Jamaica Today Part 2 : The Cultural Transition
We are going through a process of rapid social change occasioned by severe acculturation from the ghettoes of the North; Jamaica is a society in transition. African cultural norms were devalued and largely undocumented but they survive today in a number of cultural art forms that will soon be extinct due to mere ignorance. And where education is concerned, its quality at the primary and secondary levels has deteriorated with the democratization of education and the lack of resources for funding teacher training and high quality educational programs.
The result is that persons at the bottom of the social pyramid show lack of achievement and preparation for the work place; this perpetuates poverty and despair of ever accessing legitimate means of social mobility.
Jamaica is a Society in transition where external cultural influences are shaping the cultural edge. The Middle class who have been traditionally the purveyors of the dominant culture has been eroded through migration (brain drain) and the rise of the “Nouveau Riche” or New Rich.
Most working class Jamaicans have strong links to relatives who live in the US, Canada and the UK — and their increase in numbers challenges the class structure. Access to radio, cable TV and the internet expose the youth to the worst of the ghetto cultures, this feeds criminal activity and erodes traditional ethics. There is a strong orientation to a culture of immediate gratification and consumerism supported by dancehall and the “bling” culture.
When asked about ‘Jamaican culture’, the answers will vary from sun, sea, sand and smiles to aggression, indiscipline, crime and murder. Others will think of reggae music and some will think of cannabis. Some will remember our X-rated dancehall music and others will muse about our rhythmic and clean reggae harmony and lyrics. Some will think of Bob Marley and Louise Bennett and others will remember our African roots, diverse ethnicity, Kumina, quadrille, bongo drumming and traditional art forms.
Some people will recall our politics, scammers, poverty and mendicants while others will consider our Olympic heroes and natural friendly nature. Maybe it is full time that we seek to define ourselves culturally. Then again, perhaps we cannot and probably we already have. One must, therefore, ask whether the perception that we portray accurately represents our true culture or not. If the two are one, would that bode well for us as a nation? And, if they are disparate, how do we change that perception to fully represent our culture?
We need to consciously remove our negative traits and keep the positive ones so that the ‘Jamaican culture’ will engender positive thoughts, no matter how it is defined, examined or interpreted.