Are We Tackling The Right Problems? — Part 1

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If you want different results, you have to try different approaches. — Trent Hamm

M y column, published on Sunday, May 6, this year, began with these words: “In conceptualising the new Jamaica we must be prepared to first engage some serious conversations around some critical issues. These are national issues which must be transformed if prosperity is to be achievable for most Jamaicans. Some we are ignoring and refusing to even engage in dialogue. Others we talk about, then shove under the carpet and refuse to engage practical solutions, even when possible and affordable.”

Recent and seemingly recurring decision-making by some of our nation’s leaders on both sides of the fence seem to provide evidence that some do not have a clear grasp of the critical national issues which need to be transformed. Neither do we seem to understand the difference between root causes which must be transformed, and symptoms which must be treated, until transformation becomes the new culture. Many appear content to treat symptoms to make a few feel good, rather than to identify root causes and seek cures that produces real change.

What seems even worse is the fact that there are also some of us who don’t realise the important role we must play in ushering in new era transformation. We, instead, keep adhering to the status quo that keeps us shackled and underdeveloped after 56 years of self-rule.

Real problems

Have we faced Jamaica’s real problems or are we looking at the current problems which, to my mind, are the result of the problem? We are treating them as if they are the real problem, when in fact they are symptoms.

As we move into the new Jamaica a major conversation must be whether seeking solutions for the nation should be curative or palliative, causative or causal. Could it be that the current problems holding us back are doing so because we are treating consistently the symptoms? We have not carefully sought to diagnose and to get to the origin of the real problem to apply the treatment at the base, so that the likelihood of recurrence is reduced and progress and prosperity can become a reality for all.

Today it would appear that most of our approaches are palliative in nature. If we want to be curative we must ask and answer what is the real problem.

Colonial vs self-rule

I raise for discussion that the inhibiting factor is the model of government with a constitution that reinforces it. The philosophical base of that colonial model suggests that, “The people exist for the State and not the State for the people.” It is not a system to empower and enrich the people but to control and maybe inadvertently impoverish the people.

This thinking informs policy and governance systems and strategies. The notion of ‘government for the people’ is diametrically opposite to this model; hence, the constant conflict and challenge to find solutions that produce lasting change for our people. I ask the question: Does the Jamaican Constitution truly reflect government for the people or is it a left over colonial construct maintaining control with a gracious provision into which is interjected government by the people for the State? We only replace Crown with State as a concept.

Previous to our Independence, our colonial Government’s views, their philosophies and the systems they put in place, were simply to serve and enrich the Crown. The empowering and enriching of the citizens were not a primary concern. Instead, they were important only for what they could deliver to the service and enrichment of the Crown. Thereafter they were expendable.

After Independence, despite the fact that we were now governing ourselves, the overarching colonial government philosophies remained the same. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people kept the systems and philosophies that kept the people oppressed and in servitude to enrich the Crown/State.

Why does government exist?

We must decide why governments exists. Is Government primarily for the empowerment of the people or is it there to create a bureaucracy that disempowers people? Should Government be involved in active wealth creation for as many people as possible, or should it be rewarding the few and faithful with wealth? Is Government responsible for ensuring a better quality of life for the people or should Government be involved in emptying the public purse for political power? Should Government be giving to the people as much as possible, or constantly be creating ways of taking as much as they can from the people?

Unless these questions are settled — and we all know the correct answers — then the problems being discovered at Petrojam, which are by no means just a today issue, but one which has spanned governments for years, will continue. They reflect larger and lesser problems that have taken place over the past 56 years, regardless of who is the party charged with leading the government.

If we do not think in a people-centric way as servant leaders; think total service, then it will affect our systems and our root approaches in dealing with matters of the people.

As we approach another Independence celebration it is an appropriate time to review the model of government and the supporting systems and structures? Can it take us where we want to go? Our system must be deliberately changed to conform to what our current philosophies are. The old system was driven by old philosophies and an old set of paradigms. Our new-era system with new philosophies will not usher in prosperity for the people while still having the old set of paradigms. We must transform that if we are to experience real change.

Copyright © 2018 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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