Alfred Dawes | The elephant in the room
You may know by now that I have thrown my hat into the political ring. As such, my decision to continue to write, and if I do, the content of my columns, are up for review. Ever since I was a boy, I enjoyed reading the opinion pieces of Morris...
You may know by now that I have thrown my hat into the political ring. As such, my decision to continue to write, and if I do, the content of my columns, are up for review. Ever since I was a boy, I enjoyed reading the opinion pieces of Morris Cargill and John Rapley. Through a series of serendipitous events, I moved from first penning an eventually heavily letter to the editor, complaining about the JUTC takeover of a lane on the Mandela Highway, causing terrible traffic conditions, to a regular columnist for the pinnacle of Caribbean journalism, The Sunday Gleaner.
Throughout that journey, I was fortunate to educate and inform through The Gleaner’s Health Section and In Focus. Looking back, I can only say that I have been pleasantly surprised at the impact of my musings and rantings.
If I were forced to choose a favourite column, it would not be based on its journalistic value, but on its outcome. ‘Kinte’s Struggle’ brought to the forefront of our consciousness one man’s determination to beat his cancer, and for his insurance company to honour his medical claim. I never anticipated the outpouring of support for Kinte that ensued after the article was published. This heartwarming support for Kinte is the reason he is alive today, and we are truly grateful.
Other causes I promoted never fared as well because of the creeping apathy that has replaced the warrior spirit bequeathed by our ancestors. The hit-and-run death of the honey vendor never seemed worthy of a Kintesque national outcry, and his manslaughter remains unsolved. Cemex still went ahead and imposed their royalty fees on earnings from Caribbean Cement Company Limited. That issue will be resurrected in the near future when they raise cement prices in order to squeeze those fees out of their customers.
Advocacy through writing articles and the media interviews that stemmed from them and through my being a public commentator/noise-maker, have been my primary contribution to national development. This more so since I left the public health system four years ago. It has not been easy to shake the gnawing feeling that this cannot be the best way in which I can contribute to my country. As to why there is even a need to contribute rather than simply enjoy the fruits of my labours is not easily explained to those who are not so inclined. If you gain more satisfaction from helping to make this world a better place for others, than to enjoy the pleasures that money can buy, then you will understand why there is a burning desire to give of yourself. It has been the core values of altruism, kinship, self-mastery and an adventurous spirit that have determined my path in life. Once again, they have determined that my status quo is not enough.
I know that this foray into representational politics has significantly and permanently diminished my standing in the eyes of my peers. The question has been asked increasingly, “Why do something so foolish when I don’t need politics?” The answer is really the question of “How long can we allow the direction of our country to be determined by people who you have so little regard toward?” Maybe they’re right and I’ll be shunned for my naivety in believing that if enough nationalists enter, we can change the system. Even if I am unsuccessful in this new career path and forced by those who are satisfied with the status quo to beat a hasty retreat, the question of whether my future contributions are through politics would have been answered. That nagging feeling would have been satisfied. Is it worth compromising my impartiality and the ability to engage in discourse about national issues without being labelled a political tribalist?
Yes. Even if I lose business and have to give up on my writing and commentary, it is worth answering that question. I could not live with myself if I woke up one morning to a burning country, wondering if I could truly have made a difference having seen the path of destruction on which we were headed when I decided not to cross the Rubicon.
This also answers the question of “Why now?” When in less than eighty years of universal adult suffrage the government of the day is elected by 20 per cent of eligible voters, something is rotten in the state of Jamdown. When successive opposition parties make promises to clean up corruption and serve the interests of the people rather than those of the power brokers who got them elected, but on assuming power renege on those promises in a flash, it is not worth coming out to vote any more. When the tough actions needed to cauterise crime will adversely affect both political parties, so we are left to bleed while juggle optics and gimmicks are juggled, it is time to change them from within.
You may not agree with my party colour, but you must agree that Jamaica is at a crossroads and unless both political parties become populated with nationalists rather than loyalists, Jamaica will be destroyed from within. If I do give up my pen because everything I now write will be viewed through political lenses, it will not be to pick up a sword. It will be to fulfil a burning desire to play a greater role in contributing to the development of what I firmly believe are a special place and special people. This has brought me peace.
- Dr Alfred Dawes is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and CEO of Windsor Wellness Centre. Follow him on Twitter @dr_aldawes. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com