The conditions were ripe for revolution. The country had been ruled by a military junta since 1962. It had sunk from being the second wealthiest nation in the region under British administration to being among the poorest. In 2007, it shared top billing with Somalia as the most corrupt country on earth. Its human rights record was abysmal - the popular opposition leader, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, had been under house arrest for nearly two decades.
So in September 2007, when thousands of Buddhist monks took to the streets in peaceful protest donning traditional maroon-coloured robes, most of the 55 million people of Burma (Myanmar) were confident that long-awaited political and economic reforms were near. They were wrong.
A recent wave of protests has toppled governments across the Middle East and North Africa, giving rise to talk of revolution here in Jamaica. It's funny, cries for popular revolt sound romantic from the quiet comfort of air-conditioned offices. As we exchange thoughts on Facebook and watch YouTube videos of oppressive leaders fleeing their countries, we conceive grand ideas of wresting our own nation from corrupt politicians. If Tunisians and Egyptians can do it, surely we can, too. Power to the people! Viva La Revolución!
Then reality strikes us in the face. Or, in the case of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai, it strikes in the chest at 1,500 feet per second - a bullet from the gun of a Burmese soldier. During the 2007 protests, Nagai was the only foreigner killed in a bloody crackdown by the governing Burmese military that reportedly left more than a hundred people, including up to 40 monks, dead. Popular revolts - even intendedly peaceful ones - often turn bloody and routinely end in failure.
I can imagine our revolution: vendors in the streets battling to sell the most cigarettes, Rizlas, cold Red Stripes and hot Guinnesses; the sound man 'rae-ing' and 'whoa-ing' as speakers blast the latest Mavado and Vybz Kartel tunes. Nightfall would unveil a veritable grand market of the lowest common elements of society. Ours would surely be a revolution of idleness and delinquency.
The Real Revolution
The notion of popular revolt in the streets of Jamaica is absurd. Against whom would we be revolting, a three year-old, democratically elected government? Who would be leading this revolt, the same opposition that substantially contributed to the problems we face today?
What we need is a revolution of our collective mentality. We need to revolt against the preposterous belief that our problems can be solved overnight. I've witnessed young people, within the security of our relatively stable democracy, advocating radical revolutionary action, yet they have never exercised their democratic right to secure change via the polls.
We certainly need revolution in education. Instead of spending our limited assets on material foolishness, we must dedicate every resource to ensuring that our children obtain suitable education in order to escape the clutches of ignorance.
We need a revolution against the greatest of oppressors - crime and corruption. Our women must stop harbouring wanted men; our motorists must refuse to pay bribes to corrupt police officers; we must demand a comprehensive anti-crime strategy executed by a formidable agency which holds investigative, intelligence-gathering, arrest and prosecutorial capabilities and a mandate to pursue all criminals wherever they are found - be it in Gordon House or Waterhouse.
We need an economic revolution. Labour productivity must be improved through investments in training and technology. Red tape must be cut in order to reduce the costs of doing business. Land titles must be distributed more expeditiously so that owners can unleash the wealth buried within their properties. Taxes must be more equitably administered. We must devise methods to create employment so that jobless youngsters can become productive members of society.
These are some of the revolutions needed in Jamaica, right now. We don't yet face the same dire political or economic conditions as Burma and some Middle Eastern nations. Our revolution must, therefore, take place not wildly in the streets but conscientiously in our minds - outside the reach of government repression and our inclination towards mob lunacy.
Viva Jamaica! Viva La Revolución!
Din Duggan is an attorney who now works as a consultant with a global legal search firm. Email him at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at facebook.com/dinduggan and twitter.com/YoungDuggan.