Emancipation Park, Kingston
DJ Miller Photo

Between the Olympics and the Independence celebrations. Jamaicans were feeling good. But can we keep that feeling going? Sadly, past experience says no.

Thanks to the coincidence of the London 2012 Olympics, and the celebration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of political independence, patriotism was on full display in July and August. Public spaces, as well as buildings, both public and private, were bedecked using the national colours in creative and colourful decorations. Jamaicans were wearing, day after day, black, green and gold clothes, the hashtag #teamjamaica was trending, and most people were declaring themselves “proud to be Jamaican.”

This wasn’t new. During the previous two IAAF World Championships in particular, and when the Reggae Boyz made the 1998 World Cup, there were similar expressions of patriotism. None of them lasted, and I doubt this one will.

KSAC building
DJ Miller Photo

It’s not hard to figure out why. Life in Jamaica is hard. Not as hard, sure, as in some developing countries, but for many people, hard nonetheless. The grind of poverty, and the fear of crime and concern about issues like heath, education and corruption are never-ending. Advances are few and glacially slow. Events like the Olympics are actually a pit stop, a welcome break from reality.

So when the closing ceremony is over, and the accolades for the athletes have ended, when the remains of the Grand Gala have been cleaned up, it’s back to that reality of everyday life, which for many, isn’t fun.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep that fantastic energy going on a national scale, to harness that patriotism for national and economic development, and I must say I don’t have the answer.

It seems to me that while one problem lies in leadership, and that a 2008 Obama-style visionary could help, that could create problems of its own. The problem with hitching your hope to a political star, is that when the star starts to fall, as Obama’s undeniably has, and as Michael Manley’s did in the 1970s, you end up with a disillusioned and bitter populace.

So if we can’t draw inspiration from our leaders then where should we look?

The curb in Liguanea painted in the national colours
DJ Miller Photo

The only answer I can find is that we have to find it within ourselves and from whichever sources we draw on for personal inspiration. The incredible achievements of people like Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce have to be harnessed by each of us individually to propel us to greater heights in our individual lives. We can all then lift Jamaica together. It might sound inadequate, but as they say, the only person you can change is you.

Balloons for sale at the Denbigh Agricultural Show
DJ Miller Photo

If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.