Fri | Jun 22, 2018

Ronald Thwaites | Ian's productivity

Published:Wednesday | December 27, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Ian Boyne must have been one of the most productive persons of our time. This virtue has been overlooked in the justified wealth of encomiums which have followed his passing.

He held a full-time executive position with what I am told was a heavy schedule of speech writing for a number of idiosyncratic ministers and prime ministers. You don't do that off the top of your head. It takes time to master the nuances of particular portfolios and national issues. And there would have been many other things for which he would have been responsible as deputy director of the Jamaica Information Service.

Then there were the two weekly television programmes which he compered, and for which there would have to have been considerable reading and research. You can't wing it before the cameras.

At the same time, he would have to set aside the better part of a working day to craft the weekly offering for The Sunday Gleaner. It takes time, undisturbed time, to think up and reflect upon a theme and then to script and hold a creditable argument for more than a thousand words.

In addition, Ian Boyne pastored a religious congregation. Such a ministry inevitably requires time to listen, to counsel, to do one's own spiritual discernment, and then to prepare for the extremely sensitive art of good preaching.

And then there would be the care of his family and personal concerns.

Each of these tasks carries its own quotient of stress and demanded extraordinary discipline and time management. Cultivating the life of the mind is the fruit of painstaking focus and continuous preparation. Sustaining the role of a public intellectual, grounded in a command of empirical fact, requires wide reading then clear and thoughtful analysis. That is why we have so few of them around.

What if, as the fruit of our mourning for Ian, someone who seemed driven, never lazy or bored; we would each resolve to stretch our talents to the max as he did; to see hard work as the way to a purposeful and joyful life?

Jamaica's total factor productivity index has been going in the wrong direction most of the time since independence. To be competitive and have any chance of prosperity, this has to be reversed. Initiative, hard work and incentive - in that order and universally taught and applied - are the virtues which must do it.

One last reflection about Ian. His was a consistent and often lonely voice proclaiming that moral principles, (often derived from religious creed) explicitly acknowledged and fervently espoused, were essential to relieve political action and popular culture from the temptations of selfish division and corruption; from the banality of hedonism and consumerism.

This advocacy, his real ministry to the nationalist cause, is perhaps Ian Boyne's most profound legacy.

 

A Misconceived Role

 

Ideally, Christmas should be a good time for bonding between political representatives and their constituents. Instead, for many of us, this is the season of greatest stress, as late and limited resources available through a member of parliament or councillor collide with genuine need and the sense of entitlement which afflicts large numbers of our people.

Christmas work of whatever sort is hurried and often ineffectively carried out, the compelling impulse being to get something done so that payment can be made before banks close for the holidays. Few are ever fully satisfied and sometimes ill will about who 'get and who don't get' overtakes the goodwill of the season.

Because state agents are often inefficient and can be even more tribal and discriminatory than politicians are reputed to be, the elected official is forced to take on the ill-fitting role of work provider and distributor and always ends up worn out, broke and thought of as unfair or uncaring by many.

The present system cannot take us where we want to go. 2018 should be a year when we jettison this misconceived role.

- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Kingston Central and opposition spokesperson on education and training. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.