JaRistotle’s Jottings| Emancipation and independence
As we observe two major milestone dates in our history, Emancipation Day and Independence Day, I believe it is an opportune time to reflect on what emancipation and independence mean in the true sense, and to examine whether or not we are truly emancipated and independent.
Emancipation refers to the 1838 action of granting freedom to slaves who were the property of the plantation owners at the time. The aftermath of emancipation was a mere continuation of hellish reality for our forefathers, who, although free, were but prisoners in a society where the structure remained slave-like and race-based.
Broadly speaking, emancipation speaks to freedom from legal, social and political restraint - freedom to enjoy a life free from legal subjugation, social inequity and political victimisation.
Independence as a nation speaks to Jamaica ceasing to be controlled by or be dependent on Britain, with responsibility for running the country's affairs becoming that of the locally elected government.
An independent person is one who is not dependent on others for their opinion or livelihood - being free to make legitimate life choices without fear of repercussive dependency on others for their livelihood or life.
WHAT ARE WE CELEBRATING?
Every year, the government of the day makes a big to-do about Emancipation Day and Independence Day. Grandiose 'feel-good' events are put on islandwide. People are wooed to attend, to get a glimpse of our past and understand the sacrifices of our forefathers and Jamaica's founding fathers. And the catch-all arrangement - it's free.
So Jamaicans from all walks of life turn out in their numbers to enjoy the moment. Afterwards most go back to the place they call home, overrun by crime and violence, devoid of basic amenities, and wondering where the next meal is coming from.
Come Tuesday the 8th of August, we are back to reality. The 'feel-good' moment is a passing memory for most, while the politicos and their fat-cat pals who benefited from the lavish spend for these events drink champagne and start planning for National Heroes' Day. Yes, people, so mi see it, so mi call it. It is a farce. We are neither emancipated nor independent.
THE GREAT DECEPTION
Today, societal standing is still somewhat race based, although admittedly, we have come a very long way. The real determinant of societal standing is political choice: if you do not sell your soul to a party, then you are viewed and treated as being against them. How does this make us emancipated or independent?
While we have moved away from plantations owned by ruthless colonialists, we now have garrison communities, created and nurtured by the politicos, and presided over by ruthless thugs who are invariably political proxies. While our forefathers could not openly speak out against their colonial masters for fear of a whipping or execution, today we speak out against the politicos and their proxies at risk to our livelihood or life. While we used to be dependent on the colonialists prior to independence, now we are dependent on home-grown politicos to distribute life essential amenities 'at their will and pleasure'.
Just think of what would likely happen if I were to walk through Tivoli Gardens in an orange shirt shouting 'Power', or to put on a green shirt and walk through Arnett Gardens shouting 'Shower'. The late JaRistotle I would be.
How can I say I am emancipated and independent when, in my own country, I cannot openly express my political preference wherever I want, without fear? How can I say I am emancipated and independent when, if I live in certain communities, I am dictated to in terms of who I must vote for? How can I say that I am emancipated and independent when I have to suffer through the indignity of cronyism rather than merit just to make a livelihood?
TO BE REALLY EMANCIPATED AND INDEPENDENT
Emancipation and independence can only be truly celebrated when we Jamaicans can, without fear, openly and freely choose who we support for public office, without having to depend on anyone or sell our souls to realise the dignity of merit-based employment, social amenities and public utilities.
Bob Marley said 'Emancipate yourself from mental slavery', but the reality is more than mental. It's all-encompassing - mind, body and soul.