Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Let's play our part to build Ja

Published:Thursday | February 25, 2016 | 2:00 AM

Today is another important and critical day in our history as a 54-year-old independent country; it's our 11th general election and one hopes that at the end of the day, we would have done more than just vote or ventilate about the country's state of affairs as the reason we did not. We should use today as an opportunity to reflect on our past - what we have achieved and did not - and apply those lessons learnt as we work towards making Jamaica the place to live, work, raise families, and do business. Let us spend some of our time today to contemplate about our future - our hopes and dreams, what we need to do to get us closer to achieving Vision 2030, the kinds of headlines we desire to see about our country, and what we require of the individuals who will be elected to represent our needs in Parliament.

DISAPPOINTED WITH THE YOUNG EDUCATED CITIZENS

Much has been promised in the last two weeks of a brighter future by both parties, which has excited many of us and given some of us a glimmer of hope. I am disappointed that this election has featured more trivial personal matters and political one-upmanship than I would have liked. Consequently, many of us remain unimpressed and distrustful. This doesn't seem to bother many of our political leaders. However, the most disappointing thing of all in this election is the attitude of young educated Jamaicans who continue to express frustration with the slow pace of growth and development, the state of affairs with political parties, and posture and profess to be and want better for ourselves and Jamaica, and celebrate our collective abilities to understand complex issues and know what Jamaica needs, but are completely inept at being respectful in our commentary with and about people who do not support our political views.

How can we want better for our country as young people, but are so eager to display the same kind of attitudes and behaviours that we detest and have helped to retard our growth and development for such a long time? We can certainly find better ways of expressing our views and divorce the excuses we create to justify our vulgar, distasteful, and shameful behaviours. We can do better than express disparaging views about each other; let's embrace respect, even where there is dissent, as a Jamaican value.

Earlier this week, political scientist Nadeen Spence said that she has "been having some really amazing political moments and conversations". I, too, am very impressed with the quality of the discourse that I have been engaged in and witnessed over the last two weeks both online and offline. Spence said she feels "like something different is happening in Jamaican politics" and that we now "have hit a defining moment [because] people are organising and are engaging in critical kinds of conversation more now than ever. The youth are indicating that they are interested and are asking for much more nuanced political arrangements which would suggest the need for constitutional reform."

COLLECTIVE SILENCE A BIG PROBLEM

It would be a shame if we didn't capitalise on this momentum. Perhaps it is our civil society that will have the daunting task of maintaining interest in these matters beyond the election. A big part of our problem has been our collective silence on national matters as a people, our refusal to castigate and hold our leaders accountable because we think that to do so would mean that we are making it bad for our party and our inability to take action to hold our leaders accountable and demand better governance. We can no longer afford to do this.

Going forward, whether we voted or not, we must spare no effort to impress on our leaders the daunting tasks that lie ahead for us to realise our true and full potential as individuals and a country. Civil-society organisations will have to recognise and appreciate that their responsibilities extend beyond their issue(s) of focus and play a more active role in ensuring good governance. Teachers will have to find creative ways of teaching students more about their civic duties and responsibilities. Civil society, particularly those organisations focused on good governance and accountability, will also have to find ways to channel the frustration of people who call to ventilate their concerns on radio daily.

Let's not give up and resign in hopelessness, especially if the party we support doesn't win. Let's play our part to build our country.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.