So we are back on the world stage again! This time it’s Winston Watt and our bobsled team who are flying the flag high. (Is it bobsled or bobsleigh? Apparently they are both correct.) The world has been fawning all over Jamaica recently, whether it is cheering on Usain and our impressive sprinters and trying to find out if the secret is in the yam, or imitating our colourful accent in an effort to sell more Volkswagens, or it’s the Toronto Mayor demonstrating his quite impressive grasp of the Jamaican vernacular. I understand that many a foreign journalist was desperately calling their Jamaican contacts in an effort to translate his tirade. “Could you please tell us what exactly are rasclawts and why they are offensive?”
By virtue of our country’s diminutive size and financial challenges, we are the perpetual underdogs. The odds of a country as small as ours producing so many prominent and successful citizens is tiny. And yet we do. Bob Marley. Grace Jones. Merlene Ottey. Usain Bolt. Shaggy. Sean Paul. Tessanne. The Reggae Boyz. The Olympic bobsled team. The list goes on. Jamaica’s name has reached every corner of the globe.
Because we do beat the odds. A lot. And somehow we always capture the world’s imagination because we are like David against Goliath. And watching David slay the giant never gets old. Of course there’s lots of bad news coming out of Jamaica too. But consider this. Could it be that it is because of the daily hardships that we face, and not in spite of them, that we have achieved so much success?
Recent studies show that many smart children who breeze through school have a difficult time in adulthood when faced with serious challenges. They are so accustomed to things coming easily to them, that they become daunted and give up when faced with their first real obstacle. On the other hand, children who are used to slogging through failures and difficulties are better equipped to navigate the real world, because they push through to reap success.
Now as we know, life in Jamaica is synonymous with frustration. We face it daily. We are confronted with red tape and bureaucracy in conducting the simplest affairs, whether in applying for a birth certificate, paying our taxes, or starting a business. We are ignored by store clerks, are forced to navigate potholed, rutted roads alongside reckless fellow drivers, and we deal with overworked, underpaid and harried doctors and nurses at our hospitals. Practically every single aspect of our everyday life is fraught with problems. If there is a way to make a simple process difficult, we’ll find it.
And so we have cut our teeth on struggle and frustration. Little surprise then, that our citizens manage to achieve so much. After all, after living in Jamaica, what challenge is too great for us. What odds can overcome us? So there is no snow? And we want to be an Olympic skier/bobsledder/ice skater. No problem! So there is no money and we need US$80,000 to get to the Olympics? No problem! So we are at the Olympics with no sled? No problem!
Whatever mountains are put in front of us, Jamaicans will find a way over, around or through it. Because that is what we do every single day. Tell a Jamaican it can’t be done, then step back and watch them do it. There’s no rule that can’t be broken, no roadblock that can’t be removed, no hurdle that can’t be conquered. Our particular brand of determination, and the creativity which we employ to achieve our goals is truly admirable.
So our brave little team from the land of sunshine and beaches has donned their winter gear and taken to the Olympic bobsled track for the second time in history. They say that there is small chance of us winning. That may be true, but I wouldn’t count us out too soon. We got to Sochi against all odds, and we are accustomed to beating the odds. Winning may be a long shot, but we thrive on challenges. Because we are a people born and raised on hardships. And this is what we do best. We fight and we conquer. You say it can’t be done? Just watch us.