Darker Days Ahead
December 1, 2008
FYI – This post is a series of wandering thoughts, that connect somewhere somehow, maybe not here, but in my head, or to another post. Nonetheless…
I don’t know about you, but I feel completely worn-out from all the drama of the past few weeks. Spiritually, I dare say we have all taken one helluva beatin’ from all sides – not just from the violence and bloodshed that has been going on for a few years now nonstop, but from the surge in anxiety, fear and calls for retribution that made me want to go hide in my house and never come back out.
But that beating has been especially brutal coming from di Righteous Ones who, by all accounts have behaved more like bloodthirsty animals than spiritually minded, compassionate persons, and who have taken such great and perverse delight in whipping the rest of us “nonbelievers” (according to the Righteous Ones, the world is divided into two mutually exclusive groups: believers and nonbelievers) wid bible scripture like seh backra a pay dem fi every lash o’ di cat-o-nine or tambrin switch. For those of us who were not alive during the Crusades, I feel like these last few weeks were a tiny glimpse of what it must have felt like to be on the other side of these raving lunatics who claimed that god is on their side, all the while doing everything in their power to create an even more repressive, hostile and distinctly unloving place that many of us have called home.
In fact, I think the level of the debate about abortion and now the death penalty, such as they were, should serve as serious eye-openers for all of us who love to big up Jamaica as the place with more churches per capita than any other place. I bet you never thought about the real implications of such a situation. Let’s just be clear. Am I bashing those who have claimed ownership over the title of “Christians”? No. What I am doing is subjecting them and their hypocritical, ahistorical, socially bankrupt, and spiritually violent arguments and practices to the kind of criticism that they have generally been spared, because somehow, nothing that is done by one who professes themself to be a person of god is ever wrong-headed. No sirree.
From the time the Gleaner made the mistake – and it WAS a horrible mistake – to feature Al Miller in a column and thus to give him a platform from which to declare himself Reverend Hangman, I saw where this conversation was going. Hear me now. That a person who calls himself a pastor, a spiritual leader of a large congregation, would gladly want to put himself in the public spotlight to declare that he is ready and willing to kill somebody, made my stomach turn. I was sure that what I read and heard did not really happen. But what was worse was how people gladly embraced him. EMBRACED. Did I note that the Gleaner published it as “news”, with nary a comment or context? I have not heard a single word of rebuke, of chastisement, of embarassment, of shame about this man’s behaviour. Instead, he has been LAUDED and CELEBRATED. He probably got more offering money the Sunday after he made such a shameful declaration. People are happy that a man of the cloth is joyous at the prospect of hanging people. We think this is a good thing that he has said. This is our idea of a morally upstanding man. What does this say about us? Those who have clapped in delight? Those who have stayed silent thinking that we do not want to take sides?
No, it is the single most UNETHICAL stance that he could have taken, and he should be stripped of his church, his title, and sent to do penance. But no, not here in Jamaica. Since he appointed himself pastor and what not, he is beholden to no one, not even the god who he claims to speak for. And yet this man has the gall, the unmitigated gall to be talking about morality. Whose fucking morality? His? Do you think that if I was ever so deluded as to consider using one of these so-called opportunists-cum-pastors as a spiritual leader, it would be a person who gleefully volunteered to hang people? What is to become of us when even our pastors volunteer to murder and do violence on behalf of the state, and defend their stance using scripture? What if all those criminals who have been raping and pillaging for months went to find some scripture to justify what they have been doing? I am sure if you look long and hard enough in the bible you can find something to misinterpret in order to say “the bible” condone rape. Whose mis-interpretation should we accept then?
For once and for all, morality does not come in one colour or flavour, and it certainly does not only (or ever) dwell in the recesses or bodies of those who venture into whatever pentecostal church they could find. And yet, everywhere we turn these days, its morality this, moral standard that. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. We need a moral society. Our morals are declining. What is never defined anywhere is whose morals. I am just so completely sick of all of it. Because of course, there is only one set of “morals” that should be considered – that of the Al Millers and the like – and everything else is “liberal”, “modern”, “foreign”, “rational”, “relativist” etc. If you only knew how much this kind of talk sounds just like fundamentalist Islam in Iran, Pakistan, and Indonesia and Hindu fundamentalists in India. And yet, this is what we aspire to, it seems. And what when the notion of morality that is being bandied about – even in our legislature – explicitly sets out to punish entire groups of people for not following their “rules”, but have absolutely nothing to say about the issues that consume people’s everyday lives: where are they to live? how are they to eat, work, feed their families? how can they feel safe? Can they read? No, instead, the Righteous Ones are more concerned with making sure that the rest of us know that they can recite scripture, and they will gladly beat us to death to show us that they are morally upstanding citizens.
I ask again: What is to become of us when we do not see the implicit wrong in imposing fundamentalist religious beliefs on an entire society, beliefs that intend to turn us all into warmongers dedicated to exterminating the infidel in our midst? How is this kind of engagement different from the violence that we currently face? Jamaican people are caught in the crossfire between criminals and sanctimonious christians, and I am pretty sure that we are not going to be better off if the Righteous Ones win.
But that’s only one piece of what is bothering me. The other has to do with a really sinister undercurrent that is slowly moving to the surface, and which seems to be a major faultline in this experiment we call our democracy.
Apparently, many of our legislators believe that they are the messengers of God and voters, but only when the message suits their own interests. Or is it only when they clean the wax out of their ears and so are able to hear the ones for whom they purport to speak? We have legislators who we have voted for who have gladly gone on record for support of the death penalty. GLADLY. You would think that there was a national competition for who could be the most ignorant, self-righteous, anti-intellectual lout. Well, I don’t know who would win, but I know that I heard some stellar arguments for why we should consider the thirty-odd MP’s who voted for the death penalty as murderers de jure. You heard them – at least those who bothered to show up and speak – as did I. They argued rather impassionately that they HAD to vote to retain the death penalty because that’s what their constituents wanted them to do. And that they would not be responsible MP’s if they did not do what their constituents wanted them to do. Forget the fact that nobody – NOBODY – had bothered to actually canvass their constituency to ask for input, nor presented any evidence of such. Or that they would not bother to consider that their so-called moral stances against “those” criminals also indicted themselves. Yes, corruption is a crime, and we can argue that some crimes are worse than others. But the gruesome highly publicized killing of one child is not worse than the hundred of children who are left vulnerable, and who are assaulted, battered and eventually killed because of inadequate legislation, immoral disregard for the lives of poor people, and selfish, gravalicious behaviour of our politicians. Then there was that rather sad, sad, sad point of input by the inimitable Roger Clarke who decided that it was entirely in good taste and would help his credibility to enumerate what methods some of his constituents had suggested as methods for killing people who had been convicted of murder etc.
To take a dispassionate, disassociated look at what happened in Parliament over the last two weeks is to see a bunch of idle 7-year old boys plotting on how many ways to torture a half-dead lizard or a mongoose beyond its natural life. Should we pull out the fur one strand at a time? Should we tie it to a tree and hurl rocks at it to see who is the first to splinter its skull? That’s what that debate sounded like to me. And the best our stalwart Leader of Opposition could do was to introduce other methods of killing people. Not show up to vote her “conscience” (which is already lacking as it is), change the question, or even to call the question, but to give the boys more data to entertain themselves with, as they practically frothed at the mouth and pissed on themselves with excitement over the notion of killing poor black people. And the worse part of it? All of this was an exercise to preserve the status quo. Yes, the one that is slowly but surely sucking the life out of us. This is what we have come to.
And as I listened, I was wondering, well, maybe these are the kinds of MPs who do listen to their constituencies. So maybe, just maybe the constituents do ENJOY the illiteracy, prison-like schools, ramshackle housing, raw sewage, inadequate water, potholed roads and the like that plague them, and thus never thought to tell their MPs to do anything about those things. Because if their MPs had been told about these things, they would have felt compelled to, not only make a federal case out of these constituents’ wants, but to also make grand accusations and claim that other MP’s would go directly to hell for not helping to pass the appropriate laws. That must be it. Because otherwise, I would have to see these MPs as entirely farcical and entirely unworthy of any respect.
But, wait, that’s not enough. There’s also the blatantly self-interested way that our PM – who I did NOT vote for, just so you know – has gone about re-organizing governmental institutions and practices in order to make himself Head Cook and Bottle-Washer, subject to none of the measures that he agreed ought to be put in place to curb corruption. In other words, the rules are for everybody else, just not him. Witness his dismissive, high-handed and tri-syllabic treatment of anybody who dares ask him about how he is spending the people’s money, or to explain himself when it comes to his policies, or their imminent failures. Notice how little we actually hear from him on the things that matter to us. No, im fan we whe’ like we a jinji fly! We are too bothersome, too needy, too demanding. Yes, we are like the children he never wanted, and to whom he doesn’t especially feel obligated to attend to. And who’s going to make him anyhow? Now, he’s all charged up and ready to roll with the death penalty, and even declared his intent to change the constitution in order to get his way, ie. deny or undercut the right of appeal so he can preside over an execution before he leaves office. Nothing about implementing any of the other ideas that are sure to improve the quality of people’s lives, nor the opportunities made available to them. No, all he wants is to see bodies swinging; then he will know he has done something. Who knows, maybe he will play a ceremonial hangman role to inaugurate the first hanging in twenty years. And what have we said to this? Nothing.
Now, I could say that all who wanted a change from Sista P to Don Dadda, well, unnu get whe’ unna did want, nuh so? If yuh did prefer his lightness (read: intelligent, logical, close association with money and elites) to her darkness (read: uneducated, ghettocentric and irrational) then by now you should also have figured out that underneath the light skin and sparkling family image, he is just as corrupt as P. was/is. The difference? We gladly allow him to get away with it, cause we still don’t know how to deal with people who talk down to us and treat us like we are idiots in front of our face and behind our back. Instead, we seem to feel beholden to him, for what, I don’t know. We are not his servants, his gardeners, his chauffeurs or what have you. He does not owe us a check or favour for which we must genuflect and bow and scrape and thank the massa while he spits on our bowed heads.
For all this, I completely denounce this government for its complicity in crimes against the society – from its own bare-faced corruption, flagrant disrespect for citizens’ rights and needs, the lethal disdain for human rights, to its complete and utter ineffectiveness in governing this society. This is an immoral government; it has not demonstrated a lick of compassion for the suffering of the population, and clearly has no intention of making justice possible in Jamaican people’s lives anytime soon. The leadership is anything but; it has its head stuck so far up its ass, too busy assailing gays and lesbians to pay attention to the real issues that we are facing, and to allow itself to be held accountable.
If there was ever a moment to speak up and register our dissatisfaction with how things are, this would be it. [Diatribalist said his piece in his recent post]. Apparently, government is now private property, and we the people are being evicted, one by one. When the political leadership can declare that they speak for us, and on our behalf when they don’t even bother to ask or listen, let alone look at any of the evidence that doesn’t conform to what they already believe, then its time that we told them in as many words what we want, and demand that they get to work and deliver the goods. Enough already.