Devon Dick: Vultures, termites and Independence
Recently, a Baptist pastor told me that a talk-show host made reference to my December 11, 2008 article titled 'Golding's termites comments again' with a claim that it had implications for Minister of National Security Peter Bunting's comment about the Opposition's perceived behaviour. An Opposition MP encouraged me to respond to the talk-show host. Unfortunately, the pastor could not remember the name of the talk-show host or the radio station on which the reference was made. I am very happy that someone remembers what I wrote some seven years and perceives the relevance for today.
Bunting said, "Some in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leadership have been behaving like a set of John Crows, like vultures, gleefully reacting to every loss of life as an opportunity to gain political mileage". There is a difference between calling someone an idiot and saying someone is behaving like an idiot or that the behaviour is idiotic. The point in my 2008 article was that we should avoid the first two. We should not get personal. We should deal with the message and not attack the messenger. Bunting's comments were unbecoming and degrading. This is a poor example for his supporters.
In my 2008 article, I said Golding's comment, claiming that 'the brains of the People's National Party (PNP) were termite-infested', was 'most unbecoming' because some of his supporters would not comprehend 'the nuance between calling PNP leaders termites and that their brains were termite-infested.' In fact, a JLP youth leader called a politician "chief termite" and referred to Omar Davies, former minister of finance, as "money termite". Apparently, he felt confident to refer to human beings as termites because of Golding's comments.
Likening human beings to lower animals is unbecoming. It is to debase human life and human dignity. Vultures are large birds of prey which gather in anticipation of the death of a sick or injured animal, while termites are small insects that feed on wood and are highly destructive. Human beings can handle complex problems and engage in complex reasoning and communication which lower animals cannot do.
On August 1, we celebrated Emancipation when we affirmed that Jamaicans are not non-humans and property, but are equal to all races. We should not make any reference that could be misconstrued as putting down another human being. God appearing as flesh in Jesus the Christ means that all humans have intrinsic dignity, worth and value.
Therefore, we should avoid labelling people, stereotyping people and stigmatising people. Let nothing a person says or does make us deny that human being his or her personhood. We are all smaddy pickney!
We are celebrating political Independence from British colonialism. We need to display pride in being Jamaican, lifting up each other. We must be committed to Brand Jamaica and show appreciation of fellow Jamaicans in spite of shortcomings. We must look at other Jamaicans with pride. We need to respect each other. Even when we disagree with our international partners, we do not classify them and likened them to vultures and termites, so we should not do it to our own, otherwise it would appear that we venerate foreigners.
Let us instil pride in Jamaicans and loyalty to Jamaica by respecting each other and be committed to developing a kinder, gentler, more ethical and more compassionate society. Our politicians and other leaders can set the tone by referring to others with gracious words. We can disagree, but we do not have to be disagreeable.
PS: Happy Independence to all my readers and respect due to you.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.