Either the Jamaican Gleaner’s most recent Bill Johnson poll is completely wrong or two percent of Jamaicans have completely lost their minds. According to the poll, two percent of Jamaicans believe that Vybz Kartel should be a national hero.
It is difficult to fathom that for every 50 Jamaicans, 1 of them believe that Vybz Kartel belongs in the same echelon as Nanny, Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Marcus Garvey and Norman Manley. Notice we did not list Alexander Bustamante because man that says “The only good Rasta is a dead Rasta” deserves to be a National Hero of Jamaica and at 18 Karat Reggae, he is definitely not considered a hero or respected as such.
But exactly what has Vybz Kartel done that would make two percent of sane Jamaicans see him as a National Hero?
Kartel is a prolific songwriter. However, he also has two serious negatives. First, he has penned some violent lyrics and second, he has been convicted of murdering his friend. Nevertheless, two per cent of Jamaicans still think he should be a national hero. Being convicted of a crime is not enough to prevent someone from being a national hero as Marcus Garvey was charged and convicted of crimes in the United States. But Kartel is no Garvey.
In Jamaica, the order of national hero is awarded for services of the most distinguished nature rendered by Jamaican citizens to Jamaica. This honour is awarded on the retirement of the recipient from active public life or posthumously. Surprisingly, there are no specific criteria for the award. It is very subjective.
Many dancehall fans consider Kartel to be the best lyricist in Jamaica but that is not enough. The lyrics would have to challenge the status quo; empower people to produce their best; change the violent culture and ‘informa fe dead’ mantra; risk life and property for speaking out about the ills of society.
Tremaine Brown, a deportee from England, is a better candidate for national hero than Vybz Kartel because he jumped into a gully with rushing water and strong current and saved a boy, Renaldo Reynolds. A reporter asked Tremaine what reward he was expecting and he said he was expecting nothing because he did it out of love. Tremaine, son of a revivalist pastor, cannot swim but risked his life and got injured for a boy he did not know.
Our national heroes are persons who risked their lives for the betterment of Jamaicans. They epitomize a life characterized by sacrificial living – putting the needs of others above their own; ensuring the upliftment of the nation; giving their all. That’s what national heroes are made of. So, Vybz Kartel is not deserving of national hero status.