Columns

The presence of an absence

Michael BURKE

Thursday, August 28, 2014    

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WHEN a loved one dies and is missed by relatives, it can be called 'the presence of an absence'. When the garbage collectors do not pick up the garbage with regularity we have the presence of an absence. When there is no discipline, we experience the presence of an absence.

There is a story about a man who chastised his wife who was unemployed that all she did was to sit around all day and do nothing. The following day the man came home from work and saw the living room untidy, the beds were not made, and the pots in the kitchen were not washed. The bathroom was not cleaned, the floor of the house had not been swept, and no dinner had been prepared. So the man asked his wife "why?" Her answer was: "You say I do nothing all day. This is what nothing looks like. The wife had created the presence of an absence to make a point. I do not suggest that any woman whose husband is prone to violence should try out the above as an experiment.

Each year since 1992, I try to have two camps for our Roman Catholic students who do not go to Roman Catholic schools. I usually have one camp for boys in July and a camp for girls in August. Over the years these camps have been held at different sites all across Jamaica.

The town of Black River has many attractions such as its beauty and the Black River itself. It is also the site of the first building in Jamaica to have electricity. When the campers complain about the mosquitoes in Black River on the four occasions that we camped there, I recalled the story of the wife who was accused of doing nothing. So I ask them what they think it would be like if there were no crocodiles in the Black River to consume most of the mosquitoes.

In Falmouth, cruise boats, tourists, and the tours through the town are now standard features each week. True, the impact of the cruise ship is not as great as expected. We were camping in Falmouth from the pre-cruise boat days and I have seen a difference. I was explaining the importance of the cruise boats to one of the campers who did not know Falmouth before the cruise ships and he said that he did not see the difference. To him, "people were suffering same way".

I answered by saying that if there were no cruise boats the people would see the difference. For example, I recall that, not so long ago, there were not so many fruit vendors in the town. These vendors, in turn, will spend their money and therefore others will also benefit. Today the store owners in Falmouth sell souvenirs to tourists. More importantly, the cruise ships pay duty to the Government to dock on Jamaican shores.

Falmouth had piped water before New York. It is commendable that historical signs have been erected and there are places that have been declared national heritage sites. But there are no history-trekking tourists coming into Falmouth to add to the cruise ship tourists.

Some of the cruise ship tourists will spend some money in the town, which makes a difference, as I explained to campers last month. But do our travel agencies know how to go after history tourists? If not, why not learn how to do so?

Black River is the location of the first house with electricity in Jamaica, which was installed before most places in North America. Black River was once a thriving town that exported lumber. At least in Falmouth there are tours, but the last time I checked, Black River does not have any.

St Ann's Bay (where we had our boys' camps between 1992 and 2002) has the Seville Great House and the site of the first-ever church in Jamaica. But it is not completely utilised as a site for history tourists. Still, it is wrong for some to suggest that nothing is being done as the man told his wife in the story.

Jamaica without Roman Catholics

How many Rastafarians know that the Roman Catholic Church was banned in Jamaica for 136 years? Any oppression that Rastas underwent, especially between the 1930s and 1960s, was negligible compared to that of Roman Catholics who could have been executed in Jamaica simply for being Roman Catholic.

The Roman Catholics in Jamaica are less than three per cent of Jamaica's population. In such a scenario, I imagine that most Jamaicans would have heard some negative things — some of which are not even true. So, without apology to anyone, I will continue to highlight the positive things about our church and this seems to be a threat to those who cannot assail the facts as I give them.

What would Jamaica be like if the Roman Catholic Church was never restored in Jamaica? If the Roman Catholic Church did not build the first housing scheme in Jamaica, would the Government have had an example to follow? Yes, there was self-help housing by Jamaica Welfare, but I am referring here to housing schemes.

And, by the way, in the 1970s the housing advisor to then Minister Anthony Spaulding was the Jesuit Father Gerry McLaughlin, who has been a naturalised Jamaican citizen for decades.

If the Roman Catholic Church had not established the credit union movement, rid Jamaica of leprosy, built and run so many schools, and made a powerful contribution to social justice, would the small people of this country ever have been empowered?

Slavery was wrong and the Roman Catholic Church has apologised for its role in slavery in previous centuries. I have asked this question before, and ask it again: Where is the apology from the others, whether in religion or otherwise, from all parts of the world including our motherland, Africa?

It is nothing short of hypocrisy to put a total focus on the faults of the Roman Catholic Church. I suggest that readers Google 'sin of detraction' and see for yourselves what comes up. It is about detracting for the good character of a person to highlight the negative traits.

It does not excuse us of our sins over the last two millennia, but neither are the sins of others excused simply because they hypocritically cover their own sins by focusing on those of the Roman Catholic Church. And by doing so, here we have the presence of an absence of total truth.

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