Tue | Nov 28, 2023

Brian-Paul Welsh | Making Jamaica great again

Published:Saturday | February 11, 2017 | 12:00 AM

It is said there was a time in the not-so-distant past when Jamaica was considered to be the Pearl of the West Indies. Romanticised in song and script, culturally, and socially, it appeared as though this island in the sun took the lead, setting a fine example that many still think our colonial siblings begrudgingly emulate.

During times of nostalgia, we often recall with our signature self-importance the 1975 visit of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister. It is still boasted by some that his impression of Jamaica at the time, the prosperity he beheld, had such a profound personal impact that it informed his ideas about the country he dreamed of and would ultimately manifest.

Though history and experience have already revealed much of the truth about our meandering journey through the doldrums, the tale of the visiting premier, a favourite fable among Jamaica's political allegorists, persists like good propaganda, as a folkloric account of our national success. It is sporadically resurrected by the wizards of spin to take advantage of the fact that hindsight isn't always clear, leaving room for such foggy recollections to slip into history.

This mythological marker, from which later developments were judged, paints the Jamaica of the 1970s as a quaint but powerful example of a country poised for greatness, a beacon for independent nationhood, and a place with a proliferation of indigenous talent, having a penchant for attracting other great minds in search of inspiration.

In spite of our own high regard, we have hobbled while others have soared, yet still we insist on hiring drivers from the same old school, somehow expecting a better route to our destination.

Recent pronouncements from Babylon's pulpit signalling intent to restore that land to the glorious times of yore have been largely perceived as a sounding of the apocalyptic trumpet, edging us closer to the end of the world as we know it. Meanwhile, our own local King of the Hill has promised a triumphant return to a time when Jamaicans could sleep with their doors wide open and reasonably expect not to wake up dead.




In response to this week's episode of savagery, the top dog has shed his debonair swagger and is now howling like the big bad wolf, huffing and puffing, threatening to blow the almshouse down! Having grown accustomed to the frequency of this farce, the regular gang of characters has merrily joined in the fun, playing their respective roles with typical gusto.

The journalists are busy yapping in chorus; the lawyers have commenced their oppositional jabbering, while the bad guys, seemingly unaffected by the furore, are busy brewing, maybe actively seeking the spotlight. In the next scene, we can expect the announcement of a rebranded crime plan with a snazzy name and omnibus composition. It will likely contain the whole kit and caboodle, including whatever else Miss Malaprop can find in the Government's freezer to infringe our supposed rights. We'll labrish ad nauseam about the draconian nature of the green lizards in charge, and then next week when Budget season opens, for the grand finale, the tax demon will rear his ugly red head and kill all our dreams.

Like world peace is to beauty pageant contestants, such is peace of mind to the politician. The phrase falls easily from the lips, but is usually far from feasible to provide any sort of reasonable assurance.

In some northern territories, there is a notion among supposedly sensible people that borders are real lines of demarcation, etched into the earth's crust by the Almighty and necessarily reinforced by actual walls in order to protect the chosen few from devious infiltration. Within that context and world view, a return to supposedly greater times means having less undesirables living within the borders, a monumental task by any measure.

Here on this rock, greater times - by our basic definition - of a return to unmolested sleep actually sounded like it mightn't be such a monumental task to achieve; but with the crime monster now brazenly taking up residence in communities some regard as close to immaculate, the idea of surviving a night of sleeping with doors open, even behind fancy grillwork, now seems increasingly far-fetched.

- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and brianpaul.welsh@gmail.com, or tweet @islandcynic on social media.