Fri | Jan 21, 2022

Orville Taylor | Leaving the Queen and finding a heroine

Published:Sunday | December 5, 2021 | 12:11 AM

Talk is cheap but money makes one’s voice strong. When your dollar is the strongest of all independent full CARICOM members, your population is 99 per cent literate, your gross domestic product per capita is $12,900 and more than 90 per cent of...

Talk is cheap but money makes one’s voice strong. When your dollar is the strongest of all independent full CARICOM members, your population is 99 per cent literate, your gross domestic product per capita is $12,900 and more than 90 per cent of your population lives above the poverty line, you can choose whichever citizen you want as your national heroine. Butt heads with Rihanna if you wish; she is more than prepared for the battle, but that part of the move by Barbados is a battle that Jamaicans need to not even get into now, if at all.

Perhaps because Jamaica is a bilingual country, but more so because of its lack of national consensus, we have failed miserably to get it right. For example, our currency has slid with the slipperiness of a politician’s credibility over the past 50 years, while the Barbadian equivalent has remained as strong as the accent from St Lucy in that country. Flashback to the 1980s, when the Jamaican dollar was in single digits versus the American. At J$5.50=US$1, we couldn’t even spell accord, much less consensus. Yet, we were talking about a social partnership.

Inasmuch as we talk about Jamaican pride, the Barbadians understood that pride without money means nothing unless it is a rainbow march. A decade later, faced with the prospect of devaluation, private sector, union and civil society interests in that order, approached government and they forged a true social contract. And the dollar wobbled, but did not move. Long ago, with fewer gaps in its severance legislation, the Bajans understood the way to greater labour productivity was through decent work.

CUTTING TIES

Back to the politics, the smooth separation from the British monarchy is something we need to follow soon. For the naysayers who think that cutting formal ties will create bad blood between the United Kingdom and its former colony, just note that the Crown Prince Charles was there in the flesh, as an endorsement. Doubtless, I have to agree with former Jamaican Prime PJ Patterson, who is now lighting fire behind the legislature. Yet, herein lies the contradiction.

As I have stated ad nauseam in this column and elsewhere, the problem with the sovereignty debate is that too many of the mouths which carry the arguments leak from the side. It is painfully difficult to listen to attorneys who carry the title Queen’s Counsel (QC) seeking to disavow themselves from having her as Head of State. I am a big fan of PJ but he is our longest-serving prime minister ever and he should have pushed it constantly up the Opposition’s nose.

Similarly, no Pan-Africanist, except those who have uncomfortable relationships with truth and facts, can credibly accept being called ‘Sir’ even if the title is a home-grown one, such as that which Barbados hands out. It is a mockery, runs counter to the anti-colonial and reparations thrust and does little more than make those who hold the moniker seem like disingenuous ‘Afro-Saxon’. Thankfully to our credit, no Jamaican, except the governor general, can take a knighthood.

For good measure, Jamaica is not alone in its contradiction. For years the debate for a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has been going on like a curry stain. Ironically, republic Trinidad and Tobago, who discarded the Queen as its head of state, and who hosts the CCJ, has chosen not to recognise it as its final appellate court. Indeed, Trinis have to haul their cases to the ‘mother country’ to face the Privy Council.

STANDING OUT

Anyway, it might be too early in her tenure for the Bajan prime minister to be called a heroine, despite her being the shot in the arm that Caribbean leadership needs. Never mind the sound of her first name, Mia is no kitten and when she chuffs, growls or roars, even American President Joe Biden listens. Clearly separating herself from the motley crew of pusillanimous Caribbean leaders, she delivered the ‘bassline’ standard for the approach to climate change just a few weeks ago.

Speaking from the perspective of a small, vulnerable island state, she asked, “Where are the governments and states from countries in the global south in this decision-making process?” Time is as short as the height of the Jamaican dollar and we need unambiguous leaders with lots of dicotyledons.

As for the hero debate; for those of us who are pushing for the recognition of Bob Marley, just understand this. Rihanna is just around the age at which he died. How much risk did he take for the uplift of his people? How much money or time did her give to the less fortunate? In any event, every country’s standard is different; that is what sovereignty entails.

Still, while we mull CCJ and breaking with her majesty, have a look at Chief Tacky’s file. If he doesn’t deserve to be a hero, then our national leaders are high on heroin.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.