Preparing A People-Centric Generation — Part 2: Fading hope and a growing time bomb

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Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.Jerry Rice

It is what we do today that will determine our tomorrow. If this statement is considered to be both philosophically and experientially true, then we would have to agree that what we are experiencing today is a result of what we did yesterday.

This demands analysis and honesty about our present circumstances and what created it. Our analysis must include both the positives and negatives. The positives that are discovered need to multiplied and improved upon. The things that are the negatives we must simply identify and eliminate.

Without this approach we can easily and unwillingly drift on and create a future that is just like the present — perhaps worse, because the negatives would have become more entrenched.

I offer this approach so that we, as a society, and those of us responsible for providing leadership at various levels, will take the time to examine, strategise, and intentionally do what is necessary now to prepare a people-centric generation for the new Jamaica.

Rapidly fading hope in a future for a significant cohort of youth is real and problematic. The thought of a new Jamaica is not in their sight. Yet, they are hungry, angry and desperately looking for something they can only call “better”.

Patience for them is wearing thin. They need to see something, feel something, or be part of something for a better future. The new Jamaica we all desire and the peace and prosperity spoken about will not just happen because we dream of it. Radical and urgent changes will have to be realised.

The prevailing conditions in our inner cities and rural communities affecting the higher percentage of the population will not produce the preferred new Jamaica. Where are the specific plans to ensure the necessary changes happen? We cannot afford for this vital matter to be left to chance or placed at the bottom of the national agenda. The gains and great plans on paper will be quickly eroded if the boiling, volcanic negative social conditions are not addressed.

We are sitting on a time bomb that mere arming and improving the competence and mobility of the security forces will not be able to defuse. Our current crime and violence issues, seen even in places like peaceful north-east Jamaica (Annotto Bay), and the current negative psychosocial condition of many of our youth, in particular, are enough to authenticate what I am saying.

A serious national social programme and mobilisation of our people around a common cause and mindset to produce behavioural change is a primary need. This cause must be developed on the principles of equal rights and justice for all and must inspire hope of a better day.

Hopelessness is dangerous

A people without hope are dangerous. A people who have lost hope can become despondent. Our people, the majority of whom are crying out under the decades of lack and pain, are fast losing hope. They are not finding the hope in the places and in whom they have traditionally looked. They see little alternatives, and herein lies the danger.

The politicians and handouts were sources of hope, but those are now fast-drying streams. The dons that augmented that political system are being disrupted and displaced — albeit a necessary consideration. However, the fact is the hope for many has waned significantly as a result.

Higglering, that was once flying high, has had the wind knocked out of it by large conglomerates and cartelisation, eroding the hope many had of prospering. The scamming which has arisen with dazzling lights and big money is rapidly being dimmed, destroying the hope of many — illegal though the activities are.

These various hope streams that arose at various seasons over the last three to four decades is what kept hope alive for many. These streams reined in the possible social explosion but are now being completely dried up.

We can argue over the differing reasons for the hope streams drying up. Whether by chance or deliberate action, right or wrong, the bottom line is, for the majority of our citizens, the perceived hope streams is what kept them alive. Now they are about down to nearly zero. The question this huge grouping is asking is: What am I going to do?

If this question is not answered in short order we may experience an unprecedented social implosion. Therefore, preparation for the new Jamaica has to be a now conversation.

This is why leaders of society should, before they act, ask and answer the question: When we go in and disrupt and displace the existing what are we going to replace it with?

Nature abhors a vacuum, so if not intentionally filled with the desired, then the undesired will quickly occupy. Much of this is currently happening.

Furthermore, if hope is lost in the State to protect and give a fair opportunity for all to succeed; if hope is lost in existing system and structures; if hope is lost in society to offer justice and a path to prosperity; if hope is diminishing in our social institutions, like family and the church, what are the likely responses of a people then gripped in fear? I state, again, a people without hope is dangerous.

Some 20 years ago I was in dialogue with a very senior leader in one of our major political parties. I shared with him my concern that most of our youth, and those leaving our colleges and universities, saw no hope here. They viewed their only hope for a future elsewhere.

His response was simply, “If ah so, mek dem leave, ’cause wi don’t have jobs for them here.”

I wept for days every time the statement came to mind.

I bemoaned the fact that this was the “ah no nutten” thinking of a member of my nation’s leadership. He had no plans for them and cared zero. I had to talk hard to myself not to lose hope in the nation’s future. It is my faith in God that caused me to hold steady, and it served to deepen my resolve to work harder for the transformation of my nation.

New approach needed!

Central to giving hope for a new Jamaica is the crafting of deliberate and shared strategies to prepare a generation for a positively transformed Jamaica. Deliberate inputs and outputs are needed that are symbiotically tied to the outcomes we desire.

In Part 1 of this column, published on June 17, 2018, we began to look at how inputs determined outcomes. A few examples were drawn. I will reinforce the point with a few more now, as it is extremely important; particularly so because this principle equally applies to nations.

No nation or organisation can experience transformation and rise to greatness without an intentional and strategic approach. If we want desired outcomes then the appropriate inputs in a timely structured manner are vital.

Anything with life left unattended and directed will grow wild. Plants or animals have to be trained, tended and directed for best results and beauty. This means we must agree and plan the inputs required to build and attain the new Jamaica desired.

At the centre of this must be how we educate our children and youth to create the future we want. I am saying that the content and the manner in which we educate a generation will determine the outcome of that generation. It is the education of previous years that has produced the present times. “Is not bad lucked wi bad lucked!”

The Jamaica of the 1960s to 80s was based on the education of the 1930s to 60s. The current Jamaica is a reflection of the education of the 1980s to the early 2000s. We can decide today what tomorrow will be. I call on the Government, Church, and parents to wake up and smell the coffee and take some decisions.

Let me remind us, the most important and delicate part of the education process that shapes a generation is the early childhood. Who best handles this? What is needed most at this stage? Along with cognitive, affective and psychomotor stimulation, phonics, play and socio-cultural learning, we must infuse right values and stimulate faith to guide behaviour.

The Church can best do this. Government should not be thinking to dominate this area, making the same mistake of a generation ago to take over primary and secondary education from the Church.

Former Governor General Sir Howard shared with a couple of us pastors that his greatest regret in his political career was, as minister of education, to advocate for primary education to be taken over my Government. This he did because he visited some schools that were in deplorable physical condition. He said what he should have done was to partner with the Church by resourcing them to be better able to educate the children in improved environments. Today, the best-performing schools are usually church schools.

What the wise current Government should do is to partner with the Church by resourcing them to be more effective in their development of early childhood education where they are the single largest player. This policy approach should also be applied to the primary and high school levels. It cannot be lost on us the words of the 26th president of the USA, Theodore Roosevelt, “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace for society.”

We must get serious about preparing the current generation now for a new Jamaica. Education, as defined in the Early Webster’s Dictionary, was centred first and foremost on the development of character and then intellect. Successful living in a world fighting corruption and crying for integrity in leadership can only be realised by education weighted heavily in moral character development alongside high academic achievement.

Right inputs = right outcomes

Greatness and prosperity for the new Jamaica in the shortest time require some serious inputs now.

  • It will require increased productivity levels (we are among the lowest in the region).
  • It will require a strong work ethic.
  • It will require a disciplined people.
  • It will require an orderly and ordered society.
  • It will require creativity and innovation.
  • It will require a skilled workforce for the projected need areas. HEART Trust/NTA must be preparing the youth for it now.

These things will not just happen because we would like them to happen. We have to put in the inputs necessary for the desired outcomes, by conscious deliberate action. It will take reordering the society, adjusting how and in what we train our young people over the next five years.

Leadership

We must set a goal for where we want to be as a nation in the next five years and work back to it to put in place all that is necessary.

Jamaica needs now an aggressive, radical approach by a forceful determined new era prime minister and parliamentarians. We need bold, well-positioned change drivers. We must stop the squabbling in parliament over petty issues and focus of the serious developmental and transformational issues.

The prime minister, in order to alleviate fears of abuse, corruption and partisan decision-making should appoint his own oversight and monitoring team to protect himself from unbridled actions or accusations of partisanship. This team could also serve as a part of his accountability as he drives the process to get us to where we ought to be.

Ordinary will no longer do!

Our national social and economic crisis in a fast-paced and ever-changing world cannot afford the luxury of the mere ‘ordinary’ or slow rate change processes. The attitude has to be, “Driver, don’t stop at all!”

Our social conditions of long-standing injustice, poverty and growing sense of hopelessness will not allow us to keep the lid on a smoking cauldron for much longer.

I renew the call for a type of social or crime czar, although the commissioner of police seems to have a vision and approach to make the difference. This would nullify the need for a crime czar, but the commissioner needs the social czar to undergird and support policing. We have been expecting the police to control the psycho-social behaviour of the society. We also need a economic/business development czar to drive the growth and transformation agenda.

At this stage the national focus has to be on strategic preparation of the current generation for the new Jamaica. The new Jamaica cannot be a futuristic ‘pie in the sky’ concept, but a time-bound commitment that’s measurable to keep hope alive and prevent implosion.

I do not know if our leaders and technocrats are as sensitive to what is happening on the ground. I know the majority of citizens are clueless to the magnitude of the dangers hanging over our heads. It is possible that many leaders either know and don’t care or know but don’t think anything will happen or are deceived and incapable of reading the signs of the times.

Let us not be deceived. Nothing in the underbelly of the nation has changed, it has only got worse. This is why some of us have been and continue to be ‘in the trenches’ for years working to prevent any of the triggers going off. It is imperative that in 2018 we consciously through deliberate strategic inputs and begin to turn the tide toward a new day and new Jamaica.

Copyright © 2018 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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