Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Brian-Paul Welsh | Shattered illusions

Published:Monday | July 4, 2016 | 7:00 AM
Brian-Paul Welsh

Three years ago, Senate President Stanley Redwood resigned from his post and migrated to Canada along with his family. His seemingly hasty departure was largely interpreted as another glaring sign that Jamaica's professional class was literally taking flight, rapidly seeking refuge in cooler climes with far less crime and better prospects for financial security.

Redwood's decision to settle in greener pastures in order to properly nourish himself and his offspring was met with sharp criticism and accusations of cowardice from members of Generation 2000 (G2K), the youth affiliate of the Jamaica Labour Party.

In response to this sudden resignation and emigration, Alando Terrelonge, then the G2K's self-described legal luminary, opined that Redwood's decision to leave these shores and take up residence in a nation that has already achieved developed-country status "has killed the spirits of many Jamaicans".

He went further, adding: "It is a cause for great concern that Redwood would run faster than the many university graduates and civil servants, who have similar options, but who, instead, make the sacrifice to fight for the Jamaica we all believe in ... . We cannot help but conclude that Mr Redwood had no faith in the direction of the wind, or in the captaincy of those at the helm".

At the moment, Terrelonge is a first-term MP in East Central St Catherine, while Floyd Green, G2K's president at the time, is, likewise, a first-term MP and also minister of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.

By any objective assessment, both have done well for themselves and are poised to do even better if they follow the path laid before them, but implicit in the critique of their former colleague's decision to accelerate his own prosperity by relocating abroad is the idea that success in Jamaica is the reward for suffering, and those who opt out of austerity and blood sacrifices are traitors to the cause, deserters, and, therefore, unpatriotic. Succinctly, and to paraphrase my favourite Labourite, patriotism cyaa nyam!

As someone neither endowed with legal lumination nor eligible to be called into ministry, it always strikes me when members of the ruling elite, the social and political class living above the fray, try their best to convince us that every little thing is gonna be all right.

Successive generations are able to secure their dynasties into perpetuity while the rest of us trod along in trepidation and insecurity, hoping for a break before we are broken by the pressures of life on this rock.

Collective responsibility in our local context often operates to sustain the collective delusion that everything is 'irie'. We rely on this contagious exuberance to convince ourselves, and those on whom we are dependent, that our governance experiment is working and that soon we will have created an environment enabling of the realisation all our dreams.

 

COMFORTING ILLUSIONS

 

Such comforting illusions are increasingly being shattered and more of those ordinarily protected from commonplace discomforts and indignities are beginning to experience the brokenness of aspects of the system they once governed, with many more also coming to understand the true value of their local-currency pensions.

The decision to leave the insulation of this tropical abode to be industrious in a foreign nation must be an agonising one to make. If you love Jamaica even half as much as I do, maintaining a connection to this land feels like an essential component of a balanced life. However, once you consider that you might realise your mortality before your self-actualisation and that the basic markers of personal achievement are easier attained in environments that are safer and more suitable for family life, the decision to stay becomes more burdensome.

Since the beginning, we have been told by those in leadership that the end of our suffering was near, yet daily, the painful cries for relief increase in volume and intensity.

Needless deaths, unnecessary sorrow, and mounting financial pressures have created a tense environment, with little indication that such stresses will relent anytime soon.

With little over a decade to realise our development vision of making Jamaica the place of choice for its people to live, work, and raise families, there is mounting desperation by productive citizens to find a way out, many vowing never to return.

Now, more than ever, as political mirages quickly dissipate under factual scrutiny, we must set our hat where we can reach it; likewise, we must cease from convincing those capable of reaching further that to do so would betray the Jamaican dream.

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