Apology Not Accepted Bolt : To Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Expected
There is a popular saying that goes “To whom much is given, much is expected”; nothing could be more true in the case of Jamaica’s sprint sensation and ambassador at large Usain Bolt. The Honourable Mr. Bolt is renowned the world over for his formidable prowess on the track, as well as his charisma and “vybe”, which many argue entertains the thousands who usually come out to see him compete.
Such is the importance we have placed on Bolt’s talent that our government saw it fit to award him the Order of Distinction and the Order of Jamaica. The University of the West Indies, Mona was not to be outdone, as it intends to confer upon him an honorary Doctorate in Law. I questioned the wisdom in these decisions in Dr. The Honourable Usain St. Leo Bolt O.D, O.J., and asserted my doubt as to whether Bolt was mature enough and indeed had done enough to warrant those honours and privileges. I was sharply criticised for the stance I had taken, many condemned me as “bad mind” and grudgeful”. It was perhaps then an act of vindication that Bolt himself proved the correctness of my assertions, as it relates to his awards, at the recently concluded World Championships in South Korea. It comes down to one simple truth, he is just not mature enough.
Apparently, during the playing of Jamaican national anthem, our ambassador at large displayed what was deemed disrespectful behaviour. One talk show host described Bolt’s behaviour as similar to that of a primary school child (you will remember singing BOOM during the national anthem at that age). Faced with criticism, Bolt released a statement apologising for his behaviour and asserting the fact that he understands that he is an ambassador for his country and the sport. Needless to say, I remain unconvinced. However, I believe the issue is whether it is reasonable for us to expect so much of Bolt. In light of his general immaturity and past youthful indiscretions, should we have expected him to behave differently? The obvious answer of course is yes. Yes we should expect him to behave differently. The reason I asked that question though, is because so many of us have excused Bolt’s behaviour by saying “that’s just him”, so many are quick to excuse his behaviour because he is young and the claim is that by asking him to behave differently, we are stifling his youthful expression. While that may be true; and in an informal setting it may be permissible to excuse his youthful exuberance, it cannot be acceptable that someone who we have named ambassador and styled as honourable, cannot show respect for the national anthem on the world stage. It is a profound embarrassment to the government that awarded him the honours, as well as an embarrassment to the country. The very concept of an ambassador at large, demands that it be someone who will represent our interests and our people well. Outside of his speed, I am not convinced that person is Usain Bolt.
It is further distressing when one considers how basic respect for the national anthem is. Everybody knows that. It is a universal truth. This is something the average Jamaican knows, from their formative years. My little brother and cousin know that they ought to stand at attention, they know that they ought not to say BOOM!, what says Usain? What says the Honourable, soon to be Doctor, Usain Bolt? I repeat, it is a crying shame and an embarrassment to the country. Usain seems wholly unable to grasp the fact that the Jamaican people expect a lot of him. He is either not willing to be an ambassador or he is not able; either way, the fact that he is already all that he is, as it relates to styles and titles, we need to start demanding that he behave better. He needs a serious dose of humility and at least some measure of decorum. I say humility because I was utterly disgusted to see him pretend to “pop off a piece” of the cheque the 4×100 team earned and hand it to the French team. It came across, at least to me, as boastful.
That kind of behaviour is absolutely unacceptable in that setting. It is gloating and arrogance at it’s very worse. I have also considered that what he did was Jamaican, in so far as we are used to taunting those we’ve triumphed over, especially in friendly rivalry. Still, I am maintaining that not everything that the Jamaican culture excuses will be appropriate on the international stage and when he is acting in the capacity of an ambassador for Jamaica. He needs to learn this. I say he needs some decorum because clearly the ambassador either doesn’t know, or forgot how to behave when our anthem is being played. There is a time and place for everything. That was neither the time or place.
After his mishaps in Berlin and Beijing, where he beat his chest and was seen to be bragging, Usain shouldn’t have brought himself into disrepute again. His handlers need to ensure that he understands that greatness has been thrust upon him and with that comes the expectation of a nation. While it is a huge burden to place on him, considering the kind of person he is, this is the reality he is faced with and he needs to now rise to that challenge and rise to meet that expectation. He needs to prove me wrong, prove all his critics wrong, put my blog out of business. Give me nothing further to write about or say as it relates to him being undeserving of his awards.
Until I see that Usain is learning or understands all that is expected of him, I will continue to be one of his harshest critics. Perhaps he should take a page from Michael Frater’s book. That young man is always the epitome of a good sportsman, remarkably humble, even in the midst of jubilation. The more Bolt is exalted, the more the world will see him. The more mistakes he makes, the more blog posts I will pen. So no Mr. Bolt, I do not accept your apology. Show the country and indeed the world, that you’re learning and live up to your titles and honours.
“Di higher monkey climb a di more him exposed.” – Jamaican Proverb