These are difficult and dark days for our nation. Our future, the Future of the next generation, our children, are threatened. As matured citizens we have a responsibility from which we ought not to hide.
Despair and apathy are among the most debilitating forces challenging the Jamaican community. As we prepare to begin the New Year most Jamaicans feel like everything is changing, individually we are just realising we are powerless in a wave of crisis and so we sit, listen, chat and are watching it all happen. The days of banking on visa’s, work permit, green card to some how flee the local conflict has finally come head on with the fact that Jamaica’s local problems are part of a greater world wide crisis. Jamaicans are sitting, some getting more obese than ever while others face malnutrition in the same communities. Homeless, Aids victims and mentally ill persons are increasingly facing discrimination and the sympathy that would normally result in action is not forth coming, for the wealthy are profiling in necklaces and wheels the price tags which could feed entire villages pretending as if it is business as usual.
Grass Roots Decay
The Jamaican people are hard pressed to survive in an atmosphere of perpetual wars and in many ways are becoming apathetic and unconcerned about the implications of their actions or for that matter lack thereof. This is evident as mysterious foreign habits have emerged on local soil and are now competing with core community values. Traditional roots of Jamaica are being starved by a non participatory ethic of its citizens. I don’t get the feeling most Jamaicans understand the seriousness of what is happening to their country. Its simple, If we all don’t choose to participate in effecting change for a common good then our nation, our heritage and our people shall perish.
We- the community- have watched as banks limit our entry to their halls. After building their names on senior citizens wealth these banking institutions today charge unheard of service fees and layoff staff complements in droves while telling their customers that banking is about meeting their shareholders targets. Their new prescription for business survival have forced the aged and young into the streets. Daily honest and productive Jamaicans now stand in long lines at automated teller machines, in burning sun and drenching rains before being forced when these machine experience failure to travel miles to transact their own monies.
The old structures of grass roots community organisation which would have held out in protest to sinful elitist decisions by banks have been replaced by individual complaints. The fact however is that personal letters have no chance of changing or resisting the system. The sophisticated bank has sort to pick off each customer one by one with their form letters, and now bypass the public outrage. The ill informed community sedately accept the unjust judgement without actively responding together and thus are still holding the blade.
Carefree, lah lah land public negligence continues in matters of health as well. For even as early studies show that cellular technology may perhaps be harmful to human beings, in particular the health of children. Our people seem to have cared little about life expectancy consequences, leisurely we have let cellular towers into a greater portion of the local community without any resistance.
Jamaica’s Churches have also stand guilty as charged, watching daily as increasingly churches become consumer bargain centres. Main street Ocho Rios is such an example, the old Baptist church hall have become a haberdashery for people to peddle wears, exchanging goods and money. An historic church building, a monument of Christian witness in the garden parish of St. Ann where my father and mother exchanged wedding vows and where I got Christen turned into a den of thieves.
Jamaicans are at a cross roads and we must now choose our fate. Each of us must decide what we will do. The time for action is now, if Jamaicans miss this opportunity for change now it is going to take another 20 years if ever for the community to recover. The foundations of the nation are under fierce threats, social, spiritual and moral structures are being vandalised because we sit and watch. It is imperative for us to act now.
In a capitalist free market ideal most believe they have to be paid for their service in the community lest they will be viewed as stupid, quashee, alli-button, working for nothing.
Other citizens are motivated by recognition, and status and still others by a concern for participating in grass roots organisation which can help them fight back the injustices and oppressive nature of the corporate, greed monsters, king pins and big wigs.
For me Jamaica’s problems today have less to do with a failure of government than it has to do with a failure of our community response mechanism to crisis. The local micro- community seem to be lingering in a state of moral bankruptcy, in a conflict over good and evil. The people seem to have been bartering away the holy communion of spirit. In such a crisis of what is right and wrong, the communities ability to combat the stronghold of the enemy is being lost because our own people are being deluded by the mystery of evil entrenched in the greedy commercial maxim of profits, wealth and riches above all things. Economic profits, capital returns are being worshipped as the ultimate resource of wealth. Social and human capital watches on and individuals believe that it is useless if they are not being paid dollars and cents to work, and thus our common- unity in spirit is disintegrating before our eyes.
Community Action now more than Ever
Jamaicans have got to get back to the grass roots ethic of socialising fast. Today most of our conversation takes place over the phone, via the Internet, and most of our productive energy is expelled in the competitive work place environment. In contrast we are almost absent from our community citizens associations, churches and community social/ political clubs. This aloofness has rendered our grass roots networks weak, lethargic, and malignant, because there is a lack of constant flow of new blood, energy, love into the tried- proven –tested foundational organisations of our society.
These organisations themselves which were committed to building from roots up have in many ways become outdated and less compatible with a radically growing society of new expectations, wants and needs. Our churches, political organisations, civil bodies, have started to empty out especially those which don’t have a robust youth complement because the young and bright are finding it difficult to connect with the old and dominant hierarchy which fears “youth blood” involvement.
Polarisation and divisiveness in the church is no different than tribalism of the secular political associations. So, corruption, crime and injustice have become ingrained in the national fabric, yet the moral order cannot afford to allow evil to displace the common good in a flood of more blood, death and mayhem.
The methodology of the church, civil associations, service clubs, political organisations remain weak in their application today because they are alienating and frustrating many young people. The hopelessness that has gripped the minds and hearts of the people need to be overhauled with some amount of urgency. Many of the older heads need to prepare away for the young and stop being a stumbling block in the life of the community life.
Civil society stand to benefit from the stabilising of the community at the roots, and should seek to equip the youths with every positive tool necessary to help them to defend themselves from the apathetic pitfalls of drugs, prostitution, jails and sexual disease.
The anti –Aids campaign has started without the church being involved, this while the church has managed to have the most effective message for overcoming the plague. More church halls need to be opened up for socialisation daily, allowing the young, children, teens, and adults to participate in more meaningful activities. If the church remain for the people sporting activities, free educational courses, dispute resolution sessions and health clinics need to be more visibly administered and promoted as stress and crisis management tactics among all the peoples more frequently.
Support Our Churches Non Profits and Service Clubs
In a country that supposedly have the most churches pre square kilometre on earth, Jamaica has only three active YMCA’s, half way tree, spanish town, and montego bay. No YMCA activity centre exist in the Downtown, Kingston area nor is their one at East or Western Kingston nor Portmore.
Most of the Non-profit organisations in Jamaica are operating at reduced budgets. In a crisis prone world these organisations become easily stretched and are now burdened with overwhelming responsibilities. The majority of our citizens are sitting and waiting for government or United Nations to provide all the social services for their comforts.
The difficulty is that support for social networks are becoming less possible in most of the first world societies much less a country riddled in debt like ours.
It is almost unacceptable for government to provide all the social services the nation requires. Yet the demand for these services persists. Where are the volunteers to help the community lobby to secure and preserve a sustainable environment. Where are the people to help hound the banks, bargain commercial centres and keep the pressure on the money grabbers who today inherited a greater stake in our country. Similar to public servants, private businesses leaders are servants and are accountable to their constituents. They are responsible to the needs and demands of the people and should be held in check by the citizenry as well.
Individualism the Author of Confusion
Our citizens need to stop spending all their disposable income on themselves and give back more to the community. We have to start nurturing our people, rebuild our communities, beautify our yards, street, lanes. Slums exist because the people harbour them, sadly cycling a feeling of depression enables slums to persist. Without organised social interaction sports, worship at church, assembling at community association meetings the ghetto- depressed- communities will be forced to feed on wakes at death yard and give glory to God at funerals.
The wealthy in Jamaica are using their surplus on more techno toys, consuming more and watching poverty spread elsewhere in the community. The more these wealthy folks benefit from the use of newer clearer technologies they further their advancement, the poor in the same community meanwhile are finding it harder to adapt to the contemporary version of their nation. The island is now so fiercely complex an environment that their is not enough semi-skilled or unskilled employment available in comparison to the specialised jobs. Each time the poorer working class try to catch up, the upper crust of the society lifts the bar and weight and leaving the ambitious disillusioned.
The people of the community have got to take it upon themselves to renew rural agrarian agribusiness ethic, get the farms up and running again. Grass roots people have to try and contain the transformation of rural towns from an encroaching urban culture. If this is not done urgently, even if our children want to rescue themselves from the perpetual wars of techno -culture by reverting to the ways of their grandparents , rearing animals and producing fruits and vegetable to earn a honest living. They may never be able to find Land, for Jamaica’s quest for becoming thee ultimate ghetto paradise of slums and urban concrete jungle is now fiercely in play.
What are you doing about this community crisis. Click through to “helping Jamaicans help themselves” channel and support if not enlist to participate in a local non profit organisation and help offer a vision in the operation community outreach centres of your nation today.
About the Writer, Philip Dinham
Phil Dinham is a member of our Jamaica prime time news team. He remains a Jamaican citizen in Ft lauderdale, United States where he is studying Hospitality and Tourism management at broward community college. Philip is a certified media professional with over six years of experience in formal media relations and radio broadcasting. Comment on this article and all Jamaica Prime Time presentations by writing respective authors at [email protected]