Building Jamaica brick by brick

Monday, June 25, 2018

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It's an established fact — not always given sufficient thought — that a successful nation is not built overnight. It happens brick by brick. And, in the case of the world's leading powers, the process took hundreds of years.

Crucial to nation building is the coming together of people, oneness — a common identity spurred by goals, achievements, and, of course, the survival instinct.

Inevitably from this oneness comes a collective pride, popularly referred to as national pride.

That pride in community and country can lead to extraordinary sacrifices by people who will even treat their individual interests as secondary to that of the collective.

For thousands of years, that kind of behaviour in human beings has served to make nations great.

We have been drawn down this line of thinking by two stories on the weekend. The first is of Sports Minister Ms Olivia Grange's pronouncements that a statue in honour of the great Olympian Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will soon be completed and unveiled.

Since political independence in 1962, Jamaicans have perhaps excelled in sports, music and the arts, over and above all other fields of endeavour.

A major challenge is for Jamaicans to follow the example of their athletes and artistes and bring that hard work, fixity of purpose, and high achievement to other areas of national life, such as the economic sphere, for example.

It's for that reason this newspaper believes the erection of statues in honour of great athletes as part of Jamaica 55 Legacy Programme makes sense — providing that possibility of inspiration for others; as well as recognising the work of high achievers.

There may be those who scoff at talk about the contribution of sports to a nation's psyche. They need only contemplate the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The second story relates to the establishment of a “corridor” at Emancipation Park in New Kingston capturing the likenesses of Jamaica's national heroes.It's intended to remind Jamaicans of their history — most notably the long, heroic struggle against slavery, colonialism, exploitive domination of the underclass, as well as the efforts which culminated in political independence. And, crucially, provide inspiration for ordinary people as they take on the difficult challenges of day-to-day life.

The chief conceptualiser, businessman Mr Michael Buckle — who led execution of the project as president of the Rotary Club of Kingston — spoke of his own sense that Emancipation Park had not, up to now, captured the true essence of its name. Hence, his initiative to establish, in that wonderfully restful place, storied busts of those who sacrificed for national emancipation.

For us, there can be no denying that this corridor of honour will provide yet more building blocks towards excellence as a nation.

Mr Buckle tells us that he and his fellow Rotarians “wanted a project that captures, in a sustained way, and hopefully for generations to come, the history of 'Jamaica's Journey to Freedom',” and further, “as you traverse this historical corridor you should feel the spirit of your ancestors; the pain, the sacrifice, the blood, the sweat and the tears”.

We are told that the project cost $25 million, with several companies contributing. Tellingly, the artist, celebrated sculptor Mr Basil Watson, waived 50 per cent of fees to get the project done.

On such patriotic service is a great nation built, brick by brick.

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