Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Archer, betrayal, and sacrifice

Published:Wednesday | March 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM

What price service? What price slaving away in the name of making your country and community greater, while eschewing the material benefits that will make your old age comfortable at the least?

What price avoiding a path that can produce a financially secure future, in order to do the often thankless task of shaping young minds, caressing and moulding them in such a manner that their power can be harnessed for the future benefit of the country?

What price sacrificing your own progeny and their immediate needs so that the children of a nation can grow strong and true, becoming receptacles of knowledge and virtues that will make their leg on the relay of life that much easier? What amount of virtue is needed to invest your best and most productive years building unpredictable young people into sure-footed adults, confident that their potential will allow them to conquer business, politics, sports and life?

What cruel irony it must be for those champions among us who toil manfully to advance their country's agenda, only for that country to treat with the scorn and disdain, usually exhibited by cleaning ladies forced to use their hands to mop up a puddle of vomit.

 

two greats gone

 

Two Jamaicans, the late great Glen Archer and the no-less-outstanding Norma Rochester, were laid to rest over the past few days. These are two heroes of our time to whom thousands of Jamaicans 35 years and younger owe an incalculable debt of gratitude for what they did for our development.

Perhaps it's because their contribution is so incalculable that in different ways they have not been shown the appreciation they deserve. Yes, Reverend Archer did receive the Order of Distinction for his services to education. But as we now know, when he was at his lowest ebb, fighting as a bantamweight against the heavyweight boxer that's cancer, his country to which he had given so much, abandoned him when the blows became too much for his frame to bear.

Glen Archer earned every vowel used in his National Honour citation to describe his contribution to education and the development of Jamaica. He was also worth every vowel and preposition used by The Gleaner Company to toast his impact on young people and written into the narrative of the Honour Award bestowed on him only a few weeks into this new year.

 

no support from country

 

And yet, despite the authorities being able to say they 'honoured' him while he was alive, the revelation by his family that he confessed to being let down by the lack of support from his country as cancer ate away at his body proves that our money rarely goes where our mouth is.

Why could the Government, even if it could only defray the cost of his medical expenses, not lend a hand to see if it could keep this wonderful gentleman on the side of the living for even a few more months or years?

My colleague and friend, Abka Fitz Henley recounts being asked to be the master of ceremonies at a fundraiser for Reverend Archer slated for The Jamaica Pegasus hotel. The event was postponed, not because of anything extraordinary, but because the organisers could not marshal the funds needed to stage it. By any interpretation, that occurrence is a disgrace.

Norma Rochester was not as high-profile as Reverend Archer, but no less influential. Her work over decades with the secondary-school debates allowed many of us to test ourselves against the brightest of our peers in a manner that the classroom and regular school environment made no facilitation for.

She died without as much as a national honour. Yet the motor-mouth Senator was called to King's House and given a CD. I wonder which album it was!

A nation reveals its true colours by the way it treats its young, elderly, and those who've served it well. I'm disappointed that Glen Archer expired, feeling neglected by his country as the darkness closed in and his candle dimmed. And I'm both sad and sorry that Norma Rochester has taken away her big smile permanently, without having been given reason to say thanks to the governor general's face.

Selah.

- George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.