Venezuela, Trump and our topsy-turvy valuesFriday, August 25, 2017
Jamaica is not the paradise of 55 years ago. We are in a dark place. It's not that colonialism was better and Independence worse; it is us. New residents come from town to the district and the impact is stark. Community spirit is flaccid; morality negotiable; good or bad depends on time, place and who you are. There is no true north. A farm worker returned to find his house scrapped, materials gone into the woodland by some he sees in the square. He is now trying to buy the zinc stolen from his own roof. It's the wild west; evil rules, morality is relative, fear is palpable, and police is no help.
Did our sustainable poverty stunt morals? Is God dead? Still, we do the best, but we know this malaise infects national issues too.
Take Venezuela; we are friends with President Nicolas Maduro and see his acts as our major benefactor; therefore, our leaders are silent. We are in a moral Sargasso Sea. He and the Opposition are at each other's throats; do we just look away, take oil, and ignore violence to our principles? We are outspoken on USA politics before, during, and after elections; some cuss the new US president we do not know, yet we do not caution friends like Maduro, so they do not go rogue. Our leaders watched as many starved, protested and were killed. They saw every twist and turn to undermine democracy; they said nothing.
What are friends for if not to save us from ourselves? We did him a disservice by our silence; for oil? Poverty is a brute! Prime Minister Andrew Holness should offer to mediate the dispute as we are of the West Indies — anglophone and impartial. Jamaica pro-created the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela by providing refuge and rescuing Simon Bolivar and if we have to save it now so be it. We hosted Simon Bolivar for whom the Venezuelan republic is named. We have respect on all sides. Let's send them containers of water, toilet tissue, etc, as Hugo Chavez regaled us with the people's oil and Maduro continues the madness. His people suffer so we may have light; let's do something extra for them.
Our leaders talk principle, but are moral relativists who treat with interests. President Mugabe moved from freedom fighter to despot; crushed Opposition and hangs on to power in his dotage; we say nothing. Yet, here we balk at older heads in politics, men too long in office, and undemocratic habits.
Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, in his 40-year rule of Libya, was no different; we said nothing. He held on by ruthless means and our leaders cosied up to these men but do not tolerate their methods here; schizophrenia? South Africa's President Jacob Zuma is anathema to all that Nelson Mandela stood for; we say nothing. Can a friend not speak truth to a friend and remain a friend? We need to recapture past idealism!
Our politicians have much in common with President Donald Trump who will not condemn his neo-Nazi, white supremacist base. He squirms and wriggles, trying to say nothing too bad about good people and searching for something good to say about bad ones. He won his bet and is having a great time as president. Trump is the most popular TV show. He uses an old playbook; seamy jokes, pays back enemies, rewards family, friends, and shows off on rivals. The economy does well so his net worth grows; affairs of State may suffer, but not him. He may drop a bomb, but the consequences are not his as he has a nuclear bunker.
Weep not for Trump; weep for yourselves. When he exits the White House the USA will be as it was, even if North Korea takes out an entire State (China will not bomb its money) and Russia two. Where will Jamaica be? When you produce enough to feed your people and half the world; consume a third of global energy; invest in the military; innovate; have a democracy with good checks and balances (federal, state, city) and diverse, bold media houses, one Trump can't upset it. He is the brief darkness of an eclipse; America will glow another 99 years. Forget Trump; put growth on our front page!
We are moral absolutists as regards our ancestors. We say Europe was wrong to enslave Africa, yet we justify slavery among Africans as culture, and we ignore Bedouin and Arab trans-Sahara and Indian Ocean slavery long before Europe. Haile Selassie, at the League of Nations, excused Ethiopia's not abolishing slavery in the 1940s as culture. Why exonerate Africans who caught and sold blacks, but demonise white buyers? Are both not equal? We cuss America's racism; most blacks in prison, most blacks killed by police, yet we line up from Matilda's Corner to get a visa and most choose America over Jamaica. A contradiction? We also cuss “other” people like the new Chinese as “dem a nuh like we, suh it nuh matta weh we duh to dem”! We want to leave Tainoland, so let them have it? Are you not tired of living in poverty and fear? We did not prosper our land in 55 years; they might make it a rich, crime-free paradise in a decade.
We now know the Bible and all our churches is no shackle to our brutality and evil. But we also need principles of economic justice to guide growth. Some who criticise the People's National Party's Fabian socialist roots (which built the welfare states and industrial giants of Europe) embrace communist China-command economy and poor human rights record as our BFF. What hypocrisy! We teach kids about our lawbreaker heroes and they get it! Lesson 1, breaking rules pays! Is this how we got here? Cabinet now answers a call to pardon our heroes — late, but great! What folly to ask the US's Barack Obama to pardon our own Marcus Garvey when we did not expunge his record. Still, Trump might pardon Garvey in 2020 to spite Obama. Please note as we redact history that truth is the first casualty. Which truth will our kids learn about Garvey going forward? Stay conscious!
Franklin Johnston, DPhil (OXON), is a strategist and project manager. Send comments to the Observer or email@example.com.
What are friends for if not to save us from ourselves? We did him a disservice by our silence; for oil? Poverty is a brute! Prime Minister Andrew Holness should offer to mediate the dispute as we are of the West Indies; Anglophone and impartial. We hosted Simon Bolivar for whom the Venezuelan republic is named. We have respect on all sides. Let's send them containers of water, toilet tissue, etc, as Hugo Chavez regaled us with the people's oil and Maduro continues the madness. His people suffer so we may have light; let's do something extra for them.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login