Sun | Jan 22, 2017

We need clarity, reasoned debate on Outameni issue

Published:Friday | November 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Donna Mattis, Guest Columnist

Frequently, the truth is not always what the majority believe, and Martin Henry's article, 'Media, mob and Outameni madness' (Sunday Gleaner, November 16, 2014), is the very example of this admonition. For this purpose, it is always sobering when, in the midst of the madding reasoning, a voice of sanity - in this case, three voices (economist Dr Peter-John Gordon's letter and this paper's own editorial, Gleaner, November 11, 2014 and November 12, 2014, respectively) - can resist the capitulation of conscience and steer the discourse towards perspectival clarity and attempt to nullify the rush to judgement.

Of course, this is not to say that there are not those issues that demand uniform outrage. However, sometimes we need to proceed on a wider path.

Much of our reaction, regrettably, has, for too long, been held hostage to the disenchantment we feel towards some of those in authority, and over the years they have not succeeded in making any inroads in our consciousness. Consequently, immediately there is any controversy, we tend to automatically smell the proverbial rat, and when political opportunism hijacks the climate, it only fuels the furore.

But all issues are not the same, and occasionally there are more than two sides to a story - a concept that tends to fall by the wayside when questions are asked and met with the echoes of the sound of silence and a seeming infallibility from those who should provide the answers.

When this happens, all that's left are unholy inferences and conclusions. Accordingly, transparency becomes paramount to our democracy, because sometimes candour will calm public opinion.

The Gleaner's editorial desk, Henry and Gordon provided mature objectivity, that sensible relief that placed into sharp focus the real issues which so often tend to get lost in translation. It's the same loss in translation which prompted the ever-reliable Ian Boyne's 'The raging failed state debate' (Sunday Gleaner, November 16, 2014).

Mr Boyne's article reiterated that same theme: common sense must prevail in any sea of mass hysteria and cynicism, because vision can so often get lost in emotion. Different subject by Mr Boyne, yet along the same line as is so often symptomatic of the thematic structure of The Gleaner's Sunday line-up where the articles somehow coalesce to be virtual variations on a theme. Illustrative this week was how the primacy of objectivity and clinical analysis, if not in the curriculum of the everyday citizen, must be the artistry of the journalist.

No Failed State

So Mr Boyne wisely cautions against the loose reference to Jamaica being a failed state. In a culture where we are as much our harshest critic as our worst enemy, we are regularly oblivious to the reality of being part of a wider world made smaller by the capabilities of the information age. Hence as the world is as international as we are parochial, extreme responsibility in our words and actions is imperative.

I believe that, apart from the many saving graces which Mr Boyne points to that would disqualify us from that damning status, he is alluding to the dire ramifications that can result if there is a global perception that we are a failed state.

While we are no paragons of virtue, we need to disallow economics from being the sole measure of success. And so, as in the Outameni discussion, we must exercise great caution so that we do not lose sight of what the real debate should be.

Donna Mattis has an ender that will be coming later. So let me type a few sentences to fill this space for the time being!