Dear JLP…

Image

 

*sigh* Calm down. Take a breath. 

 I don’t think I’m the only one not making much of a fuss about this possible leadership challenge in your party.  Yes, I get that it is the first time in so many years that the delegates may get to vote for a leader. So I do understand why this would be a big deal. 

But…it kinda isn’t. It really isn’t THAT serious.  

Am I missing something here?

It has been touted that the JLP has a tradition of choosing a leader by consensus. Although this may very well be, there is a system in place that facilitates a challenge to the current leadership. Perhaps it’s because such systems have not been engaged for so many years why the very idea of one is so daunting. Is democracy strange to you? 

The possibility of disunity and “gutter politics” may become a reality by virtue of the attitude and conduct of members who opt to not let the process simply take its course. If the party has a set of values, policies and principles around which members can unite, selecting a leader really should not create such an irreparable rift.  Unless, of course, your politics is ONLY about personalities and not about policies. A challenge does not necessarily equate to disloyalty/disunity. It’s simply an opportunity for delegates to see/hear other perspectives and vote on whichever they think is best. That’s all, really. 

The sky isn’t falling.

Yes, it may look ugly at first, but that’s only because opposing views will clash. It’s not the end of the world. Understand that the process of change/growth isn’t pretty. And interfering with the process will make the thing dysfunctional.

That said…

For heaven’s sake, PLEASE LEARN HOW TO RIDE AND WHISTLE. YOU ARE STILL THE QUEEN’S LOYAL OPPOSITION.

@MizDurie, @ThinkJamaica

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Long but interesting read: “EMANCIPATION IN JAMAICA; Times Past and Times Present”

English: The Official Medallion of the British...

English: The Official Medallion of the British Anti-Slavery Society (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I happened upon this article in the New York Times a couple hours ago. The full text of the article is below. I invite you to read and share your thoughts on it. And please, bear in mind that it was written in 1859.

By the way, who was “W.G.S.”?
*****

KINGSTON, Jamaica, December, 1859       

As briefly as possible–for the theme is threadbare–I must endeavor to give your readers an approximate idea of the decline of Jamaica, ere I attempt to explain the causes of that decline or point out the political and social abuses and anomalies for which, it seems to me, a remedy must be found before the island can be restored to its ancient prosperity. I do not think it can be disputed — if history and statistics are to be believed — that, since the abolition of the Slave-trade fifty-two years ago, Jamaica has never for a moment paused in her downward career. I do not think it can be disputed — if actual observation is to be relied upon — that she has not, even yet, reached the lowest point of possible depression. Lower still she can sink — lower still she must sink, if her people are not imbued with a more pregnant patriotism — if the governing classes are not stimulated to more energetic action, and are not guided, by more unselfish counsels.       

I know of no country in the world where prosperity, wealth, and a commanding position have been so strangely subverted and destroyed, as they have been in Jamaica, within the brief space of sixty years. I know of no country in the world where so little trouble has been taken to investigate the causes of this decline, or to remedy the evils that have depressed the colony. The partisans of Slavery, it is true — the sufferers, who have commanded the ear of the world and have enlisted its sympathies in their behalf — have represented, and with a large coloring of reason, that all this widespread ruin is to be attributed to Emancipation only. But thinking and intelligent men are no longer convinced by these state complaints. They cannot now be brought to believe that the liberation of 350,000 slaves, whatever may have been its first effect, is the origin, and only origin, of the poverty and distress that prevail in the island at the present day. British Emancipation may have been unwise; regarded as a great social revolution, the manner in which the scheme was executed must be utterly condemned; private rights were violated, and their sacredness was eclipsed by the splendor of an act which gave freedom to a people who never knew what freedom was; — but the ruin attributed to it is, in Jamaica, too broad and too deep to be set down any longer as the effect of that one solitary cause. No other English island has the natural advantages that Jamaica possesses; no other English island exhibits the same, or anything like the same, destitution; yet all have passed through the same experience — all have undergone the same trial.       

Tempora mutantur should be the Jamaican motto. Tempora mutantur with a vengeance! Only sixty years ago, and the dream of Emancipation had not been dreamt even by a Wilberforce, and the then greatest slave-trading country in the world was but opening its national eyes to the iniquity of the accursed traffic. How vehemently the planters stood up for their right (who dare dispute it?) to steal Mandingoes and Eboes from the African coast! How forcibly, in those days, did they represent the unfriendliness of Slavery to population, and groan over an annual diminution of slave property which only the African trade could keep up to the scanty figure of a bare sufficiency! Their representations had, at least, the merit of being true; for though 600,000 slaves, at the lowest estimate, were brought to Jamaica during the Eighteenth Century, it is well known that, at the end of that period, the slave population of the whole Island was not much more than one half of that amount. It was computed by the political economists of the day that Jamaica required an annual supply of 10,000 slaves to provide against the wear and tear of life; and the statement will appear by no means incredible to those who have examined the statistics of Cuban Slavery at the present time. In spite of this immense traffic, ruthlessly and recklessly carried on, Jamaica was never adequately supplied with labor. The slaves were overworked to satify their masters’ lust for gain, and to this the great mortality has been mainly attributed. That great mortality ceased with the extinction of the Slave-trade, for the planters found it incumbent upon them to take more care of their property; nevertheless, in spite of all their precautions, the decrease of slaves each year by death, without reference to the decrease by manumission, was considerably larger than the increase by birth; and the deficit, now, could not be supplied.       

There are many who believe that great crimes against society, in nations as in individuals, are followed by certain punishment; and, to such, the impoverished condition of the Jamaica planters of the present day will seem but a natural consequence of a long reign of avarice and cruelty, of extravagance and oppression. I do not seek to take up this parable against them. But, it is not to be denied, that they are the chief if not the only sufferers. The large landed proprietors and merchant potentates of the island — these are the men who have fallen from their high estate. The slaves of other days, the poor, the peasantry — these are the men who have progressed, if not in morality, at least in material prosperity, as in subsequent letters I shall have ample opportunity to show. If the change could be traced solely to emancipation, I should be loth to justify emancipation, believing as I do that it would be wholly inconsistent with morality or the dictates of a sound policy, to degrade that portion of the population which controlled the elements of civilization, in order to enrich an ignorant and undisciplined people. But the decline of Jamaica has been so stupendous as of itself to create a doubt whether it can be laid, in whole or even in part, to the emancipation of the slaves. A witness can prove too much; and the advocates for a slave system for Jamaica have appealed to a testimony which places their case in this very category.       

It will be found upon examination that the most prosperous epoch of Jamaican commerce was that embraced in the seven years immediately preceding the abolition of the Slave-trade. Yet even then it is a notorious fact, to be proved by Parliamentary Blue Books, that over 150 estates on the Island had been abandoned for debt. During the seven years indicated — that is from 1801 to 1807 — the sugar exports of Jamaica amounted annually to an average of 133,000 hhds. During the seven years succeeding the year in which the Slave-trade was abolished — from 1807 to 1814 — the annual exports fell off to an average of 118,000 hhds. During the next seven years — from 1814 to 1821 — the annual average was about 110,000 hhds.; from 1821 to 1828, it was 96,000 hhds., and from 1828 to 1835 it was 90,000 hhds. — thus showing a steady decline, not so alarming, it is true, as the decline of subsequent years (for the whole sugar exportation of Jamaica is now only 30,000 hhds.) but sufficiently serious to demonstrate that Jamaica had reached its maximum prosperity under Slavery, and had commenced to deteriorate nearly thirty years before the Emancipation act was passed, and many years before the design of such a measure was conceived, or Mr. CANNING’s note of warning was sounded in West Indian ears. A comparison of Jamaican exports in 1805, her year of greatest prosperity, with her exports in 1859, must appear odious to her inhabitants. In the former year the Island exported over 150,000 hhds. of sugar, and in the latter year she exported 28,000 hhds. The exports of rum and coffee exhibit the same proportionate decrease. The exportation of pimento only has increased — to be explained by the fact that a large number of small settlers cultivate this article for sale.       

If the City of Kingston be taken as an illustration of the prosperity of Jamaica, the visiter will arrive at more deplorable conclusions than those pointed out by commercial statistics. It seems like a romance to read to-day, in the capital of Jamaica, the account of that capital’s former splendor. Its “magnificent churches” — now time worn and decayed — are scarcely superior to the stables of some Fifth-avenue magnate. There is not a house in the city in decent repair; not one that looks as though it could withstand a respectable breeze; not a wharf in good order; not a street that can exhibit a square yard of pavement; no sidewalks; no drainage; scanty water; no light. The same picture of neglect and apathy greets one everywhere. In the business part of the town you are oppressed with its inactivity. Clerks yawn over the, counters, or hail with greedy looks the solitary stranger who comes in to purchase. If a non-resident, he is made to pay for the dullness of the market, and leaves a hotel, a store or a livery-stable, tolerably well fleeced-Prices that in New-York would be deemed exorbitant, must be paid by strangers for the common necessities of life. The Kingstonians remind me much of the Bahama wreckers. Having little or nothing themselves, they look upon a steamer-load of California passengers, cast away in their harbor for a night or a day, as very Egyptians, whom it is not only their privilege but their duty to despoil.       

There is nothing like work done in Kingston, except perhaps in the establishments of a few European or American merchants, or on the piers, now and then, at the loading or unloading of vessels. The city was originally well laid out, but it is not ornamented with a single tree, and the square, in a central location, is a barren desert of sand, white-hot with exposure to the blazing sun. The streets are filthy, the beach lots more so, and the commonest laws of health are totally disregarded; wreck and ruin, destitution and neglect. There is nothing new in Kingston. The people, like their horses, their houses, and all that belongs to them, look old and worn. There are no improvements to be noted, not a device, ornament, or conceit of any kind to indicate the presence of taste or refinement. The inhabitants, taken en masse, are steeped to the eyelids in immorality; promiscuous intercourse of the sexes is the rule; the population shows an unnatural decrease; illegitimacy exceeds legitimacy; abortion and infanticide are not unknown. Kingston looks what it is, a place where money has been made, but can be made no more. It is used up and cast aside as useless. Nothing is replaced that time destroys. If a brick tumbles from a house to the street, it remains there; if a spout is loosened by the wind, it hangs by a thread till it falls; if furniture is accidentally broken, the idea of having it mended is not entertained. The marks of a listless, helpless poverty are upon the faces of the people whom you meet, in their dress, in their very gait.       

Have I described a God-forsaken place, in which no one seems to take an interest, without life and without energy, old and dilapidated, sickly and filthy, cast away from the anchorage of sound morality, of reason, or of common sense? Then, verily, have I described Kingston in 1859. Yet this wretched hulk is the capital of an island the most fertile in the world; it is blessed with a climate most glorious; it lies rotting in the shadow of mountains that can be cultivated from summit to base, with every product of temperate and tropical regions; it is mistress of a harbor where a thousand line-of-battle ships can safely ride at anchor.       

The once brimming cup of Kingston’s prosperity has been indeed emptied to the dregs. It offers no encouragement that this splendid island inheritance, wasted through riotous living in times past, will ever be redeemed. You must look beyond Kingston for the grounds of such a hope. You must escape from its sickly atmosphere and the listless indifference of its people. You must learn, as you can learn from the most casual observation, that the Island, unlike others that can be mentioned, is in no exhausted condition; but is fresh and fair, and abundantly fertile as ever, with every variety of climate, and capable of yielding every variety of product. Up in these tremendous hills you may enjoy the luxury of a frosty night; down upon the plains you may bask in the warmth of a fiery sun. There you can raise potatoes, here you can raise sugar cane. There you will find interminable forests of wild pimento, here interminabls acres of abandoned properties — a mass of jungle and luxuriant vegetation choking up the deserted mansions of Jamaica’s ancient aristocracy. Scenes most wonderfully fair, moat picturesque, but most melancholy to look upon; scenes that a limner might love to paint, but from which an American planter would turn in disgust and contempt.       

This magnificent country — wanting nothing but capital and labor for its complete restoration to a prosperity far greater than it ever yet attained — is now sparsely settled by small negro cultivators, who have been able to purchase their plots of land for £2 and £3 an acre. With a month’s work on their own properties, they can earn as much as a year’s labor on a sugar estate, would yield them. They are superior, pecuniarily speaking, to servitude; and by a law of nature, that cannot be gainsaid, they prefer independence to labor for hire. Why should they be blamed? But the fact remains that the island is nearly destitute of labor; that through want of labor it has been reduced; and by an adequate supply of labor can it only be restored. Covering an area of four millions of acres, Jamaica has a population of 378,000, white, black and mulatto. This makes about eleven acres to each person. In the flourishing island of Barbados the proportion is nearly one and a half persons to each acre. If Jamaica were as thickly populated as Barbados, it would contain over five millions of souls, and would export a million hogs, heads. Till its present population has been doubled and trebled, no material improvement can be looked for. But where is the money — where are the vigor and the energy necessary to obtain this population? Whose fault is it that these are wanting, and that Jamaica, with far greater advantages than Trinidad or Guiana, has failed to follow the footsteps of their success? Is this also the result of emancipation?       

I propose to visit the interior of this Island, and to describe in subsequent letters, and within such compass as your space will permit, the civil and social condition of the people, who are generally supposed, by their indolence and improvidence, to have plunged themselves and their island into hopeless ruin. And while I do not expect to find that freedom has produced that millenium, even for the negro, that Abolitionists pretend — while I know that I shall find a people falling far short, very far short, of the European or American standard of morality, or education, yet I think I shall prove that other evils besides their emancipation have contributed to the decline of the Island; that other wrongs besides emancipation must be righted before a change for the better can take place; and that a restoration of Slavery, were that within the bounds of possibility, would not only fail to restore Jamaica’s prosperity, but would sink her in deeper destruction. W.G.S.

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Jamaica in “1984”

Dissent

In 1949 the dystopian novel “1984”, written by George Orwell, was published.  I can only assume that at the time of its publication it brought to one’s imagination a society so far-fetched in its ideals and practices.  Perhaps no one could ever conceptualize a society in which one’s thoughts and activities were policed and subjected to such keen and intrusive government surveillance.  It would be hard to imagine a place where independent thinking is a crime, dissent is subjected to punishment and persecution, and only love and obedience for “The Party” is rewarded.

In the brouhaha that unfolded in the United States concerning whistleblower Edward Snowden, Orwell’s “1984” regained popularity, and it is during that period of time that I first read the book in its entirety.  At the very least, I was amazed at the prophetic nature of the novel.  But now, considering events unfolding in my own country, I am becoming increasingly concerned.

Firstly, we heard Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller suggesting that the Opposition Leader may be “an enemy of the state” for comments he made raising concerns about the state of the economy.  We heard expressions tossed around about Jamaicans who criticize the state of governance as being “unpatriotic” and “anti-Jamaica”.

Then last week we saw Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna, referring the matter of a petition by civic group Jamaicans for Justice to the Attorney General for review – branding their petition as “disingenuous, dishonest, dangerous and clearly designed to damage the reputation of this country” (Jamaica Gleaner – July 18, 2013).  Right on the heels of this we have government MP Raymond Pryce putting forward a motion for civic groups and NGO’s to be registered and audited because of concerns regarding “…unknown donors with unspecified agendas…”  He said, “…many times, they can receive funds in a subversive way that has hidden agendas, and many times those sources of funds come from agencies that are inimical to the way of life of the wider society…” (Jamaica Gleaner – July 24, 2013).  As “good” as that sounds, one cannot help but wonder what the true motive behind this is, considering how vocal civil society and the public in general have been regarding governance in Jamaica in the last year or so.

Then, imagine my shock when news emerged this week that PNPYO Kingston Chapter Chairman, Keron Woods, was suspended for two years for daring to criticize PNPYO President, Alric Campbell for “not consulting with the membership before announcing that the organization did not support a Commission of Enquiry into the 2010 Tivoli Gardens incursion”.  Woods, along with two other members of the PNPYO were not only suspended, but were mandated to do as many as 300 hours of community service.

This is a VERY disconcerting trend!  Why do I get the feeling that dissent is being punished?  That if one disagrees with “The Party” they are sidelined for their views?  Is the Government of Jamaica attempting to police public opinion?

The irony is that all this is unfolding as we prepare to commemorate “Emancipendence”.  It appears that independent thinking and freedom of opinion are slowly slipping through our fingers.

Are Jamaicans really going to sit by and let this happen?

*****

“There are only two choices: A police state in which all dissent is suppressed or rigidly controlled; or a society where law is responsive to human needs. If society is to be responsive to human needs, a vast restructuring of our laws is essential.
Realization of this need means adults must awaken to the urgency of the young people’s unrest—in other words there must be created an adult unrest against the inequities and injustices in the present system. If the government is in jeopardy, it is not because we are unable to cope with revolutionary situations. Jeopardy means that either the leaders or the people do not realize they have all the tools required to make the revolution come true. The tools and the opportunity exist. Only the moral imagination is missing.”

– William O. Douglas, 1970

@MizDurie, @THINKJamaica

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Nelson Mandela: Speech at Cape Town Rally (immediately after his release from prison) – February 11, 1990

Nelson Mandela

[Text of Speech]

Friends, comrades and fellow South Africans.

I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all.

I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the  people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be  here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.

On this day of my release, I extend my sincere and warmest gratitude to the  millions of my compatriots and those in every corner of the globe who have  campaigned tirelessly for my release.

I send special greetings to the people of Cape Town, this city which has been  my home for three decades. Your mass marches and other forms of struggle have  served as a constant source of strength to all political prisoners.

I salute the African National Congress. It has fulfilled our every  expectation in its role as leader of the great march to freedom.

I salute our President, Comrade Oliver Tambo, for leading the ANC even under  the most difficult circumstances.

I salute the rank and file members of the ANC. You have sacrificed life and  limb in the pursuit of the noble cause of our struggle.

I salute combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe, like Solomon Mahlangu and Ashley  Kriel who have paid the ultimate price for the freedom of all South Africans.

I salute the South African Communist Party for its sterling contribution to  the struggle for democracy. You have survived 40 years of unrelenting  persecution. The memory of great communists like Moses Kotane, Yusuf Dadoo, Bram  Fischer and Moses Mabhida will be cherished for generations to come.

I salute General Secretary Joe Slovo, one of our finest patriots. We are  heartened by the fact that the alliance between ourselves and the Party remains  as strong as it always was.

I salute the United Democratic Front, the National Education Crisis  Committee, the South African Youth Congress, the Transvaal and Natal Indian  Congresses and COSATU and the many other formations of the Mass Democratic  Movement.

I also salute the Black Sash and the National Union of South African  Students. We note with pride that you have acted as the conscience of white  South Africa. Even during the darkest days in the history of our struggle you  held the flag of liberty high. The large-scale mass mobilisation of the past few  years is one of the key factors which led to the opening of the final chapter of  our struggle.

I extend my greetings to the working class of our country. Your organised  strength is the pride of our movement. You remain the most dependable force in  the struggle to end exploitation and oppression.

I pay tribute to the many religious communities who carried the campaign for  justice forward when the organisations for our people were silenced.

I greet the traditional leaders of our country – many of you continue to walk  in the footsteps of great heroes like Hintsa and Sekhukune.

I pay tribute to the endless heroism of youth, you, the young lions. You, the  young lions, have energised our entire struggle.

I pay tribute to the mothers and wives and sisters of our nation. You are the  rock-hard foundation of our struggle. Apartheid has inflicted more pain on you  than on anyone else.

On this occasion, we thank the world community for their great contribution  to the anti-apartheid struggle. Without your support our struggle would not have  reached this advanced stage. The sacrifice of the frontline states will be  remembered by South Africans forever.

My salutations would be incomplete without expressing my deep appreciation  for the strength given to me during my long and lonely years in prison by my  beloved wife and family. I am convinced that your pain and suffering was far  greater than my own.

Before I go any further I wish to make the point that I intend making only a  few preliminary comments at this stage. I will make a more complete statement  only after I have had the opportunity to consult with my comrades.

Today the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognise that  apartheid has no future. It has to be ended by our own decisive mass action in  order to build peace and security. The mass campaign of defiance and other  actions of our organisation and people can only culminate in the establishment  of democracy. The destruction caused by apartheid on our sub-continent is in-  calculable. The fabric of family life of millions of my people has been  shattered. Millions are homeless and unemployed. Our economy lies in ruins and  our people are embroiled in political strife. Our resort to the armed struggle  in 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe,  was a purely defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors  which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but  to continue. We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated  settlement will be created soon so that there may no longer be the need for the  armed struggle.

I am a loyal and disciplined member of the African National Congress. I am  therefore in full agreement with all of its objectives, strategies and tactics.

The need to unite the people of our country is as important a task now as it  always has been. No individual leader is able to take on this enormous task on  his own. It is our task as leaders to place our views before our organisation  and to allow the democratic structures to decide. On the question of democratic  practice, I feel duty bound to make the point that a leader of the movement is a  person who has been democratically elected at a national conference. This is a  principle which must be upheld without any exceptions.

Today, I wish to report to you that my talks with the government have been  aimed at normalising the political situation in the country. We have not as yet  begun discussing the basic demands of the struggle. I wish to stress that I  myself have at no time entered into negotiations about the future of our country  except to insist on a meeting between the ANC and the government.

Mr. De Klerk has gone further than any other Nationalist president in taking  real steps to normalise the situation. However, there are further steps as  outlined in the Harare Declaration that have to be met before negotiations on  the basic demands of our people can begin. I reiterate our call for, inter alia,  the immediate ending of the State of Emergency and the freeing of all, and not  only some, political prisoners. Only such a normalised situation, which allows  for free political activity, can allow us to consult our people in order to  obtain a mandate.

The people need to be consulted on who will negotiate and on the content of  such negotiations. Negotiations cannot take place above the heads or behind the  backs of our people. It is our belief that the future of our country can only be  determined by a body which is democratically elected on a non-racial basis.  Negotiations on the dismantling of apartheid will have to address the over-  whelming demand of our people for a democratic, non-racial and unitary South  Africa. There must be an end to white monopoly on political power and a  fundamental restructuring of our political and economic systems to ensure that  the inequalities of apartheid are addressed and our society thoroughly  democratised.

It must be added that Mr. De Klerk himself is a man of integrity who is  acutely aware of the dangers of a public figure not honouring his undertakings.  But as an organisation we base our policy and strategy on the harsh reality we  are faced with. And this reality is that we are still suffering under the policy  of the Nationalist government.

Our struggle has reached a decisive moment. We call on our people to seize  this moment so that the process towards democracy is rapid and uninterrupted. We  have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait. Now is the time to  intensify the struggle on all fronts. To relax our efforts now would be a  mistake which generations to come will not be able to forgive. The sight of  freedom looming on the horizon should encourage us to redouble our efforts.

It is only through disciplined mass action that our victory can be assured.  We call on our white compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new South  Africa. The freedom movement is a political home for you too. We call on the  international community to continue the campaign to isolate the apartheid  regime. To lift sanctions now would be to run the risk of aborting the process  towards the complete eradication of apartheid.

Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our  way. Universal suffrage on a common voters’ role in a united democratic and  non-racial South Africa is the only way to peace and racial harmony.

In conclusion I wish to quote my own words during my trial in 1964. They are  true today as they were then:

‘I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black  domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in  which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is  an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an  ideal for which I am prepared to die.

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The Moment of Truth

picture-of-jamaica

This beautiful island nation of ours is scarred. It makes no sense we continue spewing platitudes of a paradise that has been wronged through the course of its history. We have long been subjected to speeches that allude to our hope and longing for a Jamaica that is either too far in the past, or yet to be.

So here’s to the truth.

We take pride in the resilience and strength of the Jamaican people, but shy away from looking directly into the eyes of the brutal hardship against which our resilience is built. We have a rich history of breaking free from the shackles of slavery. However, we still carry with us the ghosts of bondage as we hang on to the chains that restrict our scope of vision.

Jamaica has been short-changed by consecutive governments. For too long the leadership has failed the nation. In spite of the many areas of success that we celebrate as a nation, our leaders have made grave errors. We have policies that threaten to exploit our natural resources. We have made agreements that, instead of expanding our reach as an independent nation, create such strangleholds of debt and dependence for generations to come. Even though we tout the importance of quality health and education for our people, we can barely provide this. This is not a phenomenon that has come upon us overnight. This is after years of inadequate and generally poor stewardship. The next generation have been grossly failed by our choices – and in some cases, our apathy.

And our politics.

It is time we acknowledge and confront the politics of our past that has haunted us into fear, silence, and immobility. It is a shame, but it has to be said: our politics (and more specifically, political parties) have for too long enabled conditions for criminality and victimization of our people. This is not simply a problem for any one party. This is a NATIONAL CRISIS. Too many victims of injustice have been created in the name of politics.

As we chart our way beyond 50 years of independence, we recognize that governance no longer carries with it a sense of humility and servitude. It cannot be that our people continue to perceive its leadership as corrupt, arrogant, and out-of-touch. We know that Jamaica, in the face of all its flaws AND glory, deserves good governance from those for whom standards of quality should never be lowered.

So in this moment of truth, let us commit to unmasking the problems that plague us, and resolve to disarm the enemies of dishonesty, hypocrisy and injustice.

This, for Jamaica – land we love.

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Of Skin Bleaching and Parliamentary Proceedings

kingston-emancipation-park02

I’m just relieved that I didn’t end up having a nightmare about the Government of Jamaica using the Revenue Administration Amendment Bill to wrap bleaching cream on my body so that it will “come white”.

After watching Dionne Jackson Miller’s (@djmillerJA) “All Angles” feature on skin bleaching, I tuned in to watch Parliament, which, at that time – 9:30pm – was still in session.  Before going to bed at close to midnight (ET), after reading social media commentary (mainly Twitter) on both matters, I couldn’t help but think that the two issues though separate, are in some sense…equal.

Of Bleaching

I’m not sure how to describe how I felt watching the All Angles feature on bleaching on June 19, 2013.  Let me just say it right here and now: I am a dark-skinned Jamaican female.  It may not have been necessary to say this, but just so you are aware of the context that frames my point of view, there it is.

Now, here is a point of fact: there are people who bleach their skin.  But what I found horrifying (as with any habit or behavior that becomes an addiction) was the fact that despite the risks to their health, they continue to do so because of the gratification they get.  In this post, I will not make it my aim to write a thesis about the genesis of this behavior, nor will this post make an attempt at finding solutions.  I welcome those in the comments below, as well as in the continued discussions and exploration of the issue in other spaces.

This is in no way meant to ridicule the (mostly) women who agreed to give us an insight into the world of bleaching.  Instead, by writing a few observations I’m seeking to understand how they rationalize the activity. Essentially then, I’ll present a few (just a few) observations from last night’s program, and what it said about how we make sense or “create meaning” out of different physical and social cues.

Social mobility

In the first few minutes, Noogle helped us understand that to become more recognized in her line of work (cosmetology), she needed to present an image that would attract more customers; it follows that this would also mean an increase in income.  This image of which she speaks is that of one bearing a lighter complexion.  I’m not sure we can conclude from what she said that the lighter the complexion, the more it equates to even more recognition.  Either way, it somewhat signifies progress.  Now, others looking on who are not of that mindset may not see the progress, the mobility…but that depends on how you define progress.

Beauty, image

Still on image (and by this point, beauty), we got the chance to see how important the “video light” is.  Thanks Dr. Donna Hope for clarifying it for us.  The interviewees spoke highly about bleaching so that when they go to the parties and dances, they can “stand up inna di video light” because they’re lighter.  As Dr. Hope suggested, the video light means exposure, and (more metaphorically) an escape as their image is projected beyond the realm of their current reality.

One other observation I made with regard to understanding beauty and image in this context is that of one person almost equating darker skin to a malady.  She related that upon entering a dance and seeing another woman with (enviably) lighter skin she asked, “What is your remedy?”.  Remedy.  She needed a remedy.  A cure.  Without thinking I looked at my own skin and listened with amazement.

I wondered at this point if their perception of the beauty of lighter skin is in the complexion itself, or in the perceived “benefits” that come with having that complexion.

It’s science

When bleaching, a lot of experimentation goes into its application, and their bodies are the specimen.  There is measurement, testing, refining and a recording of results to ensure that the desired effect is captured at replication of the experiment.

The rules

  • Children/students should not bleach.  That’s just a given.
  • When you’re bleaching, don’t have a full shower (bathe).  This will interfere with the chemical processes of allowing the skin to peel so that you can get lighter.  This is to be taken into consideration especially if one is preparing for a big event.
  • Stay out of the sun (or cover up as much as possible).
  • Do not go over the limit (but that varies from person to person, and depends on the objective of bleaching)

Now, the #AllAngles discussion on Twitter was good to observe.  Of course, the few observations I listed above doesn’t come close to the number of different views on the matter.  Some say bleaching is a phenomenon with its roots in classism.  Others opine that people from the upper class bleach their skin as well.  Some allude to its psychological roots of slavery and how it’s perpetuated on the social pages of our news dailies.  One thing is for sure – the phenomenon is not isolated.  It doesn’t exist in the bubble that is the reality of the women presented in the feature…

Of the Parliamentary Session

I don’t remember ever having witnessed a Jamaican Parliamentary sitting that went on for eight hours.  The 33 MPs who were present at the vote on the Bill to Amend the Revenue Administration Act worked a full workday on June 19, 2013 (I’m still trying to decide if that deserves an applause or not.  Let’s move on as I figure it out…).  The vote on the bill was finalized at approximately 10:39pm local time.  Clearly, this was no ordinary sitting.  The debate on this bill was necessary as its passage is part of the contract between the IMF and Jamaica (the Letter of Intent – pg. 19).

And there you have it.  One of the few times our parliamentarians stay late to debate a bill and we realize it’s because outside forces have made it a stipulation.  So we see that it’s not so much that there isn’t enough time to get through the bills that are currently awaiting presentation and debate, it’s a question of commitment.  Commitment of time and energy.  As one person on Twitter stated, “…Wish some other issues –could get same time, energy , thought — e.g. crime…”  Or is it that we have to wait on the one calling the shots before we demonstrate that we can, as an independent nation, carry out the necessary actions to set us on a path to true progress?  What will it take for our MPs to decide to sit down and address the anti-gang and DNA legislations?  Do the IMF and World Bank have to stipulate those in a Letter of Intent as well?  In seriously addressing the care and protection of our children, does it have to be linked to a multilateral loan?  Hmmm?  Are we truly emancipated from “massa”?  (By the way, June 19th is celebrated in the United States as Juneteenth, commemorating the abolition of slavery in the State of Texas.  Funny, huh?)

Yes, what I’m suggesting is that even how our parliamentarians go about conducting the nation’s business (by the way, only 33 of the 63 MPs were present for the vote) illustrates that, like those who bleach their skin in the name of “beauty”, we have not been fully emancipated from our colonial past.  It’s like a bird that was locked up in a cage – it has been kept in that cage for so long that when the door is opened, it forgot how to fly.  Our apparent lack of zeal, commitment, willpower, self-respect, self-worth…is our shackle; our mindset our plantation.

“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind; use your intelligence to work out the real things of life. The time you waste in levity, in non-essentials, if you use it properly you will be able to guarantee to your posterity a condition better than you inherited from your forefathers.” – Marcus Garvey, 1937

– @MizDurie, @THINKJamaica

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Thanksgiving service for the Jamaican dollar will be held at…

Image

Editor’s note: This post has been edited from its original format (written on March 2, 2013) to reflect the most recent update in currency trading.
*****

“If it look like di money dead, keep a small funeral” – Richard “Dingo” Dingwall (from song “Shopkeeper“)

So there we were, gathered around looking at the once vibrant and full of life, but now motionless figure.  Well actually, it moved, but each twitch brought it into further decline.  As it struggled to remain alive with the help of life support, we couldn’t help but mourn the tragic (and rapid) decline of the health of the Jamaican dollar.

It wasn’t an easy path that led to this moment.  Born on September 8, 1969, there were high hopes for what it would become; what it would accomplish.  It dared others to dream.  Entrepreneurs, already riding the wave of Independence 7 years before, were inspired to take risks.  But there it was, at 100.08:1, having suffered a battering and bruising over the years.  It only started to weaken against the USD in the late 1970s.  It was around that time that the first IMF agreement was signed.  Coincidence, perhaps?  Either way, it continued a slow (and barely noticeable) decline well into the 80s.  It took a dip on November 23, 1983, when then Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, announced in the House of Representatives that under a new IMF agreement, the dollar has been devalued and placed at a new rate of $3.15.  By the time the JLP was voted out of office in February 1989, the dollar had declined to $5.50.

It was only 20-years-old then.  Partying during the teen years took its toll, I suppose. We never learn, though.  Its most rapid decline in health took place in the very early 90s.  After turning 21 – yes, the legal drinking age in the U.S.  (Certainly SOMEBODY was drinking).  By the end of 1991, it was $21.57 for USD$1.00.  Before the decade was over, it was over $45.00 for USD$1.00.  It suffered a major blow as a result of the major financial meltdown of the 1990s (which was a local phenomenon, by the way.  The rest of the world’s economies were growing).

The year it turned 40 (in 2009), it peaked at $89.64.  Yup, that was it.  The rough and tumble of the global recession had its effect.  But then it got stable…not too long after the former government’s introduction of the JDX.  The dollar maintained stability for a year and a half between $85 and $86.  Of course, the elections of 2011 happened and there was a change in government.  We thought that if the Jamaican dollar made it this far after such a rough run, then surely it can keep up, right?

Well, a little over a year later, here it lies gasping for breath.  So before we continue with the service, out of respect, let us observe a moment of silence for our dear loved one.

*moment of silence*

“Ashes to ashes…”

Jamaica, land we love.

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