Thu | Oct 6, 2022

Ronald Thwaites | The week after Emancipendence

Published:Monday | August 8, 2022 | 12:06 AM
As things appear now, September morning will see our schools resuming in much the same limping way that they closed in June.
As things appear now, September morning will see our schools resuming in much the same limping way that they closed in June.

How come there has been virtually no reaction to the sharp criticisms of our education system set out by Bruce Golding recently? He pointed out the necessity of political comity to ground and generate the national consensus which could lead to the...

How come there has been virtually no reaction to the sharp criticisms of our education system set out by Bruce Golding recently? He pointed out the necessity of political comity to ground and generate the national consensus which could lead to the resolve, then the investment required, to effect change. Dead silence from those with the power. But plenty time and money for prancing and hype. All that is good, but after the achievement in things like good food, health and quality education – not in place of them.

As things appear now, September morning will see our schools resuming in much the same limping way that they closed in June. Except that in the meanwhile, many of our most experienced teaching staff will have migrated, close to another tenth will be on long leave, and the remainder will carry on, most impoverished, and all unaccountable.

But the Parliament will go on vacation, neither the Government nor Opposition have any comprehensive plan for transforming education, and the teachers’ union only ever grumbles about pay and regulation. Are we impervious to emergency and addicted to opiates?

The ancient Romans offered their slaves bread and circus to keep them subservient. Drunk and half-naked, we offer the circus with little bread.

Parents! At least you should heed what Bruce and Professor Patterson have to say. Nothing will change unless you rise up and demand quality schooling for your children, and are prepared to pay as much as you can to ensure it.

CITIZEN MILITANCY

Citizen militancy seems to be the only spur to which this Government responds. It took the stridency of the Bog Walk gorge residents and the water-compromised farmers and residents in southern St Catherine to finally awaken NEPA and a few ministers to the environmental rape committed by one mining company. And despite the flowery promises, the dangling of money and the suspended mining licence, it is far from certain that the fouling of the Rio Cobre won’t happen again.

Getting anything done beyond the talking stage is almost impossible. The regulatory agencies are dilatory, and any recourse to the courts takes many years. So where is the aggrieved citizen to repose her confidence?

On September 25, 2018, I placed the following motion on the agenda of the House of Representatives. “Be it Resolved that this Honourable House cause to be carried out a cost-benefit analysis of the Jamaican bauxite and alumina industry in order to determine the prudent and efficient use of this diminishing natural resource.”

Predictably, this effort to apply thought and data to broaden concern about the increasing environmental hazards of strip mining was never given the time of day. The dangers and losses are upon us; but money talks, the Russians, and whoever else, get what they want and we suffer with the ‘what lef’.

So we just lurch on, beguiled by self-imposed impotence – just like we do in education.

STIFF OR SUPPLE?

At age 60, are we stiff and old, or supple and rejuvenated? At what point does inattention and superficial thought bleed into corruption and recklessness? Sloth shows up in small as well as large measures. It is shocking that Custos Shagoury should have to tell us that to look good, some parish exhibitors buy pretty produce from other parishes, pretending that they are grown by their own farmers, so as place well in the Denbigh competition. Surely, the RADA officers must have known about this. Pretence becomes a national habit. And the children learn.

LET’S BE REALISTIC

Jamaica has yet to recover from the oil price hike of the 1970s. It is another of our delusions that we can continue to afford limitless quantities of US$100-plus barrel of oil. In the 1960s, electricity consumption arched upwards to accommodate the new luxury of air conditioning. Later, the cars came and organised public transportation declined. When OPEC hiked the price of crude, we continued our profligacy, mindless of the unaffordability.

The delusion continues. I supported the Rural Electrification Programme that has brought modernity to almost everyone. Quite different is the show-off architecture and lifestyle which presumes a forever supply of a product that we, price-takers and weak in productivity, build our lives around.

The same is true about our food security, where we fashion our tastes around protein sources based on feed ingredients which we do not produce. How much longer can that endure if Central Europe remains at war?

After all, Mr Holness is right. “What do we believe in our hearts?” he asked the mourners in Clarendon. He is edging towards acknowledging the need for a common cause, a national ideology of shared purpose. I hope he’s very serious.

This spirit is best derived from the shared religious and spiritual principles which are the foundation of our pledge, our anthem, our laws and Constitution. How intentional are we to foster this ethos?

A NEW PRAYER

The 60-year-old prayer used in Parliament is a melange of stilted language and effete obeisance to the Queen. No one pays much attention when it is recited.

Prayer is crucially important, especially when you are making laws, spending other people’s money, and regulating their lives. So on May 29, 2018, I moved the House of Representatives to adopt a new prayer, more consistent with our national identity.

Here it is: “God of our nation, we lift up to you the people of Jamaica, land we love. We thank you for this place of beauty in which you have formed us. Raise up within us peaceful hearts, earnest spirits and tireless hands to be your presence in our world.

Bless and approve the words and deeds of this Assembly, chosen as representatives of your people.

Guided by your Way, Truth and Light, may we enact just laws, speak compassionate thoughts and be heralds of your blessed kingdom. Amen.”

Of course, it was never considered. Do the Speaker and the House leader have any interest in this time of jubilee?

But in all of this, there is good news, too – congratulations are in order to colleague Dr Garth Rattray on receiving the well-deserved national honour, keep up your good work!

Rev Ronald G. Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.