Tag: Poverty

Modern day feudalism and Jamaica

Modern day feudalism and Jamaica

The world is always changing nothing remains the same. We see this in technology medicine however one thing remains the same, the way we humans interact with each other. We see this from all stratas of society, human beings have seldom changed and the more one looks at it the more the situation reads like an awful novel.

Feudalism is alive and well in this society, though we all seldom speak on it for fear of losing secure jobs and possibly one’s life. We see this played out throughout the society but one example that I feel cements us in the mode of politics is the relationship between the area don and the girl children. The don (since he protects the area) gets ‘jus primae noctis‘ providing the masters with the right of being the first one to sleep with a womanThis phenomenon is not new to Jamaica, it has been going on since the inception of the garrison and yet we as a society, for the most part, remain silent as that type of madness, barbarity and utter backwardness continues unabated.

This feudalism in the nation can be found some more in the garrison where persons live the lives of twelfth-century serfs, beholden to the Lord of the land. We see this in the way that the don of the area is able to (usually by coercion) get the loyalty of the persons living in his ‘city-state’ and they go off to war merrily to fight for him, for the spoils that will be divided and for the indulgences from the don, in the same manner as the Popes of old led the world to Crusade after Crusade. We see this neo-feudalism in the city centres and parish capitals as a crude ‘tax’, ‘protection’ or if you will just plain extortion is played out on a daily basis. Much like the feudal lords of the past who would take their share of the harvest (the best of course!) because the serf was unlucky enough to have been living under ‘patronage’ so we have the modern don taking the hard earned money of business persons and higglers who are unlucky enough to be in their zone of influence.

The political system while not explicitly built around the feudal line is clearly operated along the line that would make any feudal lord pleased that the trend continues. The political system that we currently have in breeds patronage and the creating and holding of fiefdoms (or garrisons in Jamaican parlance) and the handing over of that fiefdom to the chosen heir. Nowhere was this more open and blatant than the recent election to replace Dr Omar Davies in his ‘Jungle’ garrison constituency when he openly called for and endorsed Mr Mark Golding to be his eventual successor (and we see the tradition continuing with Portia Simpson-Miller openly endorsing Dr.Angela Brown-Burke).

Again much like their feudal spiritual ancestors, the politicians practice a serious form of nepotism that would be hilarious if the results weren’t so harmful to the nation. Just look at the current parliament and one is shocked at the blatant nepotism, Andrew and Juliet Holness (husband and wife), Peter and Mikael Phillips (father and son), Pearnel Charles and Pearnel Charles Jr (again father and son), and that is just those who have immediate blood connections and are currently serving. If we were to add the second and sometimes third generations that are in our parliament and Senate (such as Minister Johnson-Smith and Mr McNeill then most people would agree that nepotism is the order of the day when it comes to politics, I mean for heavens sake (and I admit this is a slight stretch), Bustamante, Manley and Shearer were all from the same family branch and all three took turns (Alexander, Norman, Hugh then Michael) running the country consecutively from ’44-92 with a brief interlude of 48 days during the tenure of Sir Donald Sangster and the premiership of Edward Seaga which lasted from 80-89, does that not strike you as some feudal politics?

It is not just the political system and the dons that function or are run in a feudal or neo-feudal way, society, in general, seems to operate in a way that is shockingly reminiscent of feudalism. The way that businesses operate and treat their employees (just take a look at any wholesale and you will see individuals working in conditions that can only be described as modern-day feudalism), they are tied to the companies just as the feudal serf was tied to the land. Be it the cash advance that the company forwards to you, the loan with the unseemly interest rate that your job offers you (some call centers offer this treat) or the fact that you owe them for things such as travel and education (all of which sound reasonable until you see the unreasonable interest rates) one sees where this type of thinking and operating runs like a river throughout our society.

This just seems to be the runnings of things in this nation, we the citizens have allowed it to be so but it can change. The change won’t be easy but it can be done and is being done slowly, be it groups like NIA that are (trying at least to) calling out corruption or CAPRI, JFJ and the active social and political groups which in their own way seek to liberate peoples minds which is the beginning of the end of feudalism. This oppression in the nation will end, whether it is replaced by a totally new form of oppression or a system that is more just, fair and equitable is to be seen but it will end.


Socialism is our only hope for a brighter tomorrow

The word socialism is a loaded one, especially in a country like Jamaica that went through a mini civil war because of it, but it has its usefulness, especially in these interesting times in which we live. Socialism throughout the majority of the population conjures up ideas of Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s PRC and the mass suffering that the people of those nations under ‘socialist rule’ had to endure. Yes socialism is a loaded term it has several uses especially as Jamaica faces such a critical time.

Socialism comes in many forms and it doesn’t have to entail people going to the gulag as seen in the cold war. A cursory look about Western Europe and to some extent Asia will show us that creating a quasi socialist nation can be done without rivers of blood  flowing in the streets. Fabian socialism (named after the roman general Fabius Maximus) has won in Europe and everyone knows and understands this (though admittedly it is apparent that vested interests are trying to change that). A look at the map shows France (who’s social contract is very Fabian in its outlook) and Germany (who first introduced the welfare state) shows us a welfare state in action. In those countries they all have strong social democratic parties (who admittedly lean more to the right in these modern times) that have been in power for an extended period and implemented real reform.

Socialism doesn’t necessarily mean the gulags or everyone standing in line for a loaf of bread. Staying in Europe we see where the welfare state is a cornerstone according to citizens, and even in Asia we have a Singapore where many socialist policies were enacted (in order to neuter the burgeoning left).  It can also be seen in the Nordic nations where all the major parties agree to maintaining the status-quo (the welfare state) which has always been a chief objective of socialist party.

The jamacan society is seriously skewed with the haves getting more while everyone else suffers silently. The social contract has been broken by both politicians (who have no vision for the future) and civil society (who just don’t care about the lower class) and a new one must be drawn up, one that is both fair and equal.

Socialism can work, and it can be twinned (at times) with democracy, one only needs to look at Latin America for proof of that. The Latin America of today is a far cry from the banana republics that they once were, instead of chronic malnutrition they have healthy citizens, and instead of having a massive literacy problem we now see them doing excellently in all matters academic. We see this also in the economy where socialist led nations have been able to dag their citizens from poverty to being members of a booming economy. Democratic rights were and still are guaranteed under the constitutions drawn up by these groups and as a result we are seeing a rebirth of Latin America.

Jamaica needs that kind of thinking, it needs parties that are willing to rewrite the social contract in this nation and i believe that only a socialist party can do that. A socialist party would have better sense of what the majority of the population needs as they would be a party for not only electioneering but also one that has (as a leading plank in is platform) the true will of the people and is willing to make the political sacrifices to get things done.

Yes, socialism is a loaded term in Jamaica but it can and does work as seen by other nations implementing socialist policies. It can work with democracy and it doesn’t have to be a politburo deciding the fate of the nation, they. The world is filled with examples of socialist parties unleashing the potential of its people and there is no reason why Jamaica should be any different. We could seriously do with a proper socialist party in Jamaica, one that creates an equal and just social contract and it can be done. The only thing that is stopping us from doing that is in the mind, and until we reassess how we view socialism in this country then nothing really concrete will change, we must either break those mental shackles or be forever trapped in the vice like grip of inequality and despair.

Sometimes the hair is necessary


Recently more and more people are becoming ‘concerned’ about the poor and how they live. Those who reside in upper St. Andrew sit around their dining tables while preaching and pontificating that those dastardly poor refuse to spend wisely and that is why they are in the predicament that they are in. In short according to those in their ivory towers it is a simple matter of prioritizing and those in the lower classes just can’t seem to get that they say. Things get even more degrading and sexist when you have statements like the one said by the reverend last year who lambasted some women for putting ‘$5000  hair on a $5 head’, now that statement is both repugnant and totally missing two key facts.

The first fact that is seldom spoken aloud in Jamaica anymore is that of beauty and what beauty looks like. We in Jamaica have a very eurocentric way of viewing beauty, a legacy that slavery has left for us. One must ask oneself how often have you heard people commenting on ‘nappy’ hair or ‘bad’ hair? the simple fact of the matter is that in Jamaica beauty is defined in a European context, is it any wonder then why these women wear those weaves> they are doing it conform to our national beauty standard which states that anything negro is bad while the negro must try and elevate themselves to that status of the ‘browning’

Women all throughout this nation put costly weaves in their hair, when UPT does it no one says a negative thing and the ladies are praised as paragons of beauty. However when a poor person does it then we all kick up a stink and then they are called names on top of it, thus  we see the subtle classism and racism that is entrenched in the Jamaican society and psyche.

Then we come to the main debating point, priorities and how they are listed, or economics if you will. Now many persons who see a poor woman in expensive clothes, weave etc believe that they have blown their money on these fancy trappings, but again I think they are missing something crucial and that is the economics. Yes many women (rich and poor) have no business being parents, and yes many a woman goes to a dance leaving the children at home alone.

The sad reality is that a lot of these women dress up and go dance in order to support their kids in any way possible. And while it may sound disgusting, but that is what is being done a lot of times at these dances. And if i may put it so bluntly, the woman in the ghetto with the ‘nice’ hair is far more likely to get a man unlike her natural haired sisters. The sad fact is that rather than have a debate on the issue and see why these mothers put themselves in harms way and feel like they have no way out, however they do and their kids do too which is why so many persons both rich and poor wear these things.

In conclusion, while many mothers are bums (uptown and downtown) it is clear to see that some form of change is happening, but it must be done at a faster pace. We are the nation that birthed Garvey and yet to this day we have persons bleaching their face and other things that are only done when it is sacrifice. We must ensure that we are proud of our, where we came from or how we got here, It will be a long slog but in the end we as a nation need to do this