THE walk on foot from the narrow parochial road to the hillside farm and ganja field was about two miles. Were we not in our thirties and fit, we would not have made it.
It was sometime in the late 1980s, and the midday sun was unforgiving as we manoeuvred a few streams, thick undergrowth and then a dirt path up an incline to the little thatched-roof 'tatu' that the Rastaman called home when he was in the hills tending his 'herbs crop', some place in St Catherine.
It didn't take him long to light up a 'big head' ganja spliff. The more adventurous among the small group of three accepted a few puffs and after about 10 minutes we were less tired, more relaxed and chatting our heads off.
The Rastaman was the 'overseer' for the crop for a 'big man', and in his cramped but strangely comfortable space, he had flour, rice and other foodstuff stored. Plus, he had his 'weed board', a 'chalice', and a container of drinking water.
One of the young men who lived in a nearby community began telling me about one of his close friends. According to him, he was trudging through the bushes one late afternoon when he heard sounds which told him that two people were in the brush having sex. He froze at first, then stealthily crept up to where the sounds of urgency were coming from.
As he silently drew away some bushes he saw that it was a friend of his and a girl from the community. "Mi jus' wait until dem done and when him come out mi show myself."
He suggested to his friend that he wanted 'some' too. Apparently the friend had total disdain for himself, the young woman and the very act of sex because he turned to the woman and asked her if she could "help out mi friend".
The woman refused, and an argument developed. According to the young man, "Di two a wi jus' hol har dung and mek mi get mine".
Somehow in the mirth of the moment and the haze of the ganja smoking, the young man expected that I would have taken sides with him. I was far from impressed. "You raped her," I said. "Both of you did!"
"No, man, shame a yu. Wi wouldn't do a ting like dat," he said, feeling genuinely sad that I had seen a wrong where he saw none.
"My brother," I said. "She did not consent! If she didn't give you permission, that is called rape. You don't understand that?"
The Rastaman laughed, and so did two others. I was apparently from a different world. To them, once the young woman had had sex and it was seen that she had sex, she was pretty much fair game and could not rightfully claim that her sexual unavailability was hers to make. I was not only futilely preaching to a bunch of youngsters who had barely eked out an education, but all came from families of multiple mothers and a stream of endless, absent fathers.
To them, any idea I had that a woman's body had a sacred space, and her right to determine who shared it was hers and hers alone, was fit only for a world far divorced from theirs where sex was little more than rutting behind a screen or, as a child, being shunted out of the room to the nearest doorstep when the latest 'uncle' arrived with rum on his breath to huff and puff in a crude rhythm with his hungry mother.
That said, it is my belief that even the most well-adjusted male is not far from being an animal when it relates to sex. Where he saves himself, though, is in that moment where all of his upbringing springs at him all at once, and though he does not recognise it as such, he holds back and allows the beast its passage from his system. In that moment he reclaims his humanity and self-respect and is able to say to her, "It's OK, I understand. May I see you tomorrow?"
skating on slime
Jamaica presently lacks political leadership, but it didn't begin yesterday or last year.
What makes the present situation so stark is that the present leadership is not even pretending that the country is in crisis mode. Once political leadership takes its extended vacation, all other areas of leadership in the country take their cue and the domino theory falls true to form.
Ferocious murders and rapes of nightmarish proportions are signals that the society is slipping downhill fast and we are ardently seeking a date with the gods of chaos. As a nation of people colonised into believing in the power of prayer, that politically correct response to human inadequacies, I expect that soon our clergymen will be leading a prayer march to heal the nation's pain.
This country needs laws with teeth, not useless prayer, designed purely to placate the politically foolish and the religiously immersed. This country needs more detectives in the JCF, and those already there must be constantly exposed to the latest, cutting-edge techniques in crime solving.
Recently I saw on Facebook a question being posed by CVM TV on whether people believe that Jamaica's football side will make qualification to the next World Cup. Most of the first responses were along the lines of, 'We will be praying that it does,' or 'the side needs all of our prayers.'
No wonder this country is so backward.
One wonders if Steve Jobs or Bill Gates had prayed instead of working their brains into many nights whether we would have had Apple or Microsoft.
In a country with 19 per cent Internet penetration, we are definitely in the backwoods.
Getting back to crime solving. It is no secret that over the last 40 years a wedge has been driven between the police force (the JCF) and the people of this country, and organised criminality has taken full opportunity to abuse that fact.
The rapist and the murderer know that no witnesses will show up. Even in instances where policemen commit the most heinous of crimes, in court cases they are made out to be paragons of virtue. The good policemen are very lonely men who know that they are operating in a lawless country from which they will get little support.
With the spike in ferocious criminality, the JCF is stretched to the limit and the resources available to it will definitely ensure that the commissioner's basket will be forever going to the well to fetch water.
Rapes have long been under-reported in this country. By my 'guesstimates' rapes are under-reported by about 75 per cent.
Let me give you an example. In 1997, I met three young women, two from rural parishes and one from a semi-rural St Andrew community.
Of the two from rural parishes, one had been raped at 14 by a taximan who was known to her mother. In fact, due to dire poverty and the more depressing fact that the mother had seven children by five men, the mother had encouraged the taximan to take out the child.
The first night he did he drove her to a marl pit, pulled out a knife and raped her in the bushes. It was weeks after, when he drove her down while she was walking on a lonely stretch of road and she escaped (into the path of another car), that she reported it to her mother.
The mother suggested that she keep it to herself.
The other rural parish young woman was held down at her home by her brother's friend. Luckily an electric iron was on a night table nearby and she eventually grabbed it and slammed it into one side of his head. An alarm was made and her brother and his friends arrived to apply a sound beating. All were agreed that no report should be made.
The home where the young woman from the semi-rural St Andrew community lived with two sisters and her mother was raided one night by gunmen. All were raped, but the sisters were unaware that the mother was also raped in another room.
Years later, as the mother began to experience severe mental problems, it took the intervention of an analyst to determine that she was raped and trying desperately to keep it a secret. Again, no report was made to the police.
The courts are hard on women who are raped and there is always the presence of a mercenary lawyer, trained not to possess a heart, who would be willing to rip the reputation of that damaged and aggrieved woman to shreds.
Impossible mission to
stop vigilante justice
In an action movie I saw recently -- Punisher I think it was -- there is a quote along the lines of, "Sometimes the law is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is often necessary to operate outside of the law."
Vigilante justice has been around ever since I was a child, and I am certain it existed before that. A man steals another man's prized ram and slaughters it for its meat.
The man retaliates by getting his friends to ambush the man one night and they beat him to within an inch of his life.
In comparison with 50 years ago when murders and rapes were extremely rare occurrences, today criminality of all stripes is rampant and very few of us feel safe to venture out at night. In the daytime we are stressed out until our children and other loved ones arrive at home.
A society cannot operate in that manner, and something has to give.
It is accepted that the JCF cannot solve the crime problem in this country. Making appeals to the citizenry to co-operate with the police is an uphill task. Citizens will not give the police information unless they can be assured of their own safety. I know of one person who said she would only give the police information if she could be assured that the police would kill the person she labelled as the perpetrator of the crime.
In this scenario, mob killings will increase because the people feel helpless. Ironically, 'the people' are, too many times, just as potentially violent as the persons to whom their venom is directed. That is a whole other problem -- the bloodlust!
People are not prepared to sit by while their communities are overrun with rapists and murderers. The ordinary man at street level has little chance of securing a licence to own a firearm. And even then, while that may offer him some protection in his household, he must at some stage venture out.
The impotence of this PNP Administration has caught even the most ardent PNP supporter off guard. But I am not too sure that Jamaicans are too anxious to engage in a tit-for-tat political swap when the people are generally convinced that the PNP is the better package of sliced bread.
I believe the people will simply hunker down for the rough times, both economically and socially. Mob justice will increase and certain police factions will turn a blind eye to it.
In general, criminality will increase because the criminals sense the lack of direction and absence of leadership in the political sphere.
I really hate to say this, but from where I sit, if there is a silver lining, it is having one hell of a time in showing itself to me.