Must 'success' be a bad word in Jamaica?Friday, March 26, 2021
“BAD mind a go kill dem” is a well-known line from a popular dancehall song which, in many ways, encapsulates an ongoing trend in the Jamaican society where envy and covetousness have taken root in the national psyche, which can lead to various deleterious circumstances for the victims, including being murdered or 'obeahed'!
Ironically, there is also another popular line from a reggae song which opines that “to be poor is a crime”. The current struggles many Jamaicans are facing as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic have highlighted the need for many Jamaicans to become hustlers in order to meet their economic needs. In this context, some who succeed are targeted by their fellow citizens, stigmatised and ostracised. And, in many cases, even if their means of survival are legitimate, their detractors oftentimes maintain that they are up to something outside of the law, including drug pushing or prostitution (both male and female).
To be successful in Jamaica, therefore, can be very hazardous to one's health — physically, mentally and psychologically. The situation becomes even more perilous and excruciating if you possess a certain pigmentation that does not align well with those who continue to occupy the 'great house', reflecting your African ancestry.
And, let us not blame it on the 'Willie Lynch Syndrome' alone. The harsh truth is that too many of us who are related to Samuel Sharpe, Paul Bogle, Nanny of the Maroons, and Marcus Garvey are just plain “bad mind and grudgeful”. William “Willie” Lynch was a white slave owner who, in 1712, on the banks of the James River in Virginia, USA, purportedly made his infamous speech telling other slave masters that he had discovered the “secret” to controlling enslaved Africans by setting them against one another.
Here is an excerpt from his diatribe which allegedly has worked and has become a part of the psyche of descendants of African slaves in the black Diaspora:
“The black slave, after receiving this indoctrination, shall carry on and will become self-refuelling and self-generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. Don't forget you must pitch the old, black male vs the young, black male, and the young black males against the old black male. You must use the dark skin slaves vs the light skin slaves, and the light skin slaves vs the dark skin slaves. You must use the female vs the male, and the male vs the female. You must also have your white servants and overseers distrust all blacks, but it is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on us. They must love, respect and trust only us.”
Much of the crime and violence in this country can be attributed to individuals who despise anyone who appears to be successful. To begin with, if you are deemed to be successful there is the immediate speculation that you are either into drug trafficking, some form of 'bandoolooism', or the beneficiary of some gay “Mr Boops” (in the case of the males). Very few will sing your praises; most will discuss you behind your back and say all kinds of terrible things about you, all because you “look good” and “you nah beg nobody nutten”.
Another aspect to this bad-mind scenario is that it has caused many individuals to visit the Obeahman in an effort to “turn down somebody” who is doing better than they are. Yes, Obeah is alive and well in this country, and much of its is tied in with who should be or should not be successful. Some time ago, after a devastating hurricane, a certain hotel property in Montego Bay had undergone much damage. To the amazement of the clean-up crew, several bottles with various potions as well as parchment paper with the names of co-workers were found unearthed. Then again, it has been said that, “Bad mind worse than Obeah!”
In another incident, a young, enterprising male employee turned up to work one morning with a spanking, new “crissas” (car) that had everybody on the property wide-eyed and green with envy, including his manager. The long and short of it is that the young man soon lost his job without being given any meaningful explanation. It was later revealed that the manager thought he had to be involved in some criminal activity in order to afford such a vehicle. Furthermore, “Di bwoy damn bright fi come a drive car dat look betta dan mine,” is a remark attributed to the manager.
Truth be told, the young man had worked hard and saved his money and, with the help of a well-off aunt residing abroad, he was able to purchase his crissas. Well, his success story cost him his job. And there are numerous such stories out there in which people are penalised because of their success.
Coupled with the Willie Lynch Syndrome, the People's National Party (PNP) Administration of the 70s led by Michael Manley must take some of the blame because of how their push for democratic socialism was interpreted by the masses, especially the blacks, many of whom felt it was necessary to relieve people of their belongings if they had too much, no matter how they had obtained same. Manley meant well, but the people thought otherwise; hence, “profit” became a dirty word and people who were in business to make a profit were vilified and ostracised. Perhaps that is why we have so far been unable to build a culture of successful entrepreneurship among black Jamaicans. Just look at the Private Sector of Jamaica Hall of Fame.
If Jamaica is to become economically independent and subsequently a peaceful, crime-free society, then we must expunge this culture of bad mind. We must “bun bad mind!” Have you ever wondered why if you have, on one street, shops operated by a variety of people, the one(s) that get the least support or patronage is the one operated by a black business person? Willie Lynch's doctrine is alive and well! Not to mention our 'foreign mind' and foreign tastes. Will we ever sufficiently eat what we grow, and will we ever prefer to buy Jamaican-made goods as against items made elsewhere?
If success is not to continue being a punishable offence in this country, then the curricula in our educational institutions must seriously begin to teach character education at all levels, from basic school to university. It is so easy to laugh at the calamity of others than to praise the achievements of those around us. This is a debate that needs to be put on the table for meaningful discussion. Too many black entrepreneurs in Jamaica have become victims of their own success.
Lloyd B Smith has been involved full-time in Jamaican media for the past 44 years. He has also served as a Member of Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. He hails from western Jamaica, where he is popularly known as the Governor. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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