Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Mark Wignall| Searching for that elusive Jamaican dream

Published:Thursday | August 3, 2017 | 8:00 AM

There is something passionately redemptive about a country like Jamaica that as poor, underdeveloped and crime-ridden as we are, we produced the great Dr T.P. Lecky, Usain Bolt, Drs Henry Lowe and Lawrence Williams and many others who could easily walk off a grand stage, stroll into the crowd and become lost as one among the many.

Recent Bill Johnson polls have placed numbers to what I have known for decades. The decimation of the Jamaican dream, that is, if ever there was such a collective aspiration.

"My dream?" asked Deniese, in answering me with my own question to her on Tuesday. "Right now is just day-to-day. Di problem gwine start back in September when mi two daughter go back to school," said the roadside vendor of farm-fresh produce.

Then, a few muscles in her face indicated further thought in it: "Mi jus want mi daughter dem grow up, nuh man nuh trouble dem, no early pregnancy and dem get a chance in life."

Her responses were far from the American dream prior to the time of the baby boomers. A white picket fence around a house with a two-car garage. In the heart of the suburbs.

 

EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP PARAMOUNT

 

The Economic Growth Council is still convinced that five-in-four is still possible, that is, five per cent growth at the end of four years. In this, effective leadership is paramount. Creating a new business-friendly Jamaica where endless red tape is a thing of the past must also factor into the equation; the release of the potential wealth among those 700,000 Jamaicans that Opposition Leader Peter Phillips reminded us are living on lands for multiple generations but have no titles to those parcels of land.

Many dreams could be triggered among these 700,000 people were they to have individual titles and instant value which could be accessed as loan capital for the further development of their lives.

National security minister, Bobby Montague, reminded us recently that 53 per cent of Jamaica's prison population are 'newcomers' while 47 per cent are repeat offenders, that is, perversely, they have identified a semi-permanent residence which is sometimes called home. Quite obviously, in the vast majority of cases there, dreams wither on the vine.

"Mi sir," said Evan. "My dream? Well, me proud that me reach 50 and never si di inside of a prison yet."

A very strange answer to my question, "What is your personal Jamaican dream, your ideal based on what you can realistically expect to gain?" It was safe to infer that he fell into the vast majority of day-to-day living Jamaicans without a dream driving them.

Based on the poll findings that politicians are deemed untrustworthy and corrupt, it is safe to conclude that significant numbers of our people see politicians as dream breakers instead of dream makers.

All politicians, including those who genuinely want to make a difference, must struggle with that perceptive taint even as they know the wrongs many of their colleagues are silently offloading on the society.

The main key needed to generate achievable dreams, especially among our young people, is to rid our vitals of old thoughts and directions which have not served us well. This requires a political reset of the sort that was heralded by the late Michael Manley. Don't get me wrong. I am not making claims to a redo of democratic socialism.

I am simply talking about the energy which occupied the political landscape in the early 1970s. Since that time all political leaders have been incrementalists. They counter that by saying that the 'system' is geared to operate under incrementalism no matter the fast-forward-thinking ideas of the politicians.

Apparently, even politicians with grand dreams join the fold to have those dreams also wither and die on the vine.

"I am in my late 30s and I missed out on good education," said highly attractive Jackie. "My son is at university and my main dream right now is to constantly find the funds to pay his fees. Me an the father not together for years now. I have a boyfriend and he is like a godsend. Each month he gives me $100,000 towards the fees. He has been doing this for two years now."

Wonder what his dream is.

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