Chester Francis-Jackson, Gleaner Writer
As Jamaicans everywhere mark the nation's 50th year of Independence, much is being said and written about our development, or lack thereof, as a nation.
Much has been written by critics, castigating our leaders, ascribing to them the blame for our lack of progress, with some even taking the view that Jamaica might have fared better had she opted not to seek Independence, but remain instead under the petticoat of colonialism and the rule of England.
Well, the question of our status as an independent nation was settled by our leaders, who cleared our path to the fulfilment of our own destiny by pushing us to strike out on the path of independence, with the goodwill and support of other independent nation states.
Sadly, however, those who lend their intellectual support to the thought that Jamaica has fared rather badly as an independent nation, do so under the cloak of negativism. With that as the foundation of their premise, they will embrace nothing else. The adage that those who look for fault will find nothing else is apropos.
Affront to logic
The idea that had we remained a British dependent, with the majority of our people still employed on sugar and/or banana plantations, with others working as mendicants in the tourism sector; and those of darker hue living in deference and servility to those of a lighter hue would make for a better Jamaica, is an affront to logic.
While I will not attempt to deny those who harbour and embrace nostalgia as they yearn for a return to the 'good old days', they could better serve themselves and their untenable positions by asking themselves, just who were the 'good old days' good for? And the proponents of that message should consider the downside of not taking the independent path.
A a proud Jamaican, who now stands tall based on the sacrifices and social and economic battles fought on my behalf by my direct forebears, the idea that there are some who would make light of all their sacrifices and struggles speaks to abysmal ignorance of the benefits of Independence.
As we celebrate 50 years of Independence, I do so as a proud Jamaican, embracing my country and its role and impact in the community of world nations.
Indeed, I am a proud Jamaican, moulded by my country's active role in world politics. I am proud of my leaders' stance against apartheid; their role in détente; the North and South Dialogue; their leadership in regional politics and world politics, and crucially, their leadership in facilitating and/or creating the requisite infrastructure to advance our continuing trek to nationhood.
Jamaica, through its leaders and their advocacy, influenced world events and helped shape the early musical message of our leading entertainers.
Many of those who now embrace the music and legacy of Bob Marley, the works of Paul Bogle, Sam Sharpe, Rex Nettleford, Norman Washington Manley, Michael Manley, Edward Seaga and countless other pioneers and nation builders are mere 'waggonists' who poured ridicule and scorn on these distinguished Jamaicans when they sought to instigate change.
The world as I know it is completely different from the one my offspring will pass on to theirs. As a Jamaican, shaped by the post-independent 'struggles' of the '60s and '70s, my fear for the emerging Jamaica is that it will be based on a new value system that is all about the self, commercialism and superficiality.
The culture of being your brother's keeper is lost to the 'me' mentality. One is reminded of and guided by the words of the late John F. Kennedy, who exhorted his countrymen to, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Indeed, too many Jamaicans are more concerned with what Jamaica can do for them and not what they can do for Jamaica.
Jamaica has done a lot for its people in the nurturing of world-class sprinters, doctors, scientists, cricketers, footballers, netballers, jurists, entertainers, actors, writers, and yes, brilliant politicians. Also, in the natural resources it has bequeathed to its people, Jamaica has served us well.
My fear, however, will not dampen my sense of pride in Jamaica's 50th year of Independence. And so, I celebrate my country and my fellow Jamaicans, proud of our accomplishments as a people, while I laud and commend the individual achievements of our athletes, entertainers and others.
It is because of that sense of pride that I now fly the Jamaican flag in my automobile, decorate my home with the national colours, and sing our national anthem with pride at every opportunity. In so doing, I spend my energy celebrating what is, not bemoaning what might have been!