Thu | Apr 27, 2017

Brian-Paul Welsh | Troubling parallels

Published:Wednesday | April 19, 2017 | 4:00 AM

In George Orwell's classic novel Animal Farm, there is a moment when, after coming to terms with the hopeless state of the financial situation in his newly founded nation, Napoleon, president of the Republic and Chief Hog at the Piggy Bank, negotiated a business deal with a neighbour he believed could save his failing farm, planning to finance this initiative by generating sales from the struggling poultry sector.

The hens took swift objection to this scheme that would see the raiding of their nest eggs in another bailout for the collapsing state, refusing what they saw as the cruel and unconscionable sacrifice of their freshly accumulated clutches, and crying bloody murder for another of the wicked government's heartless impositions.

Some flew furiously back to their lofty roosts and, in defiance, began depositing their eggs on precarious perches where they were smashed to pieces rather than preserved for use in the machinations of a sinister administration.

Such an act of public dissent by those once kept plump and highly favoured led to them facing the ultimate penalty at the behest of their righteous leader, and one by one they were publicly slaughtered by his hungry dogs, a desperate act to regain some semblance of control among the restive herd.

It is often said that art imitates life, and with such a perspective, it can easily be seen how the message in Orwell's exciting allegory can influence the way one perceives the management of this former farm called Jamaica. In this banana republic, it is only an articulate minority that can read and record the daily drama painted on these pages, and just as in the fantasy world of George Orwell, it is this idle gossip among the elite that quickly reaches the ear of the Emperor.

Concomitantly, the underprivileged majority, whose blood and sweat energised the revolution, still suffers the same indignity they toiled to escape, while the gang of swine in power engorge themselves at the public expense.

 

A CRIPPLING PRICE

 

During this season of sacrifice for the greater good, a surprising number of Jamaicans have come to the late realisation that we were expected to pay penance to the Prince for every one of his embellished promises and bedazzling gifts. Many now wish they could get rid of the costly party presents and move along without the unnecessary pomp and pageantry.

The price of living in this exclusive plantation community has always been crippling, especially for those left to fight for the scraps that fall from master's table, but that sentiment became generalised ever since the Lords of the Manor were informed a few weeks ago that they will now have to make a more substantial contribution to government coffers and pay the green piper in full for all his labour.

Many have grown disenchanted with the mere mention of 'prosperity' because it is now costing them far more to maintain this stately delusion than they had originally bargained.

The wailing being heard bouncing off the bare walls and empty refrigerators uptown is from the landlords' collective shock and disbelief that their properties, largely left derelict since the global recession, have now tripled and quadrupled in value and will cost substantially more in taxes to save them from seizure. Many of these formerly fat cats are now contemplating climbing a tall tree, while others in the rapidly dwindling middle class are hoping to either drop dead or move to Miami.

Despite the dark cloud now hanging over many suburban residences, fortunately there is still good entertainment to be found on the television, and in this week there was considerable excitement as the season of throne games approached its climax on CNN. After observing these things for a number of years, I must confess I still have no idea half the time what all the fuss is all about.

Every week, it seems there are new twists to the plot, new characters, and new storylines that evolve at a maddening pace. The pace of news these days feels more like a television show than actual happenings, and with so many more channels rapidly broadcasting everywhere one can look, constant exposure to images of babies taking their final gasping breaths juxtaposed with riots in the streets has desensitised many in this generation from having an emotional connection with current affairs.

The few youth in Jamaica that are actively engaged must certainly be relieved they can no longer be summoned to serve the empire in wars they don't understand, for if this were still so, many more would be killing each other in far-flung places for silly reasons instead of in Kingston, doing the same for none whatsoever.

- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public-affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and brianpaul.welsh@gmail.com, or tweet @islandcynic.