Wed | Dec 7, 2016

What will it take for us to wake up?

Published:Thursday | February 5, 2015 | 12:00 AM

I keep asking myself: What will it take to prod us into action and cause us to move with even a tad bit more alacrity where our socio-economic, health and other maladies are concerned?

A significant portion of our young people are ready and willing to renounce their citizenship for supposedly greener pastures, totally oblivious to the awful situation many people of colour and immigrants often face in some of these countries. The situation in our public-health facilities is worsening: some are out of basic supplies like syringes and films for X-ray, and one hospital can hardly accommodate another patient. Scores of children are living and working on the streets and about 15 per cent of female students at one secondary school are reportedly mothers.

Not many of us are talking about these things. Perhaps only the 'Articulate Minority' is affected. Too many of us find comfort in our resignation that the situation doesn't affect us and these development challenges are matters solely for the Government (read the ruling party) as if all of us aren't affected.

I see more tweets about Gully Bop and the sliding dollar - not that that's not important - than I see about other pressing matters, such as providing shelter for children who need a place to sleep. Talking about shelter, I reckon that a particular lot from which several families were evicted downtown and forced to reside under tarpaulins on the sidewalk for a couple days in 2013 is still vacant, but that's for another time. The Jamaican dollar could be as strong as the Trinidadian, Eastern Caribbean, Barbadian or Bahamian dollar and things would remain more or less the same.

Economic development does not always trickle down and/or result in an improvement in living conditions of the poor. Laws, policies and programmes have to be in place to protect the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society for them to benefit. Essentially, we have to 'balance the people's lives while balancing the budget'.

 

ARE WE TOO BUSY?

 

Do things have to deteriorate and get much worse for us all to be perturbed? To be awakened to the God-awful state of affairs that so many of our people are bombarded with? Are we all too busy focusing on other more 'pertinent and urgent matters' like finding a perplexing causal relationship between one minister's attire at the beach and performance and the invented threat to religious (read Christian) freedom?

We cannot afford to be snug with the status quo anymore. It is incumbent on all of us to care for our fellow Jamaicans. The situation is dire enough for us to put aside our differences to work together and build our nation. It's time we divorce the green and orange scapegoats. We have done it before and I am sure we can do it again.

Finally, dare I say that in all of this, non-governmental organisations will have to be more (?) willing to be held accountableeven declaring the source of their funding (!) and open to be more collaborative with civil-society counterparts, and even government. Government must create more ways for us to be more involved in policy and decision making at every level. Importantly, rather than hogging these opportunities we will have to work towards facilitating the 'voice of the voiceless' in these processes.

The abrasiveness and antagonism that we have seemingly become so accustomed to won't get us anywhere. We can't glorify mediocrity and be complacent with excuses. We have to challenge ourselves if we truly want Jamaica to be 'the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business'. Some of us will have to support our leaders directing more scarce resources to the poor. We have to ensure resources are targeted more effectively, and that people aren't being paid to improve our livelihoods and lift more of us out of poverty but given no resources to do this.

The poor and most vulnerable and marginalised in our communities require more than that and can do without lip service and the convenience of electoral missions. Now is the time to act, to do more and capitalise on the opportunities we have to sustain the gains we have made in the last few years.

n Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.