There is an entire generation that has never seen Junkanoo. They do not know the lyrics to “Christmas a come” or the joy of walking Grand Market all night. As we move more into a globalized and connected world, we seem to be losing ourselves. There seems to be a shift to a Christmas that is more “foreign” and less Jamaican.
When we say “foreign” we mean anything not endemic to Jamaica. We are talking about the un-Jamaican culture that now dominates how we celebrate Christmas. Two examples: turkey has now become a popular option for Christmas dinner; public spaces have abandoned the traditional folk decorations in favor of Styrofoam snowmen and glowing Santas.
This adoption of things foreign in this season has been a slow trickle. But social media has accelerated its horrid advance. Social media has shrunk the world even smaller than the Internet did. Nothing is uniquely any one thing or belongs to any one person anymore. It thrives on the creation of a monoculture. And while this reaps positive results in communication and business and the like, it can wreak havoc on the cultures of individual nations, especially smaller nations.
But, as it would happen, the disease may also be the cure. One of the truly beautiful things about social media is its accessibility. It is free, easy to grasp and not limited to any particular group. Young and old have found a space on the various platforms. What we should do to subvert this erosion of our culture is to blast out the things that are uniquely Jamaican.
Institutions like the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, the Jamaica Information Service and the Institute of Jamaica should amp up their social media presence during the holidays promoting our Christmas culture with interactive and A/V posts. We should approach the Christmas season with the same fervor as our National holidays. We have uniquely Jamaican ways of celebrating Christmas that should attract the same level of national interest as Independence and Heroes’ Day celebrations. Why not have a Reggae Christmas carol competition and make sure it goes viral, at least to our ubiquitous Diaspora?
We can use social media to bring back the Jamaican Christmas by creating a repository for our regional and cultural traditions, and to generate awareness of these traditions. We should also encourage the communal practice of these traditions outside of the virtual space.
Now, we’re not saying that there is an absence of culture on social media, just that its presence could be stronger, especially among locals. There are small pages on social media that promote Jamaican culture, but, not surprisingly, most are created and managed by people in the diaspora. We shouldn’t leave the preservation and celebration of our culture solely to those of us living on the outside.
We should establish official cultural spaces on various social platforms that serve as virtual museums, cookbooks and town squares. These cultural spaces would fill the gaps in our cultural preservation, promoting the popular and unofficial and contentious aspects of our culture that national agencies have either missed or are unable to engage with. For these spaces to work well will need government involvement and public approval. This would create a unified community among Jamaicans here and abroad strengthening our culture and boosting brand Jamaica’s presence on the World Wide Web.