Editorial | The welcome mat
This week's citizenship ceremony of 32 newly minted Jamaicans has caused some reflection on what it means to be a citizen of this country. We recognise that citizenship is an important step along an immigrant's quest for full economic and political membership in their host country.
This measuring of the value of citizenship is happening in Jamaica's 57th year of Independence and is also occurring at a time when the frenzy over immigration has reached new heights in the United States and parts of Europe as millions of people seek to escape deprivation and impoverishment in their countries of origin.
These 32 who trace their roots to countries like Syria, Nigeria and Sri Lanka celebrated their new status and seemed ready to live the Jamaican dream. In the legal sense, they will now enjoy the full range of rights and prerogatives available only to Jamaican citizens.
Consistently, many Jamaicans have expressed their desire, in opinion polls, to emigrate to greener pastures. Indeed, there is no doubt that economic opportunities are more likely to abound in First-World countries such as the United States, Canada and Britain.
For instance, there is the feeling among some persons that if they could only get to America, they could become relatively rich and happy. This may partly explain the high rate of migration among graduates of tertiary institutions in Jamaica, which is said to be more than 80 per cent.
Needless to say, given the opportunity to test their greener-grass ideal, many have learnt the hard way that there are, indeed, alternative paths in life that will deliver the happiness and fulfilment they crave, and they are right here at home.
The truth is that we cannot achieve much, whether in Jamaica or elsewhere, without hard work and persistent effort. The good old-time values of honesty, integrity and fairness are all necessary ingredients for a good life.
People from all over the world have been coming to Jamaica for years, bringing their culture and customs, which has made Jamaica into the rich multicultural society that it is today. More than 3,300 people applied to become Jamaican citizens last year, including a number from the United States.
So as we have spread the welcome mat for our newest citizens, we think they will easily integrate into the Jamaican way of life. The testimony of one of the new citizens that "I have never met a set of people as helpful, loving and warm as Jamaicans" sums up the image that outsiders generally have of our countrymen.
Diversity on display
It is Interesting to recognise the diverse mix of persons who trace their nationalities to different places and who possess various skills that will make them an asset to their adopted country. We hope they feel fully connected and committed to Jamaica. National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, who spoke at the ceremony, said, "We celebrate a legacy of tolerance, inclusion and observance of international rights and freedoms." Perhaps the minister is overstating the point a bit, because even with our friendly attitude and welcoming of strangers, there are still some categories of people for whom there is scorn and derision. We have not quite got to the stage of celebrating inclusion in the true sense of the word.
The takeaway from all this is that maybe there's no need to search for greener pasture when your own backyard is lush.