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Brian-Paul Welsh | The next folk hero

Published:Monday | July 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Brian-Paul Welsh

Jamaica is a place with a peculiar concentration of heroic folk, ordinary people who demonstrate extraordinary abilities in dreadful times such as these. Something about this land, its history and its people has imbued the inhabitants of these coordinates with a spiritual fortitude that is second to none.

The activation of these powerful spirits in times of need is a cosmic response to imbalance, injustice, and ineffective leadership. Some are born on this rock while others are drawn from faraway lands, but all manifest a zeal and a promise to transform this place through their sweat, their tears, and even their blood. Vested in them is hope for a harmonious future, a return to the original land of wood and water, before so-called civilisation, when we remembered what it was like to be human, respecting the divinity of all.

Revolutionary people and ideas are typically met with resistance, both violently and with devices like mockery and cynicism. Disrupting the droning frequency of the status quo and injecting new thought cause those whose senses were lulled into illusion to see the folly of the state in which they reside.When this recognition occurs, our instinct is either to fight or take flight, though nowadays it seems easier to choose the latter.

Not long ago, there was a Jamaican slave that was, perhaps snidely, referred to as 'Dutty Boukman' by those calling themselves his masters because he was literate in a time of mass deception. Fearing he would add to the intensifying hum of revolution in Jamaica, they sold him next door to sister Ayiti, thinking his fire would be quelled. It was fortuitous that this was where he would land, since shortly thereafter, his ideas found resonance in realms many have forgotten and an abeng pierced the stillness at Bois Caiman, sparking what we call the Haitian Revolution. Imagine if Boukman was never sent away and had remained to initiate successful change in Jamaica? Would we be in the same place at this moment?




Decades after our brothers and sisters in Ayiti liberated themselves from an unjust occupation, the village of Stony Gut in St Thomas set the stage for several pivotal acts of brutality against the Jamaican people. In 1865, Paul Bogle, George William Gordon and more than 400 of the most disenfranchised Jamaicans were slaughtered by the Government for their part in firmly resisting the systemic denial of their human dignity.

The sacrifice of these black animals touched the hearts of the gods of capitalism and led to a new paradigm in which the colony was supposedly to be ruled - under the government of law and not military licence. Some resentment to this ideology persists to this day and sporadically echoes from parliamentary houses whenever the peasants get out of control.

Such revolutionary spirits come as artists, as preachers, as thinkers, and as teachers. They excite and inspire and spur us into action in ways unimaginable to those in political stewardship. They shatter illusions, awaken dormant powers, and, ultimately, put fear in the hearts of the wicked with their strength and charisma.

Sometimes they arise but are led astray before they are able to develop their full consciousness. Many are lured by the guile of ego, becoming irresponsible with the use of their gifts and leading the people astray.




We have all recognised characters like these, and have responded to the power of their magnetism. We remember the ones who have arrived and quickly captured the imagination of those they represent, but chose frivolity over substance, self over community. We know their names, too; some we dare not utter for fear of an encounter with remnants of their displaced rage.

As I cleanse from the 'dis-ease' of this duppy flu and find myself in the process of regaining my voice, I am touched by the value of the spoken word and the power in speaking up for what is right. I also take concern with those who observe, yet elect not to sound their discontent.

Who will be the next revolutionaries and what will be their message?

At a time when the world is simmering in discontent and devious characters seek to provoke disharmony, those among us who possess this revolutionary spirit must take heed.

If truly we aspire to create a world free of pain and humiliation, we must urge the pursuit of justice in the absence of tyranny, and show the generations to come the power of community in the face of anarchy.

- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. Email feedback to and, or tweet @islandcynic.