Night Time Reflection
The most fun I’ve had all week was when I sat down to write this article while listening to some roots rocking reggae music with an exotic sativa strain somewhere fluttering in the background.
A few hours earlier I had just come from a week-long trip to Washington D.C. where I attended a meeting of human rights defenders, governments, and donors which was held at the US State Department. I represented a regional consortium of activists and would later be invited to the White House, well really the Executive Office Building in the White House compound, to have further talks with the US Department of State about the human rights situation in various countries such as Ukraine, Uganda, Syria, and Haiti.
While there I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Concert for Valour at the National Mall where Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Metallica, Bruce Springsteen, Eminem and Rihanna provided thrills.
And yet, I reiterate emphatically that the most exciting part of my week was sitting in the dark in my home in the hills above Kingston and St. Andrew, being enveloped by a sweet pungency to the steady plodding of a reggae bass line while being kissed by the city lights.
What is it about this island that keeps me coming back despite the hurt it so often inflicts upon me?
I’m sure other nations have verdant hills, turquoise seas, glowing lights, cool climes, and soul-stirring indigenous music yet this particular vibrational calibration and geographic configuration has me mesmerized. Jamaica is the one place on earth it seems I am simply incapable of being separated from for too long.
I recently learnt that Kenneth Cole has opened a boutique in the swanky Haitian suburb of Petionville. He claims it’s for economic stimulation, when the reality is the smart capitalist that he is quickly realized that the Haitian economy is one of the fastest growing in the world. With that boom comes a new wave of extravagance among the elite who were already controllers of industry before the earthquake. Now that they have a bigger stake in the rapidly growing economy their wealth is growing exponentially. Therefore a Kenneth Cole boutique makes perfect sense as Petionville very quickly regains much of its 18th and 19th century appeal as a retreat for French aristocrats and the playground of their children, the mulatto elite.
I came across this t-shirt and the message instantly became seared in my brain:
Don’t be fooled. This is not mere marketing wit; it is a capitalist clarion call. In other words, for those who haven’t yet picked it up; roughly translated into Patwa hyperbole the shirt says: “Money deyah!”
In another of my regular serendipitous journeys I encountered a documentary on the height of the 80s marijuana trade between Jamaica and The United States.
In a previous column I attempted to rubbish the idea commonly held by society aspirants that the nice brown business people they lionize could not have possibly amassed their millions through large-scale exports of an illegally cultivated herb. In that documentary called ‘The Square Grouper’ we are given the distinct impression that uptown’s Prince and the leader of the Verde Republic profited significantly as the gatekeeper for all foreign trade and exports during his time at the steering wheel.
It seems Jamaica will have to pull a similar stunt if she wishes to regain popularity with the capitalists up north but will that tame the sleeping lion that was Haiti or the snoring elephant that is Cuba?
For a long time we esteemed ourselves as a regional leader in spite of our economic squalor. Jamaica’s arrogance is legendary in that regard. Haiti was the laughingstock of the region while Cuba was the impotent elder statesman. Now it seems that our long disrespected neighbours will overtake us and once more be the pearls of the Caribbean.
This is a challenge to those in leadership of Jamaica and primarily the body of citizens to take the matter of national development more seriously. We can no longer afford to set targets we do not meet, to waste scarce resources, or to dilly-dally when there is urgent need for a clear direction. Development is a consequence of good governance and discipline among the citizenry. Thing like forming a human chain to scale a twenty foot wall in order to enter a free event at the National Stadium or Sabina Park are wonderful examples of wasted ingenuity and cerebral slothfulness. That excitement ought to have been channeled toward nation building, except it I routinely directed toward indiscipline and hooliganism. The people of Jamaica are in critical need of leadership without which we will never achieve our true potential.
Where are the sincerely altruistic souls with patriotic vision for transformational leadership for this island?
It seems that Bahamian mega-pastor Dr. Myles Munroe saw himself as that sort of transformational leader and before his sudden death he was busy planting the seed of revolutionary thinking among his many followers. While I do not necessarily share much of his ideological positions, many of his thoughts on self-determination resonate with those I relished from my antecedents like Marcus Garvey,
Where is the transformational leader among us?
Where is the next cultural revolutionary that will propel us into a new era in Jamaica’s growth and development?
Will Kingston ever be the wealthy city that was immortalized in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’?
That is the billion-dollar question that this leader will have to answer.
Does that person exist among the present crop?
Has that person yet been conceived?
Those of us stubborn or foolish enough to stick around for the answer to that question surely hope that leader will come sooner than later unlike the other messiah.
Until then I will continue my nightly retreat to cooler climes, to be enveloped by my favourite pungent sweetness, mesmerized by the blinking lights, and rocked to sleep by the rhythmic procession of the reggae bass line. This is my time to recharge so I can awake the following day to continue making a little change each day so that the land of my birth can realize its true potential.