I tend to be a bit of an activist sometimes. Though my family and close friends know how I vote (and I do vote, everyone should) I tend to stay relatively neutral in public. I applaud when the government does (not just says) something right, I applaud when the Opposition asks the questions I am not ‘big enough’ to ask and hit everyone on the knuckles when they get careless. However, it is only too obvious that once you declare for the “wrong side” everything you say is met with smug dismissal. Political victimization is a real challenge and unfortunately our democracy does not appear to be mature enough for truly open discourse.
I want to share my thoughts on citizenship and what I think being Jamaican should mean. The hope is that we can begin to think, in a non-partisan way, of what our rights and entitlements are. When you declare that you are a Jamaican it should mean more than being born here. It should mean that there is a basic quality of life that you can access, beyond which your hard, smart and honest work will allow you to be better than basic. I call this series “Ideas for a Better Jamaica”.
I aim to share ideas on citizenship as it relates to the following:
- Health Care
- Crime and Justice
- Local Government
In our current political climate it is easy to forget that our government serves at our behest. However, if we are not clear on what our rights are, or what their job description entails, it is easy fall into the trap of accepting whatever they tell us. It is important to be sceptical. Feel free to share in my scepticism as we explore ideas on what good governance could look like.
Finally- a word on the work of the ‘guardians of our democracy’. Our traditional media has failed us. They can no longer be trusted to speak truth to power. They are too cozy with the political and business elite, too willing to lull the masses into acceptance of our current reality.
We are ranked 17 in Press Freedom but 83 in Corruption Perception. This is an indictment on the Press and they should feel some sense of shame. How can they feel proud of enjoying freedom to find the truth while clearly turning a blind eye to that truth?
The media has a moral responsibility to help us to understand the facts. When the two political parties present different views of our economic reality, the media should be able to tell us which is right. I can single out Nationwide News as being ahead of the curve when it comes to giving us the closest version of journalistic integrity.
Consider this news item. Local Government Minister Noel Arscott, deflecting criticisms of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, says the previous government had not procured a single fire truck during its term. Nationwide posted a strong refutation from the previous Mayor of Kingston. However, it is framed as “his word against mine”. Someone is telling the truth and the other person is lying. They both CANNOT be right. The liar must be exposed and then silenced.
Sometimes there are flashes of brilliance, but these flashes are with under-funded media entities and occur too infrequently. It is hard to be a journalist (not to be confused with news carrier) and hope to survive through advertising and endorsement. He who pays the piper calls the tune. Consequently in addition to this series I will occasionally highlight a news article from our print media and do a critique.
Local Government elections are due next year, and the year immediately afterwards should be Central Government elections. It is time to write the job descriptions of our Members of Parliament, Parish Councillors, Ministers of Government and our Media Practitioners. We are their ultimate customer/employer.