I began writing this portion of my blog at 35 thousand feet as i journeyed towards my homeland. My excitement built with each passing minute as I thought about reuniting with my family after 8 months, and getting the opportunity to participate in Jamaica’s 50th anniversary celebrations. The event was even more meaningful because I decided to take a friend along with me.
On many occasions I have thought about Jamaica’s history and tried to ascertain just how much progress we have made as a nation since independence. Political pundits and observers would no doubt point to the island’s failure in comparison to other nations in the Caribbean, with regards to maintaining economic stability. In addition, no one can ignore Jamaica’s astronomical crime rate, which at times have secured us the title “the most murderous country in the world.” Jamaica’s infrastructure highlights the struggle it has faced over the years, and the widening gap between the island’s rich and poor generates a high level of classicism among the inhabitants.
Needless to say I had some reservation about allowing my friend to visit with me. Why? He asked to see the real Jamaica, and not the Jamaica that is often advertised through the lens of tourism marketing campaigns. The real Jamaica would come as a shock to anyone. A Jamaica were families live in fear, and nighttime activities are limited due to threats to ones own security. A Jamaica where guns and not rational thought are used to resolve dispute. I was apprehensive to allow anyone to witness the side of Jamaica I feared most.
As we landed I became overjoyed at the thought of how Jamaicans have overcome adversity on many occasions to become a well known brand across the world. In addition as I gazed at the mountains I was reminded of Jamaica’s outstanding geographical beauty. I knew for certain that my guest would appreciate the islands natural beauty but I shuddered at the thought of how our social structure might impress upon him.
Exiting the Normal Manley International airport we drove by some of the islands industrial plants such as the Cement Factory and Flour mills located along the way. My heart sank as I revealed to my guest that the factories we had just seen were no longer owned by the Jamaican people but instead by foreign entities, such as the government of Trinidad and Tobago. I found myself having to retell the same tale as we drove past our electricity power plant owned and operated by a United States based company.
The fall of our industrial economy was minuscule compared to the social infrastructure of the island we eventually came across. The income disparity between Jamaica’s citizens was so vast indicating the eradication of a viable middle class. It became evident that in Jamaica you are either rich or poor. The poor in Jamaica have hit rock bottom, a phrase made real every time our vehicle landed into what I term a deep trench, sometimes referred to locally as a pot hole. The condition of our roads demonstrated to me that Jamaica has a far way to go in order to reach standards of modernization that is evident within the developed world.
I kept my thoughts to myself and only wondered about what my guest must have thought as he saw the very ills I just explained. Eventually we arrived at our resort which provided an escape from the “real Jamaica.” At last we were greeted by the beautiful beach and the privilege of an all inclusive resort with several open bars. Every morning we awoke to a beautiful sunrise and pristine white sand beaches. Together we enjoyed the brief moment of life in the utopian world of a resort community. One evening my guest challenged me to a walk with him into the center of town surrounding the resort. No soon did we leave the resort had we been approached by an individual asking if we needed to purchase Jamaican marijuana. At our objection, the vendor proceeded to list a number of other illicit drugs to garner our interest. As we kept walking we were bombarded by people asking us to visit their individual shops to find an item to purchase. The experience was highly irritating as we felt we were in a car dealership on steroids. I eventually decided for us to return to the hotel in order to escape the “please buy from me” market place.
We enjoyed the comforts of the hotel for a few more days and then journeyed back to the capital city of Kingston for the remainder of our stay. The welcoming pot holes in Kingston and the site of numerous homeless individuals helped to demonstrate that Jamaica’s social misfortune is not an isolated problem. Additionally my guest observed the tendency of many Jamaicans to have a disregard for authority. I wept on the inside as I once again discovered that a significant portion of Jamaica’s problem rest with the the people and not the government. Indiscipline is the order of the day for Jamaica, wether it’s on the road or through private and business interaction. The nation’s elected representatives are no different. Their behavior while conducting the business of the country is mediocre at best. The hostility sometimes displayed in parliament is reminiscent of a crowded fish market. Jamaicans for the most part fail to hold their elected leaders accountable, instead politics is viewed as a sporting event that occurs once every four or five years, and the aim is to win. Forget policies! Winning is all that matters.
While Jamaica certainly has a lot to be proud of, one must admit that within 50 years of independence our level of growth in comparison to other nations is extremely poor. We have failed constantly as a nation in meeting the needs of citizens through a political process that is free, fair, and consistent. The large majority of citizens that participate in the electoral polls remain ignorant of the repercussions of their simply act on election day. Until Jamaicans begin to demand more for themselves and purpose to live a way of life that respects all people and indeed our nation; Jamaica will never be truly independent. Many of us have failed Jamaica, myself included. The question must now be asked, what can I do to make Jamaica a better place?
© Dimitri Lyon and dimitrilyon.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dimitri Lyon and dimitrilyon.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.