Mark Wignall: Bequeathing a Wreck to our Youth

Jamaica News, March 6, 2018 – Bequeathing a Wreck to our Youth

It is typical in Jamaican uptown suburbs that whenever a child comes of age or does especially well in academic achievement, he or she is gifted with a car.

If the head of the household is rolling in cash, the car will be spanking new. For most others, it will be a ‘brand new secondhand,’ a deportee from an Asian capital. Parents do that because they love their children, are proud of them, and want to give them adequate social tools to make their lives better.

More importantly, responsible parents want their children to carry on the best of their legacy. At the heart of it though, even if the parents are not thinking directly of it, it is all about nation building and our children being that link to a greater Jamaica.

No responsible parent who can afford better, saddles his or her child with a broken down, old wreck of a car. As a proud set of people, knowing that the Jamaican footprint has an outsized influence on the global stage, we know that collectively, our country is still far from attaining the best it could have had.

So, collectively we know that the country’s failures are many and that brand new car we wish to give to our child is looking more like a burnt-out husk and a big weight hanging from his or her neck.

The socially aware householder whose monthly income hovers around J$450,000 per month and can easily handle the regular mortgage requirements, knows that in his daily interactions, most of those he comes across at street level would be overjoyed to be taking home J$45,000 every month.

In sheer miles, it may be no more than say, five but in terms of social power and economic viability and strength, there is a cosmic gap between the haves and the have-nots in Jamaica.

Although we have come a far way from that independence date in 1962 — illiteracy-60%, homes with no electricity, 90%; internal plumbing, 85% to, now high 80% in literacy and the vast majority of houses with internal plumbing and electric power in 2018, we have drifted as a nation even as social and income inequities continue to grow.

I can remember as a child there was an icebox in the house, a huge chest-like box sealed at the base and half filled with sawdust to keep the ice my mother or father bought from the man with the roving ice cart. Our children only knew of this because we told them so. At no stage did we want them to experience that or use some stinking latrine out through the coffee walk.

Bequeathing a Wreck to our Youth

In many inner-city pockets, there are small rooms with beds holding, in some cases, three to a sleeping spot. As uptowners wake up in their air-conditioned space, many of those most vulnerable 800,000 men, women and children estimated to be living below the poverty line wake up with anger issues. Bedroom stinks, bed stinks, the place is steaming hot even with a fan in place. Many leave the house thinking, ‘Touch me and I am likely to stab you.’

With too many children packed into too many tight spaces, it is the rare father who does not sometimes think to just get up and abandon the nest. Many in fact do. For those children, their future begins in pain and the legacy that they envision is nothing more than a burnt-out wreck.

The reality of that young boy waking up from the hell and the cramp and the stale, steamy air of an innercity bedroom must be daily pressures on him, to link up with gunmen his age whose lives are mobile wrecks.

Many of them know that when a father is absent, that child is solely responsible to create his own legacy. No fancy, shiny new 2018 car. Just another burnt out wreck.

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