Garth Rattray | What’s your legacy?
Although he was ailing for some time, the passing of our national icon, the Most Honourable Edward Philip George Seaga, came as a blow to all of us. He left an eternal and irreplaceable void. He was a unique Jamaican who loved this country with every fibre of his being. He applied his perspicacity, foresight, brilliance and presence of character into conceptualising, initiating and developing many varied programmes that will continue benefiting our citizens for generations to come. His numerous good works qualify as national legacies.
The concept of leaving a legacy or legacies has been gaining traction. Evidently, most people see legacies as physical things only. Financial legacies in the form of money and/or property/businesses are common. Some leave structures, like monuments or parks or buildings or roads/highways, as their legacy. But the best legacy is something that can benefit everyone and be passed on from generation to generation. It should enhance the entire society, not only certain individuals or a set of individuals.
Buildings, businesses, roadways, parks or whatever can all be destroyed or renamed, but good values and attitudes, a life that exemplifies honesty, responsibility and kindness, the pursuance of excellence, an education and social programmes aimed at improving the lives of millions, cannot be destroyed. True and lasting legacies may even be intangible and immeasurable because they affect the minds of the beneficiaries in a positive way.
Many people would like to leave something behind for others to remember them by. The best way to keep someone’s memories alive is to emulate them. I am constantly baffled by leaders and those people who are in positions of power who carry out corrupt practices, lie, cheat, hurt others and work assiduously at amassing great fortunes for themselves and others like them. What kind of legacy is that? Is that how they really want to be remembered for generations to come? Will any decent person want to emulate them? Would they want the nation’s children to be just like them? What kind of country would we end up with if everyone were corrupt?
NOT MATERIAL THINGS
Perhaps it’s too much to ask if vicious criminals think about their effect on the up-and-coming youths within our society. Those who take up the gun commit themselves to a life of violence, where the value of their lives is diminished much more than the lives that they threaten or take.
I have yet to meet or hear of an elderly gunman; their life expectancy is very short. Their demise usually comes at the hands of the security forces, rivals or even friends. Their myopic existentialism continues to confound me. Their legacy is one of hate, callous cruelty, death and destruction.
Then there are the consequential [negative] legacies left by corrupt people in positions of power and/or privilege. The list of adverse consequences of corruption within public institutions and by public officials is extensive. Corruption begets corruption and ends up eroding the moral fabric of our society. Some large contracts cost much more than they should because a portion of the allotted funds is diverted into the pockets of unethical but trusted public officers, their lackies and their accomplices. The eventual effect is the depletion of the public purse and the perpetual erosion of our morals.
The best legacies have little or nothing to do with material things. They should all be about promulgating good morals by way of example and the practice of ethical principles.
The best legacies plant seeds of kindness, respect, decency, discipline, honesty, education, good citizenship, justice and self-dependence. Not many people are capable of those positive values.
Our icons always leave legacies, we should take the opportunity to consider what legacies we will leave behind.