Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Gordon Robinson | National hero? Hell, no!

Published:Sunday | August 28, 2016 | 8:00 AM

The Olympics has passed with its excellent Jamaican sporting results accompanied by music specially composed for the pot cover.

Post-Olympian suction from a sudden excitement vacuum has caused more hot air to invade sporting discussions than you'd find in Parliament. The danger is that without the warm, fuzzy feeling generated by Bolt, we might return to commenting on Jamaica's harsh economic and security realities. Since nature abhors a vacuum, the Bolt-for-National-Hero Movement has shifted the vacuum from sporting exhilaration to common sense.

The movement ignores Bolt's tender age. At 30, he has an eternity to pull a Lester Piggott, thus allowing us leisure time to regret our hasty action. But, most important, I've not heard one member of the movement mention the legal requirements for national honours and show how Bolt fits into the national hero category. If only popular adulation for international sporting achievement was required, George Headley, George HoSang, the 1998 Reggae Boyz, Les Laing-Arthur Wint-Herb McKenley-George Rhoden would all be national heroes.

The qualifications for national honours (source: JIS) are:

1. Order of Distinction: "... may be conferred upon any [Jamaican] who renders outstanding and important services to Jamaica".

2. Order of Jamaica: "... may be conferred upon any Jamaican citizen of outstanding distinction".

OD (Officer or Commander class) is for 'services' (MPs get it automatically after 20 years in Parliament, for Pete's sake); OJ is for being "of distinction". Persons "of distinction" set themselves apart from others, not just through service, but because of their creativity and success. Persons "of distinction" design exciting new methods of getting things done. For example, schools of distinction may not be rich or famous, but educate students for life rather than to pass exams and become the best places to learn, grow, and succeed.

3. Order of Merit: "... may be conferred upon any [Jamaican] ... who has achieved eminent international distinction in the field of science, the arts, literature or any other endeavour".

Beginning to see where Bolt may fit?

4. Order of National Hero: "may be conferred upon any [Jamaican who has] rendered to Jamaica service of a most distinguished nature".

The important words to focus on are:

- "rendered to Jamaica service" - subtly different from "renders outstanding and important services to Jamaica". The latter ("renders services") infers a continuing employment/contractual/ appointed/elected post or profession that also benefits Jamaica. The former ("rendered service") is a reflection on past contribution (non-employment related - not "services") and implies a significant "beyond-the-call-of-duty" factor;

- "... of a most distinguished nature", which can immediately be seen as a higher contribution to national development than "outstanding and important services". The word "distinguished" definitely implies uniqueness. The combination of words "most distinguished" almost certainly implies personal sacrifice, thus differentiating this category from "person of distinction (OJ)". So Norman Manley entered politics a wealthy lawyer and died a pauper, sacrificing worldly goods in the quest for nationhood. Bogle, Gordon, and Sharpe gave their lives for Jamaicans' freedom.

Usain is a high achiever who often gives back and (save for his expressed disdain for education, which I suspect will haunt him one day) is an exemplar for every young Jamaican. Like Marley, he's an Order of Merit kinda guy. But a national hero? Definitely not yet.

Not only sports fans have been forced to suddenly confront a 'back-to-school' phenomenon as painful as pulling away bikini wax strips. Government ministry delegations staggered back to reality after days of unabashed, unrestrained, public displays of frenzied ecstasy, including taking multiple selfies with Usain. Oops, sorry, correction: Government ministry delegations have staggered back to reality after days of hard work creating new ways to sell Brand Jamaica, building on positive publicity from athletes' feats.

The delegation count from one ministry alone was reported by one source at 49 (another source said 34). I emailed that ministry more than three weeks ago asking for confirmed numbers of persons holidaying in Brazil at taxpayers' expense. No reply. We're still suffering from uncomfortable 2012 mental pictures of a Jamaican member of parliament and junior minister "shelling dung" a London nightclub. The individual, now a former junior minister and former member of parliament, has claimed that he paid his way to London, and I take his word. Still, the spectacle was disconcerting at best.

 

MP or hero worshipper

 

This time, another MP appeared more like a common hero worshipper than a public official on public business. He was frequently seen wildly celebrating Usain's wins with cheers, mass hugs, and requests for selfies with the big man. This isn't how elected office is conducted, no matter how he travelled to Brazil. Recently, I reminded the attorney general that there's no such thing as a personal opinion publicly expressed by a public officer. Similarly, one cannot take off one's MP hat in public and 'get on bad', as my Trini friends would say. Worse, if it's on my dime. It's just not cricket.

The restrained, professional show of national pride from the prime minister, even as he was photographed in his own home watching the events on TV, was an example to all of how it's done once you're a public official. David Cameron went into my good books in 2012 when he called a Cabinet meeting to instruct ministers attending the Games to travel by train. Like Jamaica now, England was then in the middle of a period of extreme austerity. So, I'd like to know why the prime minister considered it necessary to travel to Brazil for any part of the Olympics other than the Opening Ceremony and who paid the bill. In fact, I want to know exactly how much it cost Jamaican taxpayers to send all the public officials who went to Brazil and what we got in return.

If I hear the term 'Brand Jamaica' one more time, I'm going to barf. There's no such thing. Brand GraceKennedy is stamped on tins of ketchup and bully beef it sells for a profit. Brand D&G is stamped on beer for the same purpose.

Where'll I locate the product whose brand name is 'Jamaica'? Is it our tourist product already marketed by several overlapping public and private bodies? Is it our music already produced and marketed by capable managers, producers, and artistes? Our sporting exploits belong to the athletes and can't be branded 'Jamaica'. No politician or bureaucrat is needed to identify or 'sell' these exploits. Brand Jamaica Olympics-style is perfectly marketed by Usain and crew.

Politicians disingenuously talk about promoting Brand Jamaica Olympics-style but never actually do anything. During and after EVERY Olympics, we hear fanciful promises about the planned sale of Brand Jamaica to distract us for nine days from querying the cost of political holidaying.

 

Golf for growth

 

With all due respect to our fantastic track athletes, the sport with the most potential to catalyse Jamaica's economic growth is golf. More business deals are closed on golf courses worldwide than in any boardroom. For the first time in more than 100 years, golf was added to the Olympics and was a huge success. Massive crowds followed the golfers for eight days of competition, and persons, who admitted never before having seen a golf ball hit, loved it. Now, as a result of the Olympics, Brazil has a public golf course where many poor, Brazilian youth whose skills don't include kicking a ball can find another path to success. Jamaica didn't even send a team.

Golf is now firmly a young person's game. The top-three-ranked golfers in the world are Australian Jason Day (28) and Americans Dustin Johnson (32) and Jordan Speith (23). No. 5, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, is 27. Jordan has already won two majors; Jason and Dustin one each; and Rory four. Young Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick (23), in only his second year on tour, has already won twice and seems a certain future major winner.

Golf is huge in Asia, probably the world's most successful economic zone, where players like Japan's Hideyki Matsuyama (24), another likely major winner; South Korea's Si Woo Kim (30) and Sang-Moon Bae (29); and China's Shih-Chang Chan (29) are already multiple tour winners.

This is a game you play for life. Jamaican youth will play golf in droves if given half a chance. Delroy Cambridge, Wesley Brown et al have proven this.

We need facilities and programmes to empower Jamaica's youth through golf and lay a foundation for decades of economic growth. Jamaica doesn't have one public golf course. Why? Why not use some of the lottery contributions made through CHASE to develop golf as another path out of poverty for youth instead of committing unlimited resources to sports that should be paying their own way?

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.