If Jamaica is to win… Part 2

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The thought of a new year often brings hope in the expectation that things will be better; and so it should! A new year usually brings new resolutions and promises to self and others of new and greater achievements. These indicate that we understand that the full authority rests with the individual to plan and organise in such a way as to produce the desired outcomes. So, here’s to 2020!

I feel the hope, and hope you do too. If you do, let’s keep hope alive and make 2020 the year we advance to overcome the issues that are holding us and our nation back.

Two situations in the first week of the year have given me that warm feeling of hope. The first came from attending the Portmore Power of Faith’s annual Heal the Family, Heal the Nation Conference hosted by Bishop Delford Davis and his wife at the National Arena. It has become a significant event for our nation for the last 15 years.

I heard both leaders of our political parties in their addresses recognise that at the root of Jamaica’s social problems (as evidenced by our grievous crime and violence) are the issues of the breakdown of family and the need for individual responsibility. Both leaders clearly inferred that it is strong families, in which the right values are taught, that build strong nations.

Taking the platform first, Dr Peter Phillips, leader of the Opposition, spoke about the importance of healing the family in order to create a healthy society. He indicated that if his party was to form the next Government he would establish an institute to teach family values and strengthen our families to fortify the moral fabric of our society. He challenged the audience to engage in greater ways to build strong families and serve for the best development of our nation.

Next up, our new-era prime minister sounded like a powerful preacher on a Sabbath or Sunday morning. In making the point of the need for citizens to take individual responsibility he referenced Romans 12: 17-19:

“17) Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18) If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19) Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

The prime minister importantly spoke of the “you” factor; emphasising the fact that each of us has a role to play in being the solution to the nation’s problems, and particularly in the fight against crime. He said we can choose to live peaceably with each other. We can choose not to take revenge. We can choose not to condone gunmen, even if they are family members. And, we can choose to report where guns are. He opined “If we all choose to live at peace with everyone the crime problem would be solved.”

Andrew Holness revealed that his Government intended to take a more total approach to crime; not just a policing approach, but also a community development approach and a spiritual and values development approach.

I am ecstatic about both speeches because it offers real hope of change. Our leaders are finally prepared to deal with the source and not the symptoms of our social ills. If this thinking gains momentum in 2020 then the resulting momentum should robustly carry us to our important Vision 2030 Jamaica year.

But we must be First World without First-World problems. Imagine having a First-World economy, infrastructure, and systems without the failed or weak social system due to poor and deteriorating moral values and family life of many of the current First-World nations. We should learn from their mistakes and not pattern the errors. Therefore, they cannot become our teachers on the social foundation for a strong economy and nation.

Their base is eroding and causing their decline. This is reflected in their either building more prisons for the expected fallout, or increasing more freedoms to individual feelings void of personal responsibility. People doing and being whoever they feel they are, and mistakenly calling them rights (whether child or adult), plus their rejection of God and any clear shared common values, are features of many countries considered First World.

Our recommitting to the vision and values of our founding fathers, as reflected in our national motto, anthem, and pledge provide us the solid base for greatness and advancing the welfare of the whole human race.

But, are we ready to do what it takes? Are we now prepared to commit to look at the root issues of family and individual responsibility? Are we ready to subsequently engage policy and strategies that will result in the kind of individuals who will express love of neighbour and nation with the right work ethic? If Jamaica is to win we must!

My second warm feeling of hope was the new infrastructure development which has resulted in less congested roadways. The beginning of the school term and the months following until holidays have, for years, been a horrendous time for those who had children enrolled in school and those who had to get to work early. However there was a marked difference last week as the new school term opened. I want to congratulate the National Works Agency (NWA) and our new friends China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) on the work they did to have everything flow. It would have been frustrating after all the inconvenience we endured if there had not been a very evident improvement in the traffic flow. It felt good. I am sure commuters are appreciative and feel good about this.

However, we must be concerned. While this road improvement is nice and good, we could be back in a similar and worst situation in a few years’ time if we do not address some issues in our planning now. We are aware of the serious and frustrating congestion problems. And we know the man-hours lost and time wasted in traffic come at significant economic cost and grave social cost to the nations and families. Consider having to live with that without hope of change.

If our policymakers and technocrats do not take the right avoidance measures now it is not a tomorrow issue, it is for today. At the runaway rate at which we are continuing to import vehicles the crisis looms. The national conditions are forcing more citizens to feel compelled to own a car to be able to function adequately. Although owning a vehicle will condemn them to debt and poverty for the rest of their lives unnecessarily as they cannot afford it, they see no options. Good governance must care enough and plan and act that our nation does not allow this calamity on our people.

As a nation we have to rethink the rate which we are importing vehicles.The importation of cars has been used by governments as a revenue stream, but that cannot continue to take priority over the best interest of the people. It must be curtailed.

Population growth is inevitable and, consequently, more people want to commute easily and freely opt to get a vehicle. This kind of thinking would not be en vogue if we had an efficient and comfortable public transport system.

Last week, in part one of this piece, I posited that we, Jamaicans, are an amazing people, resilient and determined. We can do whatever we set our minds to. Some readers disputed this, and someone even suggested that it was not applicable to our parliamentarians. However, I firmly believe that I am correct, and I am hopeful that this new year will see us setting our minds to planning and organising in such an amazing way, so as to produce the desired outcomes in both the little issues and big issues that are currently holding back this Jamaica, land we love.

Copyright © 2020 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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