Columns

Religion, not race, made our culture

Franklin JOHNSTON

Friday, May 02, 2014    

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THE major influence on our culture is the Bible not the British. The myths of a polyglot Levantine people who were also slaves now rule us. Their cosmology woven from extant civilisations; tales of ancestors embellished to build a One God tribe; and the carrot is? They were told they were chosen by God-great line. The first part of the book is written in their ancient tongue, and the second in Greek. They were oral, mostly illiterate and unruly, but leaders matter. Today scion of these ex-slaves believe they are chosen, live it and are supremely confident; not so the scion of ex-enslaved Africans -- leaders matter! Despite a setback in the Holocaust, they are now billionaires; Nobel laureates; control global music, fashion, theatre, finance, films, publishing, etc; visionary; principled; determined mentors can do great things -- leaders matter. Will Jamaicans continue to faff around or find our hidden hero?

We embraced their book, but does it work for us? Are we loving and peaceable with good values and principles? Work hard, control our land and its bounty? The book was not written by, for, or about Africa or Europe, but it it's the one thing black and white people love. Both use the book pro and con capital punishment, ganja, homosexuality, liquor, sex, race, and every Jesus Christ thing we bitch about. Win a race, a Grammy, escape a crash, and thank God and my Mama. The irony is that the original authors have moved on. And some aver, rightly so, as they are on top. For, though their country is small, they rule the world. Neither Europe nor Africa birthed a global faith, while China and India did before the book and Hebrews were aware; as they avoided gluttony, human sacrifice, temple prostitutes, and went against the flow. The longevity of the book is a tribute to them. The Jew's Christianity spread all over then divided into the Western (Roman) and Eastern Catholic branches and took over Western Europe and Eastern Europe respectively. Islam is the only Bible-derived faith to claim superiority to the book; but then Muhammad (peace be upon him) was neither Jew nor Christian. Founders of all new churches came from an old one before they turned against it. Thus, Anglicans were disaffected Catholics; Methodists disaffected Anglicans; Seventh-day Adventists were born of Baptist Mr Miller's influence on a gifted Ellen G White. The faith of our coloniser, not his nationality, was the greatest influence on our culture and values. Africa, Jamaica, Europe pale by comparison. When your friends no longer dance, eat meat, celebrate birthdays, or join the JDF you know a faith has found them -- faith determines culture.

New World colonies were Catholic or Protestant. The Bible has colour, syncopation, rhythm, and vivid imagery; the performing, plastic, installation arts are there and Catholics celebrated them -- King David cuckold his young Captain; crossing the Red Sea; David and Goliath battle, a Sampson and Delilah tryst, graving a calf in gold; later on walking on water! National and religious pride were one. Protestant Britain versus Catholic Spain, Portugal and France. The British were island people, tenacious underdogs; ever underestimated, never favourites. In the "ding-dong" battle for Caribbean power the Protestants got the small islands -- Barbados, Grenada, etc -- the Catholics, the big ones -- Cuba, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, and this cultural conundrum remains to this day. The Protestant-Catholic divide hinders as faith impacts culture, attitude, endowment and values. Culture is life and our endowments may restrict us.

British Protestantism was frugal, sententious. Henry put away his barren wife, dissed the Pope, and Anglicans were born -- as a King could not keep his penis in his pants. Every denomination came from this phalanx. The Pope saw off challenges by suasion or scorched-earth policy. An ecclesiastical empire when "every nigger wants his own church and collection plate" is no cakewalk. Catholicism is a potent force in scholarship and has fine art collections to die for -- not so Protestants. The mixture in Haiti, Cuba and Brazil is potent. The penchant for fine arts, ease with cultures and colours swept these colonies. The confession was a winner, "Satan, do your darndest; I can confess and be absolved!" With this certainty the work hard, play hard spirit thrived. The British, Protestant spirit was tortured by doubt. "Will God punish me if...?" Catholics acted and confessed. To be Protestant (Anglicans, Moravians, Baptists, Methodists, Church of God of all stripes, Adventists, etc) and British was grief -- no theatre, opera house, ballet, classical repertoire. The book had all the goodies; they chose frugally. Catholics used the full menu; love of God, vengeance of Yahweh. British Protestants dithered, and this is our heritage. When in heaven, look through the window of your bus and see the evil Pope in his limo signing autographs. The sacrament of confession is the strength of Catholics. Protestants carry a weight of guilt. Carnevale is Catholic; party to Shrove Tuesday then "stop brap" and confess until next year. Our Carnival is out of step with faith -- pastiche; but it may revert as a fete for all faiths, not a pale shadow of one already gone.

Catholics melded with Africans in the New World and the blend unleashed two centuries of creativity. Protestants were not in sync with our karma. Today the masters of Europe's genres are Catholic -- El Sistema and local conservatories produce for Europe, the Royal Opera relies on Cuban talent with African "brio" and authentic African retentions dwell there, not in Protestant lands: Men of letters, architecture, philosophy; a Bauhaus built on the backs of black, mulatto, mestizo. British Protestants had no opera house, music Conservatory or Observatory; suppressed extreme local forms, yet is not Lent, crucifixion extreme? Welsh songs, a capella, Scots reel, Irish blarney, English maypole -- small beer as even they went to the continent to enjoy life. The blend of Europe, Asia and Africa created a new brown people, and the no-birth-control Catholics made lots of eye candy. British Protestants were conscience-ridden sperm donors. Darwin visited South America and saw the evolution of browning -- hot stuff there, in Europe and Africa too. The evolved Caribbean body was voluptuous; derriere sculpted, thighs for thrust, lungs for pace, sweat as lubricant. Brown (mixed race) people remain the fastest-growing census class in parts of Europe and will soon outnumber white and black and exert serious political clout. Brown people are the Caribbean's contribution to evolution. It happened here under our very eyes.

New World slavery had unintended consequences -- some good for the human race. We ignore them because we do not think straight. We occupy the conscience of Europe and benefit from it. They patronise us and we play the sufferer card to get benefits. We are not diligent, productive nor use of our assets wisely, so they humour us and give. The West Indies saw a convergence Europe or Africa never knew; we are a new creation -- the Caribbean man. Miscegenation gave Europe melanin to tan, absorb Vitamin D from the sun, and be healthy; a new brown being -- genotype and phenotype; sensory -- eyes, ears, noses, hands, feelings; DNA from Africa and Europe -- the best of both, or the worst? For millennia, evolution was stalled -- boring black and white. Slavery restarted the process and brown people emerged -- a new creation. God's evolution is not yet over. Stay conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education. franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

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