Times are bad in Jamaica, and if they are to get better in the long run we will experience quite a bit of discomfort along with a bit of pain. This is something that quite a few have come to realise, either through slow evolution or a quick analysis, unfortunately that message along with quite a few others, seems to have missed the broader public.
That words have power is neither a new or surprising statement, how sentences are formed is crucial because that alone plays a major factor in how people respond to a message. Take for example the situation surrounding free health and you will see why words and sentence structuring is so important.
We also see this in free education which in this sense means that a parent/guardian would not have to pay out of pocket at the school for his/her child’s education because it is state subsidised (hence the other less popular name state funded). Now when the average person hears free education, they automatically think that there is no cost to them, that they just receive and someone else pays. However when they hear state funded their whole outlook on it changes because the state funds things through taxes, which hit everyone (theoretically). Both statements mean the same thing, but give off a totally different vibe and politicians know this.
Oratory, the art of speaking is far more than sounding good. It is about getting people on your side, convincing them that you are right, or, crucially, obfuscating the true meaning of a policy. This is why from ancient Egypt, through to ancient Greeks, to the Romans, to Machiavelli to Marcus Garvey put a premium on speaking, because words have power, they matter.
Jamaica is at a crucial crossroads, in a lot of ways more critical than in the mad era of the ’70s-’80s. With violence and the creators of violence no longer on the politicians leash, with multinationals and foreign powers keen to sclice us up, with international criminal interests flocking to Jamaica as they did before the arrest of Mr Coke and with politicians still with the same backwards thinking (for the most part), we can see how fragile our nation is. Most people see this but can’t quite put their finger on the answer… and that is where words come into play.
Andrew Holness got the ball rolling in the ill fated campaign of 2011 when he stated bluntly that the nation would have to swallow bitter medicine before things got better. More however needs to be done in that vein.
Politicians and civil society must come out, and in plain english, with as little jargon as possible, tell the Jamaican people the truth. Tell us in plain english that the excrement is about to hit the fan, tell us that the nation is hanging on for dear life and tell us plainly that our very future and existence as we know is is at stake. But also tell us in the same plain language that there is hope. The future can be bright, that getting there won’t be easy and that most likely it will be our children who live to reap what we sowed. Tell us how it will be done and what it will take, level with the Jamaican people and we will not only listen, but actually respect you and follow through.
The Jamaican people are not dumb, we may not all be scholars or doctors of letters, but it you explain things to us in a way we understand, we have no limits to our potential (as seen by these kids who have not one day of schooling or apprenticeship but are making homemade guns). Level with us, talk to us in ways that we can understand, because to paraphrase Twins of Twins, it is our lives at stake and that is not a joke and shouldn’t be taken lightly. So simplyfy speech in these formal discussions like the budget debates because if not people will misread things, and that hardly ever has a happy outcome.