Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Is Jamaica a dino-cracy?

Published:Sunday | January 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Jermaine McCalpin, GUEST COLUMNIST
Former public defender, Earl Witter, making his way to the Tivoli Gradens enquiry at the Jamaica Conference Centre.
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The vile vitriol that emanated from Mr Earl Witters pen concerning his egregious blunder of recommending Matondo Mukulu to act as public defender is intense but not unexpected.

Mr Witters verbal onslaught is that of a crusader who no longer has a cause for which to campaign. That, however, is not what concerns me most. The most disturbing implication of his letter is the apparent confirmation that we still live in Jurassic Park.

The young stand no chance of getting any experience because those who have the experience do not see it fit to give us a chance. I have personally been the recipient of the same too inexperienced award primarily because of my age.

Our Jamaica is still defined by ageism those who are older are presumed wiser and more suited for the job. What does the historical record of our middle-age democracy reveal? The experienced ones have led our democracy into a mid-life crisis.

Of course, Jamaica is an experienced democracy. What kind of experience do we have? Experience in poor economic management, experienced inept, partisan politics and high levels of violence, etc. Of course, like the man undergoing a mid-life crisis, we have a few flashy red Corvettes to show for our 52 years. This is the stuff of experience!

Mr Mukulu, you do not have that experience. The young in Jamaica will have to become entrepreneurial and begin to set up certified experience shops where those who have not acquired the requisite years can buy some.

Ultimately, Mr Witter, I thank you for confirming to us that the Jurassic Period is still upon us, with the great plant-eating dinosaurs roam the earth, feeding on lush ferns and palm-like cicadas and bennettitaleans (University of California, Museum of Paleontology). In essence, the dinosaur ruled without challenge.

Dinosaur Government

As a political scientist (although I am not sure if my sixteen years of studying political science gives me enough experience), the most apropos nomenclature is that Jamaica is a dino-cracy. Yes, I said it, a government of dinosaurs, for dinosaurs and by dinosaurs. That is what Mr Witter and others continue to confirm to us. If you are below 40, you have a few more years to go before attaining the stamp of approval.

Please do not reply by pointing to a few examples of those under 40 who have been certified experienced, that is like pointing to the first black president and concluding that racism in the United States is dead!

I cannot help but wonder if Kamala Harris, the attorney general of California whom we applaud for being the first black attorney general in California, would have been given that opportunity in her fathers native Jamaica at 46 years old (2010)? I am not making the argument that every person above 50 is a dinosaur, neither is it the case that ones age is indicative of ones ability to do the job. Surely, the youth in Jamaica must wonder if their time will ever come.

As a Christian, however, the encouraging truth of Ecclesiastes 3 is sure, to everything there is a season and time for everything under the heavens. Its application is twofold: Mr Witter should have chosen another time and place to express these sentiments. However, it is the second that is hopeful, the time of the inexperienced will come, to gain experience. Let us hope that we do not eclipse the Jurassic period and swiftly establish the reign of the enfants terribles.

We need the balance of women and men, young and old, and Jamaicans of all social classes, religious and political persuasions to get our democracy on a sober, age-appropriate path.

Jermaine McCalpin is a political scientist with sixteen years of inexperience. He specialises in transitional justice and political institutions.