February 2, 2007

What May I Believe?

Although in a previous post, "Where we are now," I painted a pretty bleak picture of Jamaica, I remain optimistic. This is not a blind faith. It is a knowledge based on our history and traveling through the island, so my experience is not limited to Kingston or Kill-Some as the Rastaman would say. Slavery, colonialism, and our civil war should have crushed us, but we survived. We are a resilient people. It is this resiliency, our work ethic, and warrior spirit that have kept us going. But it’s time to turn it around before we kill ourselves and destroy the land.
For one day I believe we will:
Use our warrior spirit to useful social aims. We are “Stepping razors” and “Bad Boys.” But our rage has been turned against ourselves and we are suffering. We have to turn our sense of outrage into a positive vibration, and this can be done if we truly love InI.
Study Rastafari as a source of homegrown wisdom. Rastafari came out of us, and we should use the insights of Rastafari that InI—individual and the community is one. We are connected to everyone and everything--even the leaf on the pepper plant (I-pa) grown in the beleaguered Cockpit Country. We are that and that is us. If we can I-nitrate that wisdom, we will have come a long way.
“Shoot the Sheriff," name Bob Marley a national hero, and prove VS Naipaul wrong:“We lived in a society that denied itself heroes.” Bob is already a de facto national hero. If we can see a hero among us, then we can see ourselves as heroes. It’s almost as if we have made up our own Jante Law: You shall not think that you are heroic as we are.
Broaden our care giving skills for the uplift-mant of the country. Our nurses are well known here in Miami and all over the world. Some of the sweetest, kindest people you will ever meet. Jamaican nurses care for their elderly patients as if they were family, and the elderly know it. There have been so many conversations that I've I overheard in my doctor's office, outside Publix, and at my favourite Chinese restaurant on a Friday evening between Jamaican nurses and their patients, and there is always real care and concern. Imagine if we used this talent to build a string of retirement homes in places like St. Thomas with First World amenities and infrastructure to support retirees from the diaspora—“Bring my children from the ends of the earth.”
Learn from America and our experiences in the diaspora. America has a lot to teach us. Whenever I’m in New York, I love to look at the Brooklyn Bridge and marvel at the unity that it took to build the bridge. I also think about how Americans put a man on the moon with computers that had less memory than an X-Box. But the one achievement that blows my mind is the I-95. Think about all the corruption that is in the construction business, and yet from Houlton, Maine to Miami, Florida, if the architects said the clearance had to be 15’ 6”, it was 15’ 6". And even if you got the job through your uncle's sister's brother's best friend, when the Federal boys came, you had to answer for yourself. The system of checks and balances, even in these worrisome times, still works, but we have to work it.
Embrace our Anancyness, but use it in a positive way. Anancyness at its best embraces the irony and sometimes cruel parts of life—“We take bad things make joke.” Because we can do that, we turn the fear of the void into a moment of laughter. Instead of existential dread, there is awe and compassion. Because let’s face it, we know how to turn a bad situation around and enjoy life. When Bob sang, “One Love, one heart, let’s get together and feel all right,” he was singing from the depths of our common life. The songs didn’t come from nowhere. In the middle of a Jamaican hell, he could still sing with authenticity. That’s why people still go to Jamaica in these dread times because we have seen the depths and still live to sing.
Jamaicans have survived in the harshest environments, and we are also known for our work ethic, “Lazy Lima bean! You only have tree job!” What we lack in our country are the opportunities that will lead to sense of ownership and ultimately more optimism: “The preaching and talking is done, we’ve got to live up.” And then, watch out: “We [will] forward in this generation triumphantly.”
Today is Fred D'Aguiar's birthday and he is the Featured Caribbean Writer.
This Sunday, I'll be posting a great livication for John Hearne which was written by Fragano Ledgister.
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