Today marks the second anniversary of the passing of iconic journalist John Maxwell. In the following excerpts culled by his widow, Dr Marjan deBruin, from two of Maxwell's columns (December 2004 and February 2007) published in the Sunday Observer, the journalist is at his trenchant best on issues over which the society continues to agonise.
SEVERAL years ago, various media outlets carried a rumour that homosexuals were planning a march on Jamaica House. I don't remember anyone believing the story, but the media ran with it anyway. On the day appointed, dozens of idiots armed with cutlasses descended on Half-Way-Tree square prepared to teach the homosexuals a lesson. None, of course, appeared.
As I have said in an earlier column, it was a uniquely Jamaican occasion, because I don't believe that anywhere else in the world would the press have been so willing to spread such a plainly ridiculous and dangerous story, given the homophobic environment; nor would there be, anywhere else in the world, people idle enough to assemble for a sporting massacre, as it were. It was a low point in Jamaican civilisation and none of our leaders said a word.
Unfortunately, on the question of homophobia and homosexuality, the press is at least as backward as the majority of Fundamentalist Jamaica. Reading the advice columns demonstrates just how ignorant and illiterate people — including some counsellors — are about anything concerning sex.
Betty Ann Blaine, a very nice lady who is also a well-known social worker, delivered herself of the dictum that homosexuality is 'learned behaviour'... There is no authority anywhere for anyone to say that homosexual behaviour is learned.
On the contrary, controlled experiment with rats under environmental stress produced 'homosexual' intercourse which surprised the investigators because that was not what they were looking for. And homosexual pairing is well established among certain birds. There is also some evidence that there may be genetic predispositions which may or may not be reinforced by nurture. The fact is that no one really knows, which, I suppose, is as good a reason as any for murder.
Be fruitful and multiply...
Diversity is the key to survival with species and among species. If we do not 'love' one another, ie respecting the rights of all, if we destroy those who are different, we are sabotaging our own chances of survival by reducing the diversity and complexity of life, which is what enhances the odds that we will survive.
To be fruitful and multiply is not, as some of us imagine, a prescription for uncontrolled breeding; it means that we should provide equal opportunity for the survival of all. Fitness arises from diversity, not the other way round.
The more diverse we are is the more likely that some of us will survive, which is directly opposite to the views of the sectarian bigots who now presume to lay down rules to decide who we should love and who we should allow to survive.
The prophet whose teachings they claim to follow, Jesus of Nazareth, was in fact a supremely practical philosopher whose teachings seem to contradict most of the stuff handed down by the new rule makers. When Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, it was clear that He was not discarding the Sabbath and what it stood for, but making the point that while ethics and principles and the rules derived from them were prerequisites for a healthy and productive life, they were designed to fulfil human purposes and not to frustrate human happiness.
They needed to be adjusted and fitted to serve human purposes from time to time, to advance the human. Our ethical principles needed to be developed out of experience to serve real needs and not to be accepted simply because they had existed for a very long time or because some old geezer claiming to be a prophet said so.
Our absolutists who want to burn homosexuals and other sinners appear to reject one of the most fundamental arguments advanced by Jesus: that while the law and the prophets were to be taken into account, he was promulgating a new principle in total defiance of Mosaic Law: a new commandment give I unto you, he said, "that ye love one another."
...The Christian Taliban
Much of the homophobic plague now disfiguring our society is incited by those I call the Christian Taliban, a gang of prideful know-nothings who come not to call sinners to repentance, but to deliver them into the hands of the vigilantes. Some have acquired their second rate theology for a couple of hundred US dollars from some self-styled Bible college.
What riles me is that, in the heat of their newly bought holiness, they want to crucify the rest of us, or more accurately, to stretch or cut us to fit their own Procrustean beds of sublime ignorance.
They depend on the Old Testament, a collection of some of the oral history of nomadic tribes wandering about the Middle East 4,000 years ago. This accumulated wisdom was life-preserving at that time, surrounded as they were by enemies and eating unreliable food, but as Jesus of Nazareth said, it isn't what a man consumes that defiles him, but what comes out of him.
Because the Israelite nomads wanted to build up the numerical strength of their tribes they encouraged men to impregnate their sisters-in-law if their brothers died, and buggery — then and now the poorest but surest means of birth control — was an abomination as was, for the same reason, 'Onanism' or masturbation.
To their modern-day successors, like the Pharisees and Sadducees with their phylacteries and other tokens of holiness, what is good is not what one does but what one says, forgetting another apothegm from Jesus -- that the Devil can quote scripture to his own purpose. As far as they are concerned, the idea that God is Love is nonsense: God is a terrible God, full of wrath, vengefulness and thunderbolts.
These whited sepulchres understand Jesus' advice that we should be our brother's keepers to mean that they should be their brother's jailers. My old friend Peter Walker used to call these hypocrites "God-Botherers" because they seemed to have exclusive hotlines to their divinity.
Now they counsel us based on misinterpretations of 4,000-year-old 'science', that abortion is always wrong, that life begins at conception and a host of other nonsense, including the belief that sex education makes children pregnant.
The latest outrage is the idea of raising the age of consent, an idea some would interpret to authorise the jailing of anyone who had sexual intercourse before that age. Just say no, they blather — ignorance is literally bliss. I have news for them: if they really want to protect young people they should promote the raising of the age of consent to 24, because scientists have discovered that the brains of human children do not completely mature until about that age.
As I write this my friend Canute James has shown me a story from The Guardian (London) about a Jamaican who has, for the last 27 years, successfully pretended to be an expert forensic psychologist. This conman even had a motto which must have come straight from Jamaica: 'Exposing Unrighteousness for the Sake of Righteousness'.
This man, one Gene Morrison, who didn't even have a 'genuine mail order' degree, duped judges, barristers and their clients for almost three decades. He gave "expert evidence" in cases involving armed robbery, rape, death by dangerous driving, unexplained death and drug offences. Police are now having to re-assess about 700 cases looking for miscarriages of justice.
Never underestimate the power of a righteous Jamaican, especially one armed with the Wrath of God.