Columns

The torrents of 2017

Michael
Burke

Thursday, December 28, 2017

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The year 2017 had several milestones as I signposted in my very first column for this year. I did my best to highlight them, but my one regret is that I did not do a column on the Council of Voluntary Social Services, which celebrated 75 years this year.

Some people do not understand that I usually write about anniversaries unless something else is more pressing. It is not about reworking the same themes. Hundreds of readers have expressed their gratitude to me, and those who have read my columns over the years know that I have written on over 40 different topics in nearly 30 years of writing columns, so my 'canvas' is quite broad.

In every Christmas season going back several decades those who have a need to show off their limited knowledge point out the fact that Jesus Christ was not born on December 25 and, indeed, could not have been born then. As well, they say shepherds would not be watching sheep in the December cold weather of the Middle East. When I was in school such people would be sarcastically called “Columbus”. Of course, that in itself was a misnomer because Columbus was not a discoverer but a guide to Europeans.

I have been at pains to point out for nearly three decades that the Church celebrates Christmas on December 25 and has never stated that this is the actual date. Indeed, the Gregorian almanac that we use in the West was not even invented yet. It was about emphasising Jesus Christ in the Roman cultural context of the day.

I have also been at pains to explain that Jesus Christ was a Sephardic Jew and therefore did not look like any of the depictions of the artists and sculptors born and raised in a European surrounding. From the days before e-mail many have posted letters to the Jamaica Observer asking me why a Caucasian image of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is used to illustrate my columns. The conversations continue. Some people clearly do not know better.

As a research consultant with perhaps a little more knowledge than most about Jamaica's history, I hereby repeat that crime and violence in Jamaica go back to the days of the pirates. The political violence that started in the early 1940s is a 'cancerous' outgrowth of Jamaica's history of piracy. I wrote a Jamaica Observer column in August 2004 entitled 'Henry Morgan's legacy' and explained my position. Those who insist that there is no connection between piracy in the 17th century and crime and violence in recent times I would give a zero in an examination on the topic.

Unfortunately, the year 2017 was filled with violence as once again the authorities grappled with this problem that is most challenging to solve. In the middle of this came the used-car saga and word is out that Robert Montague is battling for his political life as the cars have been slow in coming.

The violence has gone on unabated even though on two occasions in the 11 months between November 2016 and October 2017 money in large quantities was used to create employment. One was prior to the local government elections of November 2016 and the other was in one of the constituencies contested in three by-elections on October 30 this year. The money spent on the road between Castleton and Annotto Bay was the Jamaica Labour Party's version of 'run wid it' that they condemned the People's National Party's Omar Davies for some 15 years ago. Several hundred million dollars was earmarked for roadwork that stopped a few days before the day of the by-election and has not resumed. The Castleton to Annotto Bay road is still not fixed — at least up to last week Wednesday when I travelled that way.

With respect to the media, at the beginning of the year, the 97-year-old South African Peter Abrahams was violently killed, while towards the end of the year noted journalist Ian Boyne died at age 60.

Regarding the weather, many continue to debate the reality of climate change, even as we experienced very high temperatures in Jamaica in the middle of the year to September, only to find a radical change from hot sunshine to rain and more rain. Thankfully, the sun came out once again in time for Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, Pope Francis prayed for immigrants everywhere, especially as far-right parties have emerged in Europe which display a gross intolerance for immigrants. At the same time, US President Donald Trump brought back the words 'Merry Christmas' into the festivities in the USA rather than 'Happy Holidays'. Is there much hope that Trump will heed Pope Francis's words about the holy family being immigrants in Nazareth when Jesus was born? Will he take pity on the Mexicans and forget about the wall? Will he make this a new year's resolution? But, then again, this might be carrying the concept of hope too far.

All the best for the new year!

ekrubm765@yahoo.com

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