Dear Santa: Since I began to write this reflection, 144 students were killed, including teachers, by Taliban militants, who entered an army-run school in Peshawar, northwestern Pakistan. They believe educating children is wrong. Wherever you are, these are our children. The Taliban also shot Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Prizewinner and now 17-year-old education activist, while she was coming from school. Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful”, remains one of the most dangerous threats to Nigeria.
However, I hold the belief that many Boko Harams are in the US and the Caribbean region in disguise. Along many of the white sand and blue waters, and between the green hills, and valleys, an iPhone has become more than one’s life. Many would still like to hitchhike in these areas as many of us one did during spring breaks or proudly displayed a licence plate identifying one as a visitor, but that can be a huge risk.
Over the past 12 months, I have written several opinions on socio-justice and economic issues. However, many of these issues remain active. This holiday, I also wish that the chikungunya virus headlines remains active as many poor communities are still suffering. Access to medicine remains an issue.
A mother seeking medical attention for her child at a hospital should not have to wait between18-36 hours to see a doctor, such as what occurred recently at the Bustamante Children’s Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica. It seemed the ward could use a bit more compassion and empathy. A mother with a gravely ill child should not be turned away for not having an immunization card after she has travelled over an hour.
What is the concept of emergency? Some of these rules are outdated. An American during an emergency, her nationality should not dictate if she will be admitted. It is my hope that access to medicine is not simply because of who you are but just your symptoms.
Reflection: Throughout my college years, I kept a large dartboard where the background had a global map. Wherever the dart landed, one could find a story of interest. Today, technology has now replaced that conventional way of learning these regions. With the click of a mouse today, you can travel the world and back in a few minutes. If you throw that same dart today in your town, district, parish, county, state or country, many central arguments on socio-economic and cultural issues are troubling. It seems our leaders and the people who should lend a voice to hold them accountable are caught up with what is popular and not what is important.
At a time when it seems that the region is spinning on an inexplicable axis, leaders are giddy, sidelined while the less fortunate suffer. The diminished responsibilities that have taken place only create stagnation. Today, governance needs to wear multiple hats, from protecting society from criminals and bad police officers, promoting economic growth, to reducing poor treatment of the less fortunate among us.
Several reports have shown that the educational systems in the Caribbean could use an improvement. Many are leaving schools without the fundamental skills to join the workforce. When a nation lacks opportunity and hopelessness sets in, violence often becomes attractive. Furthermore, I believe most of the political systems’ ideology is outdated, and woven in self-interest while the poor suffer. This only creates social stratification.
What is the priority of some of our leaders? One example: when a picture of Jamaica’s minister of youth and culture, Lisa Hanna, in a bathing suit surfaced, it dominated the headlines for days. (1) A little too revealing for a woman in her place; (2) she is the minister… and should be setting an example for the young women to look up to her; (3) she should resist the urge to display these photos. However, the Instagram picture raises more questions than her body.
The questions that should be asked: what happened to the native beaches that have now been privatized, and we cannot afford to visit. I hope the minister fights against the privatization corruption, youth violence, teenage pregnancy, violence against women and education to and enable a better future. Let us not forget that, as part of her rise to fame, her body played a major part when she was crowned Miss World in 1993.
What happen to Vanessa Kirkland in Jamaica, who died from a gunshot in her community? She is not alone; many schoolchildren have gone missing, and are being abused. The region is not alone, less than 300 miles from my home in Pennsylvania, six family members lost their lives at the hands of an estranged husband.The criminogenic mindset has to be reversed in our society. Today, a simple night out can easily become a war zone. Many argue that the crime rate has been reduced in these areas, but that cannot be measured, because of the fear communities are feeling simply to engage in social activities, and that cannot be measured. And how many homes owners are willing to walk out at nights, or even in the day time, and remove iron grills such as the ones seen covering multi-million dollar homes like several American prisons, and schools that are located in high crime area?.
Priority: As the sun sets today, many are still under a bridge, a local shop, and a street corner homeless. They are isolated and despised. Another woman will be raped within the next 30 minutes, and two will be become a victim of domestic violence. Disparities remain a barrier to a good education and health-care system. The socio-economic divide and negative and political climate only creates disengagement. Especially in Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, and many others, the politically bankrupt ideology along party lines that has seen decades of violence needs modernization and more citizen participation. These parties have been a colossal failure for its people for decades. Santa, your guidance is needed.
The United Independent Congress party (UIC), a third party in Jamaica, has begun to fill a void, according to what has been reported. Many believe, although cautiously optimistic, the UIC could be new footprint in the sand. It has the potential to make a significant difference. A few scholars believe that, given the distrust, corruption, and other broken promises, the region is ripe for such as party. Even Professor Basil “Bagga” Wilson, retired provost of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, echoed the same sentiment. However, in order for the UIC to be formidable, it has to form an alternative agenda to attract many young people, and stay away from what is not important and not what is popular, such as Senator Hanna’s body.
Setting a clear path with viable economic, and crime fighting agenda is pivotal for the younger generation who always have a low turnout on election day, as studies have shown in these regional elections. Just like Usain Bolt, one has to separate oneself. If the UIC mission is to be more efficient, effective and responsive to the needs of the people, more collaboration is needed or face the risk of looking like it is just another Twitter account, such as over 200-plus groups on Facebook trying to take over online many of the island countries’ futures without an agenda. A decade of institutional ideology from slavery cannot be changed with popular headlines. This new party and others have to hit the street without fear. Collaboration will be key going forward.
Also Santa: Social justice and a moral compass seem to be lost, with economic decay that has wreaked havoc on many lives. Many have tuned out or are left in the dark of the ideal democracy, as awareness on many decisions only benefits a few. These under-reported and improbable back door arrangements will become more costly than the educational cost that only the rich can afford.
Recently the Caribbean Journal noted that Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica and Tullow Oil Company, which has explored in Africa, South Asia, Europe and South America, has committed over $60 million to undertake oil exploration activities off the island’s south coast. The decline in gas price has seen many investors scrabbling for cheaper exploration and productions.
Sure, this could result in new jobs for the region, but how many were made aware in the local markets that will be affected. The potential revenue source could lift island out of poverty.
However, the environmental impact could be just as costly, as studies have shown a rise in the sea level, and the region has recorded warmer temperatures in the past 15 years. There is no public debate on this issue. It seems far too often elected leaders are more willing sell their souls, dividing communities, promoting self-interest, while ignoring what is the cause of most economic decay.
It has not been an easy year. However, Santa, it is imperative that, regardless of one’s location, race, sex, creed, colour, national origin, religious belief, and sexual orientation and socio-economic status, all have a chance to be successful. Oh! Thank you, Santa, for the opportunity to share my thoughts, wishes and reflections.