Will the real Jamaican please stand up? – Social & Political Issues – JamaicaObserver.com.

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.


Whose Falmouth? Part I

February 11, 2009

I have been in conversation with a friend about this Falmouth wharf issue for a couple weeks now.  So when I heard and saw the reportage today, I fired off another outraged letter to the editor (btw, that’s getting to be a bad habit, but I will deal with that later).

P.S. As always the joke is on us.  While people in Trelawny vex because the Parish Council stopped work on the demolition – albeit temporarily – Royal Caribbean is already advertising Falmouth, and on terms that Jamaicans are not even familiar with.  If you don’t believe me,  check out this website.   The inimitable John Maxwell sounded off on this issue back in December 2008, but I missed it for some reason.

What bemuses me though is that while all the flaws in this project are an environmental activist’s nightmare (and dream for the sheer number of ways to expose and shame the various parties), our local advocates don’t seem to know what to do with themselves.   Apparently they haven’t figured out that bureaucratic structures are the friends of developers and politicians, and that activists must develop their own ways of speaking and making their views heard.   I think I need to write another post on this.


In my mind, the decision to turn the wharf into a cruise ship port was never conducted in the interests of Jamaican people.  Rather, it has been orchestrated as a deal between governmental officials and the private cruise ship company Royal Caribbean.  There is no evidence to suggest that the plan, as currently constituted and which has not been properly disclosed to the Jamaican people, will do anything more than fill the coffers of Royal Caribbean and the Port Authority.  Furthermore, it is entirely disingenuous and insulting for local politicians to now tell ordinary Jamaicans that this plan is for really for our own good. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Well before the Golding administration took the helm of government, the physical landscape of this country was being parceled and sold to whoever wanted to pay, regardless of the consequences for those of us who continue to live here. And we the citizens never even bothered to ask how much the land was sold for, who received that money, and what the government planned to do with it. Just like now, there is not a single word uttered about where the money from the sale of the Falmouth wharf has gone, and why it was not directly invested back into Trelawny.

Despite what many ordinary Jamaicans may want to think, our governmental agencies do not act in the public interest. Rather, the individuals that run these agencies and broker the various deals are more interested in moving hell and highwater to make way for private capital and big money, whether the sources are foreign or local, even if it means sacrificing our present and the future of the nation. They use the language of “development” and the promise of “jobs” to lure us into believing that they are working in the best interests of poor and working-class people for whom job are scarce, and the difference between eating and starvation, between educating our children and killing our future. And the only way the needy ones are supposed to respond when the powers-that-be use these words, especially in difficult times like now, is to say “yes”, either enthusiastically or through our silence as we swallow our spit and our pride.

For them, “development” means new buildings that were created based on large contracts with foreign companies. But that kind of “development” does not educate our children, make our lives safer or protect our natural environment. In fact, it does the opposite.
Indeed, what has the cheerleading of politicians, government officials and our confused silence bought us so far? Certainly not the whole heap of jobs and properity that were promised in Westmoreland, St. Ann, St. James and wherever else coastal property has been sold to foreigners to do whatever they want to do. No, what the more ordinary among us got was more of what we already had: exploitative work conditions that turn us into modern-day slaves, complete with injuries and lost lives. When the paltry jobs are created, they are only for men, pay a pittance and dry up as soon as the projects end. And when the projects end, we have more sewage problems, more substandard housing, poor living conditions as we poured into the towns and set up shop to get access to the jobs and better life that we were promised were coming but never materialized; more crowded schools, more crime, more violence and social disorder as we all clamour to eke out some sort of living at the edges of civility, none of which are extended to us.

This is what we get when “development” happens in Jamaica these days, even as we hear the news reportage of government-paid engineers who “miscalculated” measurements so that the school that was to be cannot materialize; where well-paid government-paid officials refuse to do their jobs to come up with tangible plans that rid our communities of all the trash and toxic waste that is making us sick and tired. And yet, the politicians in Trelawny seem happy, ecstatic even, to sign off on yet another such “development” project, as is slated to happen in Falmouth. One has to ask the question: if we know that the people of Trelawny are not going to get much out of this grand plan, what are THEY expecting to receive that makes them so happy?

The level of slackness in the Falmouth project lies primarily in the secrecy and the lack of disclosure to the public. Remember how we have constantly been worked into a lather by our various ministers of tourism who tell us that if we don’t accept the exploitation of our land and our dignity by doing everything at all costs to get tourists to come to Jamaica, then we might as well lock up shop economically? When the news reportage hailing Jamaica as the newest intended destination for Royal Caribbean’s “Genesis” class (note the religious metaphor), few (including media persons) asked about what it would take to be one of a handful of ports that would accommodate one of the largest cruise ships ever created. We are expected to just be happy that we are to be made special, but the cost of that specialness is lost on many.

For one thing, this very cruise ship company, Royal Caribbean, has been found to be a lethal weapon when it comes to turning beautiful seas into toxic soups, by dumping sewage and waste and floating away before they are caught. So, how do we explain why NEPA, the very governmental agency which is charged with being steward of the physical landscape and to act in the name of “sustainable development”, has actually consented for the removal of the coral reefs in and around the wharf areas in order for the famed cruise ship to be able to dock? Apparently, they have an idea to put the destroyed reefs somewhere else to grow.

Furthermore, without presenting any credible evidence, NEPA has convinced the Port Authority, the Trelawny Parish Council and other politicians that “the environment” will be fine and all is well without actually doing any of the research that they need to do. So sure are they of the validity of the proposed plan, as well as of their power and control over the fate and future of the people of Falmouth, that the agency has not even bothered to do the necessary paperwork that are a matter of law and due diligence. The Jamaica National Heritage Trust, another entity which is supposed to be the guardian of public history, and has some jurisdiction over the existing buildings and property of the wharf area, has not even given formal approval on the demolition of the buildings. So buildings are being knocked down before everyone involved knows whether this is a good idea or not.

Here, we have the leadership of a governmental agency who are given the responsibility of making informed and ethical decisions about how the physical landscape is to be used, and yet they have consistently ignored scientific research and points of view that contradicted what they set out to do. Now, when 90% of our existing coral reefs are already dead and dying as a direct result of the lack of governmental planning, knowledge and oversight regarding waste disposal, the construction and operation of all those mega-hotels on the north coast, and the lasting and negative effects of cruise ships, can anyone say with any confidence that they believe governmental agencies like NEPA have the credibility or ability to prevent Falmouth from becoming another Montego Bay or Ocho Rios?

The decision about turning Falmouth wharf into a Jamaican-style Disneyland by destroying the landscape, polluting the coastline and by turning ordinary Jamaicans into happy slaves, should completely turn our stomachs and enrage the people of Jamaica. That we have been so consistently misinformed by governmental bodies when it comes to decisions about how “development” will take place certainly tells me one thing: that the folks who engineered this grand plan for Falmouth know nothing about the kind of “development” that is essential in this part of the country. The Falmouth plan does not come close to promoting the social and economic development of the area that the politicians want to claim. Long after the architects of the deal have all been paid, received promotions and gone on greener pastures, and the paltry jobs have dried up, the people of Trelawny will still be asking for fair and living wages, decent schools, good roads, running water, proper sanitation, clean unpolluted waters from which people can make a livelihood, and open access to a beach to spend time with their families. That’s the kind of development that we need and deserve.

But si yah?

January 3, 2009

My lovely, time-wasting siblings sent this to me. It was taken in 2005; I have no idea who these men are.

Jamaicans Protest in front of the White House

But I do have a question: so how come dem kyaa’ fi’n demself dung a Devon Road in front a di Office a di Prime Minister fi go tell im di same ting: “Tap di rass [Fill in the blank] now”?

The answer, my dears, is blowing in the wind.

A public apology from Bruce Golding for how he and his government have been a spectacular failure and embarassment to Jamaicans in 2008. They have demonstrated poor leadership on pretty much every issue, and are clearly more than able and willing to participate in the thuggish kleptocracy birthed by the said JLP in 1980 and finessed by the PNP for almost two decades.

Now imagine, up to this week, instead of initiating a useful discussion/debate regarding the legislation to protect children from sexual violence which he actually promised to do weeks ago, he is is still wasting our time and our children’s lives by courting votes in the Senate on the death penalty. Could this man be any more disconnected from our reality?

The latest fuckery: He offers a “stimulus package” that does absolutely nothing to address the core needs of the economy, and everything for the people for whom he really works: big business, from hoteliers to manufacturers. This, in a time when more people buying 1/2 a tin of bully-beef and 1 cup of rice than ever, imported chicken is about to kill the local industry, we are being taxed to the heavens at the same time di politician dem a spen’ wi money pon pyere foolishness, an govament affi deh pay out damages fi problems whe’h di corrupt killa policeman dem have caused and continue to cause. (Yes, we THINK we get a break on the barrel tax, but that is money that SHOULD be paid to the state. Being the ‘ginals that we can be, what might have been a container-full will be now several barrels-full, all tax-free.) I don’t suppose anyone bothered to tell him that when the economy is in the toilet as ours is, maybe he should spend more money on infrastructure and less on providing overdrafts for his friends or for glitzy ads in NYC cabs to get Americans to come to Jamaica cheap-cheap when dem credit cyard already max out? Watching him alight from the helicopter when he went to visit the scene of the Portland accident today, and when he gave that crying woman a most patronizing kiss on the top of her head, I was immediately reminded of George Bush. The same arrogance, nonchalance, cluelessness. BG also deserves a few shoes – if not rock stones – thrown at him.

The icing on the fruitcake would be the immediate resignation of Karl Samuda, Frank Weeple, Dorothy Lightbourne, Mike Henry, Donald Farquharson, the entire leadership of the JUTC, to name a few.

The hard sauce might be immediate jail for David Smith, Carlos Hill, and every odder corporate crook who fa’ name mi cyaa memba right now cause is so many o dem!

May the New Year 2009 bring more of what we need:
* more aggressive reporting and better investigative journalism, especially from non-mainstream media
* Tessane Chin
* CTV (Nambo Robinson who jus-jus cuss rass pon TV!)
* Red Rubber Band
* Live Up (iliveup.com)
* Bloggists who are willing to speak/write and act up for justice
* youth-driven initiatives
* more people willing to step into the shoes of folks like Hartley Neita and Buddy Pouyat who have spent the last decade or so consciously building a diverse community of Jamaicans invested in acquiring, sharing and preserving knowledge that is also transformative.
* people willing to stand up and speak out, and refuse to participate in this self-imposed silence and sufferance!

And less of what we don’t (in no particular order):
* Lawyers for Christian Fellowship
* Coalition for Defence of Life
* horribly written columns and tasteless newspaper headlines
* inarticulate and bombastic public officials
* yet another moral crusade
* poorly organized events that are gladly televised
* that annoying lotto announcer on CVM
* Digicel-sponsored antics all ova di dyam place
* Lada bags and plastic bottles
* Daily weather reports that say absolutely nothing new or relevant (hello! we live in a tropical climate; only hurricane season matters!)
* Barbara Gloudon, Rex Nettleford and David Boxer as they step away from the institutions which they are currently strangling to death, in order to allow an infusion of creativity, talent and energy from new leadership.
* silence an’ tekking di beatins an bad treatment like we deserve it.

Here’s hoping we do a whole lot better, even with a whole lot less, next year!

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.

Crowd o’ people!  Spread the word widely!  Do show up at the march/vigil and then come back and tell me how it was for you.  I’ll reserve my comments for after the event. Check out Nicholas Laughlin’s post as well.

A message from Aloun Ndombet-Assamba:

A group of us have gotten together to do something about this frightening situation that we find ourselves in as a country. With the support of my Lions club, the Lions Club of New Kingston, Blossom Anglin Brown and I have joined a group of women and men to begin to take responsibility for our country.  We have a diverse group who have met, including the Kiwanis Club of New Kingston, Hear the Children Cry, the former President of the JMA and other individuals and have arranged for a MARCH on Wednesday NOV 19th,2008 which is the International Day for Prevention of Child Abuse.

We will begin our MARCH from the POLICE OFFICER’S CLUB on Hope Road at 4.00pm.
We will go down Hope Road to Half Way Tree
Turn left on to Half Way Tree Road; march to Chelsea Ave
Turn left on Chelsea Ave; march to Trafalgar Road
Turn right on Trafalgar Road; march to Knutsford Boulevard
Turn right on to Knutsford Boulevard; march to Emancipation Park.

Once in Emancipation Park we will join the CHILD DEVELOPMENT AGENCY in their Candle Light Vigil which has been planned for this special Day.

Our march is not a public relations event nor is it intended to be a feel good event.It is also not a party political event. We will have no speeches. This is a serious attempt to bring attention to the situation we are in as a country and to have citizens take personal responsibility for doing something about it. We believe this is just a start and will symbolize the forging of a social partnership where people from all walks of life can come together and take a stand.

We are not calling on the Government or the Police to do anything. We are calling on individual private citizens to stop being crippled by fear and consider it our duty to do what he or she can to make Jamaica, once again a safe place to be.

Bring pictures of children and women who have been abducted and or killed to show on the march. We are not providing any tee shirts or other paraphenalia.  Just our bodies.  If you can’t join us at the start of the march join us along the way. Allow your staff to leave work early so they can join us. Get your friend and neighbours to join us and share this email with others so they can choose to join us.

We pray fervently for God’s Spirit to be with us and to guide our footsteps in this terrible time.


So everyone – really, only those who care to look and offer an opinion – is a-twitter about Natalie Barnes’ painting “Justice League”, which won a silver medal (is that equivalent to second prize?) in this year’s JCDC Visual Arts competition. As shown below, the painting depicts [a handful of] our national dons as wannabe superheroes, who set out in their pretty european suits to rescue the masses from the plagues and various disasters that befall us.

What I do love is that the work is drawing in people to see this painting, and others, that are on view at the National Gallery. The painting won the “Viewers Vote” apparently. What I don’t know and can’t discern is the tenor of the conversations about the painting.

If you used to read comic books, you will recognize the depiction as a variation on the Fantastic Four. Natalie Barnes’s piece is certainly part of a time-honoured tradition among politically-astute artists and activists in the U.S. who often use these comic-book caricatures to critique the amateurish and juvenile attitudes among reform-minded politicians who love to represent themselves – and often treated – as caped crusaders who are taking on the Evil Hordes and detritus of modernity: prostitutes, gamblers, progressive sex educators, immigrants, homosexuals, poor people, liberals, intellectuals, people of color, human rights and anti-war activists et al.

Ms. Barnes’s work is reminiscent of one other Jamaican artist, the photographer Renee Cox’s superhero series, where she imagines herself as the one doing the saving. Then there’s Dulce Pinzon’s work that is a scathing critique of the exploitation of immigrants in the US. And then, there may be some interesting comparisons to draw with the latest Batman flick over which there has been too much excitement. I haven’t seen it (my favourite superheroes are not men), and don’t plan to. But if you did see it, tell us what you think.

Read in that light (rather than our typical insular, suicide-inducing practices) Ms. Barnes’s painting is certainly a hilarious and yet serious, timely, dead-on critique of the ways that our own home-grown politicians love to see themselves as our saviours, and how Jamaicans even at 46+ years, are constantly looking to be saved by someone on high. If its not Jesus, then it might as well be the J-Team who imagine themselves (in a characteristically limited way) as fictional characters invented in the US and in outfits probably made in China. The original transnational poppyshows!

This is definitely an image that scholars and artist-practitioners will look to in the future. I can’t wait for her to produce posters and giclee prints from this painting. I can see a whole cottage industry emerging from these: calendars, book covers, t-shirts, you name it. Small Axe will probably get first dibs.

From reading the coverage though – which is different from what is actually happening on the ground, as it were – its funny how ideas circulate and are given form here through the lenses of the media reportage.

Based on how the painting and its reception is being framed, it’s not clear to me that many folks get the critique being offered by the work. The reports, lie much of the narrow debates about what constitutes “art” in Jamaica, are tending to situate Barnes’ piece as some laudable form of ‘high art’, as if this concept has never been executed anywhere else before.

So, in true colonial fashion, The Royal Court led by His Highness Bruce Golding summons a Special Viewing of “That Painting That Has Been Given the Title Justice League by the One Artist a Natalie Barnes of Kingston Jamaica.” (By the way, why is this the first time that Golding is seeing the work? Isn’t it part of his responsibility to view [some of] the works on display at the national competitions??) And they look closely to evaluate just how well the artist is trained in her craft, and if she is truly an Artist by how well she is able to capture the true likeness of the said crusaders, and want to know whether she really wants to say that they are indeed true superheroes of our time, or is she being just a bit facetious to imagine that they are like such superheroes, who we know are just figments of somebody’s imagination from far away. Poppyshows indeed.

And the one Ms. Barnes, even after “showing her hand” in the Gleaner’s, August 3 piece, clearly sees how she is about to be propelled into the land of the famous and wealthy artists who have been given the official blessing of the State and the tastemakers, provided that she does not alienate or piss them off or give a hint that her intentions are anything else but honourable.

So, in today’s article in the Gleaner, she with her cunny self does a 180, and totally shies away from claiming her work for what it is – an incredibly subversive piece that shows how the emperor has no clothes. That is, our mout-a-massy so-called justice-doers are at their core a fantasy that was created and given substance in someone else’s (racial) imagination, and which we have willingly co-opted without thought. Instead, Ms. Barnes resorts to the sacharrinely delivered coy “whatever it means to you” gesture when asked what she was thinking when she created this piece. You know, Ms. Barnes, it would be nice if you used these opportunities to say what you have to say rather than resorting to this cloak-and-dagger crap. I guess she too is enamoured of the PM giving her attention. She’s probably hoping he’ll buy it.

[Oh god, please do not let this work fall into the hands of one of those folks. Me a beg yuh!]

If Ms. Barnes keeps up this performance, she will certainly achieve her intentions, which is to make everyone like her enough to pay her and give her a studio somewhere so she can create more art that can be consumed by the public. But then, there is the chance that she will probably become more like the company she will keeping, and I don’t know if that will bode well for her work in the future. Just look at Laura Facey-Cooper for a good example of how not to be as an artist. Access to the master’s tools is really not enough to initiate the kind of critical introspection and action that Ms. Barnes is calling for in her more revelatory moments. I think she gets that. I hope she remembers that.

Of course, there’s much more to be said about this painting and the kinds of issues it raises for how Jamaican artists see themselves in relation to the society and the world, and for how we relate to art in our daily struggle for dignity and a decent quality of life. Your turn….