Mon | Aug 20, 2018

Letter of the Day | Science and industry, not music, the true test of greatness

Published:Saturday | November 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM


There is no doubt that individual Jamaicans have done well. But when will Jamaica start to do well as a country?

Some factors are outside of the control of average citizens, but politicians cannot shoulder all the blame for the country's ills. For example, both the founders of the Guardsman Group Limited and Pizza Please! are foreigners. These men did not come to Jamaica rich, but managed to create wealth for themselves. Therefore, we should ask, what is stopping Jamaica from doing well?

The answer to this question is that many citizens suffer from a growth-inhibiting mindset. For example, there is a community in Jamaica popularly known as Sufferers' Heights. Regardless of the hardships experienced by its citizens, the name is quite strange, because suffering is not a badge of honour. It appears that several Jamaicans have simply accepted their low status, and there is no acknowledgement that they may have the willpower to improve their circumstances.

Many Jamaicans believe that their success is linked to the fortunes of a political party or a government handout. Politicians continue to enable this dependency syndrome by making it easier for individuals to become beneficiaries of PATH welfare to the point where some schools have most of their population on the programme.

Our people do not seem to believe in their inherent greatness; hence they look for forces outside of their control to shape their destiny. A perfect example of this is when parents do not save for the tertiary education of their children despite the availability of schemes being offered by banks. Yet when the child reaches the age to attend university, they complain that higher education is unaffordable, though it is heavily subsidised by the Jamaican Government. This is one area in which both parties have done well.


We can do more


Optimists may argue that our people excel in music and sports, but we can do more. There is no conflict of interest if we produce musicians and scientists at the same time. We need to dispel the myth that blacks can only entertain and do sports. Further, the image of Jamaica as a place to have fun and smoke weed has to change.

Whenever in attendance at an academic seminar abroad, this writer is constantly quizzed about marijuana. If people only know us for smoking and being easy-going, clearly we will not attain political dominance on any scale. It is even more worrying that our CSEC pass rates are nothing to gloat over, and young people are increasingly looking to the wrong people for inspiration.

In America, bright young people want to be like Warren Buffett, but in Jamaica, so many of our youth idolise musicians spouting garbage. For example, this writer attended high school with several bright and talented Jamaicans. One was recently shortlisted for the Rhodes Scholarship and the other is Alkaline. Of the two, Alkaline is clearly more famous, and nothing is wrong with young people aspiring to attain his level of success.

But the irony is that Alkaline did well in school, spent years honing his craft, and is far from being a gangster. So if some of his followers believe that they can waste time in school and then luckily become the next Alkaline, they are setting themselves up for failure.

To be successful, one must have a strategy, but many Jamaicans live their lives like they have no agency and then expect to get rich by hustling. Based on this analysis, it is quite clear that Jamaica is shaping up to become an even weaker society.