Adinkra symbol for unity in diversity
Many of us talk inside our homes or on the phone with our friends about how Jamaica is to move forward. We have solutions to our problems, but often we talk about what someone else needs to go. For example many people think Bruce Golding should resign as Prime Minister, and then what?
The challenge comes when we need to stop talking among ourselves and act. A lot of us are scared of being punished for acting on what we believe to be true. I saw some of that this week. People told Golding they did not want a leader they could not trust, and he had to say he was sorry even after claiming he had nothing to apologise for. But the next steps looked scary - like insisting that politicians make a habit of listening to the people.
Mostly politicians think they have power over people, but this was one time the people showed their power and the politician had to listen. We can still insist tht our leaders listen to us, but I think people are starting to feel scared of what might happen to them if they go all the way in demanding respect from politicians.
Someone called me to suggest that we have a demonstration to demand that politicians know they have to answer to the people. The idea seemed good, but most people did not want anyone (least of all politicians!) to see them on the side of the road holding up placards. Some may have worried bout what their friends would say about them, especially as better off people in Jamaica almost never take to the streets. The biggest fear, I think, was of violence. Human rights advocates received threats, and a youth activist's car was bombed, apparently because they spoke their minds about Golding's not telling the truth. That fear is real. In fact, all fears are real for those who feel them.
People are not brave because they feel no fear. Mostly they are brave because they act despite their fears. Often their fears make them more alert to possible danger, and so they try to unite with others who think as they do. Fear therefore has a role – it can lead or mislead us.
Right now, a lot of people act as if they want to step back to the bank, after they seemed to be at least putting a toe or two in the water. They may be afraid that the water might be colder and deeper than it looks. They may think people will be unreliable, and might say “I will be there next to you in the crowd crossing the river,” but fail to turn up for the action.
If we really decide to cross the river with crocodiles on the attack, we may need to find others who share our dream. The desire to cross the river will need to be stronger than fear of being eaten. The risk is always going to be there, but if we stay closer together, the crocodile might well swim away to find others who travel alone. And if we keep going, we will be on the other side of the river, rather than always wishing we were there.
Putting action behind our words will not be easy, Zayda. However, if we unite, it will certainly be possible.