Brian-Paul Welsh | More promise(s)
Over the course of this season, when the editorial department publishes the litany of political greetings and well-wishes that have become customary at this time of year, let us not forget the gripping reality that this seasonal influx of tall tales will tempt us to ignore. The figurative act of shielding our mind's eyes from the flashing lights of social media, peering behind the blinding veneer of grinning teeth and sieving for sincerity in the superfluous vocabulary of Jamaican politicians ultimately reveals the shallowness of these empty, obligatory messages as well as our naivety for continuously giving them audience.
After successive decades spent making and breaking promises, capitalising on a system of 'poly-tricks', the Jamaican ruling classes have created for themselves and their kin lives of unrivalled comfort on a paradise island in the Caribbean that, incidentally, they also share with a population of impoverished peasants. This was achieved by cunningly convincing the plentiful poor that the lofty state of prosperity, inhabited by but a fortunate few, was within reach to them as well, so long as they remained committed to a life of long, hard and honest labour.
This arduous assignment in devotion to the possibility of realising the best possible future for ourselves and our families is regularly punctuated by fatal illness and untimely death at the hands of marauding beasts. Despite consistently failing to see the promised light at the end of the tunnel, we slave as cogs in this dysfunctional machine, toiling incessantly and becoming increasingly entangled in the web of deceit and poverty that strangles our ambitions. Whatever pittance is tossed our way as supposed compensation for being in the master's employ is quickly made subject to the government's onerous taxes, eventually whittling it down to nothing on which we can support our ambitions.
NO PROSPEROUS TIMES
Generations have passed without any substantial improvement in circumstances for ordinary people. Few alive today have ever known prosperous times in Jamaica or can recall ever sleeping with their doors wide open for that matter, yet despite this, at the beginning of every annual cycle we can reliably expect to be told by the same charismatic prophets how much promise the country shows, potential that will miraculously materialise once we all come together and hold hands in a 'One Love' chorus. After years of bold predictions and disappointing outcomes, many of us are convinced that those in leadership seemingly making fools of themselves with such meaningless rhetoric are really aiming to fool the ones they rule, keeping them in this delirious state to meet their own selfish objectives.
As time advances towards the national target of achieving five per cent growth in gross domestic product in four years, and with only infinitesimal growth achieved thus far, surely we can expect continued assurances that the country is on track, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. With 2017 being one of the most murderous years on record in Jamaica's short history, a feat unmatched by any other accomplishment, the development trajectory perceived from the ground has a very different shape than that perceived by the Economic Growth Council from their ivory tower in the sky. Not even the charming chairman, flitting around the clouds in his helicopter, could have foreseen the dismal outlook projected by the unravelling of the ZOSO bacchanal and the accompanying restiveness of the police force after years of economic injustice.
What more can be said to relieve the natives of their justifiable trepidation after enduring decades of political tomfoolery and negative results? Surely, those responsible for crafting these messages ought to consider the diminished effectiveness of such platitudes on a population already accustomed to Anansi stories delivered by Jack Mandora in a suit. For the New Year's messages from those in political leadership to achieve any real resonance, they must comprehensively address the fundamental concerns of those stranded on this island who cannot escape to hilltop enclaves or foreign shores. They mustn't paint the picture of an idyllic abode struggling with the nuisance of a few disruptive elements, but must instead take account and responsibility for the mess they've caused, and contributed to, through years of selfish leadership.
When the prime minister shows his face on television for the first time in 2018, we must look beyond his glowing skin and pearly grin and into the eyes of the man who promised us prosperity. We must consider the integrity of his words matched against the history of his deeds. Can he still convince us of the effectiveness of his remedy, or was his snake oil a mere placebo?
n Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @islandycynic on social media.