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Brian-Paul Welsh | Prepare for the shift

Published:Monday | June 13, 2016 | 6:00 AM
Brian-Paul Welsh

On many mornings during my ritual trod through the hills, I take a passing interest in a weathered sign on a post along the trail. It belongs to one of the losing candidates in the recently concluded general election and ends with a slogan that has turned out to be a sort of revelation.

For months, I've been meditating on this phrase while examining the portrait of the elderly candidate and trying to understand the connection. My initial puzzlement stemmed primarily from the seniority of the gentleman and scepticism about his ability to be at the forefront of any sort of revolutionary thinking at this stage of his life and career.

By selecting a candidate that would be a fitting representative in pre-Independence Jamaica, and dressing him up as a vehicle for change halfway towards the fruition of our national development goals, those in leadership showed what principles undergird their thinking; and by presenting the same old face and urging us to 'prepare for the shift' guided by the same old stewards, the minds behind this failed message unwittingly revealed their own unpreparedness for the shift that is already taking place globally.

If the number of legendary people suddenly dropping dead isn't indicative enough, at this moment, the world is undergoing a massive generational shift. This is also coincidental with a shift in the Cosmic Age, and our rapid advancement into a higher consciousness in this epoch we call the Technological Age.

The concept of the generational shift is most commonly discussed with respect to its impact on management of the workforce, but I feel it is ripe for extrapolation and discussion for its impact on the governance of populations as well.

Demographers typically refer to Generation X as those born after the post-World War II baby boom, that is, up to about 1982. Conversely, the millennial generation are those born in the early to mid-1980s up till about 2004; while Generation Z represents the 21st-century Jamaican, those who will either perish or prosper come 2030 as a result of their ancestors' vision.

 

PRELOADED KNOWLEDGE

 

Nowadays pickney apparently come preloaded with the knowledge to configure networks, decipher social-media logarithms, and compose electronic messages long before their first literacy and numeracy tests in school. They spend most of their time in virtual reality with instantaneous access to all of mankind's knowledge. Their minds are constantly in need of new stimulation and their intelligence is more than a little intimidating, to be honest.

It's not just privileged children who are getting smarter. In fact, the exposure and finesse they would have gleaned from frequent trips abroad, cable television and elite education are no longer exclusive. Poor people pickney, though always just as smart, now have far greater access to what were once the scarce benefits of spoilt political animals, and many have been maximising on these new opportunities.

Jamaica has already changed, yet so many of our leaders haven't.

I feel the disconnection from the lived realities of the electorate in favour of a preoccupation with the machinations of an acrimonious oligarchy is wholly responsible for the PNP's so-called surprise defeat at the polls. History will reveal that the PNP had to lose the 2016 general election in order for Jamaica to emerge from the shadows of Patterson, Seaga, and Manley and enter a new era without PSM.

It is amazing that several of the pachyderms and dinosaurs we elevated as statesmen in my youth are now shamelessly assembled and seeking one last bellyful before extinction. It is also telling that our current prime minister, a Generation Xer himself, could almost be a member of the young professional arm of the Jamaica Labour Party at a time when political leadership in Jamaica often seems like a ruse by an enterprising few to secure post-retirement income. Within that context, Andrew Holness' election victory was surprising, even to him.

Despite persistent and greatly exaggerated rumours of his demise, former Prime Minister Edward Seaga was so moved that he leapt from the crypt and on to the stage in order to congratulate his protégé for beating the PNP by a nose to become Jamaica's youngest elected prime minister, representative of a new political generation.

No matter his frailty, Eddie isn't blind and his mind is still sharp as ever. He is wise enough to recognise that any leader from any generation other than this would be seeking to move the country against the current.

In this new age of Jamaican politics, with almost unlimited access to information, and the transparency it necessitates, our leaders, therefore, have no excuse to repeat the folly of their predecessors.

-  Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and brianpaul.welsh@gmail.com, or tweet @islandcynic.