Columns

Reparations and ganja — get rich quick schemes?

Franklin JOHNSTON

Friday, January 24, 2014    

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The values, character and reputation of this nation are directly related to our conduct in the public arena. And maybe our reparations and ganja forays are wars of convenience, bereft of high principle. I never considered the Europeans who enslaved my ancestors my equals; same for African slavers, heirs and successors who live inglorious history without explanation to us their diaspora. But I am not at ease with using their tactics or citing poverty to justify force or blackmail to cash-in on my ancestors. My Dad would say leave it to retribution! After slavery we were secure, trusting; since Independence, insecure and suspicious. We made a mockery of 50 + 1 years of Independence. Had we done nothing but hold the secular trend line we would be better off. Yet, we must cherish every bit of reputation as "good name better than money". We achieved notoriety in so many things; will they come back to bite us?

Sport, culture and entertainment are our métier, but I fear we have been profligate and not valued our prowess. In culture the Isaac Mendez Belisario prints evidence a rich heritage in form and fabric; the brush of this Jamaican Jew who benefited from the Jewish Emancipation Act of the 1830s fixed us in history. Today, we have crass displays which masquerade as culture on the north coast. Penile structures gifted to donkeys placed most ingloriously on the graven images of our men; obstructing traffic in their exuberance; gross disrespect to folk art. This is not the florescence of intuitive art, but the attention seeker perverting our culture for sensation and profit. We are in danger of losing popular culture as we revel in the salacious trickery feral psyches contrive. Must we lose our reputation for art not redolent of our values? Who will rescue our intuitive artists from commercial, selfish exploitation? What about our reputation and values? Our culture is now endangered.

Our standards have slipped. We are an icon of the undesirable. Our tourism no longer lives "out of many one people"; to be Jamaican is to be Rastafarian as they have subtly promoted this image abroad. Yet we are a Christian nation. Take our athletes, many seem so surfeited by self we are in danger of losing national spirit because of what they ingest. Is this the character built by a nation with a century of global sporting prowess? Should we not expect the gravitas of McKinley, Wint, Rhoden? Is glorious Champs no longer our burden? Do athletes know they are keepers of a sacred flame? If we have another meltdown of athletes might we lose our reputation in sport? There is one place to go when you are on top. Don't!

Our entertainers are also on a slippery slope. They have done well for themselves, but the life-affirming, revolutionary mantras to change a nation are no more. They rode roughshod over the path Bob blazed with his petulance and peccadilloes. Our minstrels back then were quirky and idiosyncratic prophets. Ganja smoke and ital were embedded in Bob's psyche but did not define him. A peacemaker, non-violent patrician, he did not tout a spliff, not even a roach. He had self-respect. Today Buju, Kartel are locked up -- drugs, murder; false prophets, the antithesis of our values. Bob brought warring politicians to peaceful singularity, hands raised in love. Today murderous lyrics of the marketplace pound -- they create war. The anti-gay cash for kill lyrics which so bruited our tourism rise again, "their lips are silent but their hearts are feral". We lost caring, and are in danger of losing our artistic integrity, values and reputation.

It is hard to resist the thought that the emergence of reparations and ganja campaigns at this time is not principle but opportunism; greed born of failure to prosper our nation. Is it coincidence that these mega issues come now as we are piss poor? Do we clutch straws? They blindsided me as they did not emerge from debate, our hurts or priorities. Are we just copycat? Colorado? Mau Mau? The demon of crime and violence which takes young and old is rampant here. The ennui which makes us unable to feed ourselves is crippling; are these priorities? What of our mis-education? We now know our kids were not dunces as we were told. It was not "a few bad eggs", the system produced rotten eggs. The recent JCF research is instructive though not definitive. We cursed illiterate criminals for not going to school; we now know the majority of men in prison went to secondary school. Illiterate, yes, but schooled for at least nine years. Who owns this train wreck? Now we know, let's fix it. Minister Thwaites went to Parliament; no blame game, no recriminations; swallow pride, put shoulders to the education wheel. Yes, we can!

Why are logical, headline issues of crime, violence, food, education ignored for reparations and ganja? Quick fix? Forget work, take a punt on a Cash Pot claim our parents did not pursue even with eminent legal counsel N W Manley on hand? I was always inspired by the Mau Mau, but by accepting cash they brought a glorious tale of heroism to a sordid end. For some British £4,000 apiece, warriors who inspired black people globally became mere mercenaries. The magic is gone. They killed this inspiring myth for thirty pieces of silver...it is finished! Reparation is an open wound which I would have so for evil men to contemplate forever. The suffering of my foreparents was iconic, the injustice extreme; and I do not wish to exonerate any man at this time by taking his cash "in full and final settlement" of this evil. I would rather humanity gaze in perpetuity on the face of past evil than receive a stale-dated penitent cheque and give a thank you speech. I do not wish to bring closure to this gaping wound; let the pus of this suppuration attract flies and maggots; let it stink to heaven; lock up your windows -- evil will out! Bring closure to reparations for cash? may the cries of our ancestors haunt us forever and ever. Selah!

The reparations and ganja putsch smacks of desperation. "Mek we juk dem fi mek a money?" I may be poor, but I am proud. I do not want reparations just because I am on the bone of my arse. It merely justifies what slavers thought of black people -- shiftless and workshy. Thumbing my nose at the Imperialist establishment is priceless. If they offered me reparations now I would say "Let me get back to you on this!" I may accept when I have prospered my nation and give it all to education and starving Africa. We diminish our spirit if, like the Mau Mau, it all ends with a few British pounds given to one-legged, old black men with halitosis and toothless smiles. These are not my Mau Mau warriors, but then as Roger Mais intones..."all men come to the hills...finally!" I love to see Imperialist friends squirm when I cite the injustice of their foreparents in not paying compensation to mine while paying their kin lavishly. My one guilty pleasure. To take their cash would rob me of this. 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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We made a mockery of ours years of Independence. Our tourism no longer lives 'out of many one people'; to be Jamaican is to be Rastafarian as they have subtly promoted this image abroad.

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