I have been writing articles with the intent to inform and challenge our citizens and leaders to think deeply and act propitiously on the root issues which hinder our nation’s progress and prosperity. I believe I am in touch with the realities and I issue both a call and a warning for serious action to avert the catastrophe which will come if we do not face the truth and act fast. Time is limited.
I am also bringing attention to these issues because we have a new-era prime minister and a new Opposition leader and an overall season of transition. The best time and opportunity for the nation to step away from the precipitous cliff is now. It is time for us to be led along a restorative path by visionary leaders who are unafraid to confront the negatives and propel us into the greatness that lies before us.
We all know that there are moral and social issues which threaten our economic development and prosperity. These issues manifest in high levels of crime and violence, oppression, injustice, and poverty. What many of us don’t know is the critical extent of the issues and their grave impact on many citizens who live in the inner cities and rural areas of our nation.
The transformation must come in for focal attention now and over the next couple years. Without this transformation the sustained growth and prosperity development agenda is a pipe dream.
Our current zones of special operations (ZOSO) programme, though well-intentioned and providing necessary social services and welcome respite for the citizens, it will not create a lasting reduction in lawlessness unless the core issues of political tribalism, garrisons and the donmanship culture are also addressed. It will create a temporary lull in crime in the zone because of the heightened police and military presence, but this level of security force deployment is not sustainable.
Placing pressure on pockets of our island may yield a few guns and the arrest of young males; however, experience shows that the really dangerous perpetrators will simply run to other areas of our island with their guns and paramilitary equipment. If our Government is prepared to commit a large percentage of the national budget to chasing the criminals, and adding new ZOSOs wherever they run, then that may eventually rein in the criminals. However, that extended permanent or simultaneous ZOSO approach really means making our country a police state. That’s not sustainable or wise, given the state of our police force.
Our garrison & leadership challenge
The fact is that the major moral, social and economic problems fester in our garrison communities. It is also out of these communities, controlled by their donmanship culture, that most of our disruptive males emerge to commit their nation-disrupting deeds. (That is not to say that the amoral and immoral characteristics that drive them reside only in them; our moral problems are in all strata of our society). However, the transformation needed to make these communities operate prosperously is going to depend heavily on the type of leadership over the constituencies where garrison-style conditions prevail.
I mentioned in an article entitled ‘Enough is enough’ in the The Agenda of Sunday, August 27, that if the parties are committed to a new way then they must urgently ensure that the leaders of garrison constituencies are able to bring the needed change. If not, they must either get help or get out of the way. No new leaders with the old mindset of divisive politics should be placed over these constituencies.
Leadership is about influence. If a so-called leader cannot influence the followers for positive change, then that person is not a leader. I said then, and repeat now, any current politician in a garrison constituency either established it or is maintaining it. The time for change is now!
Those who cannot influence the change must be asked to vacate the seat as they are unable to serve the best interests of the people.
Reject the blame game
I heard the spokespeople of the warring political tribes this past week continuing the same decades-old, confrontational arguing about the existence of the prevailing negative conditions — crime, under-education of the majority, stunted economic growth, and other related matters. They were simply blaming each other for the existence of the problems and not taking responsibility or doing anything to solve it. It’s pathetic. I had hoped we were moving past that.
Both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People’s National Party (PNP) are responsible for the division that has plunged us into the morass we find ourselves in. Neither has done much to change the conditions, whether in short terms in office or long ones. Since Independence, the PNP has served for 30 years and the JLP for 24, give or take a few months on either side. Neither has done anything to deal with the problems they created — tribalism, garrisons, and donmanship, not to mention helping to corrupt the police force.
The large numbers of youth who are undereducated, and therefore unemployable, did not spring up yesterday. This is the result of decades of neglect. When in power both parties have focused 90 per cent of their attention on the economy and related issues. The result is that there is no real change, only worsening social ills and, for the most part, no economic growth.
They have been a dismal failure, so there’s nothing to be arguing over, except who failed most effectively. They are wasting time while the nation is on the verge of imploding and the majority of its people are suffering.
This underscores what was said last week — the two generals need to call a truce to facilitate peace and pave the way for uniting the nation. Only then can we be strong enough to produce the needed progress and prosperity.
No nation can increase developmentally while serious moral and social decline is taking place. We cannot rise to our best potential with high numbers of uneducated, unemployable, hopeless and frustrated youth. We cannot prosper with a deepening sense of injustice with heightened corruption and low trust in law enforcement and the justice system. We will not excel with deteriorating social amenities and loss of faith in the institutions of governance by the majority of the citizens.
Fire deh a muss-muss tail
Have you ever seen a cake that caught your eye with its beauty but repulsed your taste buds when tasted? That’s where we are right now as a nation. We are like a lovely, layered cake, but beneath the veneer of beauty lies the ticking time bomb of unaddressed conditions that are repulsive, distasteful, and even waiting to explode. We are looking at progress and prosperity, but we are a time bomb waiting to detonate unless the fuse is extinguished.
We look at all the expensive cars and fine-looking buildings that are going up. They give the appearance that all is well. But they are a false measure of progress and prosperity. Beneath the veneer of development, there is rapid social deterioration. There are more guns now on the streets than ever before. We have more dons than ever. Sexual immorality is increasing. More and more youth have no sense of right and wrong. Look at all the indices that measure social behaviour. It is easy for the outward appearance to create a level of complacency that destroys the urgency for action in our dilemma. Fire deh ah muss-muss tail, him tink ah cool breeze.
No false alarm
To those who may be tempted to think that I am being alarmist, please, let me state I am not guessing about the situation as outlined. I am on the ground and in touch with the reality. I am giving the facts, and I’m confident that they cannot be challenged. It is what it is. Neither am I a fearful pessimist. On the contrary, I am full of faith and optimism and excited at the potential and possibilities for transformation.
The current national leadership in all spheres must find the will and the way. We are in it. If we do not find immediate solutions there is no doubt in my mind that further rapid deterioration is certain.
We must understand that the nation needs radical attention. The social landscape is worsening and we cannot fix the social ills without fixing the underlying moral problems. We must ensure that the social interventions are targeted in the way that deals with the root problems that are facing us.
The country does need planned intervention by the leadership of the nation — not only the political leadership, though. It has to be political leadership together with members of civil society, including the Church, the private sector, entertainers, and all who are serious about nation-building.
‘Either/Or’ or ‘Both/And’?
As a nation, we must give God thanks and be grateful for every sign of improvement in any area of national life. We can certainly give thanks for the one per cent growth in the economy last year and the projected 2.3 per cent that the Planning Institute of Jamaica predicts for this year. Whereas it is a good sign, it is not presently improving the conditions being experienced by the majority of citizens. It is not producing change where it really matters — change that enables the economic gains to be sustained and increased.
My deep concern is that, in the zeal to push and strive for economic growth and sound fiscal management, we miss giving equal and simultaneous attention to the moral and social elements on which economic sustainability depends. It is not ‘either/or’, but ‘both/and’. They must develop together, and if more weight is to be placed on either side, it must be on the moral and social development side to ensure peace and justice and a prosperous Jamaica that works for all.
Copyright © 2017 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.