George Davis | At 56, we're better off on the Rock
As we the people remain consumed by the daily grind of making bread and keeping the roof over our families' heads, we often take for granted the milestones in our collective lives and the life of our wonderful country. Times are ever so challenging that many will see the celebration of our 56th year of independence as just another pause in the never-ending hustle to place something in the basket so we can avoid biting our fingers when we put hand to mouth.
We look around at the same old fiends and foes that continue to make survival a hostile endeavour - crime, corruption, partisan politics and plain old bad-mind - and are perhaps drained of the zest to celebrate the fact that little Jamaica has come a long way in the 56 years since she struck out on her own, leaving the home of her exploitative and rapacious mother.
Yes, for a nation that was effectively 'pimped out' by Britain for centuries, where many of her fruits were reaped before they were ripe, Jamaica has moved progressively from the context of a severely abused child to a troubled teen, to her current state as a strong woman.
There are always those who will scream that the nation is rotten at its core, while pointing out the myriad things wrong with this country at age 56. And yes, there are still many things wrong in this paradise. But which country doesn't have problems?
MEASURING PROGRESS AGAINST OTHER COUNTRIES
It's only when you look around at some other countries in this part of the region, and elsewhere in the wider world, that you can truly appreciate the context of the work done by the 'everyday' people since August 6, 1962 in support of the vision articulated by the Manleys, Bustamante, Sangster, Shearer, Seaga, Patterson, Simpson Miller and Holness. The political, economic and developmental progress of any country can best be measured by looking around at what other countries have done for their own citizens over time.
We complain about the failings in our own progress and development, but how many of us would swap life as a Jamaican and life in Jamaica for a life in Venezuela? Yes, Venezuela sits on the largest proven reserves of oil in the world, but that nation which finally established itself as an independent nation in 1821, has been dogged by the kinds of problems that are outside the scope of the usual suspects at the multilateral lending agencies to fix.
No disrespect to our brothers and sisters in Caracas and other parts of the country, but ask yourself, would you rather be a Venezuelan, in that country's 197th year as a self-ruling democracy, or a Jamaican celebrating 56 years of political independence? Or take El Salvador, a country which left the federation of Central American states in 1821 to establish true independence in 1838. Or what about Liberia, the first nation on the African continent to declare independence - doing so on July 26, 1847? How about Honduras, a nation which trod the same path as El Salvador in emerging from the crumbling federation of Central American states, but which has struggled mightily with development since 1838?
The point being made is not to disparage the nations cited nor the people of those nations, as we look to contextualise the progress Jamaica has made in 56 years. Indeed, we have plenty to be thankful to our Venezuelan friends for, as many a Jamaican life has been positively impacted by the oil deal struck with the government of the late Hugo Ch·vez. But the takeaway from this article must be that, since independence, Jamaica has done tremendously well for those of us living on the Rock, especially considering the strife and struggles in countries who have been on their own for much, much longer. As we celebrate this Independence, do understand that there is more value in being Jamaican than being a national of most other countries in the world.