My wife had a new staff member join her office team in Jamaica this week. The young economist came to our house for dinner, with his wife, and several other guests. We welcomed them and I got talking to him about Jamaica and tried to give a few insights to this country, that I happily described as being an economic conundrum, but also one that had astonishing features, given its size. Someone commented that Jamaica punched well above its weight–a metaphor for our impact on many aspects of worldwide cultural, political and social life. I mentioned that as part of our national character, with our pride often well to the fore, we would rarely shirk from conflicts when we believed that right was on our side; not acting like zealots, but standing on our horses high on matters of principle. I mentioned our stance on Apartheid, which for me was a quintessential one, that marked our PM at the time, Michael Manley, as one of the great statesmen. Fear is not something that Jamaicans often display publicly. Our stance is often taken as arrogant. We are truly exceptional as a nation and not afraid to express that, despite the many internal struggles that we have to be at peace with ourselves. We are not fence sitters. Or, so I thought.
Why did Ian Borne have to leave us this week? His mind and voice and words and thoughts would be anticipated with a yearning, I think, that would be stronger than many we have had in years.
When I started my working life, I was told to park my ego at the door, in a sense. My boss told me that I had been recruited as a bright, young graduate, to do something special: it was not that I was expected to have the right answers, but I was expected to ask the right questions. Gradually, and continually, that’s what I was asked to do, and after several decades of doing it in several walks of life, it’s now how I proceed, normally. I was told, basically: Go for the W!
Why? Who? What? When?
That’s what I took from the approach adopted by Ian Boyne. It’s what it means to think critically. It’s a feature that Jamaicans don’t display often or well, however. We tend to take too many things as they are presented to us. We fail to ask enough questions and we do not hold enough people to account for their actions.
Today’s Gleaner editorial begins to do what our media does often, which is ask pertinent questions. But, it also tends not to follow-up with enough vigour, in my opinion; it’s not a mauling guard dog, often enough. But, that’s for another day.
The piece, What’s The Deal With Jamaica’s Jerusalem Vote?, states a position with which I agree fully: ‘…we are disappointed that the island didn’t find the courage at the United Nations yesterday to repudiate the United States’ move that effectively declares Jerusalem to be sovereign Israeli territory.’ For context, the editorial sets out what happened:
‘Yesterday’s General Assembly essentially reaffirmed that position [Israel’s right to exist in security, but within the borders prior to the 1967 war] by declaring that “decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void, and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council”.
Mr Trump, in character with his presidency, threatened to cut aid to countries that supported the resolution. “… We’ll save a lot,” he said. His UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, issued similar dire warnings. Yet 128 countries voted in favour of the resolution, with only nine in against. Thirty-five countries, including Jamaica and four other CARICOM members, abstained.
Our Government did not offer an explanation for its vote.’ (my emphasis).
So, in the absence of that explanation, Jamaicans need to step up, individually and collectively, and go for the W? Why has our government made this decision?
We are not budding revolutionaries to ask that simple question. I would hope that, as part of the normal business of running an administration, the PM will make a statement to set out the rationale for our decision to ‘sit of a fence’. If there is a ‘Who?’ or ‘What?’ or ‘When?’ that drove our decisions, speak up on them, too.
I would hope that Ian, not yet in his grave, is turning, hoping to find another breath of life to join his voice calling for those answers. But, I should not disturb him anymore. RIP, Ian