Tag: social justice

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.

Break the chains of classism and racism in our minds

Jamaica has a lovely motto ‘out of many one people’ which implies that despite our racial differences we have come together in a large melting pot creating the Jamaican culture. This mixed culture provided us with many things such as food, music and dance but this in many ways hid the outright racism that was inflicted on people not white at the time. Jamaica in many ways has gone past our early post-colonial state, we see where black and white persons are married and have children. So by all accounts Jamaica should be a perfect paradise where everyone is in one with nature.

Unfortunately that is not the case, for while outright  racism is less than before (though persons still harbour the racist thoughts) we see where classism has taken root deep in the heart of society. Classism interspersed with some good old fashioned racism is now the new norm in Jamaica, we have become a nation so blinded by the race to get at the top of the class (pun intended) that we treat our workers and those in the lower class like chattel.

We can see the racism cum classism in how we dress and carry ourselves. Persons are constantly bombarded with images of “true beauty’and images that the majority of the viewers cant hope to attain. We then cuss these same persons in the lower class when they aim to be like their ‘social superiors’ and purchase the weave and fancy outfits, all while praising the rich for using (more expensive) weaves and wearing outfits whose cost would make those who we chastise blush with embarrassment. How can we chastise persons who only wish to emulate those who appear in the social pages of the local papers who just happen to be of a fairer skin complexion?

we see the classism again raising its head when it comes to domestic workers (helpers). Very often helpers are treated like lepers, forced to shy away from people if company, forced to uses the ‘wuttless’ utensils and given only the worst handmedowns. This is just another form of classism that has taken a deep root in our society. We hear horror stories of helpers being abused and molested and no one believes them simply because the alleged is a society big wig while the helper is viewed as a nobody.

The classism is rife in this nation, it is so rife in the nation that we don’t realize that that s the way the society operates. It can be found to be most prevalent in our language and how we speak to each other. The local dialect (patois) is shunned and relegated to that of second-class status, even though there is a vast swath of persons who only speak patios. That in my opinion is where the classism meets our subconscious  racism. The vast majority that speak patois are black (hardly a coincidence, and they are relegated to the status of higgglers and handymen while those who speak the queens English cam be found to inhabit the upper  echelons of society and are of a light complexion.

The specter of classism also rears its ugly head when it comes to education. We see this with the tuition free education that  is now the law of the land. Now as decent, noble  as this, this will only help widen the divide between the haves and have-nots. The have nots will be left to wander the school system while the school crumbles around them because the increased  government is still not enough to fulfill the needs of the school and parents have been led to believe that they don’t need to partake financially in the school and curriculum development. All while those who attend the traditional high-schools will go on to greater things as the child in the traditional school will have access to not only government aid but also a healthy alumni cache that will only lead to them (the schools) being even more successful in terms of academia (the one thing that is truly the great equalizer .

The insidious classism rises up and shows itself even when it comes to health and healthcare. One only needs to look at the ‘free medical service’ that is on offer in this country. While those who are at the top of society can afford the care that is offered at UHWI, that is normally as far as they would go to being in a public hospital. While the monied class aims to stay away from places like KPH and Jubilee, places that would have them interact with their ‘lower class’brethren even though KPH has one of the best trauma wards in this hemisphere.

The legal system finally is the most raw and open wound of classism in this nation. The class divide in the legal system is so abhorrent that one cant believe that we wish to rise up as a nation out of the mire. In this legal system we see kids being dragged off to jail over some petty crime while the child who has the silver spoon in their mouths will never be accosted by the security forces. The police (who are the vanguard of the upper class) constantly arrest the poor for some trivial matter like a spliff or over two ounces of weed and as seen in the Mario Dean case where the mentally impaired man was left with violent criminals and subsequently died. The short fact is that the class you were born into really decides who succeeds and who does not when we look at the Jamaica case. The rich can go gun-toting as seen at the recent carnival and yet they are still allowed to go on living an uninterrupted life while those on the lower end of the social scale are forced to look over their shoulders as society has a target on their back.

Classism in Jamaica can become a thing of the past, however it will require some hard work. Let us hope that we break the chains of classism and instead embrace our rich culture and start living up to what our national motto says because the only way that this country will get better is if we all acknowledge that in spite of our racial and class differences we are out of many one people.

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

Jamaica, the land of piracy

Jamaica is the wild-west , the home of pirates make no bones about it. This is a land where anything goes so long as one has the money and the influence and it has been this way for eons. One is hard-pressed to find another nation in the Commonwealth that short of having military dictatorship is as wild, riddled with corruption and with a judicial system that is currently on life support to put it mildly. Here is a nation that in so many ways is a hearken back to our days piracy that one has to truly wonder if anything in or about our ruling class has changed?

Here is a country where men of power and influence, persons who are movers and shakers in society who have made their initial riches through drugs. This is no secret, some of the best ganja comes from the acreage of some very prominent families and that the cash that they make from exporting the stuff is used to keep our economy afloat. It is also no secret that some of the nations top financiers of crime do not live in the bowels of the inner city but instead reside in luxurious houses on the hills of Jamaica. These pushers of poison and murder are persons of influence hold sway over our politicians who either routinely accept the dirty money with open hands, or they simply become politicians themselves so that they become more untouchable. How exactly have we moved on from the days of Henry Morgan?

In this country murderers can roam the streets freely because they have the cash or the connections. Here in this country we have a sitting MP who left parliament to go to the aid of a known criminal, one accused of murder among other things. In here we accept the fact that killers rule us because they are either paid by or are paying the piper, they cavort with the politicians who use them as protection still and are unafraid of any police officer because ‘squaddie’ knows where his bread is buttered. Does this not sound like a land of pirates still?

In this land justice is a game and we see that on a daily basis. Persons wait ten years to have their date in court for a fraud case only to have it thrown out after two days of sitting, leaving the victims to wonder if justice is real. We have persons who even after being accused of murder refusing to hand their firearm in for processing and they are yet to see a jailhouse. Could it be that some in our justice system have been bought off? While those involved in the justice system will continue to say that it is not corrupted and only slow, the eye test tells us otherwise, it looks rotten from the inside out.

Jamaica hasn’t changed that much since the days of Port Royal being our greatest city. We are still run by a corrupt elite, we still live in a society where justice is a game and rights are non-existent if you don’t have the cash to bribe or the influence to force persons to turn a blind eye.

But things and times will change, and change they already are. Jamaica, in its current state is on the edge of a precipice with one of two ways, continue down our lawless path till the point that we become ungovernable and make Haiti look like a cake walk, or we the people take matters and our destiny into our own hands. With civil society groups springing up and established ones getting a stronger voice (see groups like Tambourine army,  WROC and JFJ) one can see where the citizenry has started to not only take notice of the rottenness of the  society but to also take action and demand change.

However pirates will be pirates and hardly ever relinquish power without a fight and the backlash has already begun. We the public must be wary at this point in time, the politicians who themselves act like or are in cahoots with the pirates are not idiots. They will sing the song of reform while continuing to hold us over the barrel as seen in the laughable saga of the Mombasa grass, so lets keep an eye out and keep pushing for a change, if not i fear we may always be a haven for the pirates and criminally inclined.