Wed | May 22, 2019

Garth Rattray | Are we doomed?

Published:Monday | November 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Columnists are supposed to be informative, thought-provoking and, sometimes, entertaining. We write hoping that, perhaps one day, something will strike a chord with someone and result in something positive.

Unfortunately, many people are so politically polarised that they wrongly perceive the motives for writing and ascribe a political agenda when there's obviously none. Additionally, sadly, our inertia for change is so great that nothing happens in spite of repeated exposure of serious social problems.

I fret about what's to become of this country. Our people have endured slavery and colonialism, both of which have diminished their self-worth and self-responsibility. Then, as Independence loomed, our leaders, perhaps with genuine but misguided motives, campaigned on the promise that they will take care of 'the people'. This led to the dependence syndrome that especially gained a foothold in poorer communities.

The dependence syndrome turned out to be rather malignant, because it grew and eroded the ability of many to think for themselves and to take charge of their own lives. They looked to the politicians and their lackeys for support in all spheres of their lives.

And, when the power of the politicians waned, their sidekicks (area leaders-come-dons) took over the reins. I know political councillors that cannot rest because their dependent followers always need assistance in such a way that there is never any self-improvement. It's a day-to-day, mendicant existence from which only very few are able to break free.

I know that we are a developing and (relatively) poor country, but so was Singapore. Many years ago, they sent envoys here to observe how we were able to grow and sustain our economy. Now, Singapore jumped ahead of us in leaps and bounds. Admittedly, their system of governance lends itself to imposing and enforcing certain measures that will improve the economy. On the other hand, cooperation from our citizens is mostly through voluntary adherence and not by mandatory compliance.




Marginalisation and abandonment cause some poor communities to develop their own system of governance. They abide by unwritten laws that evolved out of a quasi-survivalist lifestyle. In those communities, it pays to mind your own business (lest you be killed); you learn not to 'inform' (lest you be killed); you accept the precepts of 'jungle justice' (lest you be killed); you pledge fealty to whatever don there is (lest you be killed); and you go along with the masses' political leaning (lest you be killed).

As in other dictatorial systems, it's the ruthless few that rule over the hapless many. If only the many realised that it is they who truly have the power, things would be a lot different. The malfeasant mentality incubated in some communities has metastasised into mainstream society with disastrous effect.

Perhaps ostracising wrongdoers bears little or no fruit. Perhaps they get away with so much that their behaviour has usurped the social norms that once existed.

Perhaps the unethical practices in the upper echelons of society trickled down through the class structure. Perhaps the aggressiveness and selfishness of many tenement-style housing solutions works and so has been adapted to survival within the greater society.

Whatever the reason, the corrupt, crass, lewd, disrespectful, disobedient, undisciplined, anti-establishment behaviour is gaining ground across social divides.

Individuals form families, and families form communities, and communities form the society. The current Jamaican society lacks the cohesiveness, selflessness, drive and discipline to grow into its full potential.

Truth be told, we are our worst enemy. People of all classes break every imaginable rule to get what they want, when they want it. This is the mentality that, I think, is going to doom us. Until we can find a way to change our way of thinking, we are in serious trouble.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and