Sat | Jul 11, 2020

Alfred Dawes | Generation Smaddy pickney

Published:Sunday | December 15, 2019 | 12:00 AM
What of the next Mutty Perkins?

To my horror, I recently discovered that I am a millennial. I am one of the very people whose attitude to life and work I despise so much.

After my initial shock, I decided that I cannot tolerate living under this label, so I decided to create my own generation unique to Jamaica but different from the abhorrent millennials in foreign.

I present to you Generation Smaddy Pickney.

Generation Smaddy Pickney (GSP) spans the years 1975–1990. We have unique characteristics that set us apart from every generation born in Jamaica.

Notably, we the children of the Baby Boomers were the first generation in Jamaica to grow up in large numbers in well-constructed houses with modern amenities and had educated parents to guide us through life. We were also the first generation to be born into a strong black middle class. These factors helped to shape who we are, where our country is at present, and the direction in which it is headed.

Jamaican Boomers had it hard. They mostly grew up poor. Their parents were not well educated, were farmers, or held menial jobs. Many of them grew up in rural Jamaica where they used pit latrines, walked to school, and knew the house in the village that had the TV. They belonged to a class where there were few opportunities for upward mobility.

Then suddenly, they were offered free places in the Common Entrance Examination, and high school suddenly became affordable. If they did well, they were lucky enough to get a free college education or get a decent job as Jamaica’s economy started to take off post-Independence. But in spite of the opportunities, they still faced daily struggles. The classist, colour prejudices of colonialism still dictated how far they would reach in life.

They had to tear down the barriers and struggle to shape a society where opportunities were available for more, but not all. Because they had to fight to create a far from ideal but functional, more equitable society, they were forged into a generation of ambitious warriors. They became the Smaddies of our society – successful people who commanded the respect of their fellowmen.

AN ABSOLUTE MESS

The Smaddies knew where they were coming from and they vowed to give their children a better life than they had growing up. Those who made it through education ensured that their children went to the best schools and were guided into desirable careers. Those who made it through business ensured that their offspring got the start in life they were never able to get from their parents.

And now we, the Smaddies’ Pickneys, have grown up and are poised to take over the building of our nation. And we have made an absolute mess of it.

We grew up in comfort. We never had to fight because we inherited a system that suited us. Instead of being forged by struggle, comfort gave us apathy. We had school buses or got picked up from schools. We didn’t go to bed hungry. Parents or tutors helped with our homework, and we received nice gifts at Christmas.

There was no black empowerment movement – we were already empowered. African independence movements and Apartheid had ended before some of us were born, so the songs of freedom were replaced by songs of wining and gun tunes. There were no ideological battles, only the Religion of Capitalism.

What did we have to get passionate about? Why be a rebel when there was no cause left in our world?

Without heat and pressure, we are now a generation of coals, the children of diamonds.

WHO IS THE NEXT GREAT ONE?

It is hard to identify the standouts of my generation in the way we could easily identify the giants before us.

Reggaeton is bigger than homegrown Reggae. International reggae festivals feature non-Jamaicans as headliners, our artistes … opening acts.

Who is the next Bob Marley? While the creatives distinguish themselves by courting controversy, who is the next Miss Lou?

When they entered politics at early ages, one could see the promise in PJ Patterson and Edward Seaga. One could immediately recognise the makings of giant figures. Of the current lot of GSP politicians, can we pick who is going to be the next elder statesman?

We complain about old politicians refusing to retire, but has the next generation produced enough young politicians of substance to earn the right to demand this transition? Which GSP trade union leader fights for the rights of the workers as did the firebrand leaders of old in the NWU and BITU?

Which young writer is the next Morris Cargill; talk show host, the next Mutty Perkins? Will my generation ever produce another The Harder They Come? Who is the next generation to look up to when the time comes?

Not only have we allowed our apathy and comforts to compromise our potential greatness, we have also groomed our offspring to be a step further than apathetic. They are entitled. Entitled to a fifth-place trophy. Entitled to whatever they want and freedoms they don’t need.

They are even more comfortable than we were and never had strict parents like we did. I shudder to imagine the world they will create with role models like us.

And yet in all of our obsession with status, money, and connections, we forget those of our generation who are not Smaddy Pickneys. Their parents missed the Smaddification boat. A generation behind, with no hope of catching up because they now live in a country ruled by Smaddy Pickneys.

 

- Dr Alfred Dawes is a general, laparoscopic, and weight-loss surgeon; Fellow of the American College of Surgeons; former senior medical officer of the Savanna-La-Mar Public General Hospital; former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association. @dr_aldawes. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and info@islandlaparoscopy.com