The concept of the future seems designed to eliminate the past and eradicate the use of the euphemism “good old days” that is sometimes anathema to a new generation that cannot comprehend life without every modern convenience. In many ways it can be a blinkered approach to the easily stated references to “Vision 2030” of Jamaica or the “Millennium Goals” of the United Nations. The future and its lack of reference to the past seem to be a sort of cop-out on what we really want.
In an economic sense, the past had fewer debt burdens as our facility to borrow was limited. There were fewer technological employment options, and the dreams of parents from all societal levels were pointed towards the then high income or prestigious fields of medicine, nursing, and law; while engineering and architecture were “blue collar” skills slightly above tradesmen. For a long time the employment options for the less academic sons was in the Church, and teaching, which were “respectable” occupations and of high status in communities.
What the past held out was, however, a common ambition that was cross-cutting for all the various sectors of the society. To fail to advance your family through education was a cardinal sin. If only one of your 10 children could achieve the escape from menial work, then their responsibility clearly indicated that they should uplift their siblings. It was a family plan that could not fail. It was in itself a strategy for collective improvement. A plan “to raise children”. However it did not specify that that was necessarily in Jamaica, and many migrated in order to fulfil that promise to their siblings, and their parents. So for many, leaving for “greener pastures” in order to earn more and remit funds was also a part of the family dream. It is fair to say that many achieved this.
In the society it would be truthful to say that the educational exposure was not available on a fair and equitable basis. Certain schools (now called Traditional High Schools) were not accessible by the lower socio-economic strata in society, and this prevented many from achieving the top-level dream for some decades. The disadvantaged then had to turn to trades, or (God forbid) becoming common merchants in shops of all kinds. Thus emerged many of the families who have accumulated the wealth of retail and services over the years. It was therefore an unplanned windfall that broke the routes to the common tradition and ambitions of the times.
As a safe place to raise families, there were no grills and burglar bars. Rural survival was tenuous but possible, and murder and non-domestic violence were low. This really meant a simple coexistence, not a temporary survival of the most violent individuals, as we are faced with today. Children could walk or take the bus to and from school, and the Jamaica Omnibus Service and “country bus” did not kidnap young people so that they could be raped and murdered. The police were a part of the communities, and soldiers were in Camp (not patrolling the streets).
People could go to dances, clubs, movies, and walk home safely. Kingston harbour was clean and could provide seaside entertainment for families by the thousands every Saturday and Sunday. Picnic lunches were not confined to greasy foods, and public beaches had toilets. These activities were not confined to the cities, and St Thomas, Portland, St Mary, St Ann, Trelawny, St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, and St Catherine, offered similar delights.
Granny and mother cooked healthy foods in coconut oil, without genetic modification hormones and antibiotics; children went to Sunday schools with their parents (married or common-law); and dinner was in the back yard, not in the freezer. We shared dinner with less fortunate persons in the community, and in return they helped to raise and supervise our children when they were out of our sight.
So let us put the past achievements against the four pillars of the 2030 Vision.
- “Jamaicans are empowered to achieve their fullest potential” and I ask if that is new and different to the past achievements?
- “The Jamaican society is safe, cohesive and just” wasn’t that an old way of life?
- “Jamaica’s economy is prosperous.” Does this mean for all or just a few?
- “Jamaica has a healthy natural environment.” Does this include bauxite mining in the Cockpit Country, or copper and gold mining in Bellas Gate?
In a very tortuous trend of thought, I wonder who and what are the impediments to continuing a path that seemed to have accomplished all except point 3 above. I have to accept my own recall that “Wonder is a word for margarine” and a careful application and analysis with grease is important for exposing the persons and things that seem to have destroyed the halcyon days that we are hoping to achieve in the future.
Vision 2030 clearly outlines the need to eliminate corruption. In the same breath the “Dons” of downtown Kingston want a piece of the action in the rebuilding process. However there is no seeming position that suggests that they had been a part of the destruction process through succeeding periods of political violence, no cross zones, uprooted drain covers to block roads and lanes, drug gangs, and now wanton random shootings that murder innocent adults, children and babies.
Yes there is a Christian sentiment that favours repentance, but only in certain circumstances that require some kind of genuine change. Like Saul on the road to Damascus we need to have the assurance of the transformation to Paul. I think we need to view the new development as a possible response to the new zone policing that started in St James and will inevitably come to other hot spots, including Kingston. Yes, there is a possibility for change, but with the clear understanding that recidivism is not an option.
This will mean a lot of changes, including open spaces without zinc screening; proper water and sewage services; modern garbage disposal; no illegal electricity connections; street lights; free movement of people; removal of the tribal war names; and cooperation with the law enforcement agencies. These changes will affect more than the indicated 30 Dons, so can they give any commitments for other citizens that would ensure a new road forward that will ultimately cede their enforcer domination status to the rule of law for the benefit of the whole community?
I feel amazed that “Back to the Future” is, in reality, a feeling of déjà vu, and that in many ways our young people are trying to find a “lost city of gold” that we have allowed to be totally mined-out. El Dorado, Nirvana, and Atlantis, are all destinations of the past. I would simply like to live with my best friend Aggrey Irons in the Jamaican state of NAGIS (not a ghetto in sight) with no need for our families to migrate out of fear.