Tue | Nov 13, 2018

The national challenge

Published:Sunday | January 25, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Ronald Mason, Contributor

Hope springs eternal. It is the state of being that allows us to look forward to the new day. It makes specific our acceptance that the sun will rise tomorrow and there is a promise of better things to come.

When hope is diminished, the doubts begin to set in and the visions for the future are not very clear. The negative effect of losing some hope is easily quantified by the adoption of the 'why bother' attitude. Things will not change. There is no value to be had from increased effort.

When all hope is lost, the world and its prospects become bleak. Fatality sets in and one loses the ability to affect the future. This is the position that is being brought home to the nation by our young people.

The Gleaner, on January 14, 2015, reported on the results of the survey conducted by the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies. This survey interviewed 1,000 persons under the age of 25 across all parishes and had an average four per cent deviation probability.

Let us start with the positives. Some 57 per cent stated that they were extremely proud and 31 per cent were proud to be Jamaican. This gives us a population to work with in the desire to make us all proud to be Jamaican. The other side of the report is what presents a national challenge.

Renouncing your citizenship

That 49.3 per cent of young adults would give up their citizenship and live in another country. The decision to give up one's citizenship is, to my mind, more significant than the choice to live in another country. The renunciation of your citizenship is a repudiation of all the values, attitudes and culture that give rise to your identity as a member of the group called Jamaicans.

This is saying to the world that associating you with this country leaves you ashamed and embarrassed. It leaves you in denial of the culture and this state means you have rejected an integration with the others from Jamaica. This troubling assertion must be looked at in the context of a Jamaican outside of Jamaica.

Once we are out of the rock, we are all one. No political divisions, no class limitation, a shared love of life and the love of music, old school or dancehall. This is experienced when a natural disaster strikes 'yaad' and you are mobilised to help for the benefit of those left at home.

Older generations

What is mobilised is usually to help the discarded young persons. The thought must cause all of us to pause and recognise what we are being told. The older generation has failed in its stewardship of Jamaica. The young have no hope of building on the platform we have built. We have shown them a country where 49.8 per cent have major problems with crime.

We are now beginning to reap the embrace of 'informa fe dead'. The young fear crime. We have retreated from the task of making sure that the commission of a crime is followed by the certainty of capture, the swiftness of punishment, and the fairness of the trial, and the humane treatment for the transgressors. This legacy forms the basis for our young people being willing to give up citizenship.

Unemployment and poverty are also elements that factor in their decision, but to a lesser degree. The Jamaican population is a young one. There are 53 per cent of us who are under the age of 35 years. This survey was limited to those under 25 years. However, it is not far-fetched to reach the conclusion that if a similar survey were conducted for the under 40 age group, we may be further shocked at the outcome.

Right values and attitudes

Dr Lloyd Waller, along with Nicole Satchell and Gavin Daley, who undertook the survey, has addressed the challenge the nation faces. "Having the right values and attitudes has long been recognised by many economists and development specialists as an important ingredient of economic and social development. The last TWO DECADES (this would cover all under 40 years old) have seen several attempts by various organisations, groups and institutions to arrest the DECAYING VALUES AND ATTITUDES (my emphasis), which exists across the island, especially the youth ... ." The effort is failing and we have a national challenge to ensure success.

We need to have a formal programme and structure, the methodology by which we impact values and attitudes. Let us have an eminently qualified Jamaican (no foreigners, please) group structure a curriculum, content and teaching modules that are age appropriate. No longer can we rely on the natural accumulation of our 'Jamaicanness' from one generation to the next. We must tackle this as if our nation depends on it.

Just think that it may very well define our success in reversing the factors which cause our youngsters to even entertain the thought that they could repudiate their Jamaican citizenship. We cannot fail.

Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and columns@gleanerjm.com.