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Text Box: Editor’s Note: 
In this piece, Valerie Dixon, our Caribbean Correspondent, based in Jamaica, set out on a search for Jamaica’s leadership audit trail, in order to discover the root of contemporary Jamaica’s social, economic and political dynamics.   
In her lament,  because of missed opportunities, Valerie scolded successive Jamaican leaders since 1962 for their failures to educate the Jamaican people in looking beyond the narrow tribal political two party divides. ‘Jamaicans should be taught to put Jamaica’s interest before individual interest. They should be taught to work collectively for the good of the many,’ Valerie insisted. She thinks that ‘The Golden Rule’, which was established in 1944, is being violated by many of today’s leaders. 
That Rule, emphasised by real Jamaican leaders, taught Jamaicans to help each other for the good of the Country and the Nation.  Valerie’s clarion call is for Jamaica’s modern leadership to get back to basics, the winning formula known from 1944 up to the early 1960s laid down by the Founding Fathers of modern Jamaica, full of care,  compassion and opportunities for ordinary people.
Editorial Collective
Self-Help News—’Giving Voice to the Voiceless’
12 March 2008


Of late, every time I hear our motto “Out of many - one people” I cringe because I have come to realize that this is a lie we have been fed since gaining Independence in 1962. 


I am not sure that achieving adult suffrage in 1944 was such a great achievement because I don’t see where the majority of the population is any better off economically, socially and morally so many years later.  In my opinion, I think the majority of black Jamaicans are worst off than before they gained the right to vote.


Great Opportunity


A great opportunity was presented to the leaders of the day to educate the mostly landless and mostly uneducated population about what having the right to vote really meant and the huge responsibility having such a right really carries.  It is at this juncture that they should have explained in simple ways that having a vote means you are a shareholder or an owner in this company called Jamaica as Tony Laing used to say. 


That is if in 1944 all the things that Jamaica owned (assets) were added up and came to a total of $1million dollars for argument sake, and there were 1 million people living on the island at the time; then each person would own $1 worth of Jamaica regardless of his colour, race or creed.


At no time in our History, especially before and right after full Emancipation in 1838 was such a lesson ever taught.  Instead, the perception that was indelibly printed on the minds of the Black population was that Jamaica is owned and ruled by the white and brown people who spring from the ethnic groups that came to Jamaica during and after the period of slavery and are still coming as we speak. 


Black people came as Africans who were transformed into slaves when they reached the New World colonized by Europeans.    Black people became their chattel, just like their horses, dogs, goats and their other possessions.  If something is indelibly printed it means it is difficult to remove but it is not impossible to remove it. 


Entrenched ‘Democratic’ Tribes


However, instead of removing this perception, the leaders of the day further engrained it by dividing the new voters into 2 parties and the leadership of each party gave the impression that they owned their members or supporters.  Today, these voters are known as “die-hearted” members and supporters who are deeply entrenched into 2 opposing “tribes”.


In 1962, when we were granted our Independence from Britain, some person or persons came up with the grand idea to invent a motto that says “Out of Many, One People”, believing that all the many races and groups of people living on the island, would buy into this motto and work harmoniously towards nation building.  Well, as a young person going to a then grammar school, I believed that by the time I became an adult, Jamaica would indeed have become a united and a great little country. 


We had potentials


We had so much potential that I also believed we would have fulfilled the Biblical pronouncement that says “and a little child shall lead them”.  Since we are predominantly a Black country and a relatively young country (like a child), here was an opportunity for us to become a new race of people called Jamaicans born out of many tribes and races from Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, who are so talented and bright that we could lead the world and be an example to others of how well this little nation is doing economically, socially and morally.  I was obviously full of ‘youthful exuberance’.


Instead, we have remained just like what we must have been like in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East many different tribes, races and factions fighting each other or just fighting for survival.  The sad truth is that the fighting is still going on today, especially among factions of the Black population and many of us are guilty of turning a ‘blind eye’ to the atrocities that are happening, just as it must have happened during the time of our ancestors.  By turning a ‘blind eye’ we too are hoping to either escape from or profit from selling-out to modern day slave traders and slave owners.


Bad things happened


Another opportunity presented itself in 1972 for all racial groups to come together so that we could be galvanized into a great little nation.  But as the saying goes “bad things happen” and disillusionment of the 70s became the order of the day.  Some of us still held on to the dream and we gave our children African and Africanized names and still others (unfortunately too few) refuse to buy and wear other people’s hair and still sport natural hair styles today. 


A glimmer of hope shone in the 1980s, but this hope was again dashed because our motto “Out of many one people” meant nothing.  Racial discrimination reared its ugly head once more against the then leadership of the country and the economic recovery that was about to happen fizzed like a wet fire cracker.


Black Man Time and Spiritual Values?


Then we entered the decade of the 1990s and being the eternal optimist, I was again hopeful.  I was hopeful that the ‘economic uptick’ started by the apparently well-disliked (at the time) ‘white man’ would have been carried on by the Fresh Prince and his Black Knights, because they came into office under the slogan “Black Man Time Now”. 


To date, I don’t think there has ever been a truer slogan uttered in Jamaican politics.  There was no mention or reference to Black MEN, Black WOMEN and/or Black CHILDREN.  However, a new tribe known as the ‘Genetically Connected’ was culled mainly from among members of the Private Sector and they were ‘squeezed in’ under the ‘Black Man Time Now’ umbrella.  Well it seemed that as the Jamaican saying goes, the majority of the population ‘get wha di duck get’ and we know that whatever the duck got, it wasn’t good.


From all appearances, it seemed that these leaders turned our spiritual values, morals and attitudes on their heads; in that they believed having more material goods would bring them happiness.  In their quest for more and more loot, they forgot about good governance.  They forgot about justice and human rights and they forgot about protecting and keeping us safe.  They forgot about creating the climate that could create jobs, they forgot about the environment, they forgot about the people - but they remembered to look after themselves.


Failure to adhere to the Golden Rule


Things could have been different by now if our leaders since 1944 had exercised the Golden Rule which is the basis of Christianity.  This rule simply means that we must all help our neighbour to help him/herself for he or she is of the same essence that we are also made of.  Instead we have become an island inhabited by individuals who see everything in terms of ‘my’ - my family, my house, my car, my friends, my ethnic group or clique.  It is not about ‘our’ Jamaica.  It is about Out of Many, Still Many.


If the majority of Jamaicans do not believe they own a dollar’s worth of Jamaica, then why should they change their attitudes and mind set towards it?  If they don’t own it then why should they protect it and care about it?  This could explain why most Jamaicans don’t care about anything and so take a whole lot of filth and garbage from other minority groups who use them as stepping stones to build their wealth, which they then scrape from the country and take to greener pastures.  “The more things change the more they remain the same”.


New Government and potential for growth


There is a new government in office and I hope that this statement will not come back to haunt me.  I must admit that I have not heard their timbre, but it is still early days.  I have experienced a slight touch of arrogance which says “now that we reach you can’t talk to us anymore” I hope that they will be able to “kareck” this before it becomes ‘dyed in the wool’ and Jamaica will fail again to unite around so much potential for growth, especially that which is locked up in local entrepreneurship.


 I hope they will include this human capital when they go looking for investment opportunities and investors.  Let us further hope that they have the spunk and temerity to bring crime and violence under control and return Jamaica to being a place that is friendly to investment.

We are indeed at a cross-road.  Which will it be?  ‘Out of Many, One People’? Or ‘Out of Many –  Still Many People’?


JAMAICA: Time for Change


Valerie Dixon is an educator and may be contacted at: valeriecdixon@ubol.com

Your comments may be posted to: feedback@ubol.com

‘Contemporary Jamaican Leadership and the betrayal of Ordinary People’

Text Box: Other articles by Valerie Dixon can be read here

Caribbean Correspondent

By Valerie Dixon,

Caribbean Correspondent

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“All faith is FALSE, all faith is TRUE.

TRUTH is the shattered mirrors strewn In myriad bits; while each BELIEVES

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From “The Kasidah of Hji Abu el-Yezdi”, as translated by Sir Richard F. Burton