To be Jamaican or Not

For the last few days nothing much has bothered me; not the traffic in Jakarta, not the mosquitoes buzzing around more than usual and not the fact that my mother is too distracted to respond to my emails. Jamaica is not only celebrating 50 years of Independence but we are also celebrating our might in short distance athletics. Like everyone else from my homeland I am on top of the world. I am prouder than ever to be Jamaican and I am waving the flag and screaming every time our athletes approach the field. The result of all this euphoria is that I spend more time than usual on Facebook and Twitter and it is from this world of social media that I have found the inspiration for this blog. For that I must thank none other than @BigBlackBarry whose earlier tweets prodded me to put fingers to keys (something I have not done for several months).

@BigBlackBarry is not a personal friend, I have never met him but I feel a connection. Not only is he Jamaican but he is who he is with no pretensions or inhibitions. He says what he feels, at whatever time, about whomever. I look forward to his tweets, he serves as my way of keeping in touch with the lingua of the day and the expressions of the unbridled while I live tens of thousands of miles from my home country.

So today @BigBlackBarry posted the following tweets,

TWEET 1: Question. If you could get a crime free country with employment and good healthcare and good governance, would you be willing to (cont)

TWEET 2: Give up Bolt, reggae music, marley, ie. our current positives? Would you swap places with singapore?

TWEET 3: Be a boring unrecognized functioning crime free economically strong state? Or a vibesy popular crime ridden murder capital with some stars?

These tweets got my attention and I replied to @BigBlackBarry by pointing out that I would not give up being Jamaican to be from Singapore. Many people rave about Singapore’s economic success and it is to be admired. Before moving to Asia I argued extensively that Jamaica should strive to be like Singapore. When former Prime Minister Golding became leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), my gift to him was Lee Kuan Yew’s book, From Third World to First. Now living next door to this small nation that has made the most of next to nothing levels of natural resources I am still impressed but would not give up being Jamaican for what they have.

For me, Jamaica is the eighth wonder of the world. How else does one explain a nation-state with a population of

100m Men’s Finals London Olympics 2012.
Photo from I Am A Jamaican’s Facebook Page

less than 3 million people with global success and recognition greater than countries ten times its size? How do you explain that in nearly every corner of the earth there is at least one Jamaican. We have developed a religion, we have created a music form that is globally loved and copied, we have the world’s fastest man and fastest woman. We are vibrant and alive and we are proud. Yes our crime rate is higher than it should be, yes some of our systems do not work as they should but every country has its issues. I disagree that our healthcare does not work – I have learned living away for so long that our healthcare is probably only surpassed by a few developed nations.

I wasn’t the only person who took an interest in what @BigBlackBarry had to say. The responses were many and varied. To me he responded with. “@NatsCR the people who have said they would keep us as we are in my unofficial poll all don’t live here.”

The results of his unofficial poll are quite telling. Is it that those of us who live out of Jamaica appreciate the country more because we are not faced with power cuts during Olympics coverage and we are often not faced with high levels of crime? Or is it that when you live elsewhere you realize that to truly enjoy life is more than economic indicators and statistics? There is poverty everywhere in this world, there is also unemployment, crime and instability. What isn’t everywhere is the sound of reggae music pumping throughout the land, there isn’t a sense of vibrancy and amusement in simple things such as a day at the beach. There isn’t the depth of flavour to basic meats such as chicken, goat and fish and without doubt there isn’t that same level of expressiveness as we find at home. As with every other country, there are issues and there are problems but what doesn’t exist anywhere else is the spirit of Jamaica. 

I AM JAMAICAN born and bred. I have left my homeland but only for a time. From Jamaica I was born and to Jamaica I shall return.

Until next time…ONE LOVE!!!!!

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3 thoughts on “To be Jamaican or Not

  1. Salient and thought-provoking post which warrants contemplation and response. I think the reason we who are away appreciate home much more is that being from a insular place (a tiny island) with no connecting land borders, it is easy to not know what lies elsewhere. Sadly many who say they are well travelled simply take the 90 minute flights to Miami or 3 hours to NY and no where else. Success- or the lack of- is relative. When one leaves his home and lives elsewhere for long periods, you cannot help but be faced to see your country from outside in. While inside, the day-to-day drama seems overwhelming because there is no personal reference/other experience to compare it with. Just like how a good partner may seem awful until you move on to one that is truly awful then you look back and say ..”Hmmmn, wasn’t so bad after all.” EVERYWHERE has it’s problems, its drama, its corruption, and downright nastiness. But if we are limited in our experience of “otherness” we have a very myopic understanding of reality. Jamaica, with all its problems, is still one of the most sensational places on earth for all the reasons (and more) that you have mentioned. We too are Jamaicans, born and bred and having lived in 5 countries combined in Asia, Middle East, Caribbean and North America, we believe we can justly say…”Nowhere is better than our yard (Jamaica).”

  2. Pingback: Favour lands woman in court – News – Jamaica Star – August 14, 2012 | Cbcburke9's Blog

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