Hope springs eternal, goes the adage. President Barack Obama first won a mandate from the American electorate on a platform that had many key phrases to give new life to the aspirations of many who felt left on the outside of society’s progress. One of them was the simple word, hope. 

Just one word

I won’t go into what the first black American president has meant to his voters, his nation, or his race. We know that he is not loved by many Americans, some politicians, many ordinary citizens. The ‘birthers’ and those who want to pile doubt on President Obama’s legitimacy seem silly or offensive to many black people, in particular, and many people, in general.

I won’t talk about the hard-to-understand movements in world politics and economics. Even experts in those fields struggle to explain. Why join them?

Most people don’t understand why some groups feel pressed to massacre others for different religious beliefs. In a country like Jamaica, which has so many different religions, even though most are Christian-based, we’ve learned to be accepting of most differences.

We’re a country that has never been at war with any other nation. Ironically, though, we are a country at war with itself: our crime statistics tell that story, as crimes against persons seem to soar–murders, rapes, and child molestation, in particular. Easy to see why some say our moral compass is broken.

We are a country gravely in need of hope. It’s fitting, then, that President Obama will visit the island this week. People are excited. That’s easy to understand in a nation that has so many black people, and one that has a shared history of slavery with its northern neighbour.

However, each day people in Jamaica, strong and determined though many of them are, struggle to find hope. One doesn’t have to go far back in living memory to see a time when hopefulness was the norm. Now, it’s been replaced by hopelessness. Few have the luxury of living their lives full of hope. What is disappointing about this is how the normal routes to the city of Hope now often lead to the towns of Hopelessness and Desperation. A good education is not a key to a future of stable and well-paid employment. We all know young people who have finished high school, college, or university, with excellent results, yet sit among the unemployed. Many have jobs that barely use the skills and knowledge they have spent years developing.

Jamaicans have not grasped onto another Obama maxim, and need to let “Yes, we can!” be part of our socioeconomic DNA, in a collective way. Too many Jamaicans see that phrase as giving them free rein to exploit their fellows, with a dog eat dog fervour. We can see it at the root of almost all of our problems. Perennial crabs in a barrel.

Emigration and remittances have been important safety valves for our society. But, countries like the USA have less tolerance for migrants who seem to add little by way of skills and are suspected of drawing resources out of the system. Jamaicans easily fall into that category, if only because we get featured when about to be deported for crimes. How we help build other countries is easily lost in a negative newsflash.

However, successive governments have done a grave disservice to the Jamaican population, by presiding over decades of economic decline. We’ve become perennial beggars by using other people’s money and not showing much for it. We can’t pay them back and want to get to Easy Street in the process.

However, our political system has engendered something to worsen that. We have partisans ready and willing to be unfair to those who are not their followers. Listen to comments last week by the outgoing chairman of the NSWMA, who stated that ‘a comrade’ would get a post over an equally qualified candidate who was not in the fold. That’s both arrogant and disrespectful. That’s the hope you hold up for the country? Looking for problems to solve? Look no further.

Astute political leaders are also not afraid to criticise their peers. Don’t be surprised if you hear that he has words to say about what he sees in a land known to be poor and struggling, with schools and hospitals in dire needs, but some pristine roads.

I pin no hopes on President Obama, but maybe he can catalyze more people to believe in themselves and their country again. He is an excellent example to many. I hope he can.