Monday, May 24, 2010

Thoughts on civil unrest and accusations of selfishness

Last night the dogs were barking. Louder than I've ever heard them. Some were excited, others anxious. Communicating the incommunicable. Panic and fear. For days people have been retreating inside themselves in anticipation of violent unrest. For days rumors have spread around Kingston, around Jamaica. Each day people react to the groundless whispers that today was going to be the day that the infamous "they" went for Dudus Coke. Meanwhile we sat minutes from Tivoli knowing nothing would happen today by the lack of police and army presence and other tell tale signs in Trench Town. But people at a distance had little to rely on but misinformation, so people fled from work. People evacuated even from far reaching corners that seemed far out of risk.

While I watched hoards of people rushing north, trying to get as far away from downtown Kingston as possible, I could understand a desire to be safe at home, but there was something about it that was unpalatable. Perhaps it was that many of these same people were so angry at the prime minister for not signing Dudus over faster; who were disgruntled about endangering a relationship with the giant of the North, about visa applications and hampering businesses. There is something sour to me about people wanting him extradited because of inconvenience in their own life, being able to retreat safely to their homes while bullets blaze through some one else's community, while some one else pays the cost for the majority's normalcy, while the marginalized remain isolated and set apart, at risk and deprived of equality, of full legitimate participation in legal society or even government. The many assumptions and prejudices this situation is riddled with make so vile a concoction, that I for one cannot stomach it with ease. With a stench so pervasive that because of its mere presence I desire more than anything to spit the taste out of my mouth. But that's not the whole story either....

I am angry, but who to blame? Politicians of days gone by who as early as the 1930s and 40s were developing garrison communities as mechanisms to establish there power? That would actually mean blaming the founding fathers of Jamaica as it were. The CIA could take some credit. They armed the JLP in the early days, in an attempt to discourage Jamaica from a growing relationship with communist Cuba. This is particularly ironic because the same Dudus Coke the US government presently wants to extradite has ties with the same party they armed those years ago. Dudus Coke is simply part of the political-vote monger-war machine they helped engineer. (To some of you that might sound reminiscent of Osama Bin Laden and the CIA).
The modern politicians have been trained in the same corruption, despotism, and manipulation. They could carry a big portion of the blame. Politicians who claim to want change and invent catchy slogans while maintaining what Obika Gray calls a "parasitical government."
Do I blame Barack Obama or the FBI for wanting to extradite a definite criminal and player in the international drug and gun trade? It sounds like it makes sense, but Barack will carry some of the burden for playing the US bully card while demanding extradition on not so legal evidence, and for not listening. He did not listen to politicians representing the ghetto, representing normal Jamaican citizens without criminal alliances residing downtown who explained that this would result in civil war in Kingston. It's not him alone that didn't listen, many Jamaican politicians didn't either, nor people uptown.
So do I blame the infectious apathy towards garrison communities that many middle & upper class, and non-Kingston residents have? Caring about people in garrisons only when the commotion is making the news or effecting the majority's affairs? Blame people who ask why the people of Tivoli are "being so selfish" and protecting a criminal without considering the selfishness of everyone outside of garrison communities for being unconcerned all these years? Their statement reveals a flagrant lack of comprehension, a flat understanding of garrison politics. Informing or betrayal in a garrison means death socially or literally. It means hiding, running, or dying. Is wanting to avoid that anymore selfish than not doing more than lip service towards the problem? Is it any less selfish to care now because of inconvenience but not because of the massive injustice and threat garrisons have posed since before independence? Isn't more enraging that a community has been so so isolated and ill served by its government and fellow citizens that depending on gang law has become an increasingly viable and legitimate option? Dons supply what the government and other organizations do not? Stability, order, money, food, generally more justice than the police?

When I hear talk of the selfishness something in me burns, because if one party alone was immersed in selfishness perhaps we wouldn't be in this debacle in the first place. In reality, in life there is often no one person or group to blame. There may be one person who starts something evil and destructive, but we are all accountable. We are all called to stop, remedy or work tirelessly railing against these misdoings. There is a mutuality of responsibility, that has been neglected. A shared duty to care for each other, to seek justice, mercy and compassion as a society. Not with lip service, but with action. When these things fail in a society it's not just one person's fault, nor one social group, but many.

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