I love these words: Redemption, Revival, Renewal. They have strong religious/Christian connotations, and I am not religious. But these words have an uplifting effect. They have a sense of strength, freshness, all at once.
Ms. Jean Lowrie-Chin chose these words as inspiration for her weekly column in the Jamaica Observer yesterday, and I thought I would share it with you. Jean is not just a columnist, by the way; she is a business owner, PR guru, author, philanthropist, philosopher. Her faith is strong, as you can tell; but above all, I love this overview of what is right (and wrong) and where we should, or could all be heading in Jamaica.
“Quality of leadership is crucial to our survival.”
EASTER is a time of renewal. As we hark back to the life of Jesus, a historical figure whose teachings inspire even non-Christians, we understand the power of compassion, of diligence, and of faith. Jesus’s ‘Cabinet’ comprised 12 apostles, men who were far from perfect. Judas betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver, Peter denied him three times in the space of one night and Thomas doubted his resurrection.
Such was Jesus’s leadership that two centuries after he left this earth, his faithful millions continue to follow his teachings. Many religious leaders have faltered, but as Jesus promised, the gates of hell have not prevailed against his church.
Now here we are, Jamaica, facing uncertain times, led by uncertain leaders on both sides of the House. These are times that demand us to revive that strong faith that rests not on our political preferences, but on the courage of our forebears. I was only four years old when my father died, and I remember moving with my mother and three siblings to a rather rundown house. To our anxious, childish questions, my mother said unwaveringly, “God will provide.”
Her belief that “God will provide” did not mean that she was going to throw up her hands and become a mendicant to her family and a burden to society. She set up her little shop at 2 Rose Street in Savanna-la-Mar, adjacent to the town hall. She had an ‘easy chair’ under the counter where she would catnap between her long hours. We had a little eating area at the back of the shop and, on the wall before us, she pasted two ditties: “Labour for learning before you grow old ….” And “Good, better, best – never let it rest …”
Most Jamaicans have similar stories of that mother, father, grandparent, or kindly relative who supported and sheltered them so that they could build a better life for themselves. Those sacrificial relatives had little time for status symbols – they were too preoccupied with the urgent business of survival. One business owner told me: “My mother washed uptown people’s dirty clothes so that I could go to a good school. She is my hero.”
I noted that a gentleman interviewed in a recent issue of The Jamaica Observer ‘Style’ magazine said his motto was ‘live simply so that others may simply live’. Our frugal, honest, hardworking parents were the leaders who made the education of their children possible. St Paul the apostle used the fine education and freedom of movement he was afforded as a Roman citizen to write the most inspiring epistles, and to travel far and wide instructing others to live by the virtues of faith, hope and charity.
This is what we expect of our political leaders. We expect them to be the best possible examples to their people. Unfortunately, the passion and engagement we saw in our founding political parents are lacking in our leaders of the present. We became derailed by the thuggery that was allowed to enter politics, and the increased dependence on borrowed money, instead of increased emphasis on productivity. The IMF is certainly no god – it may provide for the short term, but only productivity will guarantee sustainability.
And so, this column is appealing to our politicians to look at the story of Jesus’s Cabinet, where it is true that St Peter denied and Thomas doubted, but they redeemed themselves by asking forgiveness and staying the course. As people of God, we know it is never too late to acknowledge our failings and resolve to do better.
This has to apply as well to the members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, led by the exemplary Commissioner Owen Ellington. The current gun-dominated method of policing is undermining the achievements of our fine police officers. Our country is sickened by the recent wave of police killings. While we know there are dangerous, hardened criminals in our midst, our police are now better equipped than ever to use intelligence to track them down.
I remember hearing the story of a young man heading to catch a bus in Half-Way-Tree, when he was arrested and charged for murder because he seemed to match the description of a wanted man. Mercifully, after spending tough times in jail, he was finally acquitted. How many persons have been killed because of mistaken identity? How many languish in our prisons because they have been wrongly accused?
Employment is hard to come by, and our national security minister has disclosed that police salaries are comparatively high – he says he is paid the equivalent of a police inspector. Surely such earning potential should enable them to be more selective about those recruited to ‘serve, protect and reassure’ our people. In fact, my late friend Garveyite Frank Gordon had maintained that we should change the name of the JCF to ‘Jamaica Police Service’, reasoning that the emphasis would be on ‘service’ and not on ‘force’.
Further, our educators in schools and tertiary institutions have to acknowledge that the country looks to them for leadership by example. They are providing a tremendous service but they also receive great benefits. We do not begrudge them their long study-leave allowances, their extended vacations and their duty concessions. However, they must know that with such privileges comes responsibility. How can teachers, of all people, owe so many millions of dollars to the Government?
A national revival is not an option – it is our only means of survival. Right now, we need to know how our leaders are going to make themselves fitter and more accountable to take this country out of this thicket of obfuscation. Attractive looks and smiling photo opportunities, which were charming in the few months after elections are now so irritating that some ministers should best avoid the camera until they have real accomplishments to announce to Jamaicans, teetering on the brink of despair.
CAFFE (Citizens’ Action for Free and Fair Elections) was the brainchild of a clergyman, the late Father Jim Webb, who energetically called meetings and had the organisation tuned and ready for election monitoring. This column is appealing to our churches and private sector bodies to establish an efficient monitoring system which would ensure that we only have fit and proper candidates to run for public office – both national and local. Let us have a website where we can click on the names of candidates to learn if they have successfully run anything other than their mouths. Let us see their track records for proper spend of public funds, and probe the quality of their community relationships.
Private sector corporations are very careful about the folks who operate their purse-strings – they need to help Jamaica to ensure that those entrusted with our billions of dollars in taxes are competent and ethical. Church, private sector – it’s revival time —quality of leadership is crucial to our survival.