There are certain life lessons that you can only learn in the struggle. — Idowu Koyenikan
COVID 19 is visiting our nation with an unmistakable presence, speaking loudly in lessons we cannot afford to miss. Neither can we afford to wait for the end of the class to begin applying some of the lessons. Early application in early stages of the class can determine how well we come out at the end.
I am confident it will not be a long class if we pay attention, prepare to change, and start engaging action now!
The path we have been on to achieve progress and prosperity is not sustainable, despite all the gains we have made. The evidence to prove this is in a matter discussed a few weeks ago in a previous article. The nation cannot continue to depend primarily on tourism as 71 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). COVID 19 has confirmed that we cannot build on tourism as our primary earner or pillar of our economy. Our new era prime minister, I am sure, with his planners, will speedily lead us to restore and explore the other sectors and areas to stimulate sustainable development. As I posited before, tourism must be only “brawta in wi economy”.
In the list of COVID-19 lessons food security is key. We must desist from using good arable land for housing; build on hillsides, on limestone and clay base soils. Developers think only of ease and speed for economic gain. Government has to think long term and of the best overall national development to secure a hope and a future for our people.
My heart cries for a few serious nation lovers and thinkers to join me in coming together beyond political party lines to plan and find solutions to support our Government to move our nation to greatness and true prosperity. We have to love country enough to act now before it is too late.
It is an imperative that we alter our direction fast to give real hope for the future. Political parties, while in Government, are not seemingly able to do this kind of strategic planning, and the Opposition is too busy opposing and yearning to get into power to do it; hence the country suffers.
In conjunction with a new approach to land use, agriculture and small farmers development must take centre stage. New technologies must be brought into the picture so that hotels can depend on local agricultural instead of imports. Why aren’t we the primary suppliers of vegetables, food, and fruits to all our hotels and also visiting cruise ships? Manufacturing and production in niche market areas based on our natural resources must become a central focus of this new-era Government and any other that may lead us.
Many of us have known for a while how fickle our dependence on tourism has been, but too many of the people that matter have been asleep in class. Let’s wake up, learn the lessons, and pass the test! We must now aggressively look at our economic development options, then plan and act accordingly.
Many Christians, over the years, have prophesied that oil and minerals are here and will be found. If we ever needed such discoveries before, we sure do need them now. But are we ready to manage the prosperity creating inflows such discoveries could bring?
The much-talked-about Vernamfield multi-modal project with airport, trans-shipment port and logistics hub, needs to be back on the front burner of national development. This could be one of our prosperity pathways to becoming a modern, prosperous, new-style financial and logistics centre.
COVID-19 has taught us — or moreso reminded us — that we are extremely dependent and connected to each other. For 58 years we have allowed disconnection and division among us, based on religion, addresses, political affiliations, earning and hue of skin. COVID-19 uses none of those separations to determine who it will embrace. The real irony is that this virus has forced us apart so that we can be reminded that we belong together. One song popular some years ago said it this way, “We’re all in this thing together, we gotta work it out…” That’s now gospel truth!
By the way, this eminds me that kudos are due to the Opposition Leader for reaching out to our neighbour Cuba to secure their expertise and help. I know some people accused him of grandstanding to score cheap political points. However, I certainly don’t believe that was his motive. I would prefer to believe that he did so because he put Jamaica first. It’s an established historical fact that the People’s National Party (PNP), over the years, developed closer ties with Cuba than the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) did, and subsequently may have closer friendships in the Cuban Government and other sectors.
When this is over, and even while we together struggle to overcome, I hope that spirit of working together will continue. It needs all of us in full compliance with the prime minister, minister of health, and the team of professionals who are continuing to do an excellent job. Some of us will have to share our wealth and resources so that your neighbours can survive and rebound from this awful time. Church, let’s set the example! Let’s make the recorded history of Acts 2:44 – 45 our present reality: “Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
Let’s use this time also to ingrain new and better hygiene habits to reduce the virus spread and infections. We must admit that we are not as sharp as our parents were in this area of social development. Basic civility has taken a back seat in many communities. Some blame it on poverty, but I don’t. I blame it on thinking! For there are some opinion leaders and academics who have warped our thinking. They made us believe that certain basic tenets of civility were no longer necessary for building a great nation. But it’s evident to us all right now that good hygiene and good manners (“good morning”, “please”, “thank you”) are as necessary to a prosperous economy as good economics.
So let us observe all the hygiene protocols and techniques that will destroy this virus. Let’s use the time at home to clean up and remove breeding grounds for mosquitoes, bacteria, and viruses. Let’s teach our children how to sneeze and cough correctly and safely. The virus shows the need for lifestyle behavioural change for the personal and common good.
Let’s give the prime minister confidence to lock down for another seven days and possible close our orders completely if considered necessary to defeat this virus. It is better to do that than have it dragged out.
We need to return to the God of our fathers and call on him for help because we are weak and limited without Him. Notice with all our knowledge, resources, abilities, and achievements how easily everything can be wiped out. The President of the USA Donald Trump was wise enough to call a national day of prayer for last Sunday, remembering the foundation on which that nation was built as reflected on their currency with the words “In God We Trust”.
It is not by chance they became the top nation in the world. It is not by chance Israel is a world leader in so many ways and cannot be destroyed by their many and larger enemies. They are blessed and protected by Jehovah.
It is not by chance that Jamaica has been preserved and is a world leader in so many ways. Before you disparage and flush what I am saying, ask any national or international economist worth their salt and they will tell you that Jamaica should have imploded economically and socially long ago. There is no natural explanation as to why we survived when others didn’t (think Argentina or Rwanda). Not only are we surviving, we are growing!
Our national anthem is a prayer, and we were founded on Christian principles and faith as the two countries mentioned above. Good to see that our prime minister last week realised that churches ought not to be all closed as prayer is a critical component to fight this virus. Our governor general, a man of faith set by God over this nation for such a time as this, called for two days of national prayer — March 21 and 22, 2020. I hope we all took it seriously and humble ourselves before God.
Based on the above we can take hope that we will overcome this virus early to be among the first countries to defeat it. Such is the power of faith over fear.
COVID-19 has spoken and we must hear and learn the many lessons. The economic lessons teach us that we cannot continue business as usual. We must upgrade, retool, or find new opportunities that can become new and substantial pillars in our economy. The social lessons remind us that we are all equal and vulnerable and interdependent. We need each other and must be our brother’s keeper, and our culture of hygiene and good manners must once again be standardised regardless of who you are and where you’re from in Jamaica. The spiritual lessons point us to the need for individual reflection and need for reconnecting to divinity in light of eternity.
Fear continues to grip the hearts of many and be their dominant state in this whole COVID-19 pandemic. It has subsequently created debate and, in some instances, conflict among Christians over the motivation behind actions; whether it is fear or faith. That debate will continue for a long time to come.
What COVID-19 has done is to present a test for both Christian leaders and followers to evaluate themselves on the state and strength of their faith. One thing is for sure, it calls for faith to cope in the midst of real cause for fear. Both sides of the debate must accept the truth that the presence of faith does not necessarily mean an absence of fear, but the presence of courage in the face of fear derived from faith in the truth believed.
Last week I opined that fear must inform not guide; it must be slave and not master. Let me encourage us all not to give in to our fears, but have faith knowing that God is for us and we will overcome this pandemic.
A fundamental two-pronged strategy that never fails to produce results for a people desirous of conquering in any endeavour or a common enemy is unity. Without it the battle is more difficult or impossible to win. We all must come together to beat this virus.
The second key strategy is love. Love of God, which best enables love of neighbour, should be our primary response in this crisis. When love informs and guides action we will think and act not, first and foremost, in self-interest, but in the best interest of others. Invariably, when we think in the best interest off others our interest is taken care of by God. Let’s us protect others and ourselves from this virus, look out for each other and be of help as much as possible. Fear not, we shall overcome.
When we apply this combined strategy of unity and love, we, as a people, can defeat any force that comes against us. It is time for us not only to defeat COVID-19, but imagine if we use this same approach with same intensity to tackle our crime virus, our injustice virus, our corruption virus, and our disorder virus. A dat fi happen!
Copyright © 2020 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.