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Clear the path ahead to a new Jamaica

Al Miller

Monday, January 07, 2019

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Build it! Build it! Clear a way! Remove all the obstacles out of the way of my people! — Isaiah 57:14

The foundation has been laid. The change has begun. It's time to build on what we have achieved. Even if you think our achievements are not enough in 56 years, let's build on what we have achieved.

Let's not wait for some drastic or further worsening societal issues to desire to change. Let's not waste a moment wondering why other countries present (Syria, Yemen) or past (Rwanda, Eritrea) have failed. Let's just embrace the desire to see ours succeed.

You may have heard this story before, but allow me to remind you for 2019:

An energetic young businessman asked a guru he met on the beach one day, “What must I do to be successful?” The guru glances at him in that guru-like way and says he'll share with him how to be successful tomorrow morning at 4:00 am at the same beach.

The next day, the man shows up, nicely dressed in a suit and finds the guru near the shoreline. He asks the guru the same question. The guru responds by asking the young man to follow him out into the water. So the two wade into the ocean together. They walk in until the water is up to their knees, then their waists, then their chests. The man, his suit now soaked, asks the Guru, “What does this have to do with success?”

“Do you really want to be successful?” the guru asks. “Yes! Of course, I do,” the man replies. The guru suddenly dunks him under the water. The young man fights to get back above water, but the guru holds him firmly underwater for 15 seconds. As he's released, the young man shouts, “What was that?! What are you doing?!” Immediately, the guru pushes him under and holds him down again. After about 20 seconds, he lets him up. The man irately splutters, “What are you doing?! I asked you how to be successful and you're trying to drown me!”

The guru calmly replies, “Do you want to be successful?” The man looks at him angrily and says, “Yes, I want...!” Before he can finish, the guru dunks him a third time, holding him down for what seemed like more than a minute. Finally, he let him get up. The man was gasping for air and desperately trying to breathe in as much as possible. The guru states, “Until you desire success as badly as you desired air just now, you will never achieve success.”

Desire

Desire is one of the first requirements for change. You must desperately want it. We all must desire to see in our time our beloved Jamaica become violence-free; incorruptible; prosperous; and the place to live, work, raise families and do business.

Writer Benjamin Foley, editor of Falling Inward, posits that, “It's the desire to change, not the changes that lead to lasting success.”

Kurt Lewin, American social psychologist, developed a change model long before change management strategies became popular. It involves three simple steps:

1. Unfreezing

2. Changing

3. Refreezing

The process of change requires a need for change, then moving toward the new, desired level of behaviour and finally, solidifying that new behaviour as the norm. For me, that spells: desire, action, normalisation.

Action

Action is the next most critical segment in the process of change. Action has continued in some of the crucial areas. Work on infrastructural development and roadways is gaining some momentum, though painful at this time. My hope is that the Government will, after they have done with the city's roads and Junction road (Kingston to St Mary), target our farming roads with similar long-lasting improvement so that our farmers can more easily get their produce to market and at a lower cost.

Another critical area in need of action is the economy. Is our economic focus and model correct? Are our parameters and framework aligned to ensure the objectives are achieved for the right people, right purpose and right places (urban, rural, inner cities)? Let's be careful that not only the few top people, foreign people and large international conglomerates benefit, as is the tendency in this first wave. Although it is expected that the top will benefit first, equity and fairness must be guaranteed to all. Oil naturally flows from the head down to the feet and should not be deliberately trapped at the neck.

Admittedly, there has been growth in the economy, though certainly not the strong growth that any of us, regardless of political stripe, had hoped for; but let's be thankful. I found interesting our 2017 GDP growth by sector — agriculture (7.5 per cent); industry (21.3 per cent); services (71.2 per cent). Imagine what our overall growth would be if we could really stimulate and grow our agriculture.

Normalisation

The third aspect in the change process means the new actions become the new norms. When this occurs, it develops a sense of security. Of particular focus would be food security, economic security and national security. These areas need the kind of action which must become the new norms.

Great nations must feed themselves. Food security requires agricultural development, which cannot be overemphasised. We must empower both our small and large farmers. Then, we must learn how to add value to our agro development by looking at the value-added products that can be created. For example, it's full time we have a minister who understands that there is more to growing yams than yam hills and yam sticks (perhaps we now do). Yams have an enzyme, long used in developed countries to enhance athletic performance. Based on our yams' alleged connection to our athletic performance, if we were to factory produce enzymes from our yams for the international market we could easily corner the market simply because of the strength of our Brand Jamaica.

We have not fully recognised the value of agriculture to growing our economy. We must teach our youth the importance and value of the land. It's time to incentivise agriculture and ensure its profitability for farmers. It is not beyond us to get creative ideas to raise the profile and productivity of farming. We have been making strides in this area, which must be applauded, however much more creative action should be directed towards micro, small and medium-sized business sector in the development process as they are known to grow a nation. Too often government practices do not reflect this belief.

A planned and responsible economic approach regulates and facilitates a fair and balanced landscape so all can survive. Small island nations like ours, cannot continue to sell off our land and prime beachfront to foreigners and still hope to ensure economic security. We must pursue new action toward establishing new norms in this area.

At our present rate few Jamaicans will own much here. There will be little inheritance for our children. I appeal to our parliamentarians to begin to correct this malady. Investors who cannot respect that, we don't need them.

It is an imperative that we get the crime issue under control. We have been at it for decades and it's only getting worse. New thinking and action is necessary. We have been re-baptising the same old, same old, under new names, with the same results. Other recommendations have been suggested by many, including this column, but the powers that be are either not listening or are afraid to try anything really new and different.

Commissioner of Police Antony Anderson seems to have a clear grasp on what is necessary and seems willing to employ some new approaches. However, we have to be careful not to give him 'basket to carry water'. Crime is an epidemic that has to be treated as such; hence, the society has to be prepared for some amount of inconvenience until it is curtailed. The negative politics which is largely responsible for our current dilemma is rearing its ugly head, so we ask our politicians to put aside the old, partisan way and put Jamaica first in all deliberations.

This is why the Fresh Start approach is so vital at this time, particularly in areas that have the greatest potential for necessary change. As we have been postulating for the last few weeks, stop trying to fix some of the areas of complexity and entrenched evil and corruption. Just draw a line, set new parameters, and make a fresh start.

It's a new year, let's ride the momentum for progress and prosperity no looking back. Choose to reject the negatives and embrace the positives. The Government, Church, business and civil society must get pregnant with building the new Jamaica around the Fresh Start approach.

Jamaica first

I am not convinced that our political leaders are pregnant with the will for a new Jamaica. I have a burning desire to see the new Jamaica birthed and developed in our time. It cannot be left to chance. It will not automatically happen. As a nation, our men are not short of the 'breeder' mentality, let's raise the bar and direct that mentality for the national good. An abundance of hope needs to flow like a river across the nation. We must become a people with hope who are challenged and motivated to work harder and behave better.

Our political parties in my estimation should offer their best gift to the nation for 2019, not by quibbling about meeting over lesser surface issues that are not transformational, but meeting to commit to giving the nation a genuine Fresh Start. This action would provide the tipping point to break the back of the entrenched complex monsters of corruption and political tribalism — the bedrocks of our current crime and the attendant social problems.

This long awaited move would bulldoze us into a clear path ahead and allow what's behind to fade. Without a radical objective move like this, our past will continue to dominate our present. Unless we radically change the present, which was created by our past, the future will only be like the present or worse.

Come, Mr New-Era Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, do not lock horns, join arms for the greater good of the nation. Give us hope for the future by leading us in a Fresh Start and challenge us walk to the journey with you. It can be done. It must be done now!

Rev Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or pastormilleroffice@gmail.com.

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