Sat | Nov 28, 2020

Where have all the role models gone? - More than 50% of Jamaicans fail to name a person they would want to emulate

Published:Monday | July 31, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Usain Bolt
Dr Leahcim Semaj

With politicians, pastors, police officers and other public officials falling from grace in recent years, Jamaicans seem to be struggling to identify persons to emulate, with almost six in every 10 providing no answer when asked, 'Who is your biggest role model in Jamaica today?'

That is according to the findings of a recent Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll, which sought to identify the persons Jamaicans most look up to at this time.

With 1,500 respondents taken from across the island, the Johnson survey found that track sensation Usain Bolt emerged at the top of the pack, despite finding favour with only 21 per cent of respondents.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (four per cent), former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (four per cent), and incarcerated dancehall star Vybz Kartel (two per cent) where among the others whose support moved the needle.

For sports analyst Trishana McGowan, Bolt's rating is no surprise.

"His personality is very warm and many persons feel as if he is very approachable," said McGowan. "He is the typical rags-to-riches story, coming from nothing and achieving everything solely based on how hard he trains, along with his talent."

With more than half the respondents failing to indicate their choice, psychologist Dr Leahcim Semaj argued that this could be because Jamaicans have different ideas of who a role model is.

"It is just unfortunate that there are many people who are choosing role models that we wouldn't necessarily want to encourage, such as dons, bad men and dancehall artistes," said Semaj, as he commented on the poll which saw Adidja 'Vybz Kartel' Palmer, who is now serving a prison sentence having been convicted of murder, finishing ahead of politician and former beauty queen Lisa Hanna and track superstar Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Cultural analyst, university professor Dr Donna Hope, said it is unlikely that Kartel would ever be selected as a role model ahead of Bolt based on the controversial nature of the dancehall space in which he operated.

"Maybe if he was not in prison, Kartel would have ranked a bit higher, but not the highest, as we used to, and still have, discussions about him being a bad influence, plus dancehall in itself is seen as a bad influence," said Hope.

"Nobody right now can beat out Usain Bolt. He comes from a poor, working-class family. He epitomises a lot of the values that Jamaicans hold dear and he hasn't really done anything where anyone can say he is a negative person."

The Johnson poll was conducted islandwide from June 9 to 11 and has a sampling error of plus or minus two per cent.

- Myesha Broadie