Thu | Jun 13, 2024

Ronald Thwaites | The new way

Published:Monday | June 10, 2024 | 12:07 AM
Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson during his Reasoning about the Jamaican Constitution with members of the public at the Faculty of Law, UWI Mona.
Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson during his Reasoning about the Jamaican Constitution with members of the public at the Faculty of Law, UWI Mona.

She was beautiful and so bright. Coming from Jamaica to a strange university in the United States, the eyes of every male on campus would follow her. We were freshers together in 1963. She received many marriage proposals and declined them all.

Career and “experiences” were her goals. She achieved both – in Jamaica and in foreign. Carnival never missed her and the independence which her ample asset base afforded, made travel and all the choices of high life, hers for the taking. And she partook liberally. Nothing amiss at all.

LONELINESS

Except the impenetrable fog of loneliness which soon covered everything. She told me she didn’t want children because having them would spoil up her figure and besides, when she changed her mind about that, it was too late anyway.

She thought marriage would be dreary and too restrictive and might rob her of the self-fulfilment which she and her type prized. Also, most of the upwardly mobile men were immature creeps, too into themselves, unsuitable because they earned and profiled at a lower level than her. Apart from one or two guys who really stirred her spirit but who were already taken, the other men she dealt with served certain negotiated purposes but that was it.

“Family”? I would ask. “I have a few good friends”, she would reply cagily. Church and religion didn’t figure much in her life. Travel, cruising and fancy society did.

I conducted her funeral some time ago. Amid relative wealth, a little fame but shallow relationships, a lonely and regretful life had petered out. Towards the end, the emotional pain, the disappointment, was worse than the physical discomfort.

LIVING FOR WHAT?

I’ve been thinking about her recently and wondering how we will combine the grab for upwards mobility, the yearning to be noticed, to co-exist with virtues of sacrifice, commitment, family stability and deep, affective relationships which in the end, are the only foundations of personal happiness and societal flourishing.

And now that we are rethinking what we must teach the little children, are we telling them the stories which will encourage living free, virtuous lives even against the strong tides of hyper-individualism and hedonism which so captivated and spoiled my beautiful friend’s existence?

THE “RUNNINGS”

Another of my girls is a young working class woman whose desire to turn her own key is being frustrated by the very government which promised to enable her. Maybe I’ll tell you the sad story of informal settlers next time. For now, she needs a driver’s license and has scrimped from the minimum wage which supports her one son and herself, to pay for driving lessons.

Now that she is ready to take the test, people who know the “runnings”, and even her instructor, have told her to walk with $30,000 so as to “help her to pass” the test. True story! Any wonder why road fatalities spiralled last week – and as night follows day – next week as well?

NIGEL, WHERE ARE YOU?

Of all but a couple of other Ministers, Dr. Nigel Clarke still commands a measure of public confidence. He needs to explain government’s role in the Stocks and Securities debacle. How was the public’s expenditure on managing the company for more than a year justified and, without the helpful Mr. Tomlinson, from whom will the defrauded investors get help now. Did your ministry mess up in under-supervision?

Nigel has yet to say how he, internationally renowned for his parsimony, could permit the Tax Administration profligacy, not to mention the continuing wastage of billions of public blood-sweat-and-tears dollars into the terminally-ill JUTC . Consider also the current seize-up of the banking sector where credit, the fuel of growth, is increasingly constipated. Why?

WISDOM FROM THE SOURCE

P.J. Patterson’s magisterial “reasoning” on the Jamaican Constitution last Wednesday was both capstone and corrective to the Reform Committee’s distressing report. You sat there wondering why hadn’t the Committee availed themselves of the memory, insight and wisdom of the only living participant of the 1962 exercise and one,since then, honed on the tough anvil of 62 years of political service. Is it because he, P.J. is a PNP? Most likely . And because this government is so convinced, at least up to now, of their divine right, that consultation was ruled out?

WILLING TO LEARN?

I highly appreciated that Minister Malahoo Forte attended the reasoning. Humbling herself to sit at the feet of a Gamaliel who knows more about the constitution than she, hopefully points to a break in the Committee’s secretive arrogance.

One of Mr. Patterson’s main points was the imperative of agreement between the political parties on the most crucial points of change, such as the method of choosing the President, the extension of the life of Parliament and, no doubt, the nation’s final court.

We are hiding from ourselves the fact that there is going to be no change whatever until consultation matures into consensus on these and, I submit, several other issues like the overhaul of the entire Westminster model of governance.

The squabble about dual citizenship is a subsidiary issue compared to the fundamental questions which should be resolved first. How likely is any of this going to be in the long run-up to a general election?

In short, early constitutional form seems to me to be a non-starter although we should continue to demand thoroughgoing public education while we wait for our political leaders to get out of their own (and our) path to progress.

P.J. put forward by way of a serious joke that there might come a point where the decision makers must be locked away (with limited rations, no liquor, no phones and no spouses, I would add) until they achieved concurrence on critical positions to be jointly put to the public. I suggest the newly fire-proofed Gordon House as the safest venue.

Be prepared for a very noisy but short conclave!

Rev Ronald G. Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. He is former member of parliament for Kingston Central and was the minister of education. He is the principal of St Michael’s College at The UWI. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.