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Gone are the days ...

Published:Saturday | February 16, 2013 | 12:00 AM
George Davis

George Davis, Contributor

As we watch with dread while the Government pours the bitter medicine into a large tablespoon and commands us to say a collective 'aaah', many people begin to drift and recall times in Jamaica's history when citizens didn't have to subject themselves to the 'lamp-oil' treatment to guarantee their health and survival.

Persons like me, who've been around since the 1980s, have always been curious about this economic and social purple patch in the nation's history when all was well. I've considered both our written economic history and our financial track record but haven't found a period where the majority of people didn't see themselves as living in hard times.

I've used the absolutely best gauge of this country's progress through history, music, but have yet to hear songs crafted around a period where the worry wasn't about how best to improve the lot of the working and non-working poor in the country. You can then understand my frustration at what I deem to be a misrepresentation of our economic and social history by those who've been adults for far longer than my 30 years.

It has convinced me that those who get misty eyed about a former time of splendour are simply recalling the way the country was when they were children.

Children are usually happiest when they're at play. Adults are usually happiest when they have money in their pockets. As a child, you pay no bills and are basically concerned with eating, playing and attending school. As adults, you have big bills to pay, the spiralling cost of living to contend with, stress from your man, woman or boss, and the responsibility of children to deal with.

Older folk disingenuously tell tales about times gone by when the economy was good, prices were low, and people were all neighbourly and respectful. Children never 'backchatted' when spoken to by adults, there were no single-parent households, men always minded their children, and dogs dared not piss in public.

No longer servants

Those same folk complain about how morals have become putrefied in this modern age. They claim politicians are no longer servants of the people, how young people are having sex too early, how the condensed milk is thinner, how as you break a $500 bill 'it done', how the music is too slack, how clergymen have lost their virtue, how the white rum 'nuh 'trong like one time', and how God stop strike people.

They wax philosophical about bygone days when unemployment was single digit, government met its fiscal targets, Daniel held regular parties in the lion's den, and when Roger Clarke was a 'face-bwoy'.

They make you, as their juniors, yearn to have been alive during that golden period, when the economy was booming, proper values were always on display, children were never born out of wedlock, and all you needed to get through life was good manners and a Bible.

Of course, you'd be stupid to believe all that. You'd be silly to believe you could find any such period in the history of Xaymaca. And you would be foolish to believe that those tales could ever be an adult's account of life.

Certainly, there were times past when cost of living was lower, when violent crime was so low as to still be able to shock the nation. But consider that in olden days, tuberculosis could kill and polio, shingles and smallpox were rampant. Only the elite accessed tertiary education, and if you wanted to tell your brother in New York that his father was ill and 'travelling' at home in St Elizabeth, you had to send a telegram.

Yes, modern-day societies are replete with flaws. Big, stinking, ugly flaws. But there are so many things better now than they ever were and we are certainly better for them. There's nothing wrong with using the past as perspective to dictate how you plan to live now and later.

But we must be cautious in using the reminiscence of our childhood and an absence of real responsibility to give legs to the argument that there were times in Jamaica's history when things were better than they are now.


George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to and His column returns to its regular Wednesday slot next week.