Sat | Nov 18, 2017

Ronald Mason | Making a mockery of leadership

Published:Sunday | January 8, 2017 | 12:03 AM

The development of a country is influenced by a multitude of factors. These range from people, natural resources, climatic conditions, mores and ethos, among the important things. All of these are tempered and molded primarily by two specific things education and leadership.

The Maldives finds itself with a land mass, primarily at sea level, but the islands sit among the beautiful waters of the world and a climate conducive to outdoor activities 12 months of the year. They have developed a major tourist industry. Greenland is a cold, sparsely populated land mass. The surrounding body of water provides a yield of sea life that is in high demand; however, the geographic structure of the land has provided an almost limitless supply of geo-thermal energy. This is vastly different from the Maldives, but both countries have a clear pathway to development.

The contrast for Jamaica is stark. The majority of the population has been displaced and subjugated for hundreds of years. We have been divided over pursuing a path of independence, self-reliance, and assertion of our rights. Vast percentages of Jamaica's population still have fond memories of colonialism and the systems they put in place.

 

COLONIAL RETENTIONS

 

The people in 2017 still resort to bleaching. The education system still serves students as if they are preparing them for the plantation. We are comfortable with overcrowded classrooms and a screening mechanism for children at 11, the outcome of which pretty much determines their future.

The right to self-actualisation is almost unheard of. Children are still being told that only a classical education destined to produce doctors and lawyers makes sense, yet plumbers and other members of the craft trade earn more than the lawyers at the margins of the professions. The tragedy is played out daily where the lawyers in the overcrowded professional field have an exalted sense of self and the truly skilled craft persons are in constant demand, but if a young child should express the desire to become one of these skilled craft persons, they could be told they have no ambition. What a tragedy! The country needs more skilled craft persons than lawyers.

Leadership in the society speaks inspiring language, but acts in a manner that sends a completely opposite message. Get qualified, learn the theoretical underpinnings of your career choice, they say. Prove not to be the top candidate in the selection process, but if your politics is right, you get the job.

The politician proudly boasts of the re-introduction of 'hard labour' in the penal system and the correctional officers who must daily interact with the incarcerated say this is not so. One of these spokespersons is lying, both cannot be correct.

The politicians say you will not be taxed further to make up the shortfall from the income tax break, but alas, they have now agreed that it will cost $32 billion in additional tax. Politicians speak to the acceptance of the rule of law, but when the ruling is handed down they berate the judge.

These traits that permeate our society have been recognised for a long time. Jamaican society has been fractured and divided by race, class, presumption of wealth, and the vestiges of plantation slavery for hundreds of years. This was recognised by Jamaican novelist, John Hearne writing in this very newspaper on July 12, 1984 when he said, "Lying becomes a moral obligation. Sabotage of productive work becomes a courageous act. Mistrust of authority becomes a political and moral imperative. Mockery of every institution becomes the badges of honour worn by the best slaves."

The politicians, teachers, decision makers are charged with the responsibility of moulding a new Jamaican person. You be the judge of how they have done during the period of acquisition of self-rule in 1955 to Independence 1962 to now our 55th year of Independence. They, us, we have failed miserably. The people have been subjected to thievery, misrepresentation, deception, merciless mismanagement.

 

NURSES' PLIGHT

 

The nurses are in the spotlight now, but why is it that a country such as Jamaica has only 30 intensive care beds in the whole health system and we have never been without a health minister? Why is it that the students who are warehoused and allegedly instructed for five years can leave the system with no formal acceptable certification in anything? We cannot even staff the JCF to its authorised maximum and we pay people 'play-play' money and expect that they all will be beyond corruption.

Are these leaders still willing to make John Hearne a better seer than those who prophesy in the pages of the newspaper at the beginning of each year? This is the beginning of a new year. All the leaders who can command the nation's attention, look yourselves in the mirror and be brutally honest with yourselves. Have you advanced this nation's interest?

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.