Will the real Jamaican please stand up? (Jamaica Observer)
March 16, 2010
D. Ranks wrote:
Good Piece, and I applaud it. What I object to, however, is the term “real Jamaican.” Who is a real Jamaican? Is it one who believes as the author does, or is it one who hold an opinion of his or her own? Is a real Jamaican one who is born into wealth or born into poverty? Or is a real Jamaican a Jamaican who does not commit crimes, get involved in corrupted practices? One who can run really fast, or run really slow? Am I a real Jamaican, how about you? and so on and so forth.
I would like to think that each Jamaican, regardless of where they are form, their social status, their beliefs, their crimes or none, in fact evey jackman of us, are real Jamaicans. We are real to the core, but still we are all unique. “Are you a real Jamaica”, sounds like separating the sheep from sheep and saying this sheep is not a real sheep, but it looks like a sheep and sound like a sheep. We are disowning our collective-selves, that is what it is.
I would have preferrd the phrase, “concerned Jamaicans.” Yet even with that there would be critical views on it, becasue we would have define “concerned”. Such is life. But we live in societies of diversity and everyone of us is real, concerned for our welfare or not, we are real to the bone.
No doubt about it, Loyd B. Smith is a real Jamaican, and he expresses it eloquently, much to our benefit. But so is Andem, a convicted criminal, and he is in prison , much to our delight and safety. We are real, but the question we should ask, maybe, is: Just how concerned we are for this nation of ours?
I responded (3/16/2010):
@ D Ranks – In theory, I agree with the critique you are making. However, I chose not to get into that (sometimes important) splitting of hairs & to focus on the main argument/proposal that is being made. Lloyd could have said ”concerned Jamaicans” or that other rather odd phrase “well-thinking Jamaicans” & you (and probably myself as well) would have had similar critiques about the ways in which such terms are both exclusionary & unnecessarily limited/limiting. I think they are also class-laden terms, but that’s another conversation.
Here’s the problem though. At the same time that the term has some drawbacks (anything given a nationalist flavour always does), all of our thieving, malicious, lying, misinformed, shortsighted politicians have been speaking & acting in the name of us “Jamaicans” for a long time. They certainly consider themselves to be “real Jamaicans.” So do all those who work really hard to wreak mayhem on the society for personal gain. They are Jamaican by accident of birth, dishonest and evil by choice. The effects of their decisions inter alia are to undermine our collective abilities to improve our the current circumstances & to mortgage our children’s future. To me, that is decidedly unpatriotic behaviour, and thus un-Jamaican. In this case, what you are working for is what distinguishes the “real” vs. the insincere/selfish/destructive etc. Indeed, I guess we need to consider what a useful opposite would be.
I agree with Lloyd in the sense that we need to take back the notion of what it means to be “Jamaican” & to define it in a more progressive way, that allows people to start to think about “being Jamaican” as synonymous with becoming politically engaged as citizens & taking on the responsibility of making a better society for all of us. It’s about a group of people being willing to stand up & declare their allegiances & to ask the rest of us, do you want to be part of the solution or part of the problem? Are you with us or against us? You don’t have to take the same side I’m (or Lloyd, or whoever) is on, but know that you are on a side, whether or not you choose. It’s better to choose. I think that’s what all Jamaicans want – to be able to choose how our lives unfold, rather than be treated like stupid children by our politicians. It’s a moral argument that does and can hold sway, and certainly effectively counter those other “moral” arguments that we hear too often (religion disguised really) and which don’t ever question power, or the various ways that the architects of those who claim to have “moral authority” (not mentioning any names….) are actively colluding with power and against Jamaicans as a collective.