Brian-Paul Welsh | What would you give up?
When we dream of Jamaica, that tranquil Caribbean gem, we imagine the warmth, the affection and the joy of a diverse community living in peaceful coexistence. That jovial disposition and easy-going nature is the 'One Love' spirit, a ghost of Jamaica's past that we still bottle up for sale to foreigners as a natural feel-good potion, a means of escape from the concrete jungle.
Do we, the residents of this idyllic vacation destination, still feel nostalgic about that moment in the post-Independence period where Jamaica was said to be gentler, safer and more prosperous?
If so, then how do we progress to that state of consciousness, and what aspects of our present circumstances are we willing to sacrifice in order to manifest this paradisiacal vision?
In other words, what would you give up in order to make Jamaica better?
Much of Jamaica's charm, even into antiquity, has been its endemic resistance to conformity. It is the rebel isle, a place with charming folk and a lawless nature; where the people abide by their own set of rules, usually electing to do things their own way.
It is this peculiar cultural quality that has made Jamaica easy to love but almost impossible to govern.
The rule of law is a concept believed to undergird human civilisation. It is the idea that no man is above the law, including the law's author. Societies are judged on their propensity for obedience to or deviation from principles of fairness, transparency, accountability, and certainty which combine in the formation of stable and prosperous environments conducive to positive social and economic development.
This coincidence of systemic values was inculcated in Lee Kuan Yew's model society of Singapore, and was surely prominent in Edward Seaga's mind as the conceptual architect of Tivoli Gardens which was designed to not just take the man out of the slum, as Seaga puts it, but perhaps more importantly, to take the slum out of the man.
Michael Manley once said history is the great leveller of traducer and activist alike, and it is history that will reveal whether it was the development model or the politics that failed Tivoli, and Jamaica by extension, and whether Singapore's controlled ascent could ever be replicated in a cultural environment such as ours - prone to indiscipline and lacking in strong leadership.
At a time like this, with general chatter concerning the abrogation of personal freedoms in order to preserve the comforting illusion of state control, there is reason to pause in contemplation of the end goal, a developed Jamaica, the community we aspire to become, and how the realisation of this dream will necessarily impact the lives we have grown accustomed to living.
Jamaica's acceptance and implementation of widely recognised development models will require a systemic shift away from the 'Anansi' culture of subterfuge that is reflected in every facet of our lives, from politics to commerce and even to religion.
It means following the rules, especially our own; demonstrating personal discipline in our social behaviour, having consideration for the implications of failure to comply; and generally adjusting our attitudes towards sustaining a healthy and functional family environment.
It means no more calling in favours, no more entitlements, and the elimination of scarce benefits and spoils. We will need to regain our reverence for human life, so the death of a community member will be seen as a loss to the nation and not fodder for gossip and cheap amusement. We need to start killing each other with kindness instead of rage, invigorating the 'One Love' spirit we claim as our own.
If, indeed, we are on the path towards Jamaica becoming the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business, then we must soberly take a look at ourselves and our current situation and think about whether we truly want development in the way we profess, or whether we can find comfort in our current state in light of the discomfort that will come as we adjust our minds to the development of a new Jamaica.
We must think carefully about how compatible our dreams for this country are with the manner in which we operate, and honestly consider whether we need to adjust our dreams or our lives.
Unless we actually implement what we know to be the right ingredients for national development and prosperity, we will continue to mimic development instead of achieving it.
- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. He can be reached at email@example.com and on social media @islandcynic