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The blame game

 

By Francis Wade

 

Our small country is so divided politically that we often refuse to take any responsibility for the part we have played in co-creating the political leadership we have in Jamaica (or lack thereof.)

 

The behavior that results is that we blame “them” for all sorts of wrongs, real and imagined. We talk about how “they” should be hurt, punished, or put to death.

 

We condemn and curse “them,” all the while attempting to create a distance between us and “them” that we think, by force of rhetoric, will leave them guilty and worthy of pain, and us innocent and worthy of praise.

 

We are the ones who create and sustain these camps, in all areas of our lives.

 

In religion, we condemn those who think differently from us to a painful future in the afterlife, even if they may be sitting in a pew next to ours.

In society, we condemn those who are rich, or those who are poor as wicked, jelous or just “bad.”

 

In politics, we create opposing camps within parties, condemning those who believe differently.

 

In communities, we draw imaginary lines and make enemies of those who live on the other side of the lane, avenue or gully.

 

In our justice system, we lynch those we suspect of crimes, and encourage the abuse of prisoners.

 

We learned how to do this, once again, from our ancestors, the vast majority of whom were slaves. They, in turn, probably learned it first when they were slaves, and were separated into field slaves and house slaves, and then taught to hate those in the opposing camp.

 

Once created, these camps are difficult to overcome, yet we as a people were able to do it when we accomplished our independence from the British. Out of Many, came One.

 

People of Jamaica

 

If there’s any truth to the idea that our crime in Jamaica has its roots in the above three sources, then it’s likely that the ideas I’ve presented will at first be rejected.

 

They can be heard as very bad news, and as an attempt on the part of this writer to cast blame on the reader for the rising crime rate.

 

 “Who is he to blame us? What does he know?” – some will say. “Where are these ideas from? – America? Upper St. Andrew? The Ivory Towers of Academia? Some nutty, New Age religion? “

 

This reaction is a normal one. After all, it is much easier to blame someone else than it is to examine oneself, and we are well practiced in the game of discrediting those who point out where we could be doing better.

 

However, this defensive reaction need not stop us from looking carefully at these three sources.

 

There actually might be very good news here. The good news might be a recognition that the actions we have been calling for to reduce our murder rates, have in fact been contributing to the dramatic increase we have seen in the past year. This could lead us to take more informed actions.

 

Furthermore, if there is any truth to the three sources I’ve described above, then we need not wait for the next election, or for the laws to change, or for the police to become less corrupt to begin to take actions to reduce our murder rate.

 

We can start to inquire into what it is that we are doing to contribute to creating the atmosphere of violence that we find ourselves in each day.

 

We can ask ourselves: Are we seeing God as vain, violent and vengeful? Are we promoting punishment and celebrating violence in our homes? Are we creating differences, and opposing camps, dividing ourselves into a benevolent “us” and a condemnable “them?”

 

While there is no answer to fit us all, the question if honestly asked, might lead us to take individual actions that do make a difference.

 

At one point, we Jamaicans were seen as leaders in the struggle to create love, peace and justice.

 

We were strong in our support for the civil and human rights of Black people in America, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Many other participants in struggles for liberation in other countries played the music of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and others for inspiration.

 

How did we lose our way? When did we go from being “leaders in the struggle” to the point where we are among the most violent countries in the world?

 

Our national anthem says “Strengthen us the weak to cherish.” Our national pledge says “I promise to stand up for justice, brotherhood and peace… so that Jamaica may… play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.”

 

When I work to expand my definition of “the weak” to include some of the groups named above, such as young children, students, gays, girlfriends, the accused, football referees, and prisoners, I start to see the society that we have created today differently.

 

It starts to look to me as if we have a long way to go in advancing the welfare of the average Jamaicans that we come into contact with each and every day. We can start that journey together by taking responsibility for ourselves – the source of all that is good, and bad, in our country, including our crime.

 

Francis Wade is a management consultant based in Kingston, Jamaica. His passion is the transformation of Caribbean workplaces, economies and society. He blogs at Chronicles From a Caribbean Cubicle.

  

Please e-mail comments about this piece to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

 

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