only some motorists bother to have car insurance. We had 488 persons arrested in 2014 for lotto scamming. This is a crime evidencing criminal intent to harm, and no moral suasion as to the age, financial status or vulnerability of the intended victim. The rationale, however, is that this activity attempts to balance the books for slavery. None of the perpetrators were ever slaves.
What is the role of parenting in this national quandary of depravity passed off as an exercise of "freedom"? My grandmother in imparting the message that came with "mine and thine". There are only two ways to get money. Work for it and then enjoy it. Steal it and you are on your own.
Our society needs to be made aware that freedom is neither free nor cheap. If the freedom we profess to be our favourite trait, then it is easy to see each individual defining freedom on his or her own terms. As a society, we must accept that the need to build a fair and just society will require all of us to make the choice between some freedoms and progress and security. It is the how to achieve this that demands a new paradigm. Start with enforcing the punishment for breaking the societal rules. Swift, sure judgement for crimes. Prosecute those who are material witnesses who refuse to cooperate. Parental abandonment of minor children results in the loss of the children. Hard, harsh, yes, but we are so far down the "freedom" road, someone must apply the brakes.