Social cohesion is a tall order

Dear Editor,

This new Ministry of Social Cohesion from what I have been reading, is not an original concept, however, it has long been a main missing ingredient which every nation desires. This country has long been drifting hither and thither because of the lack of social cohesion which should have been a staple holding together our people. Instead it took a change of government, as if just out of a slumber, to recognize the need.

Partisan race politics is a nasty and powerful force that is keeping us apart in spite of all the beautiful, charming pronouncements and declarations. It is what has had us shackled until now, hence the reason why our motto will continue to go a begging.

We profess nationalism and patriotism, yet don’t seem to be true to ourselves as a people. Almost everyone is on a solo ride with the ‘me, myself and I’ mantra in full swing; we don’t fall on our swords for each other, period. Instead we put each other to the sword, because that’s what partisan and race politics does. And I’m not saying that social cohesion is not attainable, but it is a real tall order to achieve against the prevailing background. No one denies how ethnically polarized we are.

As always it is the social conditions that dictate the behaviour of our people; when some have to compete at a perilous level to survive – “box food outa hog mouth,” as the Jamaicans would say, then it becomes difficult for social cohesion to be achieved. This is especially so when on top of that there is this huge army of insecure, unstable, unemployed, displaced people, whose precarious existence threatens the stability, peace and harmony of those well placed as well as society in general. Yet again it is this frightening rise in violent crime daily confronting us which ought to snatch our attention; when one could be contracted to execute a murder – as we have recently seen – and it is done on credit, then what next?

A situation of haves and have nots is inherently volatile and potentially dangerous, and the ‘single garment of destiny’ theory becomes meaningless, mere philosophical talk at best. Against this scenario, social cohesion is lost. And this is the main reason for the present scenario ‒ in addition to a racially divided people ‒ which is propped-up, nurtured and exploited by politicians for their own gains. And it sometimes looks as if there is nothing that can be done about it, except just wait it out like a raging storm until it goes away.

And how unfortunate it is that we are still not a nation blessed with the calibre of politicians known for recognising wrongs and apologising, saying ‘I’m sorry’ ‒ no sir! This noble quality is invariably seen as a weakness and politically destructive. We prefer to come up with nice concepts, grand political schemes, ideas and other claptrap programmes hoping and wishing that whatever wrongs, no matter how terrible, would be banished, totally blanked out and forgotten forever, though they know that this could never be.

Almost everything our politicians think and do is from a narrow partisan perspective; really genuine and heartfelt actions are rare, and this is another reason why social cohesion will be an uphill battle. There are hurdles aplenty, the toughest being economic well-being. To be practical, social security trumps social cohesion, and equally factored into the scheme of things is the way those at the helm are perceived; people have to be influenced to really trust and believe in them deep down within. They ought to feel and not just hear them. There are pillars that social cohesion has to stand on in order for it to work, and I do agree with that writer who said “its function and purpose are not defined.”

And I really do feel it is time we cease all the talk about “one people”, “developing as a people”, “unity in diversity” etc; they are now a bunch of boring, empty, meaningless garble that has long lost its purpose. Instead we should act them out, show rather than tell and walk the talk, and social cohesion will follow.

But I dare say, this is a tall order and the work is well cut out; let’s hope it gets into stride.


Yours faithfully,

Frank Fyffe

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