It never fails to bring a smile to my face as I watch my dearly beloved people post sunsets on social media as if it rises and sets in its magnificent beauty only over the island of Jamaica. While it is imperative for us to do all we can to promote our little slice of paradise we should soon get around to accepting that the shape and geographical beauty of our hills, its contours, valleys and the beauty of our people are the only features on a physical level that are still unique and outstanding about the island.
While some may not agree, if you think about it, our culture is just as indigenous as any other. Reggae can be enjoyed in any corner of the world, oxtail, salt fish and ackee can be prepared wherever you choose to have it and the Rasta culture with its proclaimed consciousness can be found everywhere on the planet as well.
It has been 178 years since the Emancipation of Slavery in Jamaica and 54 years since Jamaica gained independence from Britain. Can we now truly, after half a century, hold Britain responsible for our lackluster economic performance, the untapped wealth of creativity within our people or our failure to exploit and use our own resources ahead of the rest of world? We have sat back and watched as individuals from other countries capitalize on our creative ideas despite having geniuses within our midst.
History will show that we have struggled with the hefty mental burden of slavery as we continue to bring it forward in a way that continues to break the spirit of our people and impedes progress. These insidious reminders of us having been and continuing to be the underdogs, erodes confidence and self-value.
While the bombing of Hiroshima and the genocide of the Jews, among other atrocities, have not been forgotten, it has not been a staple in conversations where people are deeply engaged in progress, and rightly so, since it’s neither here nor there. Emancipation day should be the one day of the year where slavery is revisited, not so much as an invitation to the public to come wallow in self-pity or bring out our begging bowl for reparation, but to glorify our “phenomenal” growth and achievements since then.
The list of Caribbean countries that were colonized is long:
Antigua and Barbuda
Saint Christopher (St Kitts)-Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
and not only were all of these countries fair game but any consideration for reparation must be extended to them also. Jamaica would be in better stead to lobby for assistance through trade rather than expecting some cash settlement, as the conversation around the gift of a prison led some to think.
The same mindset that brings to bear on this arrested development is clearly evident in the way we are failing to take responsibility for the safety and well-being of our country. We continue to wait on help from developed countries such as the United States, (whose best interest is seemingly served in having a thriving gun industry), to help us solve problems which we should be able to handle ourselves.
Jamaica is not land locked, we are a blessed little speck of an island surrounded by water that cannot be as difficult as it seems to control contraband coming onto our shores or through our ports of entry, especially now, where there are numerous kinds of metal detectors to check luggage. Why on earth then, should we be constantly knocking on the doors of the United States to help with control of our borders? How difficult is it to see that America’s security budget for Jamaica is stretched thin, partly, in protecting their borders from illegal importation of Jamaican ganja?
Dunns River is not the greatest or most awesome waterfall in the world and our highways that many are gloating about are not, in and of itself, much of a tourist attraction either, compared to say, Spaghetti Junction in Atlanta, but more so, a remarkable bit of development primarily to promote transportation and commerce.
Let’s stay on top of the business of enhancing that which is unique to Jamaica by invigorating self-confidence and pride in our people, bring back discipline to our country and communities, streamline and speed up the bureaucratic process for prospective investors, sharpen the skills and expertise of our innovators to the level of international competition, implement training on the local level especially where there are no jobs, tend to all our long neglected parks, remove higglers from the sidewalks, cut down on imports and promote Buy Jamaican, encourage companies to establish a “children’s work day” once a year where one child of an employee gets the opportunity to see what their parent do at work, (and where the manager gets involved for an hour or two to give a history of the company and its wider operations), encourage the creation of advertising campaigns that suggest spring cleaning and renewal, dedicate one day a month or once every six weeks (whichever works), for the removal of large items of furniture from the gate (instead of garbage), and allow for quick disposal of same at “giveaway prices” to offset the cost of manpower and gas. Community service deserves a paragraph of its own.
The University of California published a brilliant document on some outstanding benefits of volunteer/community service work. I have listed some here for consideration for high school students 14+:
Volunteering provides physical and mental rewards
- Reduces stress: Experts report that when you focus on someone other than yourself, it interrupts usual tension-producing patterns.
- Makes you healthier: Moods and emotions, like optimism, joy, and control over one’s fate, strengthen the immune system.
- Saves resources
- Volunteers gain professional experience
- Uniting people from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal
- Building camaraderie and teamwork
- Promotes personal growth and self-esteem.
- Helps in understanding community needs and fosters empathy and self-efficacy
Volunteers could help to:
- Support families (daycare and eldercare)
- Help with cleaning up school compound
- Improve schools tutoring and literacy
- Support mentoring and after-school programs
- Beautify the community (beach and park cleanups)
Volunteers may discover hidden talents that could change their view about their self-worth, learn about the functions and operation of government through working with non-profit companies and gain knowledge of local resources available to solve community needs.
Students should be given the responsibility to make these arrangements and the hours served each school year should be a prerequisite for moving to the next grade.