History and the lessons not learntWednesday, June 09, 2021
There is an unmistakable sense that law and order has but a tenuous hold in Jamaica today. The images of cops and gunmen exchanging gunfire in peak traffic in the capital; Government recruiting 2,500 police at a time of shortage of nurses; and a terrified minister of justice shredding the constitution by pressuring judges to impose longer sentences on convicts are ominous signs of a State in retreat.
Regrettably, too few see the endemic violence for what it truly is — a withering symptom of the devastating level of inequality and the consequential social warping and disfigurement of lives among the youth and poor.
The economic strategy of successive Governments has fostered, rather than stymie the widening of inequality. We are yet to see the promised boon to the poor, employed and unemployed; despite a windfall of profits and wealth accumulating in the silos of a few already rich people. The country, especially since the 2012 International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement, has been locked in the embrace of the economic heresy that if we keep giving more to the rich, a little will eventually trickle down to the poor.
Make no mistake, the economy has grown since 2012. Banks and big business have never had it better. But, conversely, the plight and suffering of the poor have soared, and too many are worse off than 10 years ago. I wait to see how the world will respond to US President Joe Biden's stunning admission in April from the bastion of capitalism that “trickle-down economics has never worked… It is time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out…”
It is this socio-economic reality that is the face, shape, and fuel of the violence, the dismantling of the social order, and the movement away from the political process. This politics of neglect, coupled with disdain for the church and civil society — whose silence and failure to condemn and confront the injustices spawned by inequality — bodes ill. There is a real battle going on in Jamaica; a battle of values in which the State may itself become the casualty. There are dark clouds hovering over people's safety, and yet some only mourn because of the threat to their wealth and privileges, while some despair at our collective failure to use self-government to end this long-fought war, for which today's violence and destruction are but new frontiers.
The Maroon treaties, abolition of slavery, full freedom, Crown Colony Government, adult suffrage, Independence are all the results of battles fought against a common enemy — inequality. It is full time for equality, justice and peace.
History works in years, and then comes the reckoning. Harken to the living conditions leading up to the years immediately before 1865 and 1938. History repeats where we fail to see parallels between past and present. Inequality is deeply ingrained in the governance of this country since slavery, without respite. The children of slaves were themselves to become slaves, and since then too many families and succeeding generations remain trapped and fettered in unrelenting poverty. Too few are escaping the rage and boil of air being sucked out of their chances to succeed. Their anger and hopelessness are akin pumping hot air in a bursting balloon.
All the talk and condemnation will not change the reality that we are on the brink of anarchy. Despite increases in personnel and equipment, the police are and will remain outnumbered and out-gunned. In battle we applaud and make heroes of the police who kill them, but each new episode we witness even more brazen disregard for the rules that underpin our society. Things are going to get messier and deadlier because we have no shortage of these psychologically scarred and hopeless young people.
It is full time to right the wrongs since the 1962 Independence Order and give life to a motto that has so far served only to mock the aspirations of too many.
Delford G Morgan
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