Every year on August the 6th, I wake up to the same hullabaloo on social media wishing Jamaica a Happy Independence! I find it so ironic how people will hate this country for 364 days of the year, but for this one day, “We and Jamaica a fren”. I’m not saying we should hate Jamaica though, nor am I insinuating that our celebrations of the last 53 years as an independent state were a waste of time, I just hope that amidst all the celebrations today we at least reflect on what our “Emancipendence” really means. In preparing for this article, I found myself seriously dwelling on the expression, “Emancipendence” and what it truly means for us as Jamaicans. What are we emancipated from? and how independent have we been since 1962? I think the answers to these overarching questions are really what will measure our Emancipendence; not how much Ms Hanna decides to spend on this year’s Grand Gala celebrations.
There’s a popular and controversial school of thought among academics that developing states such as ours were never really given independence when we made our bids in the 20th century, but rather a false sense of freedom to keep us under control. It goes further to assert that slavery never really ended, it just evolved from the physical plantation model to the mental plantation model. I am actually inclined to agree with this view, and even extrapolate this evolved model of slavery to also include a social, economic and political component as well.
For all Jamaicans to feel emancipated socially in our society, then ALL JAMAICANS ought to be privileged to the same rights and protection under the constitution of Jamaica. Sad to say this is not the case for a number of minority groups; case in point: the homosexual community. Homosexuals have been a part of our society for the longest time, and it is now since the dawn of the 21st century that we see them putting their foot down as a group. Maybe this is them piggybacking off the surge in support coming from our North American “Big Brother” the USA, but the fact is they have established themselves and are now challenging our cultural status quo to be given full inclusion in the fabric of our society. Will this ever happen? Will they ever be able to live without the stigma of being an “abomination”? Will the majority of our people ever accept them as a part of the nation? Will our government ever make the right amendments to policy that will give them that power to feel emancipated? Most of you might be thinking this is highly unlikely; which is not an unusual response given our current social norms and values. To further investigate this case study to show the social limitations of our Emancipendence as a collective, let’s look at socialization and the four main agents that drive socialization in Jamaica: Jamaican Music, Family Structure, Christianity and Jamaican Politics. Until our Dancehall and Reggae Culture desist from “bunning out ba**yman”, the majority of our people will always have a resentment towards them; because our music dictates our lifestyle. Our Family Structure and Religion have a mutually symbiotic relationship where each helps the other. Our Families help our Churches to justify the word of God by existing in accordance to the Bible’s teachings, and more importantly to channel the word to the youngest of our society; while our churches teach some fundamental values of life that are invaluable and critical to the strength and growth of families. Until the dynamics of this relationship decides to change and make allowance for gay aka “unorthodox” family structures to have a seat in the church, and have a right to receive the message and apply it to their families then they will always be seen as “abominations to God”, and by extension outcasts of society. Jamaican Politics is the easiest of the three to rationalize because, all these politicians need are our votes. The truth is, none of them are running elections to introduce new ideas for change, but to continue feeding the current appetite of our people. It’s a simple equation: the more satisfied the people, the more votes the politician gets. Why would any logically thinking politician upset this wonderful system of “serving the people” by challenging policy to make way for greater inclusion of the “abominations”?? As Vybz Kartel would say, “Do di maths, Asian Brain”.
Economically, there are so many local pointers to say that we are not emancipated as yet which would trick a lot of Jamaicans into believing it is the government’s fault. While the government is not innocent in this crime against our humanity known as Poverty, which seems to be never-ending, to me they are merely pawns in a bigger chess game. The real culprits here are the lending agencies and NGO whom we have so graciously invited into this land we love to help us; the IMF being the biggest of them all. The IMF’s goal as an organization, taken from their website, is to “foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty”. How peachy. In our last 53 years as a country working with the IMF, how much of these goals have truly manifested in Jamaica? I get that yes we are an independent state and these are problems that our leaders should have direct responsibility for, but if the IMF given their composition of first world country leaders ought to know better than us, then why have I not seen a more concerted effort (with the exception of recent times) from these leaders to guide how their loans are spent by our occasionally incompetent leaders? That’s because they don’t want us to spend the money properly; because spending the money properly would mean us actually achieving some of these goals and slowly advancing ourselves to a first world status. For the stakeholders of the IMF and the other lending agencies to maintain their first world status, third world countries like Jamaica must always be in a debt trap. We must always be poor, always developing and always need more money to continue developing, for the IMF to stay relevant and powerful. This is the shackle that has enslaved our economy; this constant need to borrow from the “powers that be” to better ourselves. Until we borrow and put the money to good use once and for all, this cycle will continue for years to come; and our economy will continue to be a slave to the IMF.
Our bi-partisan political culture has significantly hindered our ability to be free for the last 53 years as an independent country. The system I have no qualms with, and objectively I think it has immense potential of working in our favor. It’s the people and the culture these people perpetuate within the system that has caused our regression. Jamaicans are just too loyal to these politicians, so much so that some would put their lives on the line for their political party. That ignorant and narrow-minded mentality prevents us from seeing the potential in great ideas irrespective of the political party it’s coming from, because we’re blinded by colors. If you think you’re really free then ask yourself who has paid your bills for the last decade? Who has sent your children to school? Who determines your opinion on national issues? Who determines your vote? If YOU aren’t the answer to all of these questions then your “Emancipendence” might be all in your head my friend. Liberate your mind, and stop allowing these politricksters to control how you think.
Despite my arguments to deconstruct the flair and excitement that is surrounding Emancipdence in Jamaica, it still does not negate the reality that we are an independent Jamaica, emancipated from 400 years of physical slavery. That is an achievement we ought to be proud of as Jamaicans, and use that achievement as a comfort to know that we have come a far way, but we have an even longer way to go. So, today my friends celebrate your “Jamaicanness”; cook up your Ackee and Saltfish with roast Breadfruit; and turn up the volume to Bob Marley’s One Love for the community to hear. But during all the excitement, just remember who YOU are, where WE are; where WE were and where WE want to be.