We talk endlessly on radio talk shows, complain our hearts out, Mutty and the rest I am sure are tired sometimes to sit behind the mike. While this happens the majority of the populace languish in poverty, fear and hopelessness. The "lucky ones" we ship out to farrin' and the brain drain rapes us of our best minds. Now is the moment to shift from nation building to a nation becoming.

To this writer, a nation becoming is a country whose populace are not merely consumers but citizens. Citizens that are mindful not just of nation building but character building. For the nitty gritty truth is that:-

Character Building is Nation Building at the micro level.

What do we expect if we sow the wind of dishonesty, greed and so many other vices into the daily thread of our lives. Will we not reap the whirlwind or might I say hurricane of destruction? Mind you, our new highways, bus system and highly evolved technology culture are way overdue  but will our children's children live to enjoy these amenities? 

Nation building is dead.

Let us BECOME the best of what we always were before the crime, before the nightmare of 1980, before our future became divided by garrisons, class and religious denominations. Our situation has deteriorated to the point where our only direction has got to be up.

The physics of sprinting has long said that long-legged men are not cut out for short distances. Usain has put that theory 9.69 feet under. Now, let us look at ourselves differently, let us think differently. We must realize that true societal change never has and never will happen at the macro level it begins within the hearts of individuals intent on building their characters into the best possible version of what God designed them to be. All our National Heroes and our larger than life personalities from Carol Joan Crawford to Lisa Hanna, from Arthur Wint to Usain Bolt, from our Calgary bobsled team to the ’98 Reggae Boyz have wonderfully represented and lifted our collective chins by being the very best version of themselves. But this national fervor lasts only for a while. When Usain won that race in Beijing  we saw the very best of Jamaica cross the finish line. That was one man who willed his body to defy reality. If as individuals we do not pursue character building with the same alacrity and passion, long beyond the hype of the moment, nation building will be stuck in the blocks and Usain’s achievement will be just another flash in the pan or should I say birdcage.

Our future as a country isn't merely about controlling the foreign exchange rate, bending the political will or for argument’s sake saving our sugar industry. Yes, these are all necessary but definitely secondary to what we need to do on an individual basis. 

Every . single . last . one of us

must engender the essence of talawah and pride in our nation, to will ourselves to become the very best version of me just for  today. Then tomorrow we make the very same pledge, before God and all mankind.

If we believe in Jamaica this is what we will do. Rather, it is what we must do or we ignore the current crisis at our peril. May we think different about our future as we move from a nation that builds, to a nation that becomes...the best of what it always was and can be.

Likkle but Talawah!

  1. -Yorkali Walters, 2008

original blog post can be found here

The Essence of Talawah
Why Nation Building is Dead.
- Yorkali Walters, 2008

In 9.69 seconds Usain Bolt ignited a nation. We watched with baited breath as the black, green and golden streak laid low the world's best, thumping his chest into Olympic history. What moved me most though was not just Usain's scintillating performance but the tsunami of celebration that would cover our island.

I have repeatedly said to my non-Jamaican friends, often with moist eyes that my little island home needed this badly. The crime riddled nation has not been the same since the mid to late 70's (around when I was born). Then in 1980 Jamaica experienced a tipping point in it's history. That touchstone released decades long of repressed animosity, anxiety, fear and anger. Feelings that extend all the way back to our past as a nation of slaves. These violent symptoms we have not yet been able to live down as a country. Acclaimed professor Dr. Cornel West in a recent CNN program on the Black Experience in America claimed,

"One of the greatest problems we face today in our society is the pursuit of property, power and pleasure."

In my view, the pursuit of these three, when unleashed on relatively small societies, can have devastating effects. Jamaica has suffered long for this.

Rampant violence, domestic upheaval and urban terrorism has been the result.

I do not use the phrase urban terrorism lightly. Ask the 12 year old student in Spanish Town that cannot go to school because bullets fly like mosquitoes across his street. Ask the fatherless boy on Hope Road wiping window screens for a small change, or the mother that suffers through round after round of beatings because she wants a better life for her children. Having held the title of country with the highest murder rate in the world it is obvious that the stigmata of slavery and social oppression still clouds the collective consciousness of 2.8 million plus people.

Then a bolt from the blue.

For 9.69 seconds we held our breath. For 100 metres reality was suspended. At the end of the race on that Saturday night in Beijing visions of an alternate future flashed before our eyes and we realized the true meaning of the phrase "likkle but we talawah" Usain's achievement is THE essence of talawah and this I believe will be more than increasing the profit margin of Puma, Digicel or any other corporate giant that endorses the Bolt. This is, as a popular US politician likes to term it, is a defining moment in our nation's history. We now have the choice to attach OUR definition to this moment.

We should define this as the beginning of "a nation becoming". For this writer, nation building entails getting all the pieces in place at the macro level. Getting the education system right, reducing crime, fixing our roads, building highways etc, etc, and the list goes on from Morant Bay to Negril Point. We have been nation building since 1962. And we still seem to be marking time with no real progress as crime spirals and moral decay threatens the very fabric of our society.