Like so many other Jamaicans, I experienced warmth of heart because of the triumphant exploits of our athletes; and I agree that something should be done to commemorate the outstanding accomplishments of Usain Bolt.
Politicians are making the most of it, with promises to demonstrate affection on behalf of the people. It is in this state of grand euphoria that it becomes necessary for some leaders of opinion to exercise caution and not rush to rename existing monuments or to go overboard in trying to show appreciation.
I am prompted to write because of a publicised suggestion that the National Stadium be renamed Bolt Stadium. This does not seem right. The National Stadium was built as the first major monument to our Independence. It was done at the behest of now National Hero Norman Manley and the legendary Jesse Owens was there as special guest at the groundbreaking. To mark the occasion, he gave one of his four precious gold medals to be displayed among other memorabilia at the stadium. That it has remained out of sight for nearly 50 years says something about our appreciation of such noble gestures.
The Independence Park complex that includes the National Arena, the National Indoor Sports Centre and the Olympic-size swimming pool is one of the nation's great landmarks, serving a wide range of sports. It is there that our flag was first raised; there that the first native governor general, Sir Clifford Campbell, was installed; there that we hosted the British Empire and Commonwealth Games; there that we erected an impressive monument in honour of Jamaica's first triumphant Olympic athletes, Wint, McKenley, Rhoden and Laing.
Nothing should be done by this generation to diminish or erase the historical significance of these facts. That such an ill-conceived idea should emerge is another sign of our paucity of national spirit.
Over the years, Jamaicans have been showing increasing disrespect for national symbols and institutions; and, disgustingly, some recent incidents involve elected politicians. To cite an ugly example of their insensitivity, the British established King's House as the residence for the monarch's representative; and they built Vale Royal for the colonial secretary.
In 1963, to coincide with Independence, we built Jamaica House as the official residence for our prime ministers. Within 10 years, it fell into disuse as such.
In contrast, King's House continues to house the Queen's representative, as it has since 1873.
The people of this country have quietly accepted the turning of Jamaica House into a complex of government ministries. So what can anyone expect when the National Stadium is glibly referred to as 'The Office'? To the unthinking, 'A no nutten'; and for the rest of us, is the shame that nobody has protested the trivialising of this historic site where our Independence was solemnly declared.
Review the matter
Having just celebrated 50 years of Independence, it is timely to review this matter of renaming historic places to satisfy a generation that has produced no great monument of its own. All over the country there are lanes and streets and highways and squares named for politicians, many of whom have left little else for us to remember. On the other hand, we raise no memorials to recognise exemplary entrepreneurs or to inspire the production of wealth for the country.
I have heard talk about changing the name of Knutsford Boulevard in honour of an athlete. However, the man mainly responsible for transforming the old Knutsford Park racetrack into busy, bustling productive New Kingston is largely unremembered. Not a street or corner or building bears his name.
The same son of Jamaica was chiefly responsible for the building of our hospitality industry. He donated land for building the Boscobel Airport; and when that facility was made an international airport, we named it after a famous foreigner. When we talk about 50 years of Independence, we must think on such a case of inferiority complex.
We must also think of the fact that in the past 40 years, this nation has built few things of such significance that anyone would feel proud to give it their name. Is this why we are looking around to change the name of some older monuments? Where are the new great post-colonial centres of learning, of economic production, of health care, water storage! We haven't built a dam.
Of course, we have new sport centres built by the Chinese; the Josť Marti school built by the Cubans; large new hotels constructed and owned by the Spaniards; a transportation centre by the Belgians; a highway built and operated by the French.
Meantime, some of what an older generation built has either passed away or has fallen into the hands of enterprising Trinidadians and Barbadians. When we talk about 50 years of Independence, we must think on such things and then take steps to correct them.
Terpsichore knows I am no party pooper. I enjoy celebrations and often plan them myself. However, one must always be aware that the sweet frolic of Crop Over comes only after the planting, reaping and juicing of the cane.
Ken Jones is a communication specialist. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.