Thu | Dec 3, 2020

Garth Rattray | We are not yet free

Published:Monday | August 5, 2019 | 12:00 AM

During this season, we celebrate our freedom from slavery and colonial rule. But are we truly free?

Our Constitution guarantees certain (basic) rights and freedoms, but most citizens are unable to enjoy them because, as a nation, we are not doing our part to realise true freedom. Jamaicans are denied certain basic freedoms because of selfish/unruly people and criminals.

There are myriad reasons why individuals end up pursuing criminal careers. Just recently, a nurse decided to go to work earlier than usual so that she could do more for her ailing patient. A strong, young man intercepted her and proceeded to beat her up to steal her handbag. An approaching car spooked him, and he ran off, leaving her with several painful wounds. Where is her freedom to travel safely to work?

Our modern lifestyles deny us the natural exercise that our bodies need, so some people do early-morning aerobic activities on the streets. I know of several walkers, joggers and runners who have been viciously attacked. Some have even been killed. Where is their freedom to exercise in public?

A good friend of mine works and lives in Northern Ireland. She explained that she will never return to Jamaica to live. She tells me that where she lives, there are no burglar bars and you can even leave your front door unlocked. This is today’s Northern Ireland, a place where an internal war raged for a long time – a place where extreme violence once reigned. I would never have thought that it could be so peaceful and safe. The citizens there can enjoy their freedom. Where is our freedom to enjoy safe/secure homes?

When we drive on the streets, we must dodge dangerous motorists and relinquish our right of way to road hogs. Because of the prevalence of crime across the nation, we must stop at many security checkpoints and random police stops all over the place. Where is our freedom to enjoy driving on our roads?

Laws flouted with impunity

The Noise Abatement Act is regularly flouted. Even several policemen and policewomen believe that once a permit is granted, the promoters are entitled to make noise until they decide to stop. Many communities are regularly rattled by this practice.

Ignoring the cut-off time is one thing, but the law also states that the volume must be turned down if anyone reasonably complains about being disturbed, no matter what time it is. I have friends who sleep with earplugs or must lock all windows and doors for some modicum of quiet. Where is their freedom to enjoy the peace and quiet of their home?

Our children are being abducted, raped and murdered by monsters masquerading as human beings. Adults once protected our children, monitoring their every move and ensuring that no harm befell them. But now, children are prey, and are afraid to walk alone anywhere. Where is their freedom to enjoy their childhood in safety and grow up without fear?

The preponderance of illegal guns causes many Jamaicans to live in terror. People become virtual hermits, and many migrate internally to flee subjugation, violence and death. Where is the peace, safety and freedom that our national heroes sacrificed, and some died, for?

Our consumerism far outstrips our productivity and we have sold off (‘sold out’) to several foreign investors. Since we are so heavily dependent on (‘indebted to’) outsiders, where is our freedom to manage our own affairs and chart our own course?

If we truly want to be free, we must do our bit to bring back discipline, reduce crime, and invest in our homeland, Jamaica.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.